Dad Swag: A Photo Story for Father’s Day

I’m willing to bet that you have a lot of stuff. If you took the time to sort through all of it, you would probably only find a few things you truly love. These are the items that either you most frequently use, are most often complimented for, or simply have a great story to accompany them.

Just like you, I have a set of things that meet all these requirements, except for one singular difference. They aren’t mine. Actually, they're my Dad's. 

Just this year, I’ve begun to realize how frequently I’m complimented on things that aren’t technically mine. It’s become such a prevalent issue that most of my friends start a compliment by asking me if the item was formerly my father’s. On one specific occasion I remember being able to answer “no” only to realize that though the tie clip I had just been noticed for was never my father's, it had formerly belonged to my Grandfather.

 At first, I noticed this with physical things such as my collection (AKA not mine) of jackets, driving gloves, or my camera strap, all formerly belonging to my Dad. But it wasn’t just the physical things.

When I truly stopped to think about it, I realized that I’m a lot less original than I would like to imagine. A lot of my habits can be attributed to my Dad. My taste in cars is almost directly correlates with my Dad. He even wore short shorts before I did! 

The point is that I owe a lot to my Dad (and Mom). So, I want to say thank you. Not just for the cool jackets, the unending desire to own a vintage BMW, and the incredibly good looks, but for everything else too.

You’re a legend Dad.

Happy Father’s Day,

Derek

 

 

White V

Recently, I’ve read several articles about people who wear the same thing every day. The titles of these articles always catch my attention because I have a similar habit. At any given time you can step into my closet and view a collection of white V-neck shirts. I’m not sure how many I have in my wardrobe rotation right now, but know that I would be safe in saying you’ll need both hands to count. This number doesn’t seem excessive until you realize that the number of shirts I have in total is no more than 25. This means the white V accounts for almost 40% of my shirts.

If this was to be similar to all the other articles on successful people that wear the same thing every day, then I would proceed to tell you about how limiting your wardrobe can save time and energy or even make one “iconic” (I can only hope to become iconic for my V-neck collection). Sadly though, those articles have been written several times and I don’t need to reiterate the reasons why Steve Jobs always chose to wear a turtleneck. Why he specifically chose the turtleneck as his only top is beyond me. Nevertheless, I do wish to take a moment to answer a question. Why the white V?

1.    Low Quality and a Fancy Logo

It is so easy to get caught up in brands, logos, or intriguing fashion statements. Now, I’m not some sort of anti-brand advocate, but I do notice that most of the clothing that is in my price range, even on the higher end, is the same quality. Nearly 100% of the time, I find that there is no difference in quality between my $3 shirt and a $20 alternative. If I love a brand, then I’m happy to support it, but the brands I love usually earned it with great products, not a popular logo.

2.    Attention to Detail

Much of what I love in the world of design relates to being either small or simple. My “fashion sense” is the same way. I would much rather add an accent mark such as a watch than to wear something that is overstated.

3.    Minimizing

When I was younger, I loved being able to claim that I had something for every occasion. If I had a friend call at seven inviting me to an Egyptian party at eight, then I wanted to have something ready to go in my own closet. This perspective changed as I continued to travel throughout my college career. I began to realize just how little I needed as I packed my life in and out of suitcases for a year at a time. By ridding myself of the superfluous, I feel less weighted down.

4.    Out with the old…

You know that expensive thing you bought a few years ago? It’s the one that’s starting to get old and tattered. You know that you should get rid of it but you can’t stand to because you can still visualize the price tag. I don’t have that problem. I constantly cycle through the new and old and my lifestyle provides the perfect environment right now. I fully believe in taking care of what you own, but when the value of something is so low, i.e. a t-shirt, it’s nice to be able to toss it guilt-free.

The Verdict:

Yes, I could stand to diversify a bit. No, I don’t think I’m iconic like Steve Jobs (turtleneck) and Mark Zuckerberg (grey t-shirt). I have simply found what works for my current lifestyle. Finding value in minimalism has taught me endlessly about how fortunate I am. This value will likely not be forever manifested as a t-shirt, but rather in the value that I put on experiences, friends, and occasionally, possessions. 

Fresh Air

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seatbelt sign…” The words are music to my ears, a greater poem than any other. Their meaning? Today, I travel.

A lot of people hate the act of traveling, the destination is amazing, but getting there… not so much. The road trip is a burden and air travel a hassle. But I’m not most people. I love it all. From the vulgar rest stops to the unreasonably small peanut bags (average 28 peanuts, yes, I counted and I demand more) I adore travel.

 I hate to be another wanderlusting twenty-something, but I suppose I’m guilty. The privilege that we have to see the world in this time period is an extravagant one. The doors to the world have been open for the price of a boarding pass. Personally, I run through those doors as often as possible. On the other side lies the opportunity to learn.

I’ve always been a hands on learner. The act of doing has always been so much more engaging than alternate forms of learning. While with age, I have grown to love books; the kid in me still has to get his hands dirty. There is nothing like realizing how much you have left to learn about history by walking in the footsteps of those who created it or grasping just how little knowledge you have when you can’t converse in your mother tongue.

Traveling, however, isn’t only about learning, it’s about rejuvenation. New places are saturated with fresh air, the kind that you are unable to be found at the comfort of home. This realization stuck me once again as I returned from Panama last week. I felt so good. Everything had been so revitalizing. And I don’t mean just the time at the beach or the nice hotel. That rejuvenation included the times I bleached my arms to avoid scabies and the old chicken I accidentally bought because of a conversation riddled with broken Spanish. They were all separate inhales of fresh air.

On the last night of my trip, I stood on the roof of my hotel and observed the streets below. From my vantage point, I breathed in the fresh air. I didn't know when my next trip would be. That always makes the return even more of a challenge. All the same, I know I will be back. Back in the embrace of an airline seat where I will eat my peanuts (29 if I'm lucky) and remember to breathe the fresh air. 

 

You can find more about my travels last week on my youtube channel

Q&A: Where Are You Going Next?

Panama. Ok, good, that was easy enough. See you next week.

Or, I suppose I could elaborate.

The last time I was out of the country was Australia back in July of 2015. Since my first day back, I’ve been looking to the next trip. That chance came earlier this month when my housemate presented the idea of going to Panama for a week. I’ve never been to Central America, so the opportunity to head out for a week was nearly irresistible. Sadly, I had a bit of a problem. I had no idea how I was going to pay for the plane ticket.

You see, I work part time as a barista, I love the job, but it isn’t exactly financially lucrative. I had enough money to pay for the ticket, but I definitely couldn’t justify it, despite my desires. In search of any form of justification, I decided to get some advice and picked up the phone to call my much wiser father.

The short conversation with my old man left me with a potentially positive solution, airline miles. Last year I had the great misfortune/luck of traveling back and forth from New Zealand on four different occasions. The two days of travel and immense time change were devastating, but flying the halfway across the globe had its benefits.

Over the course of the year, I had stayed loyal to Delta by using their SkyMiles plan, so I figured I should have built up some sort of loyalty benefit. I made a phone call to Delta, which for a customer service call was actually a positive experience. Nevertheless, I got the word that I was going to be locked out for another 24 hours because I had failed to enter my password correctly on too many occasions (don't judge me, I know you've done that too). Needless to say, that was a long day. The thought of travel had me anxious, but I waited and called Delta almost exactly 24 hours later. This phone call ended with fantastic news; I was back in and I had thousands of SkyMiles.

Some quick research via Delta’s website showed me that I had enough miles to get my ticket. A few short clicks later, I was going to Panama.

There you have it, Delta saved me. If you want to keep up on my trip, it starts on the 29th of this month. You can follow me here and on Facebook/Instagram/Youtube for updates. And thanks again Delta for taking me to my 24th country! 

**Next on the list? Hopefully a return trip to France or New Zealand.**

Every Day Carry: Driving Gloves

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Men have always had a special connection to the vehicles that transport them. Over the years we have seen this bond evolve from the relationship a man had with his horse, to the amount of time he might take naming his boat. The same type of relationship applies to men and their cars.

The car was something that every boy dreamed of; it was the ticket to freedom. The car could go fast and it could go far. As a young man, he likely took time washing it, naming it, and (when appropriate) cursing at it. But as time passed, the car became more mundane and driving more of a chore than an activity. What was once the ticket to freedom had become the thing you take to work. That’s where driving gloves come into play.

Driving gloves are an item for every day carry because they make driving fun again. A few pieces of stitched leather are all you need to get back in touch with that boyish feeling you had when you started driving. Personally, I wear the gloves for the same reason that I drive a manual; it makes me more connected to the car. The leather gives a better grip on the steering wheel and the stick shift, making the relationship just that much closer. There is also an obvious benefit in the winter, with the gloves adding a much-appreciated extra layer between your hands and the wheel; not to mention those times when you have to physically scrape the ice off your window. These, however, are only the obvious reasons. The reason I most value driving gloves is actually entirely different from the first two. It deals with what they prevent me from doing. 

The Holy Grail and its Reasonably-Priced Alternative

The people of the world are forever talking about their dream car, home, or vacation. We, as humans, get so caught up in the idea of the epitome. What could I get if I won the lottery? Can I save enough to go to Thailand if I eat beans for a month? How many years would it take to pay off this loan? Everybody is out seeking this epitome, this Holy Grail, but then we forget what we can do right now.

I’ve always been a dreamer, probably more than most, but I can be reasonable too. Maybe it’s because my parents tried to raise me to be money conscious or maybe it’s just because I, like Macklemore, can’t stand paying $50 for a T-shirt. For these reasons, I’ve always had two sides to each dream, my “Holy Grail” and the reasonably priced alternative.

The first time I noticed this was when I started thinking about buying a car. I would have loved to get a brand new Jeep or to take after my Dad and get a BMW. I sought the Holy Grail right from the beginning. However, it was right around that time when the realist in me showed up. So, I set an attainable goal. It was still ambitious, but possible. I’ll save the story for another time, but after a few years and a series of fortunate events, I had my goal. She was a used Mustang GT and her name was Meredith.

The reality of achieving this goal grew to be nearly as rewarding as the car itself. It was a reality that I continued to pursue as I planned trips, opting for the less expensive options instead of the high class, and as I fueled my obsessions like coffee and watches. For now, there are definitely times when I indulge, but have I had any of my Holy Grails yet? No, or at least none of the expensive ones. What is important is that I do not feel held back just because of my financial situation. My dreams are still being realized while I wait for the pinnacle of my pursuits. And while I still dream about the Holy Grail, I don’t feel too bad about when I achieve my goal of the reasonably priced alternative. 

What Does the Best Version of Me Look Like?

 Photo by:  Kayla Dalusong

Photo by: Kayla Dalusong

Recently, I’ve been changing my philosophy on life. When I was a kid, I would tell myself to be awesome, whatever that was supposed to mean. As I got older, I started to ask myself a question in order to find the philosophy I was looking for. This question has changed over the past few years, but the goal remains the same, to be better each day.

One of the first questions I remember asking myself was, “What would the most interesting version of myself do?” The question seemed appropriate. I think it came from the quote, “The person that you will spend the most time with in life is yourself, so you better try to make yourself as interesting as possible.” The response to this question, however, was frequently uncomfortable. More often than not, the most interesting version of myself would wake up way too early, just to jump into a freezing cold lake or drive obscenely far just for a ten-minute visit.

I liked the most interesting version of myself. I continued to learn how to implement him into everyday life, but he wasn’t always practical. So, I changed my question. “What would the smartest version of myself do?” As you might imagine, the response to this question was quite academic. He studied hard, made extra effort, and was noticeably less interesting. And that was the problem; I missed the most interesting version of myself. Don’t get me wrong, the smartest version of me has his perks, but he wasn’t the best version. So, I changed question one more time.

“What would the best version of myself do?” This question requires a little more thought and honesty to answer. The best version of myself encompasses the most interesting, the smartest, the safest, the most rebellious, and all other versions of myself. But that’s why he works.

Being supremely interesting often ended only in being supremely reckless and being really smart actually only meant being really boring. Sometimes, the best version of myself does wake up at 5am, just so he can jump into a lake. Other times, he sleeps in. The best version of myself isn’t forced to go out on a Saturday night when he knows he shouldn’t because he has work the next morning, but he often does. The best version of myself doesn’t eat this cake, but he might eat those cookies.

Asking what the best version of myself would do has started to show me what I truly want from life. I know that I want to meet new people. I know that I want to read more. I know that most of the time I would rather be productive than just sit around. Asking myself a new question isn’t simply changing my philosophy; it’s making me better. 

Q&A: What's Your Favorite Place You've Ever Been?

I’ve been to 23 different countries, three of them I’ve called home. Because of this, I’m often asked where my favorite place is. It’s the worst question.

When I’m asked where my favorite place is, it feels similar to somebody asking me how I’m doing. I know they really want the equivalent response to “I’m fine.” They want me to tell them that Paris is my favorite so that they can say something along the lines of “Awesome, I want to go there someday” and then end the conversation.

I hate that. For starters, even if there is an answer to that question, it’s not a place you’re going give a cookie cutter response to. It’s going to be Bruges or Marrakech, not Barcelona or Rome.

 Second, it’s wrong to ask for an honest choice between places like France and New Zealand. Those places were home. I made memories there that couldn’t have been made on a vacation. I lived there, studied there, worked there. You can’t expect a response like you could by asking my favorite restaurant. There are just too many variables.

Please don’t misunderstand and think for a second I don’t want to talk about travel with you. I’d love to. I want to swap stories and compare our trips to Italy. I want to have a conversation, not small talk because the truth is, I don’t have an answer. I loved sitting at the café in Paris, watching people and eavesdropping on conversations. I felt adventurous running through deserted palaces in Marrakech. The museums in London stimulated my mind and swimming with humpback whales in Tonga reminded me what wonders this world has to offer.

So please, don't make me choose just one place. If you do ask me about traveling, understand that the places I've been shape who I am. Ask me about my stories and I'll ask about yours; I'm happy to trade. Just don't ask me where my favorite place is. 

 

Every Day Carry: Notebook

Somebody once told me that a wise man always carries a pen. Of all the advice I’ve been given in the last 23 years, that one stuck. It was such a simple solution that I felt there was no excuse for not doing it. But, I soon realized that if you’re going to have a pen you’re going to need to have paper too. And so, for the past five years, I’ve carried a notebook.

In doing this, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I now know that when I write down my thoughts immediately, I’m more likely to remember them. If I write a list, it’s more likely to get done. And for somebody who actually enjoys being hyper productive, it’s a relief to have a notebook telling me what’s next.

My notebook also helps me keep track of important moments. For example, I know exactly where I have travelled and when I was there in the last 5 years. Notebooks tell me the interesting thing I did or ate, and who was there with me, giving them the distinct ability to take me back whenever I pull one out of my pocket.

I know to most people carrying something in your pocket that isn’t a cell phone sounds outrageous, but honestly, the phone just doesn’t do it for me. Yes, I realize my iPhone has a notepad and no, it’s not the same thing. I can’t cross things out on my phone, I can’t flip the pages, and I can’t give myself those damn paper cuts with a phone. Ok, so maybe the last one isn’t a valid argument.

The point is that notebooks are tangible. I can rip out pages, draw on the cover, and keep all the information even when I spill coffee on it. A notebook has become a part of my mind and for that reason, it makes the list as an item for every day carry. 

How's Your Thirst for Adventure?

“Unquenchable.”

I have come to the absolute and settled conclusion that I was born for adventure.

 Boundary Waters, US/Canadian Border

Boundary Waters, US/Canadian Border

For most of my childhood, I lived in a house with 16 acres of woods. Dirt bikes, mud fights, and paintball were just part of life. The outdoors called, spurring on that intense desire to get outside. Because of this, it is hard to find a single picture of me as a kid where I don’t either have a bloody scratch, stitches, bruises, or dirt on my face. I was made to move and climb.

As a kid, quality time was almost always spent outside. Camping, fishing, hiking, and good old fashioned manual labor were our go-to activities. Family vacations were similar, skiing (water or snow), snorkeling, jeeping, and yet more camping. It wasn’t uncommon for us to come home from our vacations more exhausted than when we left.

 Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Our movie choices reflected many of the same ideals. I remember watching the Bond movies, dreaming of visiting those places that seemed so unreal. The first time I watched Indiana Jones, it felt like a revelation. “If adventure has a name…” to me adventure was the name. It put a word to all my wants and desires for exploration, cars, girls, and an unhealthy portion of fisticuffs. My brother and I had the full Indiana Jones set on VHS and we watched each one until the tapes literally gave up and stopped working. Within a few days of their demise, we took a trip to buy the new DVD set, following up on those a few years later by preordering the new Blu-ray package as soon as it was announced. Even the few video games we played followed this idea of exploration and travel. We weren’t playing the zombie or war games; we wanted to explore castles and ruins.

Looking back I can think of the tipping point where it changed. The day did not feel significant, but most significant days never do. I was snowboarding in Colorado with my and my good friend’s family. While we were ascending the mountain on one of the ski lifts, my friend casually mentioned that he wanted to go to school in France for a year. He invited me along, I simply replied “Ok” and that was the decision that made everything else possible.

Not to be overly dramatic, but that brief conversation changed everything. I spent the next year at university as a freshman, changing my course of study from business to “international” business. The slight change in my major seemed a more appropriate change as well as a justification for a year abroad.

 Mont Salève, France

Mont Salève, France

I clearly remember stepping off the plane and breathing in the fresh air of the Geneva valley. The true intoxication had begun. From that moment on, I became more and more ill. Wanderlust, people laugh, but it’s a chronic illness, only temporarily treatable with plane tickets and a heavy usage of your passport.

I haven’t ever felt the same since. Learning a new language and meeting new people became part of my personal definition, I needed it. Less than a year and a half after I came back from France I was making plans and moving to New Zealand. This time I went alone.

 Hooker Valley, New Zealand

Hooker Valley, New Zealand

Stepping off that plane was a different experience. I was totally alone. I didn’t have any expectations. The first few weeks in New Zealand made me think that I may have romanticized life abroad. But it quickly came back to me. The challenges of meeting new people, the new cultures, it was all a part of my adventure.

So now what? How do I keep things going? I just finished my International Business degree which means I’m stepping out into the real world in every way. Now it’s time to make my passions my reality once more.

 Zhangjiajie, China

Zhangjiajie, China

 Vava'u, Tonga

Vava'u, Tonga

 New South Wales, Australia

New South Wales, Australia

 Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee


Thanks for Rejecting Me: A Love Letter to Everyone Who Said No

I don’t enjoy asking for things. Whether its personal or professional, I hate waiting for a response. In person it isn’t all that bad. Usually it requires the alternate party to say a simple yes or no. I’m completely fine with that. What I hate is the quiet.

In today’s age of email requests, voicemail, and texts it doesn’t even require a second thought to completely ignore the need for a favor. As a recent college grad, I have sent out hundreds of emails and made dozens of phone calls. They consisted of job applications, requests for information, asking for recommendations, and even requests to volunteer. There was only one consistent response, silence.

With so much effort put into trying to make a contact, it’s a bit vexing to never receive a response. This however, has made me appreciate something that used to be much more mundane, the rejection letter.

We’ve all received one.

“Dear interested party. Thank you for your application/request for information/submission/etc. Unfortunately we have decided to…”

These impersonal and generic letters used to be the worst, now they signify the moment I can stop holding my breath; the end of the waiting game.

Even better than the generic rejection letter is the human rejection letter.

“Hello Derek. It’s great to see somebody like yourself putting your content out there right now. Sadly, right now…”

At this point I want to fully emphasize that I am not writing this sarcastically. I genuinely appreciate receiving a rejection letter. Obviously, it feels way better when I actually get the interview/submission/etc. But hearing back is a great feeling too. Feedback is how we improve. When somebody tells me I’m not qualified, I can ask how to become qualified. If my writing isn’t good enough, I can learn how to change or tailor it for the situation.

In closing, if you recently told me you couldn’t do me a favor, I appreciate your honesty. If you rejected me for an open job, thanks for telling me. If you don’t like my writing style, then you’re wrong (but actually I totally get it, so no hard feelings). Thank you for reading the email I sent you, thank you for listening to my voicemail, and thank you for rejecting me.

Cordially,

Derek Haas

Low Income Watch Love

My love for watches began when I moved to Collonges, a small French town near Geneva, Switzerland. In France, I so rarely carried a cell phone that wearing a watch became a part of my everyday life. From my small town, I frequently took day trips to Geneva and grew to admire the beauty of haute horlogerie. I walked past boutiques for Patek Philippe, F.P. Journe, and countless others, ogling timepieces from the outside window. As a poor university student, most often wearing a Citizen Eco-Drive, I didn’t bother trying to get past the ever-present doorman even once over the course of a year.

I returned to the U.S., but watch lust had become a part of my life. Fortunately, there was something to slake my thirst. As a belated Christmas present I received my first automatic, a Hamilton QNE H76655723. I was enthralled. I spent countless hours looking through the open caseback, becoming so accustomed to the leather band on my wrist, I felt naked on the rare day I forgot to wear it. Even still, I wanted more. Only a few months after receiving my Hamilton, I was on the hunt.

As a student, budget was the enemy. My minimum wage job left little to no space for frivolous watch purchases. Every watch from Switzerland seemed so far out of reach, but I wanted something to remind me of the favored city that had been a gateway to Europe. Each new adventure had started in Geneva and a watch seemed an appropriate way to commemorate such an eventful time in my life.

I was finally able to settle on Mondaine, a company known for its impeccable legibility. Mondaine successfully leveraged this quality until it gained its title as the official clock and watch of the Swiss Railway. With such a clean look, a perfect throw to nostalgia, and a reasonable price, the decision was almost made for me.

I thought I was set, at least for a while, but then I started shooting looks at diving watches. The rough and ready aspect appealed to my tendencies to run around outside. Originally, I used my Citizen when I was roughing it, but the spring bars were starting to wear out, causing the watch to spontaneously fall off my wrist. A small fault, like a spring bar, was all the justification I needed to buy a new watch.

Only a few months after purchasing my Mondaine, I discovered the Seiko Monster, a tough, almost-but-not-at-all automatic movement diver. It was the perfect combination of what I needed for an outdoor watch.

 

The Monster was the last watch I bought that was actually justifiable. The truth is that I didn’t even care about justification anymore. Some days I would spend hours looking at new watches. I made it well over a year without buying a watch, soothing my needs by buying NATO straps online. At one point I did buy a Seiko Bullhead 6138, only to quickly return it due to a broken chronograph.

My most recent watch purchase was a Steinhart Ocean 1 Red. I couldn’t resist the spot on homage to the Submariner for only a fraction of the cost. This particular model even came with a NATO designed after the original James Bond Sub from Dr. No. In truth, the Steinhart doesn’t have anything on the real Submariner, but for a poor college student, it was perfect.

Every enthusiast has a “grail watch”, aka their epitome, the watch to end all watches. Like them, I have a list of beautiful handmade watches that cost more than I can even imagine. But, I’m a reasonable man. Maybe someday I will buy a watch that costs more than my car, but for now I’m sticking to what I like to think of as my reasonably-priced grail watch, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black Reference 79220N.

The Tudor is the perfect combination of a watch that can be dressed up or down, especially with the option of either the bracelet or the strap. For a relatively low price, this watch comes with an awesome quality that stands up to Rolex, Omega, and even more expensive brands. As a recent college grad, the Tudor is a watch is out of reach, but also an attainable goal in the near future.

Until then, I’ll get my watch fix from reading watch blogs, buying new NATO straps, and casually stalking people with nicer watches than me. I’ve also overcome my fear of walking into watch boutiques, which means I can actually go talk to retailers and try on new pieces. For now, I’ll stick to being an onlooker, awaiting the day that I get my reasonably-priced grail watch.