Crunching the Numbers: Back to the Drawing Board

TGT-Wallet

As the holiday season nears, and I peruse the calendar trying to plan out the coming weeks, I’ve realized that we’re at the halfway point of our trip. I have no idea where the time went. But as we think about the trip so far, what’s been good, and what’s been bad. What we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong, we’ve begun to realize that hopping a plane to Oz in February is probably not a good idea. Six weeks for Australia and New Zealand just doesn’t seem like enough time.

So I think we are going to nix Oceania and instead spend a little more time in Southeast Asia. We’ll extend a few of our stops a little bit, maybe change our final destination from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore instead, and if we’re lucky be able to fit in two weeks in Myanmar. This is all yet to be determined, but we do know that this means that without the prices of Oz & Nz looming ahead we’ll be able to spread that cash across our Southeast Asia budget giving a little more flexibility in partaking in some additional activities.

So we’re reallocating our budget. Here are the new numbers:

Major Flights

  • Original Budget: $2,800
    • Kuala Lumpur to Sydney – $600 (estimated)
    • Cairns to Christchurch – $400 (estimated)
    • Auckland to Chicago – $1,800 (estimated)
  • New Budget for Southeast Asia: $2,800
    • Bangkok to Myanmar and back – $400 (estimated)
    • Singapore to Chicago – $2,400 (estimated)

Other Major Transportation

  • Original Budget: $2,400
    • Southeast Asia – $800
    • Oz & Nz – $1,600
  • New Budget for Southeast Asia: $2,400

In-Country Costs

  • Original Budget: $12,320
    • Southeast Asia – $40 / day * 2 people * 70 days = $5,600
    • Oz & Nz – $80 / day * 2 people * 42 days = $6,720
  • New Budget for Southeast Asia: $12,320 / (2 people * 112 days) = $55 / day / person

See our original budget for more details.

The (Packing) List

This packing list is nearly a year in the making. Reading other blogs, researching minute details on clothes and gear, and finding bags and stuff stacks to fit everything near perfectly. Other similar lists may be posted in categories of clothes or electronics or toiletries and medicine. But we’re going to lay this out on how everything fits into the bag. How nail clippers fit into a toiletry bag and how that toiletry bag fits into the main pack. How cables fit into an electronics organizer and how that organizer fits into a day pack. Because we’ve got 6 months of our lives packed into bags that we can wear on a our back. And it’s all gotta come together somehow.

I’ll start:

Nick’s Main Pack (Osprey Atmos 50)

Flight 001 Spacepak Clothes – this thing is awesome. There is a side for clean clothes and a side for laundry. So at any given point in time the packing cube is always the same size. Here’s what’s going in it:

Pants / Shorts
2 Pairs of Shorts: Gramicci Cresent League Organic Short and J. Crew 9″ Navy Short
Jeans: Express Rocco Cold Rinse Straight Leg Jean
Board Shorts: Hurley Phantom 30 Solid Boardshort
Gym Shorts

Mid/Outer Layer – J. Crew Heathered Hoodie

Shirts
3 Long Sleeve Shirts: Gramicci Burnham Organic Performance Long Sleeve Crew, ExOfficio Exo Dri Long Sleeve Tee, and J. Crew Summer Plaid Long Sleeve
5 T-Shirts: Icebreaker Men’s Tech T Lite Short Sleeve, Patagonia Gamut T-Shirt, Under Armour Heatgear T-Shirt, Burgundy American Apparel 50/50, Light Blue BDG T-Shirt

Underwear
7 Pairs ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs – these are hands down the best underwear I have ever owned. Blows Under Armour out of the water. They are breathable, fight odor and bacteria, and can be hand washed and dried within hours. Perfect for travel.
2 Pairs of SmartWool Socks

Accessories
Leather Belt
Beanie and Bandana

Outside Pockets of Main Pack

Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Head Lamp
Pacsafe Retractasafe 250 Cable Lock
Keds Sneakers / Chaco Flip Vibe Flip-Flop
Travel Towel

Inside Compartment of Main Pack

8-Liter Stuff Sack – Sea to Summit Lite Line Clothesline, Rubber Sink Stopper, Sea to Summit Traveller Silk Sleep Sack, Pack Rain Cover, Travel Laundry Detergent, Camera Charger, and Extra Allergy Pills

Hiking Sandles
Marmot Aegis Rain Jacket

Toiletries – Shower (REI Micro Shower Kit)
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Shaving Oil and Razor
Shampoo & Body Wash Contained in GoToobs
Deodorant

Toiletries – Other
Hair Trimmer – I started shaving my head in college when I was weighing the cost of getting a haircut vs. buying a case of beer (… sorry Mom). Since then, I’ve never found a good time to go through the awkward phase of growing it out. So I found a small trimmer that operates on AA batteries to take along with me.
Malaria Pills
Allergy Pills, Nasal Spray and Eye Drops – I went to an allergy doctor a few weeks ago and it turns out that I’m allergic to nearly every possible tree, weed, or bush you could find. Except for pine trees. I’m pretty okay with pine trees.
Chap Stick
Nail Clippers
First Aid Kit

Victorinox Travel Organizer – Passport, Passport Photos, Yellow Fever Certificate, Itinerary Printouts

Nick’s Daybag (Timbuk2 Showdown Backpack)

AmazonBasics Universal Travel Case for Small Electronics – Anker Portable Charger (and USB Cable), Spare Batteries (Camera / Action Cam + AA’s), GorillaPod Magnetic, Pocket XShot Camera Extender, Laptop Charger, Camera USB Cable, and iPhone Charger

Outside Pockets of Daybag

Klean Kanteen Water Bottle
Kleenex and Hand Sanitizer
Point It: Traveler’s Language Kit Book
Sony Action Cam
iPhone 5
Business Cards
In Ear Headphones (with microphone) and Case
Sunglasses & Retainer Strap
Pepcid AC – my mother has blessed me with the Asian flush so I gotta med up before I drink anything.

Inside Pockets of Daybag

11-inch Macbook Air
SteriPEN
Light My Fire Spork
Extra Pair of Socks
Ear Plugs (Hearos)
Bug Spray

2.5-Liter Stuff Sack – Daybag Raincover, Monster Surge Protector, Action Cam Head Strap (because I look really cool wearing this thing), and a Universal Power Adapter

Kris’ Main Pack (Gregory Jade 60)

Double-Sided Packing Cube

Tops – Striped ¾ Tee, Heart Sleeveless, Camo Shirt, and Pink Gramicci Racerback
Bottoms – Lucy Leggings, Gap Shorts, and Green Rag & Bones
Dresses – Pink Dress and Gray Dress
Outer – Free People Hoodie

Smaller Red Packing Cube

Bras: Gap, Tan, and Sports
Buff – this is going to be a great versatile piece for my hair, keeping my neck and ears warm.
3 Pairs of Smartwool Socks
Ex Officio Underwear – like Nick said, these are awesome.
Green Army & Orange Nike 2″ Rival Shorts – these are great because I can use them for sleeping, working out, or everyday use; the colors and fabric are versatile and match everything else in my wardrobe.
Black Gramicci Tee
Bathing Suit

Outside Pockets of Main Pack

Side Pockets – Headlamp, Headphones, Earplugs, Sleep Sack, Eye Mask, Plug Adapter, and Travel Towel
Front Pocket – Restasis, Q-Tips, Tampons, Light My Fire Sporks, Off Wipes, Kleenex, Sewing Kit, and Plastic Bags/Garbage Bags
Top Pocket – Books

Inside Compartment of Main Pack

Blue Stuff Sack – Contacts

Toiletries – Shower (REI Micro Shower Kit)
Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Soap
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Razor and Shaving Oil
Mascara and Cover Up

Toiletries – Other (Eagle Creek Pack-It Compartment Sac)

Big Back Pocket
Meds – Anxiety Meds, Dramamine, Traveler’s Diarrhea Meds, Malaria Pills, Ibuprofen
Body Lotion

Front Compartments – Jewelry, Perfume, Venus Razor Head Replacements (2), Cuticle Trimmer, Bobby Pins, Hairbands, Sunscreen, Nail File, Extra Shampoo, Dry Shampoo, Floss, Mirror, Shaving Oil, and Tweezers

Shoes
Frye Slip-On Sneakers
Xero Sandals

Raincoat

Kris’ Daybag

iPad Mini
Camera
Waterbottle (with carabineer)
Extra Batteries
Deodorant
Sea to Summit Travelling Light Travel Wallet (size Medium) – this is a great little wallet that fits my passport, int’l driver’s license, immunization card, etc. Perfect size.
Regular Wallet
Frog&Toad Travel Biz Cards
Apple Earphones
Glasses Case – flip shades, glasses, sunglasses, glasses retainer, cleaning cloth.
Eye Drops
China Oel – this is a tiny little bottle of peppermint extract; great replacement for gum and helps with sore throat and stuffy nose as well.
Chapstick
Lip Gloss
Phone

Crunching the Numbers: A RTW Budget

There are some pretty wild and crazy stories out there on how to travel the world for next to nothing. Of course, my opinion on this is that you’re only going to hear about those that made the experience successful and found a way to fund their travels.

But that approach is not for me. I’m a planner. And for all those that asked how much something like this might cost, I’ll lay it all out for you point blank, dollar for dollar. So here’s the assumptions:

  1. We’ll be on the road for ~180 days from mid-September to mid-March.
  2. We’ll spend 5.5 weeks in Europe, 5.5 weeks in Africa, 10 weeks in Southeast Asia, and 5.5 weeks in Australia / New Zealand.
  3. We’ll mostly stay in hostels, but will occasionally rent apartments or hotel rooms when we are looking for a change of pace or some privacy.
  4. We’ll try to shop at grocery stores and cook in hostel kitchens as often as we can, unless there are street food options or restaurants that are easy on the pocket book.
  5. We’ll travel overland within regions and reserve flying to major distances (i.e. Europe to Eastern Africa, Southern Africa to Southeast Asia, etc…)
  6. All costs described below cover 2 people as several expenses are shared.

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Pre-Trip

  • Major Flights – we’ll wrap the cost of major flights into the pre-trip category because they cannot really be tied to any specific destinations and we’re booking these far in advance. We don’t have all the routing figured out just yet, but here’s how it breaks down so far:
    • Los Angeles to London – $1,089
    • Istanbul to Dar es Salaam – $949
    • Johannesburg to Bangkok – $754
    • Kuala Lumpur to Sydney – $600 (estimated)
    • Cairns to Christchurch – $400 (estimated)
    • Auckland to Chicago – $1800 (estimated)
    • Our Cost: $5,592.

  • Other Major Transportation – we’ll also have various trains, planes, and automobiles that we may take from destination to destination outside of the major flights described above. We’ve also considered getting a Eurail pass, but have decided against it based on the price and our likely train routes. It’s really hard to put down an accurate number without a completely detailed route, but here’s my best estimated guess:
    • Europe – $1,400
    • Africa – $1,000
    • Southeast Asia – $800
    • Australia / New Zealand – $1,600
    • Our Cost: $4,800.

  • Travel / Medical Insurance – we would both be paying for medical insurance even if we weren’t traveling. Since we have the option of keeping our insurance during our trip there is no need for separate travel insurance (although travel insurance does have additional benefits that may apply to others). Our Cost: $900.
  • Vaccinations – we both had pretty good coverage for vaccinations that we needed which helped to reduce the costs. Of course, that was offset when I was slammed for $300 for Malaria pills. Our Cost: $700.
  • Equipment – cost of equipment for this kind of trip could vary wildly from next to nothing to several thousand. Unfortunately, we made some big purchases that puts us towards the high-end.
    • Macbook Air – we knew we wanted to bring a laptop, but didn’t want our main work computers in case anything were to happen. So I purchased this Air and if it makes through the trip safe and sound it will function as a backup work computer for me. Our Cost: $850.
    • Sony RX100 Point and Shoot – I had an entry-level SLR lying around that hasn’t gotten much use that I decided to sell. We didn’t want the extra weight and were looking for the convenience of a point and shoot. Selling that put an extra $250 in my pocket and I put it towards a top of the line point and shoot. This thing seriously takes some great pictures. Our Cost: $500.
    • Sony Action Cam – this was sort of an impulse buy, but I got a great price through Amazon Warehouse Deals. The video quality is not bad and the price point certainly beats the comparable line from GoPro. Our Cost: $150.
    • Various Clothing and Shoes – We both bought a variety of new clothing items to pack along. Some were a little more necessary (a rain coat) and some just a nice to have (ExOfficio underwear – these are the best underwear you could ever buy). Our Cost: $1,200.
    • Other Gear – there’s a variety of other specialized gear we purchased that can be seen in our full packing list. Things like headlamps, a tripod, travel locks, a clothesline, sleep sacks, and a gamut of other gadgets. Our Cost: $800.

Total Pre-Trip Costs for 2 People: $15,492
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At-Home

If you’re planning on leaving the country for good you’re at-home costs will be zero. But for us, we’ll be coming back so there are several costs involved with just keeping everything at home safe and sound.

  • Mortgage & Assessments – due to the timing of when we’re leaving and planning to returning there is only 5 full months where it would be possible to rent out our condo. On top of that, our association has it in the by-laws that a unit cannot be rented for less than 6 months. So instead, we’ll leave the place behind and eat the cost of payments. Our Cost: $8,532.
  • Utilities – not all of our utilities can be cancelled while we are away, but they will definitely cost less than they do right now. Heat will be running through the winter, fixed electrical costs will come through, and there is a small fee to suspend service with Comcast. Our Cost: $480.
  • Storage – I’ll just throw this potential expense out there even if it doesn’t apply to us. If we were able to rent out the condo we’d likely have some sort of storage cost to put all of our junk for the duration of our trip. This looked to be around $120 / month when I was researching costs. Our Cost: $0.
  • Re-Entry Funds – re-entering the workforce could be a painful process depending on how potential employers view our little career gap. The good news is that Kristin already has her plans set up for her return and my line of work is in such high demand I don’t have a lot of worries about landing a project within a few weeks. Either way, we both have some buffer to allow us to eat and sleep under a dry roof once we get back to the states in case things don’t go as planned. Our Cost: $6,000.
  • Virtual Mailbox Service – we signed up for a virtual mailbox service that accepts our mail and scans it, allowing us to check mail online. The biggest reason I did this was that I’m expecting several checks in the mail and this service will deposit these checks for me. This will also allow us to make sure we can handle any unexpected important items that might come through. Our Cost: $150.
  • Car Insurance – having a lapse in car insurance can make it much more difficult to shop around when you need it again. I spoke to my insurer and they offer deep discounts on a car that is in storage so both Kristin and I will be on that policy. Our Cost: $82.

Total At-Home Costs for 2 People: $15,244

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In-Country

In-country costs will cover all day to day costs while we are traveling. This includes lodging, food, local transportation, activities, and visas. There’s a variety of different ways to estimate how much these expenses could add up to be. Here’s a few options that I explored:

  1. Find a place that you would like to stay. Multiply the cost of lodging by 3 to estimate your total daily cost.

    Example A: a hostel bed costs $30 in Paris. Total daily cost in Paris would be estimated at $90.
    Example B: a hotel bed for 2 people costs $150 in Paris. Total daily cost in Paris (per Person) would be estimated at $225 ($150 / 2 people * 3).

    This approach assumes that if you are going to spend more money on lodging you’ll likely be more extravagant on other things such as taking organized tours are eating out at more expensive restaurants.

  2. Using the TripBase calculator. This tool will allow you to enter nearly every major travel destination and provide a cost estimate on a budget, mid-range, and luxury budget.
  3. Take a look at some actual costs from other travelers. Here’s a few good ones that I’ve found: BootsnAll, A Little Adrift, Never Ending Voyage, and Go Backpacking

So armed with this information, I’m making some broad and rough estimates for our travel. Why so broad? Because the point of creating a budget is to be directionally correct in order to drive decision making. 90% accuracy is just as good as 99% accuracy in my book. So here are the numbers (which I’ve posted before):

  1. Western Europe – $90 / day * 2 people * 14 days = $2,520.
  2. Eastern Europe – $60 / day * 2 people * 21 days = $2,520.
  3. Eastern and Southern Africa – $60 /day * 2 people * 35 days = $4,200.
  4. Southeast Asia – $40 / day * 2 people * 70 days = $5,600.
  5. Australia and New Zealand – $80 / day * 2 people * 42 days = $6,720.

Total In-Country Costs for 2 People: $21,560

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So those are the numbers. I hope to have a checkpoint at each of these major regions to see how accurate this budget really is. But as it stands 2 weeks prior to our departure –

Total budget for 2 people, for 6 months in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia and New Zealand = $52,296

International Tipping Etiquette

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The bright yellow cab is waiting for me outside and right on time. It’s 5:30 AM on the dot. Part of my Monday morning ritual to head off to the airport to catch a plane to wherever I’m going. We cruise up the Kennedy and I get dropped off at Terminal 1 within a quick 20 minutes. The meter hits $34.00 and I give him $40. Keep the change. And I stroll into the terminal, through security, and straight to Starbucks. Grande Caramel Macchiato, please. Oh a tip jar… here’s a buck.

… later in the day…

I roll into the hotel drop-off and the valet is eagerly waiting to take my keys. He hands me a stub and I give him a couple bucks. And while this exchange is going on, behind my back I notice the bell hop already has his filthy hands all over my bag and sitting on the curb for me waiting. Thanks… I couldn’t handle that myself. I’ll take that inside myself, but here’s a dollar for your service. I get to my room, unpack, iron my shirts, and tidy up before dinner. We hit up a sushi joint down the road and end up splitting the bill evenly. My part comes to $40.00 and I scribble in another $8.00 for the tip. And of course we stop by the hotel bar for a night cap. My 9 dollar gin and tonic definitely deserves a 2 dollar tip. I’ll charge it to the room.

Throughout one single day, I shelled out 20 bucks on tips. And that’s not unusual. In fact, according to one study, the US has the highest prevalence of service professions that require tips (i.e. 31 service professions were counted for the U.S., 26 in Canada, 23 in Germany and the U.K., 13 in Australia, 9 in Norway, 4 in Japan, 3 in New Zealand, and 0 in Iceland to name a few).

As a side note, Freakonomics just had an interesting podcast on tipping which some of this info is referenced. Check it out here.

So what that comes down to is if I keep up my tipping habits while we travel, I’m going to be out a lot of extra cash that I could keep lining my pockets instead. I learned this a few years ago when I tried to leave 20% for a server after a great meal in Thailand. She took a look at that cash and said ‘Too much, too much’. So I split the amount in half and she begrudgingly took it. Of course, most people would have taken the cash with a smile on their face knowing full well that this American schmuck doesn’t know any better.

But that won’t happen again, because now I have references.

For the Detailed Reference

I’ve downloaded an iPhone app called GlobeTipping. This specific application seems to be the best of the bunch as I was left unimpressed after trying others (i.e. Global Tipping and Tipping Abroad). GlobeTipping, however, has a long list of countries with information, etiquette for restaurants, hotels, and taxis, as well as a basic tip calculator. And most importantly of all, it works offline just fine.

For the Quick Reference

Global Tipping Etiquette

 

The 1 Month To Go Checklist

Here we are. The middle of August, one month to go, and what seems like a lot to do. This entry is just as much about writing down all the little things I need to remember to do as much as it is to tell you all about it.

Cancel Bills

  • Netflix: Netflix used to offer a vacation hold feature, but not anymore. However, the subscription can be canceled anytime with all preferences information stored for a period of 12 months. Cancellation cannot occur mid-cycle and service will continue until a cycle is completed. This is my first reminder – Cancel Netflix after August 19th and service will continue until September 19th.
  • Comcast Internet: Comcast does offer a vacation hold option at a rate of $14 / month. Not ideal that you have to pay to keep a service suspended, but might be worth the hassle of starting all over with new equipment and a service call when we return. I’m on the fence on if we’ll cancel completely or not.
  • Verizon Cell Phone: Verizon offers two options for suspending service. What I cannot figure out is why there are two options in the first place. I must be missing something.
    • Option 1: Suspend with Billing – You will continue to be billed and your contract continues on the original scheduled time frame. My confusion with this is that if you are going to be billed, why even suspend it in the first place?
    • Option 2: Suspend without Billing – You will not be billed during the suspension period of up to 90 days. The contract length will get extended by the suspension period. A suspension can be issued twice a year at 90 days each, totaling 180 days each year.
  • Goodies and Naked Wines: I do have a a few food-related subscription services that charge me every month. Goodies is an operation run by Wal-Mart that is essentially a product testing platform. For $7 / month they send about $20 worth of stuff to test out. They then ask you to review items to earn points for free products. Pretty cool system, but I have no need for goodies to be delivered while away. Naked Wines is a crowd-funded wine subscription program that charges you a fixed amount each month which is then used to support various wineries. You then get to use this money towards purchase of wine at an affordable price. This subscription costs me $40 / month at this point so it’s high on the list of things to be canceled.
  • Auto Insurance: A lapse in car insurance is not a good thing when it comes time to shopping for coverage again, so we will not be pursuing a full cancellation. Instead, at least based on Illinois laws, we can pursue storage coverage. I know rates can vary, but I was quoted $86 for a 6-month premium under storage only.

Get Rid of More Stuff

We’ve got a lot of stuff. Clothes, books, old electronics, pots, pans, cups, and containers. There’s just too much of it. And heck, if we can live out of a backpack for 6 months, I think we can make do with a little less stuff at home so things are nice and tidy when we come home.

This month’s goal: 2 Large Boxes to the Salvation Army

Winterizing the Condo: The Plan

  1. Set the heat to hold at a brisk 58. Program the cycle to 58 in case of power loss.
  2. Change the air filter.
  3. Turn the water heater to vacation mode.
  4. Clean out the fridge.
  5. Turn off the water to the ice machine, washing machine, and dishwasher.
  6. Turn off the breaker to selected switches.
  7. Remove all dry foods.
  8. Insulate the windows and door jambs.
  9. Unplug everything.
  10. Make copies of keys for people who will be checking in.
  11. Let the property manager know.

Take Care of Mail

I talked about the plan for mail while we are away, but now it’s time to execute:

  1. Sign up for Earth Class Mail.
  2. Fill out the Postal Service Form 1583 authorizing Earth Class Mail to accept mail on my behalf.
  3. Fill out a temporary change of address form online.

Other Miscellaneous To-Do’s (So I Don’t Forget)

  • Remind Kristin to figure out her medical insurance details.
  • Consider booking accommodations for the first couple destinations (we’ve already done this for London and Paris since we’re locked into a flight / train schedule).
  • Call banks to inform them of travel schedule.
  • Quit work! We both only have about 2 weeks left and Kris says it feels like the last couple weeks of school before summer break where you’re zoned out planning for all the fun things you’re gonna do once you break free.
  • Add Kristin to my auto coverage since she’ll be canceling hers.
  • Europe reading, routing, and planning.
  • Get that international driver’s license. We’ve been slacking on this one.
  • Should we get personal business cards? MOO is supposed to be a simple, affordable option.
  • Do we have all of our gear? I think so…

Travel Tips From Reddit

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Reddit can be downright dirty, incredibly insightful, narcissistic, and humble all at the same time. And what that means is that it’s a gold mine of the useful, the useless, and the funny. /r/AskReddit is the center of every day people answering life’s deepest questions. In fact, a recent thread discussed redditor’s best travel tips and had over 3000 comments.

Here’s some of my favorites:

  • Store copies of critical info, including IDs, in an Evernote note or Dropbox folder so you can access it from any browser if needed.
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses. I travel a lot so I dedicate a spare pair to my suitcase. It sucks to leave an overcast Seattle, not thinking about sun, then show up in a sunny place without the shades.
  • Pack light. Especially if you’re backpacking/sole traveller. Everything in one bag!
  • Ear plugs. If you’re traveling on a budget, you will probably be staying in some noisy located places. They really help.
  • Don’t rush everywhere at once. Do your own thing.
  • Say no to hookers and drugs.
  • Eat The Street Food! Thailand and India and everywhere in between is amazing in its culinary experience. Amazing curries, hot sauces and firery soups with bits of variously cooked various bits of animal. Its just fucking lovely. Definitely do the pad thais and soups in the street, its boiled soup and wont hurt you. Obviously you’ll also see roaches, scorpions and other various critters too. I never had them but a drunken mate once said they taste like bugs. Don’t be a pussy, remember to drink some alcohol if your concerned about food poisoning.
  • If alcohol isn’t readily available, neither are the locals. Don’t take that to mean “don’t shop, explore, or interact at all”. Just don’t try to get too friendly or touchy-feely.
  • If you are a twosome, book the “A” and the “C” seats on a flight (Window and Aisle). The middle seat is less likely to be booked by an individual and you usually end up with the entire row to yourself unless the plane is pretty full. And if not, the person who books the middle seat would generally be pleasantly surprised to be offered the aisle as an upgrade, leaving you where you would have been anyhow.
  • Take a small bottle of hand sanitizer. I just got back from vacation a few days ago, and turns out, I bumped into a lot of restrooms that didn’t have soap. It’s also good to have hand sanitizer with you anyway. GOTTA FIGHT THOSE GERMS.
  • When you arrive in a new town, rent a bicycle and ride around. Ask about tours and things to do and see in the surrounding country. Then rent a motorbike and do it (don’t take tours, unless its a truly unique experience).
  • Second, learn the generic and/or international names for over-the-counter meds that you use. For example, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is known as paracetamol in most places outside Canada/US.

See the full thread: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1iqvhc/whats_your_best_travel_tip/

Travel Photography Class: An Amateur’s Review

If you saw me walking down Montrose the other day with a camera hung around my neck that was no mistake. I participated in my first ever photography class and it was a travel photography class at that. Snappin’ pics has never been part of my MO. I always believed taking pictures forced you out of the moment and into living in the past through pictures. Well, here’s to being a dummy and wishing I would’ve taken this class sooner. It turns out everyday I learn something new.

Below are 15 pillars of photography that Kevin- that would be our instructor- shared with us today:

a. Be aware of your natural tendencies. If they work for you, work with them. If they don’t, then try to change.
*Now I’m not sure what my natural tendencies are yet, but I know that I like the juxtaposition of nature against city. I’m not a big flower person. I’m not a big plain buildings person. I like decay. And monsters.

b. Light is your friend. The best time of day to shoot is very early in the morning just before sun-up until around 9:30 and then late afternoon around 3 until the sun starts to set.
*I’m excited to get up early or go out later to practice.

c. Be aware of what’s in your frame.
*Steer clear of those pesky people, birds, garbage in the wind, that could ruin the shot of a lifetime, or at least of the day.

d. Find a place you want to shoot, set up shop, and wait.
*One thing that I really never thought of was that photography takes time. If your goal is to get a good picture, you might have to wait a while. As the old adage goes, good things come to those who wait. Photos in my life have always been what’s in front of you now or a posed family picture. This definitely struck a new chord of understanding in me.

e. Use the rule of thirds.
*This will do wonders for the composition of your photograph and is something I really tried to focus on but still stumbled with a lot.

f. Decide what you want your depth of field to be and/or play around with it.
*This is new to me but a function I’m really having fun messin’ with.

g. Break through the barrier of shooting at eye level.
*Shoot from low, high, beneath or some new perspective.

h. Identify your subjects using the following tools: isolation, light, contrast, repetition.
*These are all things that will make your picture more interesting to the viewer and will give off some sense of artistic abilities.

i. Think of primary vs. secondary subjects; how are you using them to communicate something more to the viewer?
*If your subject is a person, what else in the background tells of who they are or what they’re doing? It could be subtle or not. It should give more meaning to the picture.

j. Symmetry. You can go with it or go asymmetrical depending what you like. How does it fit with your natural tendency?
*I definitely am not a fan of symmetry, unless the subject demands it.

k. Look for frames within frames.
*What does life within borders look like. Capture your subject in tunnels, under bridges, arches, weighty boughs of willow trees.

l. Dynamic vs. descriptive photography.
*Descriptive photography is just a simple, head on picture of the world. Snap a photo of a building straight on; that’s descriptive. Dynamic requires a different angle, a different perspective; abstraction.

m. Look at all your prospective perspectives of your subject.
*Is it a fountain? Don’t just shoot from one angle. Go from all sides, underneath, above. You can sort out which one you like later but you may not be able to go back. Leave no photo behind.

n. Monumentalize vs. Diminutive.
*Shoot upwards of your subject for a more majestic feel and down for a diminutive effect.

o. Moments are really important. Make it yours. Don’t take a picture that resembles something you could find on the internet. Make it resonate with you. Make it your own.

As with most topics that I know nothing about, I didn’t even know where to begin in terms of questions to ask or what to learn first. This class definitely gave me a platform to wonder. These 15 new ‘pillars’ that I’ve learned today opened a huge window for photography in my life.

I realized that photography gives you an excuse to explore, be the height of a child, a dog, a bunny, climb up on buildings, squat, tippy-toe, forget what people are thinking of you. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to be a ‘tourist’ in my own town. I’m excited to search out and capture new perspectives that resonate with my natural tendencies.

In the gallery below you’ll find amateur examples of all of these pillars in the order above. So happy to know not all pictures have to be like those you find in a tourist book. To a new chapter: life with camera (& a new perspective)!

Love for Lush

Lush. First off, good word. Second off, great company!
 
Shampoos, soaps, and such were never things that I thought would get me overly excited. I also never thought they were something that I would write an enthusiastic blog post about, but put me in a squirrel suit and call me a squirrel; Lush Cosmetics has changed my mind!
 
Lush has put a fresh twist on beauty products and interestingly enough, whether they designed this stuff to be for travel or not, it thankfully is indeed. They have a whole line of solid shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and even toothpaste.
 
I picked up a few products the other day to test out:
 
!. Seanik Solid Shampoo
@. Big Conditioner
#. Demon In The Dark Soap
$. Sparkle Toothy Tab Toothpaste
%. No Drought Dry Shampoo
 
!. The item that I was most skeptical about and I’ve been most impressed with so far is the solid shampoo. My hair has gone from long to crazy long and I have to use a ridiculous amount of liquid shampoo to get it to suds. It comes in a little round puck and is supposed to last up to three months. Amazingly, I only need to rub it through my hair 4 times, once on each side, once on the top of my head, and once on the underneath of my hair and my hair gets super sudsy; I could probably use even less. I also bought the little silver puck case for carrying that keeps it from leaking which has also worked great. This little shampoo comes in many ‘flavors’ but I chose Seanik. It take me to the sea. Fresh air, summertime, A day full of new possibilities.
 
@. I bought the Big conditioner which is made of sea salt and coconut oil. The cool thing about this product (along with the soap that I have as well) is that you can buy as much or as little as you want. They cut whatever size you want off this huge chunk at the store and wrap it in ‘butcher paper’ (you pay by the ounce or pound). The conditioner itself is pretty good. It’s very different than using a liquid conditioner because it takes a lot more work on my end to distribute through all of my hair. It does leave my hair feeling like how it feels after I get stuck in the rain, silky soft, light; and also smells like a warm summer night full of honey and a light breeze, of course.
 
#. The soap that I bought is called Demon In The Dark. Their website describes it as fresh, minty, and mysterious and I totally agree. It’s an invigorating smell, definitely on the manly side of the scale, but I’m ok with that. Great to wake up to in the morning or to make you feel like a human again after a long run. There are a million other flavors that I’d love to try here. I’m currently trying to see how long the little bit I got with last me to see how much I would need to get to last me the trip. I might start my journey with this, but I don’t think it makes sense to bring tons of soap from home to last 6 months when I can buy it on the road.
 
tooth-tab
$. The Lush girl threw in some toothy tabs for me to try for free. I chose the Sparkle toothpaste to try. It’s definitely a little chalky at first and brings back some weird memories of fluoride treatments at the dentist as a child, but the results are great. This toothpaste makes my teeth feel really clean and doesn’t leave the same cottony mouth/dry feeling that regular toothpaste does.
 
dry-shampoo
%. I really haven’t tried the dry shampoo yet because I tend to shower daily but think it will probably come in handy on the road. Smells like lemon essence. What more do you need?
 
The solid lotion and deodorant are next on my shopping list. Overall, I am absolutely bringing the shampoo and still making decisions on the other products. As a whole, the brand feels passionately fleshed out. And for someone who believes the devil is in the details, I really appreciate that. It also brings a renewed fun-ness to general dullness of toiletries. Using these products make me feel like a really clean hippie. Lush – I can get down with you.

Top 6 Reasons to Carry a Headlamp

I’ve read from many other travelers that a headlamp can be one of the most useful items that we can bring on our trip. While I’ll need to find out for myself it’s usefulness, here’s a list of the top reasons that I’ll make sure I have a headlamp in my pack.

  1. We’ve got a 6 AM flight to catch and want to be courteous to our hostel mates as we pack in the morning.
  2. Kris is a bookworm and likes to read late at night.
  3. We’re out in the sticks camping and wandering around to that discrete bush is difficult in the dark.
  4. … or I’m wandering around the dark hostel hallway trying to find the bathroom.
  5. We’ve stayed out too late and riding that scooter in the dark is dangerous and it wouldn’t hurt to have a flashing bright light hanging off of me.
  6. That top loading pack I bought is sometimes hard to get into and find what’s packed into the bottom.

Automate Your Travel Finances

I’m all about automation. Maybe it’s because its ingrained in me from working with enterprise systems or maybe its just the immense satisfaction I get from making things more efficient. Either way, I try to automate everything in my life that is feasible.

When I’m not traveling, my money manages itself. I have a system in place where I receive money into a checking account, have my bills timed to be paid a few days after I get my paycheck, and then have money pushed to a savings account and retirement account. It’s no-touch, simple, and effective. The extra bonus is that I keep my checking account with a relatively low balance, psychologically tricking myself into believing that I’m short on cash. If there’s money in my checking account, I’m allowed to spend it; if there’s not, I can’t.

So as we get ready for this trip, I’m looking to see how these principles can be applied to different spending patterns. I know I can estimate average daily costs for different regions or countries and with that can adjust automated deposits to a “daily spending” account. If I get this right, we’ll be in the same position – if I have money in the account I can spend it and if I don’t, I can’t.

So where do we start? We’ll keep the majority of funds in an interest-bearing account. Of course, the best account to keep our stash would be the one with the highest interest rate. However, with interest rates as low as they are right now, it’s just not worth moving my business to a new entity for the sake of a few bucks. And what’s the difference? For us, (at 60k in savings and a difference in rate of .50% over 6 months) about $100.

If this is important to you and are looking to shop around, check out the following savings account options (rates as of July 2013***).

  • Ally (.84%)
  • State Farm (.30%)
  • USAA (.10%)
  • Capital One (.75%)
  • EverBank (.75%)
  • SmartyPig (1.00%)
  • AMEX (.85%)
  • Schwab (.12%)

You may also consider a high-yield checking account or a CD based on your needs.

In our scenario, all the cash will be held in a savings account and we’ll release a certain amount every week based on location. So how does this work? We’ll assume for this scenario that Kris and I are starting from the same savings account (in actuality we saved separately). So based on where we are traveling, we need to assume daily spending habits. I created a massive spreadsheet for estimating daily spending by country… we’ll get into the details on this later, but here are the assumptions for this purpose.

  • Western Europe – $90 / day / person for 2 weeks.
  • Eastern Europe – $60 / day / person for 3 weeks.
  • Africa – $60 / day / person – for 5 weeks.
  • Southeast Asia – $40 / day / person for 10 weeks.
  • Australia & New Zealand – $80 / day / person – for 6 weeks.

Now, we need to make that cash available when we need it and only when we need it. Since we are sourcing money out of a savings account we’ll need to limit the withdrawals per month. We don’t want to use up all 6 allowed withdrawals for normal transactions (in case of emergency), so let’s set up the withdrawal on a weekly basis.

  1. Set automated transfer of $1,260 ($90 / day * 7 days / week * 2 people) for the 2 weeks of travel.
  2. Set automated transfer of $840 for the 3 weeks of travel.
  3. Set automated transfer of $840 for 5 weeks of travel.
  4. Set automated transfer of $560 for 10 weeks of travel.
  5. Set automated transfer of $1,110 for 6 weeks of travel.

So now we’re all set! Am I too focused on the detail? Is all this unnecessary? I’m not sure. For me, I like the idea of knowing how much I have to spend within a smaller period of time. Over a 6-month trip its too easy to get sucked into the thought process that “you’ll cut back spending next week” and that “this big purchase is a good idea” or “we’re keeping track of every dollar we spend, we’ll figure it out”. Make it easy on yourself. Make it so you can look at how much is in your spending account to determine how much you can spend. You know when the next deposit is coming in and you know for how much. You don’t have to track every single penny that is spent. This approach will save you time (and money) and make managing your travel finances effortless.

*** Bankrate is a good source for up to date interest rates. http://www.bankrate.com/