Packing List for Indefinite Leave

I will be gone a long time, probably a minimum of two years, and a maximum of forever. What does one bring on a trip which potentially lasts a lifetime?

He's got everything he needsI like monks. I have heard and read stories about traveling monks who go around with little more than what they are wearing and a small kit of personal care items: things like a razor and toothbrush. Anything else they may need can be bought, bartered for, or is provided by monasteries or friends they will visit. This is admirable! How simple your travels would be! It is true that the majority of things people pack can be seen as luxuries, conveniences, or time-savers. Travel shops are full of travel-sized crap to make travel a lot like living at home. Fun-size hair dryer? A monk just shaves his head and is done with it. Someday I hope to reach monk-like packing thrift, but that day is not today. My goal is for my full pack to weigh less than 25 pounds. Continue reading

Migrant Medicine: Vaccines and Pills

Drugs, Chemicals, Bandages

Part of going to faraway, perhaps less civilized lands, is the need to prevent contracting a whole bunch of diseases. Where water is cloudy, where insects bite, where food is prepared with the same hands that wipe butts are places where harsh bacteria, viruses and other parasites concentrate and try to kill us all. Fortunately, this age where equally harsh drugs and a bit of mental preparation can be employed to see a traveler thrive in a less-than-health-conscious place. Continue reading

Driving Abroad: International Driving Permit

"I can drive" in 11 languages!

During my past summer in France, while the grape harvest was winding down, those of us who remained on the vineyard were loading sticky buckets and hand tools into caravans for transport back to home base, about an hour and a half freeway drive distant. The main man noticed there were more cars than Frenchmen. How would we get all of these vehicles back home?

He turned to me and asked if I could drive. Of course I can, but in France this is a valid question to ask of a 24 year old. The French (and many other peoples, I suspect) do not necessarily gain their drivers license at 16 as a sort of automatic coming of age thing (the French balk at the idea that we Americans let prepubescent 15.5 year-olds tear around in huge American cars). First off, driving age is 18. Secondly, cars, their fuel, and their insurance are all astoundingly expensive. Third, public transportation around the country is fairly good, and cuts out the need for a car for most people. Thus, the French only own and drive cars if they really need to, if you live in the countryside and can actually afford it.

“Sure, I can drive,” I said, “but I don’t know if I’m allowed to drive here…” Continue reading

Australia Work Holiday Visa 462: Secured.

Gonna need a good hat. Though maybe not so newfangled and stereotypical.

Visa Grant Confirmed. Proceed with PLAN A(ustralia).

Checked my email today and finally found that I was granted my Australian Work and Holiday Visa. This visa application process, being performed electronically in this information age, is supposed to take no more than two weeks, so they say. NO SUCH LUCK during holidays, so keep this in mind if you wish to apply. After sending a document they had requested regarding my legal history, I received an automatic reply email which said, in effect, “Don’t expect us to contact you at all because we’re out on holiday. Got a problem with that?”

So it took a little longer for the papers to be processed, emails to be exchanged, and my nervous upwelling to subside. But hey, everything’s dandy now. Continue reading

Choosing a Backpack: A Guide for Vagabonds

My Golite Pinnacle, complete with a mysterious strappy thing which I can only assume is for holding my slingshot

Backpacks are an essential tool for the most mobile of travelers. Ever since mankind’s materialism revolution (beginning with simple stone or wood implements, or perhaps a garment or two), there has been need for people on the move to bring their things with them. There are limited ways for modern international travelers to haul things, the most popular categories being backpacks and suitcases. If you are trying to decide between backpacks and suitcases, try this simple guide. Otherwise, what follows is help on choosing a backpack, because backpack is my method. My means of marvelously moving my materials.

I’ve been doing backpacks since forever. In fact, I never have done any kind of travel with a suitcase as my primary baggage mode, save for when I was too young and stupid to effectively pack and lug my own gear. Having done all kinds of backpacking, camping, and international travels, and having used many varieties of backpack, I feel I have a thing or two to say about them. Indeed, I often find myself orally ranting reviews of my current backpack situation when riding alone in a train compartment, or while killing time at the airport.

I believe that to find a good backpack that truly fits you and your needs, you must see it for yourself. Touch them, feel them, carry them around. Ask the sales people a million questions, their preferences on brands, their personal opinions, and tell them what you need from a backpack.  Ask your friends about their packs, what they like and don’t like. Asking people is a great way to learn about what things matter in a backpack, and traveling types are always excited to talk about their gear. Continue reading

A Traveling Computer for People on the Move

My stay-at-home laptop

Something I have been considering seriously for the travels that lay in the future is how I will execute my computing needs while I’m out and about. Email is a powerful tool which I use frequently, and I will certainly need some kind of word processing ability If I wish to keep my travel blog rolling while I travel. What good is a travel blog if the traveler is incapable of writing in an electric format, or incapable of internet access? No good.

There are a number of things to consider when choosing how you will manage your electronic life during your travels. Fortunately, if you have need of a portable device for travels, your choices are narrowed to: Continue reading

Balm for the Spartan World Traveler

Bathing in a river. Seoul, Korea

In observing my fellow travelers, I have found that people bring any number of different soaps, cosmetics, lotions, de-funk sprays, and makeups. Some bring toiletry kits bigger than their heads packed with a nauseating combination of scented body goos. Others are satisfied with nothing more than a sliver of soap in a bag.

Personally I am among the latter group of light-and-fast travelers, employing a minimum of personal care products. Even with very few bits and pieces rattling around in my toilet bag, I believe that hygiene is important when traveling, for impression making and simply for health. My kit usually consists of  the following essentials: Continue reading