Rocking out at Lollapalooza 2011 in Chicago


Long before I identified myself as a medical writer, researcher, or digital nomad I was a teenager who was obsessed with loud alternative rock. In grade 7, I remember trying to establish what genre of music I should listen to, and no matter what I sampled, I simply could not connect with anything.

All that changed when I first heard a classmate’s cassette of Nirvana’s In Utero while sitting on a school bus.

That sound simply blew me away.

It was a completely transformative moment that paved the way not only for my taste in music, but also for my want to express myself through playing and writing music. Although I still get the guitar out now and then, during high-school, music was my life. After learning how to tune my guitar and learning a few songs, I started a band with a couple of friends. We practiced twice a week, driving our parents crazy in the process. Eventually we started performing beyond the confines of a basement: at our high school, and a couple of local clubs. We even got paid to perform now and then (just enough to cover the gas to get to the venue)! When we weren’t playing music we were going to see other local bands play live. And when there were no shows to see, we would hang around someone’s basement, huddled around a CD player blasting Nirvana, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Tool, Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Silverchair, Pearl Jam, Our Lady Peace, Rusty, I Mother Earth, Tea Party, Hole, Veruca Salt, or any other band from that era.

Although I had attended a few larger concerts and local music festivals during this period, I always knew the biggest venue for seeing live alternative rock was Lollapalooza – an outdoor music festival in the US that always drew the best alternative bands of the time. Unfortunately, at that time, I hardly had the financial means to support a trip to the US for a multi-day music festival. Since then, I have always said that I would eventually attend Lollapalooza and experience it firsthand. When I found out earlier this year that two of my favourite bands, Foo Fighters (a band fronted by the former drummer of Nirvana) and Muse, were making an appearance at this year’s festival, I knew Marina and I had to go.

So one day in the early spring of this year, I purchased the 3-day tickets for a hefty $215 each and later informed a surprised, but supportive Marina.

The concert was held in Chicago’s Grant park during August 5-8 and consisted of 8 stages, and 130 different acts.

Our first day at Lollapalooza - notice how clean we are! This didn't last.

There was A LOT of music. I had an iPhone app that helped us schedule our weekend.

Oh, and did I mention 270,000 people attended over the 3 days?

In other words, there were also A LOT of people.

The whole weekend was an absolute blast.

While some artists were a tad disappointing (e.g. Cee Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley), our two main draws each gave a spectacular performance.

Personal highlights:

1. Muse, a more recent addition to my music collection (since 2004ish), randomly breaking into Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” – a song included on their original debut album from the late 1980’s. This moment brought my whole music journey to a complete circle – simply amazing.

Muse performing at Lollapalooza

2. Dancing and singing along with Foo Fighter’s performing “Everlong” while completely soaked from a downpour in a field full of mud, rain, and what smelled very much like fresh feces (we both lost a pair of shoes during this trip).


We're wet, our feet are submedged in mud/feces, and the Foo Fighters rock on!

That’s rock n’ roll!

Foo Fighters performing to a soaked audience

No, it really was that messy...

3. The crowd going crazy as Muse launches into “Plug-in Baby” and giant ‘eyeball’ balloons are dropped on the crowd. Check the video to fully appreciate:

4. Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters frontman, describing the personal significance of Lollapalooza and its creator, Perry Farrell, in the development of alternative rock. See below video. If the rock nostalgia bores you, fast forward to about 3:20 to hear “Everlong.”

What a weekend!


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Residential Experiment #1: The lake-side cottage


Although not part of the original plan, one of the perks of living in various places for a few months at a time is zeroing in on what we do and don’t like when it comes to a home. Given that we eventually (though, not any time soon) want to own a home, these residential experiments help us understand what our ideal home might look like, and where it may be located. Thus, in an effort to keep track of what we’ve learned, this will be the first in a series of posts where we evaluate the places we temporarily resided in.

Name: The Cottage.

Location: Kingston, ON, Canada

Dates: November 2010–February 2011

Basics: 1 bedroom home in a forested area with a view of the lake and 5 minute drive from downtown.

The cottage

Although we had previously rented furnished places when travelling, generally preferring these to hotels, our stays here were rather short. This house in the woods, which quickly became known as The Cottage, was our first furnished residential (as opposed to vacation) home.

I had always dreamed living in a more remote environment, close to some body of water, surrounded by trees and animals. In this dream I would write at a desk in the silent home while taking breaks to look at the gentle waves of the water or the family of the deer just outside my window.

Views from our home-office window


Luckily, The Cottage provided exactly this experience. Marina and I both loved this place. Every morning we were greeted by a family of deer that would feed just outside our window, as we ate our breakfast. The same deer would walk back past our property near the end of the workday (~5pm); they were apparently on the same schedule as us. Countless birds, foxes, squirrels, and even coyotes provided hours of window-viewing entertainment.


Our driveway security

Due to the absolute silence and darkness at night, we also had some of the best sleep of our lives here. However, this took a night or two to adjust to; when you are accustomed to noise at night, the complete absence thereof can be initially unsettling.

Aside from our laptops, the house was rather void of electronics. For example, there was no television, and the space in the cozy living room occupied by a TV in most homes consisted of a book case. Given that we’d sworn off television some years ago (for both physical and mental health reasons), this suited us just fine.

Because we were rather isolated, and couldn’t walk to get takeout at our favorite downtown restaurants, we ended up cooking almost exclusively. This was not only better for our wallets, but most certainly for our waistlines.

Going for a walk on the frozen, snow-covered lake

But, of course living in the woods in the middle of Canadian winter has some drawbacks. The most acute issue for me, as someone who works remotely in my home office, was the sense of isolation. While having to shovel snow for over an hour on many successive days provided some great exercise, it was a bit of a nuisance at times. The same could be said regarding driving up and down the steep and winding snow-covered dirt road leading to our place (the tow truck was in our neck of the woods on a pretty regular basis, and had to tow out one of our friends who got stuck in a ditch).

Here is a detailed summary of items that either improved or tarnished our experience at The Cottage.

The good:

  • Large kitchen, with tons of counter space including a cutting board counter and an island, a knife magnet (loved this!), and a fridge with the freezer at floor level.
  • Tons of windows which got a lot of sun exposure at midday
  • Minimalist approach to decoration and furniture (comfortable, but not crowded; no TV)
  • View of the lake, trees, animals, etc.
  • Large walk-in shower
  • Multi-level outdoor deck
  • Quiet, peaceful, remote and still only 5 mins from civilization

The bad:

  • Lots of snow shoveling (I assume mowing grass takes over in the spring/summer)
  • Feeling of isolation
  • Can’t really walk anywhere (aside from walking through the woods or on the frozen lake)
  • Felt less safe than in an apartment/condo
  • No dishwasher
  • Terrible traffic at certain times to get into town (huge bottleneck)


While it was certainly nice and relaxing for a while, I can’t imagine living at The Cottage permanently without going a bit nutty. It would be much different if I went to work and came home to relax in the evenings, but working from home with little chance for (human) social interaction outside your door is another story. The Cottage could also be great once I get older and become more homebound. I am basing this assumption on the fact that 90% of the people that lived in this area were retired.


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