China is my Favorite Country Outside the U.S.

Gregory Gopman-China

I’ll just come out and say it — I love China! Over the last 3 years I’ve been fortunate enough to see China’s ancient city of Lijang, the cosmopolitan cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong, the business mecca of Beijing, and the country-sides of Guilin. And in doing so I’ve seen what makes China stand out as one of the most amazing places in the world — it’s rich history, beautiful landscapes, and it’s unique culture that celebrates luck, family, education, safety, and prosperity.

Gregory Gopman-China

Regardless of what you might have heard, the food is incredible in China and incredibly diverse between each region. Speaking of regions, China has 60 cities with over five million people… that’s insane! And similar to the US, each one of these cities have their own cultural landscapes and history to be enjoyed. If you’re like me, then this is the perfect stomping ground because there’s endless amounts of things to see. And best of all, China is really really cheap! Not as cheap as it used to be, but still much cheaper then the US. Especially the country side, which is the most beautiful place of all.

Gregory Gopman-China countryside

There some things that are very strange for outsiders, but they are mere cultural differences that don’t truly show who the Chinese are as people. Chinese people are kind, hardworking, and hold very high family values. You’ll rarely see the mentally ill or elderly in shelters because they take care of them in their homes. There is almost no violence in China and the streets are impeccably clean most the time. They believe in Buddhist principals, karmic law, being frugal and making sacrifices to see their children excel.

If you find the time, I highly recommend you make a visit, very few things will be so culturally rewarding in your life. Go alone, bring your significant other, or maybe the whole family. You’ll find few places in the world that are more safe and diverse with each place you visit.

Gregory Gopman-China countryside

Gregory Gopman-China

My Favorite Cities in North America

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Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to travel. Something about entering a new city inspires me and makes me feel alive all over again. Over the past 4 years I’ve been to over 50 cities and as I adventure people often ask me which city is my favorite. It’s not really a fair question, every city is special in it’s own way, but most people will tell you the best place to live in the world is America. In light of that, here are my favorite cities in North America — Toronto, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.

What makes a great city is a mixture of career opportunities, healthy food options, good weather, great people, a good dating scene, and ease of public transportation. Thanks to Uber though, public transport is less of a factor now and has accelerated Los Angeles onto my list. Los Angeles is definitely the black sheep from my list. It gets a bad rap for traffic, shallowness, and a lack of opportunity. But I think Los Angeles is growing up from the Hollywood stereo type more than people realize, especially towns west of the 405 like Santa Monica. San Francisco is the leader in career opportunities and has incredibly amazing things to do nearby — skiing, hiking, wining (wine-ing), theme parks, sailing, camping, hot springs. In my opinion it’s dating scene is sub-par, but it excels so much in other areas that it makes up for it.

Gregory gopman in NYC
New York is incredible on all levels, except for it’s weather in recent years that is bone-chilling cold. That said, you simply can’t find a better place on earth than New York in the Fall.
gregory gopman in toronto

And finally Toronto… Toronto is a gem — Canadians as people are amazing, the dating scene is incredible, and life there is just good. The weather is comparable to New York, incredible in Summer/Fall, but a toss up on what Winter will be like.

Some close seconds to my favorite cities are San Diego, Austin, Vancouver, and DC.  I’m always happy to visit any one of them. I think an exceptional city inspires you to reach high and work towards your potential.

If I had the option, I’d say live a bi-coastal life between New York / Toronto in the Fall and Los Angeles / San Francisco in the spring. If you’re working in tech or looking for a career change, San Francisco should be your choice. Looking for a wife, Toronto and New York. Love the beach — Los Angeles via Santa Monica or Venice. Love the outdoors, San Francisco again. It really doesn’t matter which place you chose, all are world class cities and all are going to provide you a diverse and happy life. For now I live in San Francisco, but that could change at any month. And in the world we live in, your favorite cities are just a plane ticket away.

Burning Man: A First Hand Account

Burning Man was an amazing experience! It was filled with new friends, new adventures, and new discoveries about myself. Burning Man has a lot to do with the people, but to me it’s a spiritual journey and unlike anything else, anywhere in the world. This was my second “burn” and it was exponentially better than my first. This trip I went for a full week (which I highly recommend), stayed with a camp of fellow Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and felt like a “true burner” the entire time. The best part about being a Burning Man veteran is teaching the new burners about the culture, and I felt like I did a good job of sharing my version of “the playa” with them.

My trip started out with a 10 hour drive to Reno, Nevada where I met my friends Ben and Rocky and stayed a night. It rained heavy Sunday and into Monday, so Burning Man was temporarily closed and we spent a night outside the Burning Man grounds at Lake Pyramid. Lake Pyramid was beautiful, but it was only a prelude to the amazing things we’d soon see. After another 5 hours driving Tuesday morning we were in!

Lake Pyramid

Lake Pyramid

And the adventures finally began! This year I stayed at Bao Chicka Wow Wow, which was in and of itself incredible. The dues were reasonable, the people and camp were amazing, we had an awesome art car, and a great playa gift – serving 1,000’s of Bao Buns (which are delicious steamed barbecue pork buns served with hot tea) to hungry burners. Bao Chicka Wow Wow was located at 2:15AM near sound camp, which I worried would make it hard to sleep, but I ended up staying up all night and adventuring every night anyways.

This year I stayed in an air-conditioned “Yurt” (highly recommended), which me and a dozen others built for weeks leading up to Burning Man. Together with 13 other yurts we made up Yurtville and it was incredible. The sun and sand were not a problem at all, contrary to popular belief. I do wish I brought a blow up bed like some of my yurt neighbors however. In total there were 85 people in my camp and a lot of time was spent getting to know them. Meeting new friends and experiencing the events of Burning Man together was priceless time. Conversations started off normal, but quickly became personal as the days went on and relationships deepened, barriers went down, and ultimately we became a playa family.

Yurtville

Yurtville at Camp Bao Chicka Wow Wow

Swing Camp

Swing Camp

During this burn I spent about 50% adventuring alone and 50% with the group. I cherish my solo time, because it’s the only time I’m free to do whatever I want free of any inhibitions. In a culture where everything is accepted and you can do what your heart desires, the only rational thing to be is yourself! My favorite workshops this year took place at the Sacred Spaces Village. I took part in workshops on “channeling my spirit animal,” and “love + acceptance meditation.” I also had a blast at gong meditation, playing on a trampoline with kids, trying the swing course at Swing Camp, and playing God to anyone who picked up the phone in front of Red Lightning “Hello my child, this is the big G O D.”

The Coolest Kids in Camp

The Coolest Kids in Camp

God Phone Booth; I Answered

God Phone Booth; I Answered

For group activities, a lot of my time was spent rocking the ‘art car’, an ice-cream truck retrofitted to be an Ice-Berg called Titanic’s End, and serving Bao Buns in the deep desert. It took the whole week to figure out how to master the sound, lighting, and location required to be a cool art car. It was definitely trial by error, but by the end of Burning Man we had 100’s of loyal fans flocking to our car, eating Bao, and being weird with us in one awesome mixture of what can only be described as a dream.

My favorite personal night this year was Thursday. That night I spent 3 hours at the Disorient Dome in deep thought about my life and the person I want to become in the future. Then I met the most incredible people from the “Superheros and Villains” camp and danced around with them for 3 hours. I took a dance workshop with my friend Ted earlier in the year and all the lessons definitely paid off! Then I wandered for 3 more hours, walking the deep playa, running into some old friends (Mike, Connor, Dilan, & Moses) and making some new ones (Bao… o sweet Bao). The night ended in the daytime, watching the “Embrace” art installation burn. I didn’t get a photo, but luckily my friend Eric was seated 8 ft above me on an art piece and shared this photo with me when we had sushi a few days ago. At the time I had no idea it was Eric sitting above me, but that’s the type of incredible serendipity of Burning Man.

Embrace Burn

Embrace Burn

My favorite group night was the Man Burn, which I spent with my friend Apoorva. There was something special in the air that night and it seemed like everything was perfect. We started riding around on bikes, continued on foot, ventured from art car to art car in what could have been a music video, but was closer to some sort of epic journey. We watched the sunrise at Robot Heart, the most epic party each night on the playa. My childhood friend was working the entrance and got us on-stage, along with all the DJ’s, gogo dancers, and entertainers. It was just that kind of night.  By this point we had definitely ventured into some foreign fantasy land and to top things off I danced go-go for a few hours in front of 1000’s, hanging off the art car by one hand as the DJ played deep house and the sun clawed at the night’s door. Putting all of my experiences into words is difficult as Burning Man is truly an experience you need to see for yourself and not just read about.

Burning Man 2014 ended like it began, with lots of hugs, bright ambitions for things to come, packing, and ultimately driving home. I decompressed in Reno, ordering room service, showering, shaving, and enjoying the luxuries of our “normal” world. Life for me has definitely forever changed after this burn. The friendships, the experiences, the clarity into what/who I want to be. I can’t say enough… only that I know for sure I’ll be back next year and I hope you will join me!

Camp Bao Chicka Wow Wow

Camp Bao Chicka Wow Wow

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