Japanese Zen: Kyoto Green

Post No. 50 is short and sweet with lots of photographs. Very green. Very Zen.

If you live in Tokyo, a place that has its own way of instilling inner peace given its orderly everyday functions, I would recommend that you take the 2-ish hour Shinkansen Train* to Kyoto to find Zen or tranquility or your heart center rather than a foo-foo yoga class.

Revenge of the Monkeys: Ubud, Indonesia

In my quest to be more "open," I try to give people at least two chances. In this case, it was monkeys. Monkeys/humans, poh-tay-toh/poh-tah-toh.

Ubud has a few things going for it: it boasts cooking schools and a cool respite from the south of the island, making it unnecessary for aircon at night. Yes, I adapted to using 'aircon' vs 'AC.' I have no explanation for my behavior. I found out, only after leaving Ubud, that the area was made famous by Eat, Pray, Love, a book that struck me as really stupid precisely after paragraph number one. It  wasn't until paragraph four that I decided to chuck the book, so I have no idea what the writer did in this town.


Aoto Change: Japanese Transportation on Day 1

Taking a cab from Narita Airport to the center of Tokyo costs about $300. The only way to travel is via train or subway. This is my tale.

Panic. Damnit. Despite hearing that Tokyo's transit system is the most comprehensive of any in the world, I neglected to look up detailed directions from Narita airport to my hotel. Nearing 11pm, I was also worried that train service would stop soon: Tokyo's one drawback when compared to the NYC's MTA system.
Busiest Pedestrian Intersection + Photo crashers

The Good, The Bad, and The Awesome: Post Trip Thoughts

Two weeks of travel are sometimes hard to summarize, particularly with the amount of variety that can be packed into those two weeks. Summarizing months of travel? Interesting. I have been getting this question a lot, especially now that I am back in NYC, What was your favorite part? Some asked me what my least favorite parts were as well. I will do my best to keep this post brief as I have been starting to get retrospect of my trip in the weeks to come.

Blazing Heat: Bagan, Myanmar

It was hot. Like, Dante's Inferno hot. We had come off the overnight bus mere hours before, in the twilight hour of 4AM, to be let in by our generous hostel without a charge for an extra day. Most others were forced to start temple gazing at those inhumane  hours–both exploring and sunrise watching. Though it wasn't the best place we stayed in Myanmar, thank you, May Kha Lar, for letting us pre-temple nap. 

Sharks and Character Building: Diving in Japan

Kerama Islands, Okinawa Prefecture
Joy Joy Diving

So, I have been doing my posts in nearly sequential order and as some of you know I'm "behind" on my posts. In honor of the tail end of Shark Week, this post is of a recent diving experience on the islands of southern Japan. Additionally, going forward, posts will not be in any particular order. Stories will be at the whim of yours truly.

Rain Washed

Island Living: Relax. Bicycle. Dive.

Gili Islands

Between Nusa Lembongan and Gili Trawangan, I have a taste of island paradise. Sure, you can say Gili T is a horrible place and partly responsible for the downfall of society, but I'd argue that you're only looking at Gili T's party aspect, which is certainly available if and when one feels like imbibing. The island is developed for tourism, but unlike Koh Samui, at least the larger part of the bungalows are tucked inland from the beach areas. Additionally, there is no motorized traffic on the island. Other than bicycles, pony carts are your only option, typically used by tourists.*

There is no denying the beautiful sand, crystal clear water, and positively relaxing scenery along the beaches. Gili T is a time warp. Many arrive intending to spend less than a few days, but two weeks later, they are still lounging in the sunlight. The eastern part of the island that face the other two Gilis is here the action is: bars, shops, restaurants nightlife, young people. The southern part is dotted with luxurious resorts and their accompanying lounge areas sprawled on their respective parts of the beach, which is all accesible to the public, provided you purchase a beverage. Personally, if I had a chance to do it again, however, I would head north after making port on the beach at Gili T. The bungalows are respectable and affordable and the area is only a bike ride away from any of the action in town.

Speaking of bicycles, Gili T was another opportunity for me to ride around on a bicycle and even in the dark! Bicycling is challenging enough over the ravines caused by monsoon rain and naturally occurring mud potholes. After relaxing for one day, it was time to explore the island. Bicycles rented, we set off due north. My original group was in varying states of sickness or traverse of the island, so I started my trailblazing with a group of Swedes. Swedes are a funny bunch. About 15 minutes after setting off, we were forced to push our bikes through a sandy patch. Nearly 400m down the road, we go back to riding, but not before the boys tested out their bicycles. Into the ocean.

On a slightly steeper dune, all wanted to race into the ocean to see who would go the furthest. Competitive in only with things I already have competence and lacking a desire for stupid acts, I stayed back and witnessed this ordeal. I now have this etched in digital video eternity. Three attempts proved that even with peddling hard down the dune, the bicycles came to a complete stop upon hitting water. I was expecting to witness something a bit more epic. So much for that excitement.

Quiet, ridiculous, relaxing, or fun. Take your pick. This is Gili T. Time into the ether.

*The poor little guys foamed at the mouth in the evenings, were without water, and overall weren't in the best of condition. It was scorching hot, so much so, that after getting off the ferry from Nusa Lembongan, I was dizzy and practically incapacitated. Luckily, others in the group took charge to find us a place to stay while I sat and 'watched' the bags (read: tried not to black out). Just getting more tree-huggie.

Claustrophobia Meets Agoraphobia: Diving License Success

Bali Diving Academy 

Throughout this travel experience, though I consider myself slightly on adventurous side, I have come to terms that a lot of things freak me out. That said, I'm not claustrophobic nor agoraphobic, but I would imagine that diving would be categorically impossible with either or both of these conditions. But breathing under water? Oh, yea. Clumsily splashing my way across the pool, exhausted and totally out of breath, I also knew I wasn't the strongest swimmer.

90 Mile Beach is About 55 Miles Long

90 Mile Beach/Cape Reinga/Kauri Trees/Sandboarding

The driver is an absolute character. Too long now since I took that bus, I don't remember the details except getting on the bus early as christ, and Mr. Bus Driver checks my name with my voucher, "Puh-vLLLe-skuhh! That's a winner of a name. Where do you hail from?"

"New York."

[insert confused look] "Well that's unexpected. I thought you were going to say something like former USSSR or some Balkan nation. Oh well, your name's almost as good as.. what was your
name again?"

Just Keep (Dolphin) Swimming

Swimming with wild dolphins in the Bay of Islands

Leaving my friends that have real jobs back in London, I was left to my own devices in Auckland for a few days before flying to Indonesia. With so much left unseen, I did my best to cram as many activities in the last 72 hours as possible. First thing's first: booked a bus that goes due north of Auckland. In hindsight, I realized there were more economical ways of accomplishing this rather than using the Kiwi Experience bus, but it was too late. Public/government buses are significantly cheaper and do the job just fine, but it all depends on what you need. With Kiwi Experience, you get a younger or younger-minded clientele and an immediate group of people with whom to get beers.

If you're equally adept at making friends when reaching your sleeping accommodations, or alternatively, are a hermit, then the govvy buses are a better option for you. In hindsight, had I known about the public buses, I would have taken the option for such a short trip, but I am happy  to have met the people I did. Had I not, my trip would have ended in just dolphin watching, not even swimming, at Bay of Islands, and how boring would that be?

Burger Murder and a Badass Bike

Aside from driving and eating, there were a few activities that highlight my time in the land (down)^2 under. But first, a bit on the the burgers. After hearing about the burgers in New Zealand for years, in addition to knowing the quality (and price!) of the beef at my Whole Foods, I was quite excited to try them. Sat at lunch, the waitress comes to our table, and giddy with
excitement, I give my order. To my surprise, she doesn't wait on how I want the meat cooked (medium). Not distraught yet, I casually mention this to the group, which comprises of two Kiwis and one Brit, with as much a nonchalant air as possible.

Me: "She didn't ask me how I wanted my burger. "

G: "Well, America is the first place that I was asked how I want my eggs done. I've never been asked before; they just show up. "

Clearly this was not the sympathetic audience that I was seeking. While there is tolerance on changes or mistakes, a deviation too far out of my comfort zone is a recipe for disappointment. So instead, I reside in trusting, as I would in NYC, that the chef would choose the appropriate temperature. That is, until my burger comes back well-done. Womp. Womp. Womp. Now what?

Drive: Unintentional Roadtrippin'

Vrooom-vrooooom. Insert the soundtrack to the movie, subtract the gore, add some friends and family, and ... yea, alright, not at all like the movie, eh? However, we did do quite a bit of driving on the trip around the north island, from Wellington up to Auckland, with plenty of stops, including Dannevirke, Raglan, Napier, and Hobbiton, certainly not in that order, nor without repeats. Let me be clear: the roads in New Zealand are not straight. They are winding. Very, very winding. And I thought the signs at the airport were just being facetious...

Country Life and the Bright Lights of Dannevirke

The land is sprawling. It is varying shades of green. There may be a pine tree forest (not native to the country). The hills are rolling and steep. No, not Jack-and-Jill-danced-up-the-hill rolling. I mean you definitely need an ATV or wicked dirt bike to make it anywhere kind of rolling. Then, all of a sudden, you have a thousand pairs of eyes looking at you and totally scared of you. Sheep! So many sheep! Little ones, big ones, lambs, rams, you name it. Welcome to a sheep and cattle farm!

Flyway: New Zealand Air Talk

Alas! To the land further than the land down under! G and I took the 3.5hr flight from Sydney to Wellington and touched down safely (whew) after a bit of bumpiness. Turbulence has increased its scary effect on me. Strange, no? Most things become second nature the more you do them. Dealing with printed tickets instead of e-tickets; paying for extra check-in weight when I, with high probability, weigh less than any passenger over the age of 17; and absentmindedly going through security with laptop out, flip flops on, nothing in pockets and ready to go through the body scan machine (because it always happens to be me) all come second nature.
Native New Zealand greenery in Wellington Botanical Gardens

Land of Oz

This is going to be a short one because I only spent a little bit of time here. No kangaroo sightings, no barbie, no koalas hopped up on eucalyptus. Those will be prioritized on a future trip. I did, however, spend quite a bit of time on boats. Though not as much as the Kiwis, the Aussies still love their boats. Brothers G & F love boats, and so much so that they both hold a skipper's license (woohoo!).

Boat Views

Abracadabra Petronas - Malay Style

With only a few days left before heading to the land of Oz, I decided that 3 weeks in Vietnam were enough (for now, because what is really 'enough'?). Malaysia is where I was headed; I'd only been to Kota Kinabalu on separate amazing trip that may never get a post, but who knows, so I wanted to check out Kuala Lumpur for exactly one day and then meet my friend J who was island hopping off the west coast of Malaysia.

Saigon and an M60

For all you anti-gunophobes, just stop reading. Additionally, my time in Saigon involved the touchy subject of the war between Vietnam and America, and while I will not to get politically involved, I did go to the Cu Chi tunnels and a few museums on what the Vietnamese regard as the 'American War.' And I did shoot a big boy gun at the shooting range. I will say that it was pretty cool. Ironically, it is the only place in Vietnam that guns are legal. Policeman are rarely, if ever, allowed to carry a gun. If they do carry one, the gun is almost always empty of any ammo. It is not hard to see why the country has made guns illegal.

Left, right, center, or upside down, whatever your view is, the photos in the war museums are simply disturbing. To be frank, the whole concept of war is disturbing. I did take a limited number photos inside the museum, but aside from taking photos of photos not being my thing, I was too horrified of the scenes to capture them in my memory. Certainly posting what I did take would not be my thing, so if you're truly interested, you can ping me directly, Google them, or go to Vietnam and check them out yourself. Though the museum represents one side of the story, a dose of another person's reality never hurt anyone.

As for Saigon, while not up to western standards, the city is certainly developed and bustling. Scooters and bikes start tooting around 5:30am and don't stop until at least 1am. Hanoi and Saigon are truly cities that don't sleep. Seriously, they kick NYC in the butt. In fact, the place that I called 'home' while in Saigon was situated right across the street from a quaint little park. Quaint...until you realize that the techno pop music being played outside at 4PM starts up again at 6AM. YIKES! Also, even in Saigon, there is very limited western influence in the cities in terms of chain stores, supermarkets, and general goods.

Vietnam also boasts the largest number of scooters per capita. Bzzzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzz. Toot-toot-toot-toot. Tooting is not used to alert a fellow driver that he's done something dumb. Nor is tooting used to thank someone for letting you pass. No. Tooting is constant. Tooting means "I'm driving. I'm coming. I'm on the road. I'm not stopping for an intersection or a bus. I'm not stopping for a pedestrian. I'm still driving. If I stop, it will not be due the brake system on my scooter." After being in Asia for just a couple of months, I forget how tooting is used in the real world.

No, I haven't driven a scooter yet. It's not on my list.

Industrial Kitchen

Welcoming Area 3

Iv and Her Bicycle: Biking in Hoi An

There are several stops that travelers frequent within Vietnam; one of them is Hoi An, the Vietnamese capital of all things tailor-made. In addition to shopping, the city boasts a European feel nonexistent elsewhere in Vietnam. It is entirely up to you to view this as a good or bad thing, but I quite enjoyed the contrast of Hoi An to every other major visiting area in the country. Still no significant western influence in terms of businesses and chains (my view: great thing), the riverfront promenade is dotted with Asian lanterns in a European style.

SabbaticaLIST - 30 before 30

Gah! So I have plenty of experiences that need writing but I was so inspired by this British gal whom I met that I had to post this topic first. Oh, and gal? Girl? Lady? Woman? She was about my age but I always have a hard time deciding what to call females. Males are always referred to as guys. Or children. Moving on, I have always been a goal-oriented and a to-do list person but I have never combined both writing lists and long term goals or jotted down things on a bucket list. For some reason it seemed silly, stupid even. I like to let things in my personal life work out organically rather than forcing them, which is what I did/do in my academic/professional life. 

Then I listened to K (the Brit) speak about her career, business development, and decisions until now and I resonated with them. We'd had careers, achieved everything growing up has taught us to achieve as adults, but now what? The economy has gone into the toilet, our careers have plateaued, and superiors at work keep pay and employment rate low to fatten up profit margins while telling us that we are lucky to have jobs. Lucky? Whoops, before I get too fired up on that topic, I'll save it for a potential future post. 

K mentioned that a part of her 'Now what?' was a 30 before 30 list. For some reason this immediately clicked. Now I have my own 30 before 30, sort of. I came up with 24 on a whim. I tried to make them specific, but I know I'll end up editing them, not to mention filling in the blank spots.

Some are silly. Others are not. Most of all, the list is realistic, as noted by the use of 'attempt' on several occasions. Help me shape the existing ones and fill in my blanks! Without further adieu, 30 before 30:

1. Become conversational in Spanish

2. Get diving certified

3. Hike a volcano (preferably active) Active, check!

4. Maintain physique (!)

5. Snowboard in fluffy snow

6. Build something

7. Get comfortable with puff/pie/bread/pastry techniques

8. Attempt hand-eye coordinated sports (I'm active, but catching has never been my forte)

9. Fly a kite

10. See the best remains of the Greek and/or Roman Empire Acropolis and the Temple of Hephaestus

11. Attempt surfing --Taghazout, Morocco!!

12. Gallop on a horse

13. Try paddleboarding --> I was told to replace this one. Any ideas?

14. Travel to a country whose name ends in '-an' (Japan!)

15. See Aurora Borealis

16. Go to sub-Sahara Africa, not SA/See the Great Migration

17. Drive Fairy Tale road in Germany

18. Foz de Iguacu ($%#!... still annoyed)

19. Feed/play with an elephant

20. Temper chocolate

21. Find my perfect red lipstick

22. Learn how to whistle (Momski & Mum JE are amazing at this)

23. Drive a manual car

24. Dabble in authentic Thai cooking

25. See wild roses

26. Photobomb. I'm not sure I succeeded.

27.  Swim x meters.

28.  Find the best burger in 'Muricaaa

29.             ?

30.                ?

There's that. Suggestions welcome, and sometimes the simplest are the best--skipping rocks! Would also be interested in your goals or "I've always wanted to .... "

Now here's a lovely eye candy photo for clicking on the blog post:

Fields of Green

Not enough time to go to picturesque Sa Pa (and frankly wanting to avoid the tourist crowd), Mai Chau was a one-day stop. On the ride up, I got to taste rice that was steamed in bamboo and then dipped in sesame. Yum. Roadside markets... rice paddies...cows...bicycle riding... A jam packed day. Oh, and for about 2km, the driver for the day couldn't see beyond his nose. 'Uh oh'  or go with the flow? Go with the flow. What's a steep canyon drop when you can't see it anyway, right?

The Plundering Monkeys of Ha Long Bay

Yes, d*mn monkeys. They're cute until you realize how much of a menace they can be. Jerks. Arriving at Monkey Island, the first thing that the guide told us was that we can see the monkeys hanging out in the trees. That part I heard and retained. As for the second thing, not so much.

OK to Take Picture?

Candid and not-so-candid photos of people in a country poorer than your originating country: to take or not to take? Originally, or at least from some vantage points, this can be seen as journalism or shining light onto an issue or cause. At what point does it become rude or, worse, possibly inhibit the socioeconomic growth of a country? A bit extreme, maybe, but the more I travel, the more I see western folk with their big, fancy cameras, taking a photo of a woman trying to sell bananas in a developing country. When was the last time you went to a supermarket to take photos of the cashier? Or the guy at the deli while he's toasting your bagel? They'd probably fire off a few swear words if you tried snapping a photo of them. Infringement of privacy and that sort of thing--though that wouldn't hold up in a court case anyway.

Vietnamese (Coffee): Same Same..but Different

Still in Hanoi...

Did you know that Vietnamese coffee is considered the best after Brazilian? Me neither. The strong brew is potent even through the equal parts condensed milk. Sugar, anyone? Though I can't consider myself thoroughly knowledgeable with the French, but I have been there a number of occasions and French coffee has nothing on Vietnamese, with or without condensed milk. French coffee falls somewhere way below Ethiopian, Colombian, Italian, Kenyan... I'd say that Greek coffee has a fighting chance to be considered above the French. Sorry guys, in wine and pastries, and probably food overall, you are arguably the best, but coffee just isn't your thing.

Sidewalks and other free space are not meant for pedestrians; it is all for motorbike parking.

Hanoi - Chopsticks for Real

So instead of the standard traveler spork/knife combo, I have traveled with chopsticks. They're easier to clean, less likely to break, and they're cooler. But traveling with them through LatAm was admittedly a bit weird and even useless: most of the food down there is finger food (lomito sandwiches, empanadas), at least the food I was ordering. The suckers came in handy when I started trekking and had limited access to washing. Now, in Asia, the sticks came in handy once again.

My first week in food involved multiple orders of the same three dishes: pho, rice noodle rolls, and bun cha, which is grilled pork. Most of my adventures into food have been thanks to Anh from Banhmi11. I mapped out most of the locations and have visited roughly half, mostly due to the fact that I keep returning to the places I've liked over and over again.

First real meal in Hanoi
This place was awesome. The rice noodles are my most favorite thing -- I'm a sucker for carbs. Located about 15minute walk from old quarter, the family greeted me with less than a smile but just started bringing food to the table. Unidentified meat on the blue plate is tasty but it reminds me a bit of Spam. I still ate it all (surprised?). Soon after snapping this and the following photo, I received a sizzling bowl of the bun cha with pork patties as well. No photo of that. My chopsticks went into overdrive and I ate all of it before looking up from my bowl. 

Banh Cuon Gia
Hang Ga, Hanoi
If you want the exact/real directions, ping me and I'll dig them up.

This dish beats any mainstay of Vietnamese cuisine.
This bowl of pho is unreal. I have been to this particular restaurant three times, including once for dinner followed by lunch the next day. Adding a little bit of spice to it still doesn't make the dish overly flavorful, but I find the broth and noodle combination completely addicting. These guys also make a mean rice noodle dish.
Pho Ga
The assembly station

Banh cuon Ky Dong
11 Tong Duy Tan, Hanoi

As I write this, I'm digesting a lovely meal from this evening that included chao, which is the Vietnamese version of congee, and quay, fried dough--need I say more? Dribble drool. I was too preoccupied with eating that I didn't snap one photo. The good news is that the place I had dinner has a spot in HCMC, where I'm headed in a few days.

Coasting Coastlines - Uruguay

Getting to Uruguay and then busing through the coastline is about as easy as it gets when traveling. Uruguay itself is not that interesting these days, with its extensive European influence (gained by questionably moral means I'd rather not discuss on this blog).

Punta del Diablo

Starting from Buenos Aires, there is a ferry that whisks you away across the bay (channel? whatever) right into Colonia. Boarder "control" here is interesting because as the Argentine official stamps you out of Argentina, your passport is handed to the person in the adjoining seat...who is the official that welcomes you into Uruguay. Hurray for seamless boarder crossing!

The city that you make Port in is Colonia. The following three major points of interest include Montevideo (the capital), Punta del Este (the most popular getaway, visited mostly by Brazilians and Argentines), and Punt del Diablo (the quietest/quaintest/most remote beach town of the four).

This was the most chill-out, least cultural or site-worthy part of my experience in LatAm. Though there was nothing spectacular to see, I would rather fly down to Uruguay than endure a 5-hour journey to the Hamptons any long weekend. The food was great, the shopping was much more interesting though overpriced, and the people much more relaxed.
El Titani de Homero: Yes that happened. BEST chorizo sandwich. Ever. Podunk truck stand in the middle of nowhere. <3
Los Dedos
Graffiti: even in Uruguay

Rockin' out to a live band with a chick bassist* Thanks for the correction JMR

Town Centre: Punta del Diablo

F#ck!ng Horsefly

Get to the horsefly in a bit, but this was my experience in El Chalten. Calling itself the hiking capital of Argentina is not far from the truth. The park surrounding this quaint city that exists almost solely on tourism can be hiked via a multi-day trek or a few day hikes, returning each evening to the city. At this point,  I was a pro at combining multi-day hikes into one, so knowing I had only one full day in El Chalten before setting out to the north, combining Mt. Fitz Roy with a few other highlights like the Mother-Daughter Lake and Iceberg/Waterfall on the trail was definitely going to happen.

BIG Rock - Perito Moreno

So I'm a wee bit behind. I'm sitting in SVO (Moscow) airport. BIG bonus points for having reliable, fast, password-free Wi-Fi. WAKE UP, JFK. Hardly any power sockets, though.

It's snowing. Brrrr. I have packed for warm, humid, tropical weather, not this dreary grey and cold scene. Anyway, after paying nearly $23 for a half dozen stale pierogi and some grilled vegetables, it is time to catch up on what I did AFTER hiking the W Trek in Torres del Paine. Well, there was more becoming-one-with-nature.

More photos of this glacier after the jump.

What to Pack, Part II

In addition to packing my clothes, here is the list of other items I brought. I think about 90% of my packed items are posted, but I add things as I remember or rediscover them in my pack. Questions or suggestions appreciated!

What Do I Even Need to Bring?

***Extras -American Apparel grey skirt

-Black cotton dress

-2 bikinis

Yes, I packed a pair of heels. No, I definitely do not regret packing them. I also hiked through parts of Patagonia and was headed to Africa, so I was definitely planning to head out of major cities for long periods.

But now back to you: you're going to be living out of a limited set of clothing and personal items for a long, LONG time. You've only now started to process that. Now what?

For me, I needed to pack a bag that would get me through seven months and potentially for a year. So, the question I asked, and many people have asked me, how the heck does one pack for a trip this long? Seriously, it's not that big of a deal.

The first question has nothing to do with how long you are gone. You do not need to bring 60 pairs of underwear if you are travelling for two months. Um... washing machines? Instead, think about the types of climates are you visiting. What time of year are you going? What activities will you be doing? You certainly don't need a perfect itinerary--I only had a one way ticket and one week's worth of accommodation booked on the day I left, and the accommodation was another person's doing. That said, you should have a general sense of what you would like to do or otherwise be very open to changing your plans. Or buying stuff. You have a bottomless wallet, don't you?

I didn't plan on skiing or doing anything that involved extreme cold weather, so ski pants could stay out. Sticking to mostly warm climates, I was planning on doing some hiking in questionable weather, so wool thermals and hiking pants were definitely being packed. Planning a trip through warm/mild weather is obviously preferable: clothes are lighter, smaller, and dry much more quickly after washing.

What size backpack? Well, considering my towering height at 5' (1.52m) and excessive mass of 110lb (50kg), I was going to use one of the smallest of the 'bigger' backpacks out there: NorthFace Terra 45L. Most people travel with 65-75L, and I've met many that travelled with 85 and 100L (it was a female) backpacks. In addition to the big pack, I brought a smaller Under Armour daypack.

The Big Pack
I bought mine from Paragon Sports in Manhattan a couple of years ago. I like it and it worked fine, but a future bag for this type of trip will have a bigger side zip.
The Small Pack
Mine was in black/lime green and I believe it was from a discount store...purchased 12 minutes before leaving for the airport. No pressure.

Clothing took up less than half of my total pack volume, so think about the electronics and other daily necessities that you might have (covered next post).

***4 Pairs of pants (or trousers)
- Old Navy jeans (I can't knock this brand anymore--petite!)
     -Rockstar Super Skinny fit like a custom made glove
-F21 black leggings
-EMS trekking Pants
-IceBreaker base layer

***4 Shorts
 -No name grey (I didn't have these after 2 weeks, gave them away
 -Aeropostale khaki -Under Armour running shorts
 -Black cotton shorts

***5 Long Sleeve Tops
-Old Navy yellow/grey striped cotton
-Mango beige cotton
- 2 IceBreaker base layers (one ultralight and one lightweight)- Cardigan

***10 Short Sleeve Tops
 -4 H&M/cotton tank tops
 -3 t-shirts (including INY) -Distressed tank top
 -Zara polkadot dress top
 -Zara beige dress top

***2 Outerwear
 -Eddie Baur rain jacket
 -Craft zip running jacket

 -American Apparel grey skirt
-Black cotton dress
-2 bikinis

-5 cotton ankle socks
-2 Icebreaker wool ankle socks
-Linen scarf
-Water resistant gloves
-Sarong/"beach towel"

***6 Pairs of Shoes
 -2 Ballet flats
 -Haviana flippies
 -Timberland boots (chucked these in the end...12 years strong. Don't knock them, I am likely to buy the same pair again.)
 -Black pumps
 -NB Sneaks (new colors suck now)
Many things cut out of picture

So you see that yellow thing near the upper left corner of the picture? That is a compression sack
* I have the medium one in the yellow and the best thing about this little guy is that it is also waterproof. Excellente.

*Inspiration came from LegalNomads

All of that... compresed to this:

The picture lies: I fit 6 of the items pictured into the sack before I left 

Clothing items I bought/picked up along the way:
  • Ballet flats (#3)
  • Bikinis
  • Men's XL fleece (it was longer than a dress)
  • Dress
  • Zara Blazer
And I still had space. The bottom line is that you want clothing items that will wash and dry easily (time is not always your friend) and that are reasonably durable (cashmere sweater, I don't think so). For me, that meant getting used to the idea that jeans were going to be a necessity. And despite the fact that they are diffiult to try and do take up space, jeans are an EXCELLENT way to blend into the crowd, dress up or down, and get massive points for durability.

Next post covers non-clothing packing items.

The Lost, The Stolen, The Forgotten

I am the court jester of misplacing things. Honestly, I don't know how I do it. Here is a tally of items that have disappeared, one way or another, from my pack, not in order:

Concrete Jungle

NYC. Yep, I've been here unexpectedly since just before the Super Bowl (which was viewed at a friend's ridiculously beautiful apartment).

A few of you thought I had run back to the southern continent with the last post but the truth is that I'm behind a few posts on my blog and I'll be posting them (hopefully) in the next few days.

At this stage, I'm not sure whether I will be back on the road again, but either way, fear not, I will find a way to keep this blog rolling.

Missed the Boat

Literally. Part of this 5Day/4Night trek involved taking The Catamaran to the furthest point in the trail and then hiking back to home base. The two synced (or so we thought) buses were supposed to take us to the second, and final, catamaran for the day... except that as we pulled into the lot, we saw the boat push away. No comment came from the bus driver. Clearly, the other companies had made it pre-launch. We did not. Now what? Deviate from the standard 'W' trek. First day's trek which started at 7:30pm involved a 7km hike that looked like this:

Ok, so this part was faux-hiking. Eyes closed, hair a mess, but stunning scenery.

W Trek: Legit Hiking

Torres Del Paine National Park, in the Patagonia Region of Chile

'W' is for 'Worried.' That's one way to describe how I felt about this trek that is supposed to last five days and four nights. My initial plan was to do this thing as part of a tour group but chatting with people who had both done the trek and were going to do the trek, I learned that no one gets a guide for the W trek.. except for old people.

I'm on a Boat .....

NAVIMAG Boat from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natalas (aka, the jump off point for Patagonia's Torres Del Paine W Trek)

We got very, very lucky with the weather on our little boat trip. Apparently, most of the time it is too foggy to see much of the scenery that the ship passes from Puerto Montt to Puero Natalas. Crystal clear blue and white ice greeted us for the short stop in front of Glacier Pio XI. I had only seen one other glacier before, in Iceland, whose name is consonant after constant and 'n' after 'n' in name. That one, however, was covered in black ash from a volcano that had erupted the year prior. It was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the glacier and the surrounding land. This one, on the other hand, rocked shades of blue that I did not think existed in nature. The rest of the scenery included channels surrounded by rock and trees and rain forest and waterfalls. Four days of impressive scenery, I suppose even that can get old after a while. Photos:
The Cargo Ship

World Record Attempt for New Years Eve

Valparaiso is like a bigger, dirtier LES/Chelsea. In this incredibly bohemian and colorful city, I extended my stay from 2 days to 7 days. Until three weeks earlier, I had no idea that this city even existed. Until 1 week before, I had no idea that it was the 2nd biggest New Year's Eve celebration in the world, second only to New York City. Like hell I was going to miss this one, so pushing back several arrangements (flights, boats, places to sleep, you name it), New Year was going to be celebrated in Valpo.

Standby: Fake Post

Eating at a restaurant called Dresden in Puerto Montt while I wait to board the cargo ship (Navimag). I almost feel like I'm in Germany, as the wooden dining room is completely filled with smoke (and wifi!), except that no one around me is eating yet it is nearly 1PM. Stereotypes exist for a reason: lunch does not get eaten until 3PM. If you thought Spain ran a bit behind schedule, you don't know what's in store until you hit LatAm.

Four days on this boat, no Internet. I'll have several back to back posts on NYE in Valpo, Puerto Montt, and my first ever New Year resolution. I normally hate the idea of a resolution starting at midnight Jan 1, because... seriously, who are you kidding? You're likely loaded up with champagne. Way to start the new year, spending the first day bumming around and being completely useless. This year, while walking around during the first day if the year, I did decide to make a change.