East Africa’s Perception of Quality

Preparing the equipment for the tour I’m helping to manage was something I decided to take particular responsibility over. The other tasks, like finding corporate sponsorship or wooing venues into hosting the band involve too much persuasion and infuriating negotiation for my liking. Finding sound equipment, on the other hand… how hard can it be? Continue reading

Tuning for Victory

Loiterers at Kampala Cycling Club

Worry gripped me. I lay awake some semi-sleepless nights thinking about the long route I will follow in the coming weeks on my dodgy, heavily used bicycle and began to feel nervous. People were depending on me now! What if I failed? If my idea to ride around Africa’s largest lake had continued – as it started – as a foolish lark performed solely for my pleasure, then there would be no problem. I’m used to hurling myself into unknown situations. But now people are watching me. They will want results. Continue reading

Go Huge or Go Home

Bike people help bike people

It is amazing how things begin to flare up once the first embers of an idea are stoked. Preparing for what was going to be a fairly small time fund raiser for an ambitious young organization in Uganda has led to buckets of new contacts, new ideas, and new connections. By now my simple, plodding bike trip around Lake Victoria at the heart of east Africa has been inflated to take on a new form. Continue reading

Cycling Uganda: Finding a Bike

Meet Victory

On the busy, sloping streets of central Kampala, near the old taxi park where all forms of transportation come crashing together in a kaleidoscope of wheels and potholes, multiple level shopping centers offer hair extensions, electronics, or local food. In the basements of many, one can find dozens of bicycle shops, jammed with tires, selling the magnificent machines in all conditions, shapes, and sizes

I came around looking for a bicycle solution. Men in greasy jumpsuits waved their wrenches and beckoned me downstairs to see their selection. I complied, happy to be out of the sun, and to peruse through the many junker machines available. I needed one which could bear me around Lake Victoria. Continue reading

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

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

The Cloud: Web Tool for New-Age Travel

The Cloud goes wherever you go!

“The Cloud.” It is mysterious. It is useful. It is, perhaps, a bit intimidating to some. But just what is it?

To be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure, but I have an idea. It seems that ‘the cloud’ means ‘computing service’, where users (you, me, businesses, etc.) can store, crunch, organize, and monitor their data on the web. For example, a person can store music files on an online database rather than physically storing it on their own hard drive. A business can upload sales data to an online data analysis service and interpret the results, rather than doing it in-house on their own computers.

So why is it such a big deal, and what use do travelers have for such abstract technology? Continue reading

Music and Travel: The Makings of a Modern Troubadour

A Musical Conversation Between Enthusiasts

Talk about cultural exchange. Music is a vessel filled with influence, ideas, ideologies, and insights on everyday life; it can be an explosion of passionate feeling on important topics like wars and politics, or a simple, mindless ditty about nothing in particular. Woven into the lyrics, rhythm, and progression of songs past and present is the state of the culture, and the individual, from whence the song sprouted. Walk through the downtown sector of many American city these days, and you’ll no doubt hear the plucking guitars, drum circles, and protest lyrics associated with the Occupy movement. Poke around wine country, and you’ll hear the harvesters bellowing drinking songs about the benefits of low maintenance women. Stroll through the market in an Indonesian city, and you’ll hear live traditional music clashing bafflingly with pop tunes issuing from some nearby boombox… Is that Michael Jackson? Yes it is. 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