Thoughts on Travel Gear for an Around the World Adventure

It is hard to believe it has already been 5 months on the road. Roaming around the world can make time accelerate. Life is good.  We are having a great time, meeting all sorts of interesting folks and exploring fascinating lands. Apart from spending time with family and friends, we are not missing too much – at least not yet. We would love to be able to cook a little bit more and miss “Sundays”, but we may book into more AirBnB spots during the rest of our trip so we are expecting more opportunities for both.

Our gear is working out well. After 3 months or so, we shipped about 5 lbs. of extra clothes and some extra electronics accessories back to the States. We also shipped a water filter and mosquito net back  – these were just not necessary for our travels.

On the electronics front, we no longer have any doubts that a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and two Kindles are the right amount. It felt like a lot initially, but we are using everything regularly. Apart from a smashed iPhone screen that I replaced in Capetown, everything is working great. We have been 100% Wi-Fi and have used Skype, Whats App, WeChat and e-mail for communication. We have not bought a single SIM card while on the road. Being completely independent of any telecom or cable company is WONDERFUL. Wi-Fi is prevalent in most countries now and usually free.  Asia has had the best.  Wi-Fi was free and fast. South Africa had the worst Wi-Fi experience.  It was pay-for the most part and relatively slow.  India tended to be free but very constricted and often unusable in public spots.

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For keeping everything charged, we use this universal charger from Monster with a universal adapter that has worked everywhere (with the exception of some spots in South Africa).

 

 

It is a pretty tight set up – only 2 pieces and can charge up to 5 electronics at once. (It gets a little hot when you load it up that much though.)  We shipped all our iPad and iPhone charges back to the States to minimize the load. And when we absolutely need a mobile charge, this Jackery travel charger has done the job. It is not small and a bit heavy, but it packs the watts to get both our smartphone and tablet fired up and rolling quickly (although their mobile app is a bit wonky providing time-based notifications, not charge-based, reminding you to charge it).

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The laundry gear outlined in our previous post here has worked very well. The soap tabs didn’t work well so we just use shampoo when we wash in sinks (which also limits what we need to lug around with us).  The clothesline is working fantastic and we are both very careful not to leave it behind in a room (easy to do given it is usually out on a patio or balcony).  To date, we have both only left one item each behind in a hotel room – incredible given the number of hotel rooms where we have stayed, and we were able to recover one of the items.  However, mostly, we have been using laundry services as they are readily available and inexpensive in all the countries we have visited so far with the exception of India.  (It is quite a luxury  to drop laundry off some where in the morning and pick it up that night smelling fresh and in some cases, ironed.)

Most importantly, the luggage is working really well.  Susan would like something a bit larger, but the packs feel like the right size for balancing manageability with storage space. We love the wheels, and they have only challenged us once – in Northern Thailand where we had a 300 m walk on dirt road with a bamboo bridge. But the pack’s duffel handles make carrying them short distances very easy.  The day packs are being used constantly for countless reasons including day hikes, carrying groceries, being students or just roaming around cities visiting the sites.  The bags are holding up relatively well – no broken zippers or holes yet.  The waterproof coating is falling off a bit. I suspect that it does not like as much sunlight and heat as we have thrown at it.  Eagle Creek has agreed to replace (lifetime warranty), but we need to be in a country where they are actually sold.

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We bought some travel organizers that we both love. I was a bit skeptical and thought they were a bit gimmicky at first, but they solve the issue of locating items in a duffel bag by allowing you to sort your cloths, keeping things well organized and nicely pressed (relatively).  We are now big fans and highly recommend. They are lightweight and, the large one has a plastic board that keeps shirts from getting too wrinkled.

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We are also using a couple of these compression bags for dirty laundry. They keep dirty and wet laundry away from everything else, and the compression is great when it has been a couple weeks since the last wash. They do not look too sturdy, and the “ziploc” closure has fallen off a couple times, but it pops back on and the bags are holding up. We also highly recommend these.  They really are the perfect laundry bag.

 

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When you are literally packing and unpacking on a daily basis for weeks at a time, these bags make all the difference and help you “breath in with the smile and breath out with the happy”.

We are heading into the mountains of Peru and Colombia in March so we expect to do a bit of re-configuring but likely only temporarily.  We are planning to buy larger day packs that could support 3-5 day outings, are better equipped for longer hikes of 6-8 hours and have a bit more waterproofing, if we are in sustained rainy situations. We have a bunch of colder weather gear that we need to purchase because our shipment from the States with our hiking gear got stuck in Argentine customs, and we could not get it out.

This guy has been invaluable for so many reasons but especially the scissors and cork screw. We have been using the original Huntsman, but the updated version has some nice new features.

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Unfortunately, we had it confiscated at the airport when a last minute reconfiguration of our gear was required and we left it in our carry-on bag.  Luckily, we borrowed one from Raghu in Pune for the remainder of our trip (and we have already used a dozen times since then).

We are settling in to life with much less.  It is amazing what one does not need. Of course, when you are not going into an office or seeing anyone twice in the same week, you need a lot less clothes.  But even so, we suspect one outcome of this trip will be downsizing in a number of areas.

We are thinking about buying a better camera, but there are some benefits to the one we have.  We are making do with an iPhone 6 Plus and a 10+ year old Cannon Elf.  The nice thing about the Cannon is that it is fast and manageable with one hand so it is great for biking. It is also small, tough and survived many drops. It is bullet-proof and ours has a tremendous number of dents and divots to prove it.  An SLR with bigger lenses would definitely give us better photos, but it is another thing to lug around and worry about. So at this point, we are sticking with what we have.

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But perhaps my favorite travel gear is my Civilian Rewind Duo Retractable Cable Security Wallet. For someone who loses things regularly and has been traveling in “pickpocket” countries for sometime, this also provides peace of mind. There are only two spots for it – 1) hooked to my belt or 2) hooked to the inside pocket of my backpack.  When it is not in one of those two spots, there is drama, but that is rare.  It is thin, lightweight and holds cards and money. Carrying cash is something different for us. We have been accustomed to plastic in the States, but cash is still king in many spots. (South America, where we are now, is very cash-oriented).

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So that is it.  This is the gear with which we are traveling. Apart from clothes, we don’t have too much more.  We are compiling our thoughts on clothes for an around the world adventure so stay tuned for Susan’s “Steve Jobs” approach and our arguments in favor of polyester.

 

 

 

Travel Shots and Prescriptions

The nurse at the University of Washington travel center began her consultation by stating that her job is to scare the “living bejeebers out of us”.

While planning  for previous international travel, we learned that a trip to a travel clinic is always a great idea if your plans include remote locations. Two hours later, six shots and four pretty sore arms, she did an excellent job.  The shots included Yellow Fever, Hep B, Mumps, Measles and Rubella, Flu, Typhoid and Japanese Encephalitis.  In addition to the shots, prescriptions were given for malaria, travelers diarrhea, altitude sickness.  Some key items we learned while we were there:

  1. Yellow Fever is recommended for anyone under the age of 60 that is traveling in risk areas.  However, once inoculated with the vaccine, there is a 1 in ~225K risk of coming down with Yellow Fever within the 1st 7 days. Many countries in Asia and Africa deny entry without this vaccination.
  2. Japanese Encephalitis is recommended for those traveling throughout Asia and is the one shot we received that requires 2 shots in a 30 day period.
  3. In Asia, 80-90% of Malaria pills are counterfeit so best to buy your prescriptions in the States prior to leaving and have friends or family mail refills.
  4. As a preventative measure for Travelers’ Diarrhea, take 1 Pepto Bismol tablet prior to eating to help reduce risk.
  5. There are a four options for Malaria pills but not all prescriptions work in all locations.  There are certain prescriptions that are recommended for those traveling in Asia and those traveling in the Caribbean.
  6. Go to the travel clinic no less than 6 weeks prior to travel as some shots require 2 vaccinations.
  7. Check your insurance as shots and prescriptions can be costly.  For example, the malaria prescription for estimate 60 days was estimated around $400 if not covered by insurance. Not all insurance covers all vaccinations.
  8. GoodRx is an app that will check pricing of prescriptions at pharmacies near you.

Highly recommend UW Travel Center as they were extremely informative and concerned about getting it right and not the time spent with the customer.  The other benefit of UW Travel Center, for those close to it, is that you can e-mail them questions while traveling either directly to the nurse or the main mailbox.  If you do not live near Seattle, check out your closest university.

Trello

Trello_logoPlanning to take a year off and travel requires some planning.  Chris and I started by logging our ideas in a notebook dedicated to the year sabbatical.  Despite organizing the notebook, it was just not working.  We had notes everywhere and there was no quick and easy way to “search” through the notebook.  We tried using excel and creating various worksheets but that was not great as well.  Chris went on a mission to find an app.  Since, we have been using Trello to organize the pre-planning for the trip, manage confirmations as well as various ideas we have.  While Trello can be a little clunky at times, in the few weeks we have been using it, it has become a great tool to centrally locate and organize information.

Sabbatical

Two forty somethings, married, working professionals taking a year off to travel round the world (RTW).  Some of our travel plans are confirmed and some are more notional at this point.  T-43 days until departure. Here is what the confirmed plans are as of August 8, 2015:

  • Two one way tickets to Bangkok on September 29, 2015
  • 5 days in Bangkok
  • 21 days of biking through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam
  • A few nights in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Train up the coast to Hanoi with stops in Nha Trang, Da Nang, etc. to Hanoi
  • A stop in  Whale Island (accessed from Nha Trang)
  • 2 weeks of sailing in the Bay of Thailand
  • 2-3 weeks in Laos sampling the Beer Lao
  • 1 week in Europe to manage Schengen Euro visa issues
  • A flat in Cape Town (Greene Pointe neighborhood) from December 15, 2015- January 5, 2016 via AirBnB