Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Best Free Dating Apps and Websites: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need

If only I had better photoshop skills, I would be riding a unicorn naked in my profile pics as well.

For anyone who's spent even two minutes on a dating website or app, you know there are three things synonymous to every female's profile:

A. Loves to travel
B. Is a foodie
C. Is not here for a hookup

Without a doubt, we are living in a golden age of travel ease, inventive cooking, and quick hookups. It would almost seem more relevant for someone to post: "I am a homebody, I prefer bland, redundant meals, and want to go to the bone zone 24/7 with whomever messages me." Now THAT would be a revelation! I, for one, suggest that people stop saying A, B, C, and just move on to things that mean something.

Recently, I had a recruiter reach out to me about a position to be the Chief Content Officer of a new dating app. At first, I was rather excited, because I wanted to expand upon the number of people who referred to me as "chief"; from one -- the gas station attendant -- to possibly three or four. To be clear, I am certainly not looking for any work, as my sister has dubbed me "an international man of leisure," and I like to live up to that billing. But I was intrigued by a dating app, since that's right up my alley. Heck, I get B+ just for showing up, right, right?

I won't name the company, because, frankly, I don't like to kiss and tell. (But if you ask me with one alcoholic beverage in my system, IT'S ON!) Sadly, I don't think the app will be successful, no matter what their focus groups tell them. After playing around with the app for a few hours, I felt like Tom Hanks in Big when he's playing around with the transformer "building" and raises his hand to the execs and goes, "I don't get it." I'm about all the focus group you need when it comes to dating and apps, because I'm dumb enough, with a ridiculously low attention span, to see if I can understand an app, and just smart enough to not walk into oncoming traffic. I'm what you call, "low-risk, low-reward." You can have that engraved on my tombstone.

Besides not believing in the product, the backgrounds of all the execs on the team? Married. Wait. What?!? I don't get it. If you have a dating app, I'd hope that someone on the team is a living and breathing embodiment of your number one user.

With that said, I shall give you my definitive review of all the free dating apps and websites I've used. (To give you a preview, Zoosk is the worst of them all!) I will also use some hard-to-understand 5-something rating scale. (*My reviews are based on Silicon Valley usage, where we have the highest concentration of males to females in the U.S. and laws of typical dating are completely disregarded.)

TINDER – The darling of the web. She of questionable founder origins and even more questionable founder morals. Tinder is so quick and easy – swiping right if you like a person, and swiping left if you don't – that I hardly ever message people on it anymore. I just want to see who I match with "nearby." I'm addicted to swiping. Even those I match with -- when both people have swiped right to each other -- 90% percent I have buyer's remorse, and the 10% I message, 8% never message me back.

It's just too convoluted of a system, with FAR too many men in Silicon Valley bombarding women with redundant and creepy messages. You know those clubs you go to where there's SOOO many guys that all the girls are dancing in a circle with each other, acting like lesbians, in a desperate attempt to fend off the swarm of three-deep douchebags waiting to get their freak on? That's like Tinder.

2 of 5 Valyrian Steel Swords because I treat this app more like a game than an actual means to dating. (I chose Valyrian Steel in lieu of stars, because it's the best and I am a nerd. Valar Morghulis!)

COFFEE MEETS BAGEL – Formerly only for gluten-free-eating, skinny jean-wearing elitist iPhone users, CMB has now branched out to include the lower-class citizens on Android. Too bad Android users will laugh this one back to iOS as they walk to the trailer park with their Otter Pop popsicles. (disclosure: former lifelong Android user, now two weeks into my test iOS phase.) The founders should've taken Mark Cuban's hypothetical "$30 Million." This app -- get this -- gives you ONE match a day. If you both like each other, you have a window of 8 days to message each other.

No offense, but do you know how many unattractive people there are in Silicon Valley? Okay, that sounds majorly superficial, but let's not be a hypocrite here. Initially, looks matter somewhat. I have been on CMB for over two weeks and have been matched with only one person over 5 (out of a Bo Derek 10). If you want to test your luck out on some other girls, you have 10 new options a day, but no guarantees. To even "take" or "like" one of those 10 girls, you have to use beans, which you must buy. Everyone is basically moving at this "one-a-day" snail's pace. You could be waiting all year! With the environment we live in, patience is thin and plenty of other apps means that people are probably not falling over themselves to pay for a crapshoot in the form of beans. But kudos to the team for trying to monetize so early. If only there were value first....

2 of 5 Mini-Bagel Pizza Bites because they do some nice things with trying to get people to promote the product for them to get more beans!

HINGE – This is the app I tell all my friends about. In fact, it may even sound like a paid endorsement. (It's not. Although I welcome all forms of attempted bribery. It can't be unethical if you just accept it, right? Jack in the Box sends me free vouchers all the time and it hasn't swayed me one bit. I still go to Jack -- or Tastytown, as I like to call it -- on my own volition to eat their delicious, mouth-watering Spicy Sriracha Burger. Now here for a limited time!) Hinge, gives you matches through 2nd and 3rd degree Facebook connections, which means there's much less chance that someone's going to ask you to go to bone zone (that's my new favorite adult term for 'sex') within the first few messages. Unlike CMB, you get multiple matches a day. It used to be just 10 matches at noon, but now it's sporadic to keep you coming back for more.

The reason why I like this app the best is simple: RESULTS. I have had the most meaningful conversations and the most actual dates through this app. Heck, some of the girls were actually attractive! And not all of them went to the bathroom only to never return or had a phone call interrupt our date after 10 minutes with an "emergency." I'd say that's a win-win for everyone!

5 of 5 Eddard Stark Heads (he was a good man) for not over-doing it with options and not under-doing it in an attempt to get us to pay. Freeeeeeedom! (William Wallace. I think he lost his head too. He was also a good man.)

PLENTY OF FISH – I really like POF. It's the original "old-school" free dating website, that now has an app. You can see and read anyone's profile, message them, see who's viewed you, see who's mutually "liked" you, but it also has reasonable paid elements. You can see who wants to meet you, upload more images, see if someone's read your message, and show up more prominently when women are browsing profiles.

I feel like women are looking for more real relationships on this site and are more receptive to messages than OKCupid (which I'll get into next). The site is not an example of design or UI excellence, because they keep their staff to a minimum. But they do a good, honest job, without trying to extort the user at every turn. It's almost impossible to close the site when they keep giving you options of new girls when clicking "back" from any page. Nice move, POF.

4 of 5 Finding Nemos because I like the blue-collar background of this company and the general word-of-mouth advertising they've relied on. It's all about dating results.

OKCUPID – Nobody does data better than OkCupid. What was once my most boringest class in college -- statistics -- has now become the caterpillar that turned into a butterfly. (I don't even know if that makes sense, I've been up so long...) I'm like the Karate Kid, forced to paint fences and wax cars, only to realize all those meaningless motions actually meant something. OkCupid asks users to answers relevant dating/personality questions (the more, the better) to try and form the best percentage matches between users. Not only do they give you your compatibility percentage between each person, but also the percentage chances you may be an "enemy"!

Just like POF, you can browse and message for free, but if you want to show up more prominently, see who already likes you, or search by attractiveness (they have gameified ratings to come up with the most "attractive"), you have to pay a monthly fee. While I feel women are more serious about a relationship on POF, the folks over at OkCupid are doing an amazing job. The site is innovative and continues to stay fresh, adding "web 2.0"-type games and swiping.

4 of 5 Arrows because I love data and admire the founders for their easy-to-understand and presentable nature of their nerdiness.

ZOOSK – Don't even try it. It's a spam machine. It tries to disguise itself as a free dating website/app, but it's really a pay-for-everything, horrible matches, but I'll email you when someone breathes on your page, "dating" site. Born in the middle of the website era and the app craze, it does neither well. If anything, it is a relentless advertising vehicle, so you're sure to have heard of it through a sponsored listing or advertisement on the side of your Facebook newsfeed. Advertisements can only trick so many idiots onto a site. After that, you'll need natural, organic word-of-mouth from satisfied customers to sustain growth. (See every blockbuster motion picture.)

1 of 5 Spam Burgers because I dislike sites that act as the web version of a creepy used-car salesman, who tries to fast-talk you into making a decision you'll later regret.

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Well, there you have it -- the definitive guide on using technology as the cheapest ice-breaker on the planet! Spend money trying to find the love of your life!??! As if! (What a hoot that Cher was...) Maybe I should make one pop-culture reference in this post that isn't from the 80s or 90s. Hmmmm... I don't know. I can't think of any. Buuuuuut, I'll be back!

Until then, from one prominent Chief to a commoner, may you find the woman or man of your dreams – that rare breed of person who loves food, traveling, and sex with someone they've gotten to know. Good luck with that!

Sincerely,
Kevin L.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Amal and George Clooney Mean to Single Women and Bachelors Everywhere


I've often-times been compared to George Clooney. The charm. The jetsetting. The playboy ways. The handsomeness. The way women swoon over me...

Okay. That's a lie. I've never been compared to George Clooney. But in my own head, I've drawn comparisons with his life and mine. (I've also drawn comparisons to Frida, Einstein, and Count Chocula, but the "institution" advises me not to mention this in public. And I've been good for six months! Dr. Chan says I can have visitors any day now!) As Clooney traveled the world, a new woman in hand every few years, spending time on his Lake Como estate (very relatable to that time I spent a few nights at Motel 6 in Bakersfield), aging better each year, I couldn't help but wonder would I also "suffer" the same fate as Clooney? Finishing out my 30s, going into my 40s,  maybe even my 50s and beyond, without ever finding "the one"? – yet, still being ridiculously good-looking?

Say what you want about me, but know that I have always considered myself a hopeless romantic.

During this year's Golden Globes, when Clooney delivered his speech after accepting the Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Achievement Award, he said that: "It's a humbling thing when you find someone to love -- even better when you've been waiting your whole life. And when your whole life is 53 years, Amal, whatever alchemy it is that brought us together, I couldn't be more proud to be your husband."

I found myself tearing up at that part more than his wife.

Many times over the years, I imagined how overwhelming, encompassing, and fulfilling it would be when I finally met that person for whom I've "waited my whole life." I'm almost certain there will be no shortage of tears. It's been that long of a search.

In my 36 years, I have thus far not settled with what I'm looking for, and hope that I never will, living my life in a way I have seen no previous blueprint.

But when your father -- who recently turned 70 -- tells you that he may have "10 more years to live," or your mother says that "if you have kids soon, we'll still be able to help out" it forces your hand towards immediacy. I don't have the type of parents that say, "we just want you to be happy." It's always disheartening and a deeply saddening thought for me that I cause my parents such concern and grief. And of course I want my kids to know their amazing grandparents.

As much as people tell me to not worry and to "live my life," my love of my parents and the empathy I have for them will never allow me towards a truly care-free existence. Otherwise, if I lacked empathy, I would probably be living in a new country every year and say, "to hell with what my parents and society says is the norm."

I regularly receive emails from women asking me whether a guy they're seeing is "playing" them and what they should do about it. I respond to every single email, first, asking more questions -- because every situation is unique -- then, mostly coming up with the conclusion that something is amiss. If you have to write a complete stranger for advice, chances are the guy is no good.

I always tell these women to work on themselves, for themselves, because there's nothing you can -- or should -- be doing to try to gain and sustain the attention of a guy. Do it for you.

Amal Clooney is about as accomplished and passionate about her work as anyone else in their respective fields. As mentioned in the Globes broadcast, she's "a human-rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip..."

Of all the women that George Clooney ever dated, it was Amal's combination of beauty, passion, AND intelligence that enlightened him towards the notion that he was actually missing something in his life.

Ambitious and intelligent men are almost always only satisfied with strong, ambitious, and intelligent women, (see all of Silicon Valley's tech company luminaries).

So, to all the women who are concerned about a certain guy and why he may not call you, ask you out, or only calls during late-night hours, there are some things that are within your control, and that's to be the best version of you -- someone who loves their work, strives to better themselves, and continues to challenge herself in new ways. Most importantly, it's to love yourself. Guys will need to be at their best to keep up with you, and not the other way around.

Looking at George Clooney, he's has had no shortage of options in beauty. But, like all the women who have tied down "heartthrobs" and "players," we know that attraction is more than just skin-deep. Beauty is fleeting.

Seeing Clooney get married did give me hope for my own future in love and strengthened my resolve in waiting. I've never stated a desire for perpetual bachelorhood; I do, however, hope to find a strong, articulate, confident, intelligent, beautiful woman, like Amal Clooney -- someone who wants me, but doesn't need me -- so that I can be "proud to be her husband."

The way George looked at Amal during his speech, and the way she looked at him back, I don't think there was any person in that room who thought Amal was the lucky one.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Goodbye SVB

When I scroll through my newsfeed on Facebook and see a stream of former classmates and friends all married, with kids – some of whom have even started high school! – I wonder whether I made some wrong decisions in my life. Should I not have pushed away that sweet and caring television reporter? Or that hilarious and fun banker? Or what about that intelligent and ambitious single mother? Regardless, it was always something. I question whether I will ever be satisfied.

Maybe I'm going through a mid-life crisis. I don't know. For as long as I've written Silicon Valley Bachelor – almost seven years – the tagline has always been, "ludicrous, belligerent, irresponsible..." And for a number of years, I was always happy to oblige. You want someone to party with? That's going to be me. It was a persona that worked well. A brand that took on a life of its own. But lately, it's a burden and a representation I feel less and less comfortable with.

On several recent "party" outings, I had an overwhelming sense of NOT wanting to be there. Maybe it's the negative consequence of extensive travel – finding my home environment neither intriguing or interesting anymore. Or maybe I really didn't want to be there. The same types of people doing the same types of clichéd things. And none more clichéd than me.

The most intriguing woman I ever met once wrote to me:

"Despite the fact that you’re an undeniable gentleman, you’ve spent a lot of your adult life crafting a public persona and a career out of celebrating beauty and sexuality, something to which I’m sympathetic but also deeply wary. Beauty is fleeting."

What she wrote was the moment I had been dreading for years. Someone that I truly, genuinely liked calling me out on my bullshit. And there's a lot to choose from. I'd always known that by being openly forthcoming with tales of dating, courtship, and partying (although I never got graphic or named names), that it might one day impede my chances with someone who actually mattered. She mattered.

Everything I've written has always been an extension of who I am – not WHO I am. Unfortunately, sometimes the most entertaining aspects of what I write is what sticks.

Too often, I feel I must live up to this persona I've embellished and molded for myself. Half the things I write never get posted, because I worry they won't entertain enough people – that those who are reading might not laugh. 700,000 people have now read a story on this site. And rather than be empowered, I feel more beholden than ever. Even throughout this post, I struggle to not make a mockery of myself through jokes – because that's what I believe you want.

Does this mean I no longer want to go out and have drinks? Dance the night away? Or make people laugh? Absolutely not. Making people laugh is what I take the most pride in over these last seven years. It's the one thing about myself that I'm sure of.

I don't have any of the answers to what this next chapter of my life holds. I spend more time searching and questioning than knowing. It's time to take back my persona, whatever it is, or may become...

In the end, you can try and make yourself desirable to everyone, but you can also end up being a sad caricature of no one. A cliché. We've all the right to continually redefine ourselves. People evolve. I've evolved.

Is there still a place for me where I call home? Whom everyone I know lives a life far different than mine? In a way, traveling in foreign lands makes me feel safe. Along with everyone else, I'm just a tourist making discoveries – not knowing what's behind each corner. A far better feeling than being a tourist in my own environment.

Ludicrous, belligerent, irresponsible... might still be accurate, but I won't hide behind it anymore.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Campaign Against Creepy Men: Take Back Our Streets


Having recently returned from several "third world" countries (and been to many others that are far less "affluent" than the United States), I was struck by how much more civility men publicly show women in other nations. I'd always figured there was a correlation between economic class and manners. I was wrong. It has much more to do with allowing and facilitating a culture that has accepted this kind of behavior as the "norm."

In many of the countries I've visited, I was astounded by the fact an attractive woman could walk down the street and NOT be ogled and "hollered" at. It stood out to me, because I'm so used to seeing attractive women in the U.S. get leered at to the point of disrespect and discomfort. It's become an epidemic, where a woman can't walk down the streets without hearing someone call out some sort of sexist comment, grab at them, or have a car honk to get their attention.

I think the people who do this are the most pathetic, lowest-class neanderthals you will ever meet.

The same type of people who take cheap shots at others at sporting events, get arrested for domestic violence, and would break the law if they knew they could get away with it. These people objectify others, lack respect, empathy and the courtesies that accompany these characteristics.

Recently I watched a hidden camera video where a woman walks the streets of New York City. While edited, not a moment goes by where she isn't catcalled by men, ogled, or harassed. As someone who has spent a lot of time helping guys figure out ways to approach and speak to women, this is most DEFINITELY not one of them. While I encourage guys to be confident and assertive, it should always be in a respectful manner where you get to know someone and then ask them out. It should be in an environment where both parties expect some sort of social interaction, not a verbally intimidating shout-out on the streets while someone's walking, as if yelling out to some zoo animal to get their attention.



Coming from a family with very strong female figures, this subject is actually very close to my heart. I remember when I was very young – maybe 8 or 9 – I was on the subway in NYC and I knew the leering eye of a stranger towards one of my family members was more than just a passing glare. He didn't take his eyes from her for a second until he noticed me staring daggers into him. Even then, I knew his intentions were outside of the norm. Once we were set to get off the subway, in the rush and crush of the crowd, he quickly molested my family member and disappeared amongst the faces. I was livid – heated that I couldn't do anything about it. And maybe the first time I realized the world wasn't innocent.

We don't have to accept this type of behavior. As men – as gentleman – we owe it to each other to still have respect for women, even when there are no women around. Being around a bunch of "bros" does not make it right to degrade, hoot and holler at women like uneducated idiots. Admittedly, I have been around guys when they act this way, and rather than saying, "have some respect. I'm not cool with that," I turned a deaf ear. I'm not proud of that.

Women, I've actually seen some of you respond kindly to this sort of approach. Don't encourage these going-nowhere-fast simpletons with responses. Demand to be treated like a person and not an object. There's a time and place for everything, but not as a woman is going about her day trying to get to a destination. Women should be able to walk the streets without someone trying to undress them with their eyes and assaulting their sense of freedom.

We can take back our streets by facilitating a culture that lets it be known we are disgusted with this kind of behavior and will not allow it to permeate any further. Rather than accepting this as the norm of mainstream American culture, we can start by shaming these neanderthals and continue by teaching our children the proper and respectful ways to interact with each other. Maybe this is overly ambitious, and a rather grand statement, but I believe we can change the tide of acceptable American societal norms.

Respect our women.

It starts with each one of us.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.
SVB

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Silicon Valley Bachelor Reality Show: Looking for Bachelors!


In college, my favorite friend was a socially awkward computer-geek. I stuck up for him. I was mean to girls who didn't like him. I forced him out to social settings. I loved that goofy bastard.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the "little guy." 

Don't get me wrong, in no way was he some sort of charity case. And by no means calling him, and others like him, the "little guy" am I trying to demean, although I realize that's what I may inadvertently be doing. I genuinely enjoyed his friendship, his unique take, and the fact that he would want to be friends with ME – a cliched fratty college neanderthal. I desperately wanted him to enjoy aspects of life that he otherwise might've overlooked, or that might otherwise have overlooked him. 

Some people see this site as some sort of self-aggrandizing attempt of my dating exploits. It's never been about that. Sadly, this site and the stories represented, have actually dissuaded more girls to NOT date me. It's probably better, as I have more time to count down the days of my life. This site, and the whole idea of "the Silicon Valley Bachelor," has always been about offering guys (and girls) the knowledge to find and more effectively communicate with the opposite sex. It's about helping, empowering, and offering a positive message – using myself as an unintended cautionary tale. (Even my startup deals with "wingmanning" people!)

So when the casting director of a prominent reality production company asked me to help find guys/get the word out on a potential new show that helps Silicon Valley bachelors find true love – I chomped at the opportunity. First of all, it's been years since I actually served a purpose to anyone. Heck, people don't even ask me to watch their groceries when they accidentally leave their wallet in a porn-newspaper vending machine. Secondly, I love my Silicon Valley geeks. The best part is that Silicon Valley geeks and nerds are not afraid to call themselves that. It's getting dangerously close to meta territory.

Here is the description of the show:

Calling all eligible Silicon Valley Bachelors! 

A NYC- based television production company is looking for single, successful, Silicon Valley bachelors who are on a quest for love. Are you tired of the dating scene? Do you keep striking out with the ladies? Do you need one-on-one coaching from our experts? 

If you are between the ages of 25-40 and sincerely interested in finding “the One” please submit your name, contact info, picture, age and brief bio to siliconvalleyrealityshow@gmail.com

Or you can email me at SVBachelor@gmail.com. This production company is legit, but I'm not at liberty to say who. Any girl can tell you I am really good at online stalking and I did my due diligence. I don't even have cable and I've seen some of the shows they've produced.

Once upon a time, I was considered the best wingman this side of the Mississippi. But that was in another lifetime... It would give me great joy to find someone who's truly looking for love and help them find it, while also showing the world all the amazing characteristics of men who often-times get overlooked by society.

Like the great Jerry Maguire said, "help me, help you..."

Send your info in today!

Wishing you always the best in love,
Kevin L.
The SVB

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Celebrating All of Life's Little Moments


I get asked a lot of questions. Probably because people don't know what to make of me. Internally, they must be saying, "is this guy really as dumb as he looks?" Or, "how has this guy survived so long without constant supervision?" Or, "I wonder what would happen if I just abruptly walked away while he's in mid-sentence?"

I don't have large life moments to celebrate like an awesome girlfriend, a marriage, a wife, a baby, a fancy car, a lavish home, a boat, a promotion, or even dinner reservations at French Laundry. Instead, I cherish each individual moment, unique situation, learning something new, a challenge, traveling to a new destination, or an Enrique Iglesias song playing on the radio.

During this year's baseball playoffs, I saw people criticize professional athletes for celebrating making the playoffs, or a series win, but I strongly disagree with their criticisms. There's no guarantee that there will be another series win. While it may not be their ultimate goal, it allows them a chance to celebrate aspects of the journey with the people that helped get them there. If you only celebrated lifetime achievements, you're in for a very long, sad, and lonely journey. I love life's little moments. And I love doing something new and succeeding at it.

Now, your definition of "succeeding" may be different than mine, as my definition can be as little as successfully sounding out the words in the instructions of a project. Of course, I don't celebrate menial things like getting a free refill of soda at the restaurant or a made basket in a game of hoops (I save that for later) – but my latest celebration has been the success of our press on the first data-driven analysis of where in the world are the most attractive ethnicities. What I thoroughly enjoyed about the process was learning new ways to do press internationally. While doing Public Relations (PR) for MerchantCircle, I only thought of strategies for the U.S. market.

The week leading up to press announcements was filled with anxiety, nervousness, and endless "will" questions: Will this angle make sense to this reporter? Will anyone write about us? Will I still have a job? Will my Mom turn that sewing room back into my bedroom? Will I have a curfew? Will she stop hitting me with that spatula? But, fortunately, I always got at least one person to write or talk about us. It made all those sleepless nights worth it. I've attempted many different fields and occupations in my life (TV reporting, book writing, screenwriting, bartending, flipping burgers, sales), as I think our lives are much too short – with far too many interesting things in this world – to limit ourselves and our minds. I enjoy learning new things. I enjoy the challenges. I enjoy the challenges that PR has presented me.

I wanted to take a moment with this post to celebrate and thank the media outlets around the world for writing and for making me better at PR in the process (which I didn't think was possible... I'm pretty damn good as is! Like, if you were comparing me to a musician, I'd be Yoko Ono.) Each time I got a Google alert with a new article, I just about jizzed in my pants. While I targeted all of the countries in our Top 10 list, we didn't get them all, so there's still plenty of room for growth. (Some countries even picked up the story without me reaching out!) I'll just mention the first ones to write in each country – don't want to overdue it, like when I go out on first dates and I go on and on about my 3rd place finish in my 5th grade science fair.

USA – BroBible/BuzzFeed
Israel – Mako
Lithuania – lrytas.lt
Slovenia – Playboy
Poland – CKM.PL (although I gotta throw in Newsweek as well!)
Norway – SIDE3
Netherlands – GRAZIA

In case you think it's been all fun and games since the release, here's what's new at our inaugural OnAMap site: GirlsOnAMap.

– You can now toggle between your top-rated cities AND countries through your profile.
City pages are now connected with WikiTravel as opposed to Wikipedia... for obvious reasons.
– You can now scroll right/left to see the Top 10 rated girls in the world and the Top 10 recently uploaded. (Our latest press announcement almost doubled our female user base, with many uploading multiple pictures of themselves to see what their ratings and best pictures are...)
– The OnAMap Team Bio page, so you can now put a face to that person you openly loathe (me).

And, of course, the pre-press announcement features that you may or may not have seen:
– The newsfeed on our homepage, which shows you the most recently uploaded pictures and travel tips.
– Our previous press on the home page
– And while still in Alpha mode, GuysOnAMap has secretly launched. The announcement won't be made for awhile though as I need my rating to be much, MUCH higher.

Also, be ready for a new "game" mode that we have in store!

So now you know what I'm doing with my life! You can ask me other questions now, like, "will you go away?" Finally, I wish you the best in all of YOUR life's moments. Enjoy each and every one of them.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.
OnAMap Founder

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Best Places In the World You Should Travel to Next and Where You Should Avoid

A lot of people ask me about my travels and for suggestions on their own travels, which I am more than happy to oblige with tales of my glorious conquests. I like to regale with hours and hours of dizzying, unnecessary detail – from the wait time of the airplane bathroom following the inflight movie to the amount of hotel towels stolen – that leaves the askee wishing someone would put a bullet in their head. It's just all part of the joy of loving my own voice!

In an effort to avoid ever talking about myself again, I have made it a goal to write about all questions posed to me in daily conversation. Fortunately, for you, this post is not titled, "What the hell am I doing with my life?!?!" Or, "What time did I sleep until today?" Or, "Did I cry myself to sleep last night again?" As those are the other most frequent questions posed. I'll save those ones for once I've completed rehab and therapy. When people ask me questions, I plan to just respond with, "I'll send you a link to that question," and then turn back to staring into the bottom of my well whiskey with nary a thought of it ever being "half full" as tears stream down my face.

This is my "best/worst/favorite/most list". (There shall be no semblance of organization, consistency, or structure here!) Some of these questions will be answered with short stories and descriptions; others will have no explanation. Some will be written as if I were Hunter S. Thompson. Others will be written as if I were channelling Billy Madison. (I like to practice my stylistic plagiarism.) I call my own style, "conversational basic rudimentary english for new speakers who can't read good, yet also have poor study habits." (It kind of rolls off the tongue, no?)

Drum roll... please!

BEST BEACH


I consider myself a beach connoisseur (and, no, I did not know how to spell that word). I cannot go on a vacation without spending a few days exploring a beach – no matter how crappy it is. For my discriminating criteria, I'm not just choosing the one with the clearest water and softest sand, but for the overall ambiance and tranquility. Almost all of the beaches in southern Europe are out of the question for top billing. As stunning as the backdrop may be, I cannot support beaches with (majority) no sand, substituted with pebbles and jagged rocks that hurt my precious feet that need to be protected for my future life as a concubine. As for others, most of Hawaii is too commercialized and refined. Mexico too loud. Jamaica too sleazy. Central and South America too dirty (water). Asia too European backpacker.

Flamenco Beach on the small island of Culebra (a part of Puerto Rico) is my favorite for a number of reasons. It's almost completely secluded and free of development – except for one amazing, unassuming, inexpensive villa rental complex. (If you look in the top picture of the collage, you'll see the lone villas amongst the greenery.) The water is exceptionally clear and the sand white and soft. I dream of being able to eventually take a loved one here and maybe a burgeoning family. Hopefully it won't be overrun with development by then.

Honorable mention: Lanikai, Hawaii and Phi Phi Island, Thailand

BEST SURPRISE AND SELF-DISCOVERY

I guess it's best to segue into how I ended up on the island of Culebra and Flamenco Beach. Almost all of my most cherished travel memories have taken place without an itinerary – mostly armed with only a few sparse words of the language and my charming smile. Which means I ended up getting robbed, beat up, raped, and urinated on a lot while laying in a fetal position on the ground. Sigh. Good memories.

There's something about walking down a street in a foreign country without a map and choosing to go straight, left, or right, and there being no wrong answer. In the movie Cast Away, after Tom Hanks returns home, the movie ends with him looking in four different directions, wondering which way he should go. And he smirks. He knows that – finally – he's free and has the world in front of him. There is no wrong choice if you have an open heart and mind.

Traveling to Puerto Rico was one of the first times I would go on a trip on my own with no itinerary. That trip was culminated by new friends, a bottle of rum on the best beach I had ever set foot on, darkness and stars over head, talking more deeply and openly than I ever had in my life. I loved it. For all the Motorcycle Diaries, Under The Tuscan Sun's, and Eat Pray Love's out there embracing solo travel, there's a reason those books aren't fiction. It truly is one of the most amazing ways to discover new things about yourself and to find peace.

BEST CITY TO LIVE

I love the vibrancy and energy of certain cities I've visited. Some had me never wanting to leave. With Buenos Aires, I was truly amazed, as I (naively) assumed that most South American countries were relatively poor and lacking in rich history. (I mean, who can top the U.S.'s impressive run of over 400 years of uninterrupted development and history!??!) Buenos Aires combined European style, flair (and confidence), with Latin passion and culture.

I loved the time spent enjoying people's company during siestas and the lack of urgency to go out at night, as bars, cafes, and clubs stayed open until the early-morning hours. I loved the architecture, the pride, the diversity of food, the steaks, the Malbecs, the camaraderie, and the exchange rate! (Although you can keep the Fernet).

Honorable mentions: Hong Kong, Medellin

MOST BORING CITY

Frankfurt, Germany. I had to stay here, because for some reason the city is a major European airport hub. I desperately searched for photo ops, culture, or.... anything of interest. Fail.

MOST DISAPPOINTING COUNTRY

Many people will tell you Germany is their favorite, but it just wasn't for me. Don't get me wrong, the people are nice, polite, and pleasant, but the country just lacks enough culture to shock my senses. It might be because they have all the amenities of the United States, share many of the same customs and habits, and offer the same food found on any street corner in the States. Plus, I'm not a huge beer fan, so that probably hurts its ranking.

MOST UNIQUE CITY

Las Vegas. (The U.S. made this undistinguished list!) You will never, ever see anything remotely close to what Las Vegas has done. There's just nothing like it. I'm not saying it's "unique" good or "unique" bad, but it is one-of-a-kind. It's crazy, debaucherous, sinful, consumptuous, celebrated and, yet, never fails to surprise.

Honorable mentions: Amsterdam

MOST UNIQUE EVENT

Running of the Bulls. Pamplona, Spain

FAVORITE DESTINATION


Croatia has probably already hit the tipping point of tourist discovery, but it still has everything I look for in a trip – starting with uniqueness. While the walled city in Dubrovnik is amazing, my favorite had to be Hvar Island. Exploring the island on a scooter, almost every place turned out to be my new favorite place! Whenever we felt the urge, my friend Vince and I would park, get out and take a dip in the sea. Old world charm, customs, and pace, without the crush of commercialism and the hustlers that come with it.

Honorable mention: Greek Isles

MOST AMAZING MONUMENT/STRUCTURE/"WONDER OF THE WORLD"

I've been to the Great Wall of China twice now and both times I've been awestruck at how grand it is. Oftentimes quoted as being the only man-made structure visible from space, it is simply amazing that humans built this without cranes and machines. And in 200s BC!!! I can barely tie my shoes in 2014 AD!!!! As far as the eye can see, it is a revelation. If I go back a third time, I will still climb those giant steps with the giddiness of a school boy.

Honorable mention: Machu Picchu

MOST AMAZING NATURAL WONDER

Great Barrier Reef

BEST FOOD

Italy (where "al dente" is perfection)

Honorable mention: Thailand

BEST NIGHTLIFE

I can't pinpoint a place where I had more fun than the others, because I pretty much always have an amazing time (before blacking out and waking up in a gutter). I loved the uniqueness of Shanghai, where ordering a bottle (much more affordable than the U.S.) is the standard, even if you're sitting at the bar. I loved Taiwan and the private karaoke rooms where you could order any type of alcohol or food and have it brought to your room. I loved Medellin, where people gathered in parks to pre-drink. I loved Rio, where there was probably the greatest ratio of people making out in the club to people NOT making out I have ever seen. There's joy to be had everywhere.

BEST MEMORY (TIE)


Armed without an itinerary in the French Riviera, I met two girls on a beach in Monaco – one of whom would turn out to be one of my favorite people I've ever met. Over the next two weeks, we would decide each day what we would do, where we'd go, and eventually rented a car in Nice, drove to St. Tropez to stay with one of their friends, before ending up in their home country of Switzerland. There were so many great moments in that spur-of-the-moment trip, I don't even know where to start... but it started and ended with so much laughter.


After spending an incredible few weeks traveling Croatia and exploring Germany with my best friend, Vince, he had to head back to Rome. I decided I would go to the train station in Berlin and take the next train out. Either north to Stockholm, west to Vienna, or east to Budapest. It ended up being Budapest, where I hopped on the overnight train and ended up in a compartment with two other people – both strangers. We ended up talking over the next few hours, and during a stopover, decided to get a couple of bottles of wine for the last leg of the trip. In the morning, Kinga asks me where I'm staying in Budapest. I tell her that I don't have a place yet. She tells me that I'm staying with her then! Which turns out to be the top floor of an apartment complex overlooking the Danube River. Over the course of the next four days, we go to a local farmer's market (not a tourist in sight!), she cooks me a traditional Hungarian cuisine, and I learn about Budapest through the eyes of a local.

Honorable mention: Riding on the back of a scooter (without a helmet and shirt) through the French Riviera with my boy, Ryan.


Because of all the goodwill bestowed upon me in my travels, and the way I was raised, I have and will always pay it forward. If I have a room or couch open in my house, it is always available. And when friends I've met around the world come and visit, it is no burden at all for me to drive them to my favorite places around Northern California. The reward is in their faces. (And the forced sexual favors. Thanks, Philip, for encouraging me to find that "happy place" and that it would "all be over soon." You lied about that last part though, you SON OF A B*TCH!)

I honestly don't know how I've been so fortunate to have met such amazing people during my travels. I'd imagine that it started with putting down whatever was in my hands and giving the world around me a chance. And whether the world leads you north, south, east, or west, know that blindly following your faith and opening yourself up to the possibilities of the unknown is more rewarding than the destination.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.
The SVB

P.S. If you're ever in Australia, you can visit this post's sponsor in search of a friendly escort!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

20 Things I Learned from 20 Years of Dating


A startling revelation occurred to me the other day – Del Taco has been selling a version of California Burritos for over two weeks now and I STILL haven't gone to sample it!!! And my other revelation was I've now been dating for over 20 years!!! TWENTY! While others have settled down, had kids, and moved on to adulthood with grace and class, I've devolved into a slightly less refined version of my 14-year-old self. For years now, people (both male and female) have turned to me for dating and relationship advice. Why? I have no idea.

Common questions include, "There's a discharge from my penis when I'm urinating, what STD do I have?" Or, "How can I tell if the person I'm dating is an awful person like you?" Or, "How can I sabotage the brakes in my lover's car?" Or, my favorite, "Can you shut up and jump off a bridge? Stat?"

My readers love me.

You can probably ask me about any aspect of dating and I will have experienced it. If I took a class on dating, I'd get a B just for showing up, right? Probably more like an A-.

Alas, here are the things I've learned about approaching, dating, sustaining, and being better at relationships. Some of these I've always preached, but others I had to learn the hard way.

1. Learn to break up with a girl. As an extremely empathetic person, I still struggle with this one. I wish I possessed the ability to look a girl in the eye and say, "I don't think this is working out." I did that once in the 8th grade and it was the most awful feeling in the world, but it was the right thing to do. Too many people string someone along until they find someone better. Cut your losses and save your time for someone you're meant to be with.

2. Have a short-term memory. Most guys are crippled by the fear of rejection when going up to a girl. EVERYONE gets rejected. If you can conquer that fear, quickly forget and move right on, you are now better than 95% of the guys out there.

3. Don't talk a big game. After the fear of rejection, the other reason guys are afraid to approach a girl is the fear of being rejected in front of their friends. Find friends you can be real around – ones that aren't impressed with gloating.

4. Have girl FRIENDS. Sometimes there can be no better wingman than a wingwoman. Not to mention, some of my favorite, most rewarding friendships have been with girls. You don't have to worry about macho, testosterone-filled guys who frown upon the expression of vulnerability. We all need to be honest with ourselves sometimes.

5. Be a gentleman. It's never too late to adopt habits of opening doors, pulling out seats, helping a lady put on her jacket, and offering your own jacket when it's cold – these acts go a long way. If you're not considerate in these realms, I'd imagine you're probably horrible and one-sided in the sack as well.

6. Dance. If you've spent ANY time with me at an establishment with music, you know that I like to dance the night away. It wasn't always so. In high school, I was definitely mortified at the thought of my loose limbs flailing around. Dancing, no matter how bad, is always better than NOT dancing. It's the best way to break contact with a girl.

7. Wait to buy a drink. Don't ever use buying a drink for a girl as the prerequisite for talking to to her, especially if the girl is the one who asks you to buy the drink. I only buy a girl a drink if we're having great conversation and/or I'm getting a good vibe. You'll save yourself a lot of money and the needed brain functionality to remember the conversation you have with someone who actually matters.

8. Be kind to service industry professionals. They put on a show everyday by smiling and cleaning up after the worst of you. The least you can do is smile back, help clean up your own stuff, and tip. Your date will notice more often than not.

9. Read current events. If you want to have a conversation with anyone, you'll need to expand what you know of the world. What better way than to read the news everyday, so that you can talk about a broad range of topics. Who knows? Reading may even be able to help you figure out the daunted "your/you're" and "they're/their/there" – it's not that hard, people.

10. Live in your skin. Katy Perry (yes, I listen to Katy Perry) sang, "I fell for everything, because I stood for nothing." Too many people only know themselves as part of a relationship – never taking the time to find their own interests or be comfortable with who they are. The more you know about yourself, the more engaging you can be with others.

11. Communicate. I don't think any girl I've dated can say that I wasn't a good communicator. Don't let things go unresolved and allow them to fester. Handle your business by communicating and enjoy a much more productive relationship with fewer issues and probably a more open, fulfilling sex life.

12. Listen. Be interested in people. Ask questions. Really get to know someone.

13. Don't play games. Real men don't play with people's emotions. Sure, there's still some subtlety that goes into when to text a girl and what all you can say at the beginning of a relationship, but if you know you don't like a girl as much as she likes you? Cut her loose. Even if the sex is amazing. It's not right to her. (This goes the same way for you ladies.)

14. Date someone who likes their job. There's nothing more draining than someone who dreads going to work and then comes back with a heart and mind full of annoyance and disdain. Rather than enjoying each other, you're spending large amounts of your time listening to someone vent and then trying to cheer them up.

15. Overvalue intelligence. I've been very guilty in emphasizing looks, while devaluing important things that will help a relationship last when the looks have faded. In all my 20 years, I can now tell you – definitively – that intelligence is sexy. You almost certainly cannot be funny (to me) without being intelligent.

16. Don't take yourself too seriously. I am often the butt of jokes, which does not bother me whatsoever. I encourage it. If I have to be self-deprecating to get everyone to loosen up, then I will happily do that.

17. Enjoy the moment. While you've inevitably heard the phrase, "the joy is in the journey," I can't help but again emphasize that there is joy in every moment. It's not always about being AT the concert or enjoying the finished meal – sometimes the gems can be found while stuck in traffic or making a mess in the kitchen. Enjoy it all.

18. Don't be jealous. Always believe that if someone is dumb enough to cheat on you, then they don't deserve you. You can't handcuff someone for the rest of their lives so that he/she's with you forever. Know who you are so that you don't question who you aren't.

19. Want to be a better person. We can always improve upon who we are. Whether that's mentally, physically, characteristically, or morally, we all have a lot of room for growth. Find that person who always challenges you to be better – not through them telling or nagging you, but from them inspiring you in ways to seek it for yourself.

And, finally... my favorite...

20. Be passionate. Whether it's a moment stolen on a busy street, or a quiet walk in the park, savor your loved one when you can. Grab her, feel her, forget everything else but those lips. Linger. Sigh. But feel those lips.

I can't tell you much about marriage or raising a child (I look forward to it one day), but I can tell you to love your life. Love the fact that you can love. We spend a lot of time figuring out who we are as people – it's an ongoing process – but the new people we allow into our lives can be transcendent. While you may not spend forever with them, there's so much growth and love to be had.

Love to love.


Sincerely,
Kevin L.