Posts Tagged With: Packing

The Things We Carry

Main Serbian Train Depot

Historic Belgrade Train Station

Salutations from Budapest! As our travels enter October, Brooke and I are onto a new month and another new country. We landed in Hungary yesterday via an uneventful seven hour train ride from Belgrade to Budpaest. The easy going ride on the mostly-empty, mostly-modern train gave us time to visit the dining car and enjoy the passing scenery from giant windows (rural Hungary looks a lot like rural Indiana) during a comfortable ride. And at only 15 Euros a piece, riding the rails made for an inexpensive way to get north to Budapest. Speaking of the Euro, we find ourselves in yet another European country that is not using the Euro for its currency. How is this possible? Denmark, Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and now Hungary – all of them Non-Euro. With 17 countries using the Euro, we must be defying some serious odds here. Ah well, the Hungarian Forint will be just another conversion rate to learn and another set of colorful bills with faces of unknown politicians and local heroes to master. I counted whilst on the train; this is our 11th different currency (not counting any stops from our Baltic Seas Cruise) since we began our trip in New Zealand. Fun financial fact: three of those nations (Singapore, Hong Kong, and New Zealand) also call their monetary standard the dollar.

Each time Brooke and I move from country to county, we attempt to inventory, pack and repack. As we’ve covered on the blog before, trying to determine exactly what and how much to pack was one of our most daunting challenges during our trip prep. We repeatedly heard the motto “pack half as much stuff as you think you’ll need and twice as much money as you think you’ll need.” Sure, this is easy enough if your grandfather’s name is JP Morgan. But all in all, we feel very good about what we are (and, just importantly, what we are not) lugging around the world with us. Although, early on, we realized that we probably did pack a few superfluous extras. Our deck of playing cards has seen the light of day twice so far. I brought along juggling balls because….sigh…I planned to learn how to juggle. Our days have been packed with exploring and learning, so I could probably have left those ridiculous multi-colored balls at home. But there are two handy, electronic gadgets that we use every day and have been essential in our travels: our iPhones and our digital camera. At this point in the trip, I couldn’t imagine getting by without both of them.

Everything we need for the trip in four bags…

First things first regarding the iPhone: we do not have any type of cell phone service or plan. Verizon and AT&T were understanding enough to put both of our plans on hold until we get back to the United States. We’re using the phones as WiFi devices only. The phone calls that we do make are through an exceptional app called Local Phone which connects over WiFi. Local Phone allows us to dial just about anywhere for mere cents per minute. It’s odd, but I haven’t sent a text message since late July (and hopefully no one has tried to send me one). But even just on WiFi, our little Apple gizmos have been a valuable part of our traveling arsenal. We usually have little trouble getting online and the phones have allowed us to book rooms through the Hotels.com and the Air B’nB app, read reviews, map our route, set an alarm, research next steps and check e-mails while just waiting at the bus station or relaxing at an outdoor cafe.

Needed surgery for the iPhoneThe iPhone has been particularly handy when things go slightly awry, like a cancelled hotel reservation, and we both can scramble to get things set right. Brooke tracks our budget at every turn using the notepad and I play Penguin Airborne. Plus, the iPhone makes a wonderful back up camera along with a couple hundred of our favorite songs. I did run into a mini-disaster that left me in a state of panic and dismay last week. When the new iPhone operating system was put out there to correspond with the release of the famed iPhone 5, I attempted to upgrade my phone. Along the way, my iPhone went kaput and I was in the dark for three days. Luckily, a helpful, patient clerk at the “iStyle” store in Sofia allowed us to connect to a Mac and helped me reinstall the new software. Thanks to the Cloud, I didn’t lose a thing. Huzzah for the Cloud! Huzzah!

Our digital camera has been the other key piece of equipment. A once in a life time trip justifies buying a new camera. The camera is incredibly important because it is the best thing we have to really document this trip. While browsing models at the always amazing B&H in NYC, we had to make the decision between a fancy, high-tech SLR camera and a point & shoot. In the end, we chose to go with a high-end, well reviewed point and shoot: The Cannon Power Shoot S100. I’ve already taken more photos than I can count and have only managed to drop it twice. While I would really dig a big,fancy camera with a collection of lenses, the truth is that I don’t know an F-Stop from the F-train. I would look impressive with my camera, but it would have been for naught. The pocket size of the Canon means that I almost always have it on me. Someone once told us the best camera for the shot is the one that you have on you at the time.

One of the best photos we’ve taken on this trip. In Japan using the low light setting.

The camera works exceptionally well, shoots outstanding digital video and has some nifty settings like Handheld Nightscene, Slow motion film, vivid setting and more. I do wish that I was a master of some of the more advanced functions on the manual settings so I could really get the most out of some photo opportunities. Like creating a silhouette of Brooke in front of a Japanese garden. or catching the low-light moon rise over the Bucharest train station. But, in any case, I’ve gotten some amazing photos out of it so far

Another small piece of technology that Brooke said I should add this to this list is a simple but important one: Our ATM card. Being able to withdrawal the local currency day and night has been a huge assist. Even in remote places, we haven’t had any trouble finding cash machines and, not surprisingly, ATMs are kind of the same the world over. It’s meant not worrying about banks, travelers checks and visits to exchange windows only when dealing in left over cash. It’s these small pieces of technology that makes taking this kind of trip in 2012 certainly a lot easier than taking it in 1962. And of course, we also have the last essential component: a large bag full of chargers and world-wide plug adapters! Certainly this trip would be possible without any gadgets or gizmos, but for the sake of ease and sanity, they are a “must-have” for us.

-Phil

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Categories: Cell Phones, Communication, Eastern Europe, Iphone Apps, Packing, Rail, Trains, Trip Prep, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Final Packing

A couple days before we left NYC, we made one last trip back to Paragon Sports at 867 Broadway just north of Union Square to pick up some final gear for the trip. We keep getting sucked back into the store like moths to a flame. Paragon keeps surprising us with an incredibly knowledgeable staff, impressive selection and price matching offers. Miles from Backpacks set me up with a nice Northface daypack to carry around and Zach from shoes helped me select my first pair of Tevas in years. Found out that they are actually pronounced “Tev (as in Bev)-as.” And Teva actually means “nature” in Hebrew. See? Full of knowledge. We can’t recommend Paragon enough. It’s a great place

Both Paragon and Eastern Mountain Sports have set us up with some versatile, good looking shirts, pants and shorts. Staples that are quick drying, wrinkle free and sweat wicking. The other night, we shopped until they closed down the store, checked off some final items on our list and gave the credit card even more action. Still waiting on my bank to give me a call and ask what exactly has been going on lately. We also stocked up on travel essentials: Ear plugs, clothes line and this Sea to Summit Dry Lite crazy towel. And the challenge from this pair of quick drying underwear? You’re on! Now we have jjjjjuuusssttt about everything we need.

6 Weeks and One Pair of Underwear?

Nevertheless, shopping has been a bit hard because we don’t know precisely what we need. We’ve been going on best advice and things we’ve read. Adding to our indecision, we caught European Travel Guru Rick Steves on TV the other night reflecting on his one itty-bitty backpack that he takes on every trip and that it is all anyone should ever need. That did a great job of making us fear that we’re packing too much. But the bottom line: we won’t know till we get halfway around the globe, which is half the fun yet half the stress as well.

Also what has made it a touch difficult is that, in general, I’m not that big on spending money on clothes. In a dream world, I would simply spend five minutes tossing everything I like into a suitcase and go. Including the ridiculous polyester shirt with dice on it that displeases my wife and that I actually do own. But then I would be unprepared and look like an idiot. It’s strange: I can spend $260 for two visas on a country that I’m visiting for five days, but balk at the same costs for some great clothes I’m going to wear for four months. Dumb. But, I’m coming around. Now that the final outfits are set, I’m kinda looking forward to wearing them from Singapore to Santiago. Just be patient when you see a lot of pictures of Brooke and I in similar looking outfits week after week. Hey, for all you know, we’re just standing in front a green screen every few days with a different background.

-Phil

Categories: Clothes, Packing, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

PODS Success!

As I stated in an earlier post, I was incredibly worried about fitting our entire apartment into a PODS unit.  For weeks in advance of our PODS arriving, I was mildly obsessed about loading everything up.  Not only was I worried about everything fitting, I was also scared we wouldn’t have enough help to get it done in 4 hours.  After all, we were doing this on a Tuesday morning when most of our friends would be working.  In fact, I even had a nightmare about loading the PODS and it was a total disaster.  Clearly, this was preoccupying my brain.

Luckily, there was no need for me to worry.  I can say with 100% confidence, loading the PODS was a total success.  First of all, they arrived on time which is always a good thing when you have recruited outside help.  They even called about 15 minutes before arrival to let us know they’d be there.  PODS offers a special city service that requires the driver, ours was David, to stay with the truck.  He was really knowledgeable and offered a lot of helpful hints and advice.  As soon as he opened the door, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I knew immediately we would have enough space, but the challenge would be organization and working efficiently to get done in the 4 hour “city service” time limit.  We had managed to recruit 4 of our friends, Dan and Dean (both who work, but didn’t have to go in until later) and Melinda and Violet (both teachers with the summers off).

PODS with David

David suggested we load all boxes first, but I didn’t listen and decided to start with some of the bigger furniture and fill in with boxes.  I should have listened to him.  He watches people load these things all the time—he knows!  But, I got cocky and decided to do it my way.  It worked, but as it filled up it got a little bit tricky and ended up less neatly organized that I would have preferred.   One of the really great things was that there was a lift on the end of the truck where we could just stand with the heavy stuff and David would raise us from the ground.  That was awesome for some of the bigger pieces and saved some difficult lifting onto the bed of the truck.

It may not have ended up as pretty as I would have liked, but, in the end, we made it all fit!  It took us about 2 and ½ hours.  We were so impressed with our hardworking friends—everyone said that it went so much easier than they expected.  Yay!

Done and Done!Now, our stuff is on its own adventure on the way to be stored in Louisville. (I sometimes like to imagine Toy Story scenario where everything comes to life and has its own storyline when there are no humans around.) As for the security of our items, they are locked in with two of our own padlocks and we keep the keys.  David cautioned us to make sure we do not lose the keys because replacing the door is some ridiculous amount of money.   When I asked him why we couldn’t just cut the locks, he said cutting them without damaging the door is virtually impossible.  Yikes!  The warning scared us enough that we are keeping the keys in a very safe spot.  As added security, he also had me sign an orange plastic label connected to a zip-tie.  This way when we receive our items we will know that no one has been inside the unit.

Now, we are able to track our PODS as it makes its way to Louisville where it will wait until we need it again.  I’d say the whole thing was a resounding success.  I guess the real test will be when we open it up and see if our stuff made it in one piece.  Hopefully it did, but if it didn’t…well, it’s all just stuff.  We have too much of that anyway!

–Brooke

Categories: Moving, Packing, PODS, Storage, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Reading on the Road

Great Japan RTW Travel ReadingIn an attempt to make the very best of our forthcoming trip, we’re constantly soliciting advice from others who have traveled on this kind of scale. Last week, we met a guy who had attempted a year-long sojourn several years back, but cut his trip short after about six months when all of his gear was stolen in the Czech Republic. Bummer.

Anyway, when we pressed him to give his single, best piece of advice, he offered the same counsel that we’d heard a few times before: Take the time to read books written in the countries that you’re going be visiting. Immerse yourself in the culture by connecting through some of the classic written word. The theory is that by diving into a world created by a legendary author, you may add level of depth to your visit. For example, one might want to read Kafka while sitting in coffee houses in Prague or plod through crazy-looking Tolstoy while riding on a train between Russian cities. Admittedly, it is not the most original or creative advice, but we’re still taking it to heart.

Great New Zealand RTW ReadingToday we picked up two books for the first two legs of our journey: New Zealand and Japan. We prefer fiction and after some research we picked up The Bone People (a Booker Prize-winning Novel by Keri Hulme out of New Zealand) and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (a lengthy but seemingly fascinating novel by prolific and renowned author Haruki Murakami out of Japan).

I’ve always been one of those guys who says that he enjoys reading, but never seems to be able to make time for it. So, I’m looking forward to jumping into to these first two books and start dog-earing the pages immediately. I’ll be reading thick, heavy paperbacks that I can attack with a pen and flip through at will. Brooke, on the other hand, will be enjoying both on the convenience of her Kindle. Well, only if she can find The Bone People. Amazon may not have it available…load of bunk.

We are always seeking advice and input, so let us know if YOU have a must-read classic suited to one of the countries we will be visiting that we should pick up and start bookmarking.

-Phil

Categories: Diversions, Japan, New Zealand, Packing, Reading, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Communicating While Abroad

Planning a trip the size and scope of what we’re doing has taken some planning, but overall has been relatively manageable. So far, we’ve just needed some time, patience and organization. The more we learn, the luckier we feel to be planning travel like this in 2012 instead of 1972. The world seems to have gotten a bit smaller in the last forty years and in no section is this more apparent than in the area of communication.

Between expected near-universal internet access, e-mail and even this blog, we really don’t anticipate any issue with maintaining a link with everyone back home. The one area that we thought might be tricky is turning out to be a breeze: Phone calls.

First, we should mention that we’re shutting down our IPhones. We’ve placed our accounts on hold with our collective carriers. AT&T is charging me about $12 a month to place my account “on hold” for up to six months. No service, but I can restart with number and plan with one call when I get back. I don’t love it, but it’s cheaper and easier than starting over when I get back. Similarly, Verizon is not charging Brooke anything to place her account on hold, but she actually can’t suspend service until the day before we leave the United States, so that’s developing.

The imLocal Phone Reviewportant thing to note is that we’re both going to be able to use our Iphone as WiFi devices. Enter Local Phone!

Local Phone is a highly reviewed app that allows you to call just about any number in any country for a per-minute charge. One loads credit into your Local Phone account which is managed online or through the app. You can manage contacts, determine rates before you call and it looks like a winner even if you’re NOT traveling internationally. The Iphone app is easy to use on Iphone and you can use from a laptop or tablet as well. Rates can be viewed here, but run from a reasonable fraction-of-a-cent to twenty-five cents a minute depending on where you are calling. Most calls to the United States are half-a-cent a minute. That’s a phenomenal deal! And finally makes good use of all those pennies in my Scrooge McDuck Change jar. Of course, you must have WiFi and we haven’t tested it much to attest to quality, but it should be a great addition to our travel plans.

Nice bonus: I apparently have earned $5 in credit just by signing other people up. It reminds me of the old Vonage days when they would give huge bonuses for both parties when you get others to join. In fact, if you’re interested in the service and want to give us a boost, click here to sign up! Please and thank you.

-Phil

Categories: Cell Phones, Communication, Iphone Apps, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Homesick

So, last night I watched the Fourth of July fireworks from a house we are renting in Westhampton, NY.  They broadcast the fireworks live from NYC…I must say, it was quite an impressive show.  Nearly 30 minutes of beautiful displays of light and color all set to patriotic, and sometimes cheesy music.  Here’s the thing—as we were sitting there watching the fireworks I realized something.  I think I’m going to be homesick while we are on our trip.  There was something about watching the fireworks display, especially when they played the Armed Forces Medley that made me realize I’m going to miss America.  I think I’m going to be very excited to return home.

When I mentioned this to Phil, he asked me what I would miss the most.  That’s a tough question.  I think I’ll miss my friends and my family, of course.  I’ll miss my favorite foods and the comfort of my own bed.  But more than anything, I think I’ll miss that familiarity that is home.  I’m trying to prepare myself for this now so it isn’t such a shock when it happens.

One way we are preparing ourselves is by sleeping in other beds.  Weird, right?  Well, we realized that we wouldn’t be sleeping in our own bed for a really long time, and we needed to get used to sleeping in unfamiliar places.  Waking up and not immediately recognizing where we are.  Shaking ourselves out of that hazy sleep and figuring out what city we are in.  So, the next few days, we sleep in a bed in Westhampton, NY (pretty comfy, though a little bit bouncy).  We will have3 more nights in our own bed, in our own apartment, and then, it’s different beds in different cities until December!  It is daunting and exciting, and will be a workout for our back muscles, but overall, I think it will be totally worth it.  Just imagine how awesome it will be when we set up our new apartment in Louisville, KY, take out our bed which has been in storage for months and sleep on it that first time, only to dream about the adventures we just had while traveling around the world.  Amazing!

-Brooke

Categories: Homesick, KY, Moving, Random Thoughts, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Home Moving and Storage

One of the major things we had to deal with when deciding to take a trip around the world for four months is what to do with all of our stuff.  We have an apartment, but we didn’t really want to stay here any longer than we had to.  The apartment is fine, but we aren’t thrilled with our neighborhood (the street is quite loud and can be like a nightly party during the summer).  So, we decided that taking a trip around the world would also be the perfect timing  for us to quit our jobs and move to a new city.  After lots of research and visits to cities, we decided to move to Louisville, KY.  The reasons are numerous and we are very happy with our decision, but we’ll save telling you about all that for later.  So, once we figured out where we would be going once we got back from our trip, we had to decide what to do with all of our stuff while we were gone.

Sure, my parents have a basement, but I’m certainly not going to burden them with all of our stuff.  That’s just not cool.  So, we had two clear choices:  One—rent a moving truck, load it up, drive to Louisville, unload our stuff into a storage unit and let it hang out there until we get back.  Then, once we found a place in Louisville, we’d unload the storage unit, pack up a new truck, and move into our new home.  Yikes—that sounds like a lot of work.  The other option:  PODS—Portable On Demand Storage (www.pods.com).  For this option, a PODS unit is dropped off at our apartment and we load our stuff into it.  Then, the PODS people drive it to Louisville and store it until we call and request them to deliver it to our new home.  Then, we unload the PODS and they come take it away.  In case it isn’t obvious, this is the option we chose.  Sure, PODS may be a bit more costly, but ultimately we thought loading and unloading just one time was much more convenient and well worth the price difference.  Also, this will save us the hassle of driving a moving van from New York City to Louisville.

Now, less than two weeks away from moving, we are in the throes of packing up our apartment, boxing everything we own, taking apart Ikea shelving and figuring out what to keep and what to pitch.  This process is always humbling and makes you realize all the stuff you have that you don’t really need.  Phil says he’s never buying anything again!  Famous last words.

One of my biggest concerns now is making it all fit.  The PODS is 16′ x 9′ x’9′, or something like that, and a lot of our furniture can be easily disassembled.  Still, I’ll have to use my skills as a Tetris Master to pack it nicely so it is safe and snug until we have it delivered to us in December.  Exacerbating the concern of making it fit is the fact that living in NYC is a distinct disadvantage when it comes to working with PODS.  Normally, they would drop the PODS off and you would pack it at your leisure.  However, since we don’t have a driveway and it has to be parked in the street, we only have a 4 hour window to pack it (plus we have to pay extra so the driver stays with it—blegh).  Four hours is a fine amount of time if you have lots of help—we are packing it up on a Tuesday morning starting at 8:00 AM, however, and help may be limited.  It will get done, but it could be a very hectic morning.  To top it all off, that day will also be our one year wedding anniversary.  What a way to celebrate!

So, for now I’m thinking about what should go in first and imagining how it will all be organized and fit beautifully.  We’ll make sure to take some pictures when it is here and let you know how it goes.  I just can’t wait until it is done—moving sucks!  We are experts by now—after all, we’ve moved 4 times in 6 years.  We must be gluttons for punishment.

-Brooke

Categories: Moving, Packing, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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