Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Needs vs. Wants

Let's begin with basic definitions: If I need something, I would suffer considerable hardship, and/or death/injury without it. If I want something, I would be unhappy without it, but would get over it in time.

Do I need to have that Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or would the McDouble from the Dollar Menu suffice in its stead to satisfy my hunger and nutritional requirements?

A new restaurant/movie/video game/bestseller has hit the scene. Do I need to check it out? Is it my job to do so?

I have 5 random chairs floating around in my apartment that I salvaged from departing neighbors. Do they need to be taking up valuable space? How many guests do I normally entertain?

After an invigorating workout, I pass by a smoothie bar and it immediately strikes me how refreshing one would be... But do I need one?

Do I need to bring that laptop on the trip? Am I expecting to do work while traveling? Can I not just pop into a local internet cafe, or the hotel business center?

Getting to work or school, do I need to drive? It it possible to carpool, take a bus, bike, or walk instead?

Although, I wouldn't shun all wants. I just need to realistically assess whether I am in a place where all my needs are in fact taken care of, before considering how much a want would benefit me emotionally/mentally - and then prioritize those wants accordingly.

**Physical health is a need.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thoughts After Coming Back from China (3 weeks)

Just came back from a 3-week trip to China with the Tom Bihn Western Flyer as my only piece of luggage.

Flew into Shanghai, then participated in a bus tour covering Shanghai, Wuxi, Suzhou, Huangshan, and Hangzhou. Took a train to Beijing, flew back to Shanghai, and finally flew back home.

I packed two extra pieces of warmer (read: bulkier) clothing, since Huangshan and Beijing were expected to be cold. This definitely paid off, as it was cold and raining at Huangshan and windchill was crazy in Beijing.

However I did learn some things:

1) My iGo Green Charge Anywhere battery charger that I brought along as a backup battery for my iPhone 4 nullified the need for me to also bring along the standard Apple USB Power Adapter that came with the iPhone.

-1 ounce

2) Recycling is good, when it isn't unreasonable: I brought along an old Motorola phone that was still locked to T-Mobile even though the contract expired ages ago, with the hopes of unlocking it cheaply in China and getting a local SIM card for it for cheap calls. Unlocking is apparently not done cheaply in China anymore (if they even know what you're talking about, since it's only something foreigners have to worry about) and it turned out it wasn't worth it to pay to unlock the current phone which required a transformer to charge the battery, vs. buying a new phone in China at the same or cheaper price. In the end, we ended up not doing either.

-11 ounces

Those were two things I learned regarding my own luggage.

My mother, whose luggage I also had to schlep, had a 50-pound behemoth on wheels that I had to lift and carry up and down about 50 different sets of stairs (no exaggeration - most of the subway and train stations do not have escalators or elevators) and onto and off of multiple buses, subways, taxis, and trains; as well as two other suitcases also weighing in similarly. Thankfully, those other two suitcases stayed put in Shanghai while I only had to lug the one across China.

The basic lesson from that portion is this: If you cannot afford to travel lightly, you need to be able to afford to NOT travel cheaply. Plane->expensive cab ride->hotel with elevator and porter->expensive cab ride->plane. Don't forget those luggage fees. My mother would not have been able to manage all three of those bags alone, nor would the airline have let her check the third without a fee.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Montreal/NYC 11 Days, 1 Tom Bihn Western Flyer, 14.5 lbs: AAR

AAR = After-Action Review

14.5 pounds and it still felt heavy.

I could have done without the camera - I barely used it, and never used the charger. My iPhone did just fine for pictures.
I didn't wear that pair of dress pants after all.
To my surprise, the hostel did provide towels so I didn't use the Packtowl at all either. (It does pay to contact your lodgings to check!)
The Teko (hiking) socks ended up being a bad fit for dress shoes - I got a small blister on my r. little toe.
In retrospect I really shouldn't have brought the luggage lock for the hostel locker since it was a private room.

 Everything else either worked well or I was glad to have along for insurance anyway.

Oh, I probably could have used the Arc'teryx Gore-Tex I was thinking of bringing when it was pouring rain and we were out on the water. Didn't expect that one.

All in all, though, a good trip!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Packed Up and Ready to Go: Sub-15 pounds!

11 days in Montreal + NYC, 1 Tom Bihn Western Flyer

Inside the Tom Bihn Packing Cube Backpack:
black Icebreaker Meridian short sleeved shirt
black ExOfficio Kizmet Camper 1/2 sleeve shirt
striped white BR shirt
grey pants
black Banana Republic dress pants
black Columbia shorts
5x ExOfficio Give-N-Go Bikini Brief, 1x Jockey bikini brief
1x VS bra
2x Teko socks, 1x dress socks
pink plaid shorts
black Nike Dri-Fit tank
1x ziploc gallon sized bag
2x ziploc 2-gallon sized bags

Tom Bihn Packing Cube Shoulder Bag:
light grey/clear slippers (aka flip-flops) in plastic bag

3-1-1 bag:
Olay moisturizer/sunblock
mini A&H toothpaste
mini H&S shampoo
NIVEA lip balm

Tom Bihn 3D Clear Organizer Cube:
travel toothbrush
Dr. Bronner's tea tree soap bar
Soap container
Salux Washcloth
face washcloth

Tom Bihn FOT Pouch:
Brookstone nail clippers
Immodium, Tylenol Cold, Benadryl

Tom Bihn Small Organizer Pouch:
Wet wipes

Tom Bihn Passport Pouch:
Colored Key Strap

Tom Bihn Clear Mini Organizer Pouch:
Thumb drives

Tom Bihn Kit:
Memory cards
Camera charging cables
iPhone backup power supply

Coach bag:
sanitary napkins

Trip info printed out and put into folder, Extra copy of passport
black belt
Surefire flashlight
Flashlight extra battery
TB cleaning cloth
Laundry line
iPhone bumper
iPhone charging cable
Murder on the Orient Express mass-market paperback
Luggage lock for hostel locker

Grand total (weight): 14.5 pounds

What I got rid of, as I lay everything out and thought about each item:
Nike Free shoes
TB Absolute Strap
Dr. Bronner's liquid soap (2 fl oz)
Purell hand sanitizer (2 fl oz)
Packtowl personal
Playing cards
Guidebooks x2
Fleece sweater

What an exercise! I gave myself a bit more leeway on clothes, taking 3 tops and 3 bottoms when I really should have only packed 2 and 2. I learned that even the most innocent-looking things can weigh a pound or more. I began to really be honest with myself and realize that some things I'd put on my packing list were going to be more trouble than they were worth and end up going unused. If the weight was really going to be an issue, I had thought about even leaving the camera at home - the charging cables were so bulky and heavy and I figured the iPhone could have done in a pinch.

Going to be hosteling it, which is why things such as towel, soap, etc. were packed. A few minor modifications to this list and I'll be ready for China in October!

Not included in list: RL polo, dressy jacket, light pair of jeans, Merrell shoes, 1 set of undergarments, watch, eyeglasses (all worn)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Honolulu, USA, July 2011

I live in Hawaii, in the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. I went downtown into the business district to take a look at some non-beach wear typical of paradise.

Personally, I think it's a tempered "anything goes" - most dress is casual, but you still wouldn't show up to a nice restaurant or work in a t-shirt, shorts, and slippers. Most men wear patterned short-sleeved button-up shirts in an office environment. Women, patterned tops or dresses. Many college students show up to classes in beachwear.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Late Realization, Or A Woman and Her Baggage

I'd not posted for an interval of time following the "Hiroshima, Japan, June 2009" post. The last line of that post was "Also, take note that just about every adult female has some sort of baggage."

Previously I had been convinced, even in my daily life, that a handbag just gives thieves a convenient target to snatch and grab. I also felt that by carrying a minimal amount of things in my pockets, I freed myself from having to always need to watch my bag, from having to find an appropriate place in a restroom to set said bag down, from having one hand constantly on the strap, etc.

However it never occurred to me just how WEIRD it was to go around, as an adult woman, without any sort of bag, purse, or stroller. Until I started actually paying attention. And it never failed. Every woman who I could identify as not having some sort of personal baggage (who wasn't engaging in exercise) looked extremely out-of-place and awkward - the overwhelming impression was "unattractive lesbian."*

I had no idea how obviously my orientation was being proclaimed by my lack of baggage! And also the unattractive part, what was up with that! Well, it turns out that women look better when it doesn't look like they have tumors coming out of them in inappropriate areas! Imagine! So loose clothing (so as to better shove things in your pockets) and bulging pockets (so as to better carry your unbagged possessions) did things to one's attractiveness level that even makeup couldn't hide!**

So here's the situation: Adding a bona-fide bag to the list (the Tom Bihn Passport Pouch isn't gonna cut it) would add weight to the list that I had found "unnecessary" on previous trips. However, since I am now more conscious of not looking like a fool, it had become necessary. I haven't weighed everything on my list so far, but I'm pretty sure adding a handbag or two is gonna add in the neighborhood of 4 pounds. My actual luggage is gonna weigh 3 pounds. To go 15 pounds or lighter meant I'd only have 8 pounds left for clothes, toiletries and electronics.

Well. I accept this challenge!

*I added this star in case my statement was taken out of context and twisted into some kind of hate speech, of which it is not. I accept that the underlying reason why my brain defaulted to "lesbian" may be because I am sensitive to such perceptions. Please feel free to discuss in the comments below counter-examples if you have them.
**I don't actually wear makeup, so double whammy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

How to travel anywhere on $20 a day, by Ryan Estrada

(image copyright Ryan Estrada)

Ryan Estrada is an artist who has had an interesting life so far, and an interesting way of living it. In the PDF linked in the image above, he explains how he travels cheaply - and survived to tell the tale!

One of my favorite parts is when he says he only starts looking for a place to sleep when he is ready to sleep, thus not needing to pay transportation back to an already-paid-for, far-away place of lodging. This, among other things, is possible when you travel ultralight!

EDIT 26 JULY 2011: Wow, it looks like a lot of you are here via Ryan's link! Welcome!