my gear for Asia

Osprey Farpoint 40 Backpack
This is the best backpack I could imagine. I don’t foresee ever switching. It more than holds everything I need, yet still fits into all carry-on spaces. I just recently squeezed it under the seat of a minibus where everyone else had to have their belongings tied to the roof. I also feel like due to it’s smaller size, you’re slightly more inconspicuous as a backpacker. Even packed full I can walk long distances (kilometers and kilometers) without ever feeling like it is especially heavy. Favorite item, for sure.

Sea to Summit Quick Dry Towel
I decided to try a different brand than whatever I had used on the Birthright trip. Not because I had been unsatisfied, just to see the difference. I do like the snap loop on this one, which is endlessly useful for drying it or keeping it out of the way when showering. It also has survived two months without washing in Southeast Asia without smelling, which, puts it a level above the Birthright one, which started smelling after like a week.

Terra Vista Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
First of all, their customer service is some of the best I’ve encountered in my entire life. On that alone it’s worth the price. But the actual product is superb as well. It was such an awesomely luxurious item to have throughout southeast Asia. Despite the high price tag, I am definitely satisfied and would recommend the investment.

Lifesaver Water Bottle
Back on US soil I was not excited about this giant contraption. But as I’ve been traveling with it, I’ve come to appreciate it. The downside is that, despite its large size, it doesn’t hold that much water. But it’s been well worth it. I figure I refill it a few times a day, saving myself at least $1/day. My trip is 92 days, so it has almost paid for itself. I’m sure I’ll start taking it on hikes once I get back home, too. I’m definitely a fan of having drinkable water without contributing to the plastic bottle industry. Yeah, I’ve saved $90+, but the amount of bottles I have refrained from using is well over 200.

Olympus TG-3 (tough) Camera
I have three qualifications for any camera I am willing to use, and especially travel with:
1. Has to fit in my pocket.
2. Has to be able to handle rough wear.
3. Has to be inconspicuous.
I refuse to carry around a bag for my camera. I like having pockets and that’s it. I don’t want to be constantly worried about it getting scratched or wet or dropped or smooshed. I’m very careful with my belongings, but I just don’t need that extra stress. And finally, I don’t want something that’s going to paint a target on me for thieves. I’d much rather have a small, tough camera that looks not-especially-expensive. This one does all of the above, and I’ve been really happy with it. I wanted to take it scuba diving, but figured I should probably focus on actually diving since it was my first time. Seeing as it survived taking a dive off a waterfall, I’d say it’s worth its salt.

Apple World Adapter Kit
I use this kit for all of my charging needs. So all I take is my USB plug, the country adapters (didn’t actually need them for southeast Asia), and the USB cable for my iPhone/iPod and camera.

Aladdin Collapsible Spill-Proof Bowl
I’ve never really heard of anyone traveling with something like this before, but I’ve found it really useful. I like to buy meals before long bus or train journeys and throw them in this. It’s nice to not have to rely on marked up tourist stops. And you can choose whatever you want. I tend to buy my favorite meal I had in each particular place and savor it one last time. Also, note: it is perfectly leak proof. Kudos.

iPhone.
I’ve gritted my teeth at smartphones ever since they started popping up. But now I probably wouldn’t travel without one. Previously I had just used my iPod touch and connected to wifi, and that’s fine. But it’s so useful to have a full on smartphone with Internet available anywhere. It’ll be an especially useful tool for future hitchhiking ventures. Getting local SIM cards seems so intimidating until you actually do it. But in reality it’s so simple and not worth stressing about. Also, you can get a month long data plans in most of southeast Asia at least for under $10. That said, if I couldn’t take an iPhone with me, I’m still totally comfortable taking just and iPod or something similar that works solely on wifi. It’s okay. There are plenty of cafes and hotels with wifi.

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superfluous on demand

Back in December when I was last in Florida, I wrote a check for $2,000 to my parents. This was the money I owed them from what they had spent on Varekai (my house). A few weeks later I received a call from my dad informing me that, after much thought, he had torn up my check. “And here’s why,” he said “I just don’t think a couple thousand dollars means as much to me as it does to you. So keep it and use it on something special.” Which, I was obviously so blown away by. I had very intentionally planned to build that house on every penny of my own money. Maybe it was a pride thing, I dunno, I didn’t want help; I wanted to do it myself. But, after some thought, I accepted my parents decision to contribute that $2,000 because, like my father, I think some things have more value than their price tag.

That money was destined to the black hole that is my bank account – destined to be saved and largely untouched for years (until the opportunity to purchase a plane ticket comes along). Despite the fact I was instructed to use it for something special. I guess, in my mind, life is pretty special. Just cooking dinner with my roommate is a special occasion to me, or going to a cafe with a book and having a cup of tea, or renting a movie for pizza movie night – it’s all part of the extraordinary web of this existence…so, black hole is where my money goes. To be used on small, insignificant, daily getting-bys.

However, this lifelong habit of anti-spending encountered a window of opportunity. Upon docking in Koh Tao, I found myself in the superlatively optimal situation to learn scuba diving. It cost so much more money than I would normally be willing to spend. I’m surprised, really, that I even entertained the idea. But I did. And I remembered that $2,000. Maybe I would take my father’s advice and do something I wouldn’t normally do. So I did. I spent $400 on getting my open water and subsequently my advanced open water certifications. I traded $400 for an incomparable and ultra amazing week of exploring the world contained within our earth’s enchanting ocean. It was amazing.

Later, in Vietnam, I was gripped with the desire to participate in a two day cave tour, also a spendy adventure. Realistically, it would complicate my itinerary and equally havoc my bank account. But the prospect of trekking through the jungle and camping in a cave were dancing through my mind. I thought again about that unexpected money in my possession. So for $300 I was able to explore the jungles of Vietnam and sleep in the magnificent Hang En cave, third largest cave in the world. Those two days were unequivocally among the best experiences of my life.

At this point I thought: what if I do something I normally wouldn’t in every country? I had also spent several nights in this exceptional tree hut bungalow on the calm white beach of Otres II in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. While its bill didn’t come close to the hundreds of dollars from the diving and caving, it was a luxury of an accomodation. A splurge, if you will. And there I spent some of the most relaxing, free of expectation and obligation, contemplative days. That travel brochure worthy tree hut provided the perfect backdrop for my full-being-reordering.

Wandering the night market of lovely Luang Prabang I encountered so many interesting foods I wanted to sample. I decided to have a night market feast and try all of the things that caught my attention. This one is funny, because while I ate everything my continually-shrinking-stomach could handle, I only spent about five bucks. Which, is still something I would never have done when I could’ve gotten by on $1-2 for a decent meal and a few new dishes.

Myanmar didn’t immediately have anything that stuck out to me as something that I would like to do, but was exorbitantly costly. It kind of came out of nowhere, the decision to have an upscale dinner. This whole trip (ahemmywholelife) I’ve favoured street food with the absolute belief that the fare was far more worth my time. But, why not actually test that theory? I found the least obscenely extravagant, but still upscale restaurant I could and had a fancy five course meal for $15. The whole experience was definitely a standout from the rest of my clearly budget trip. I was able to try a week’s worth of traditional Burmese dishes in one excellently constructed and attractively presented meal.

I didn’t use all $2,000 (more like $750ish). But I did get more than my typical money’s worth during this trip. I still hold that you can have a stellar, meaningful, life changing travel experience on the tightest of budgets. But I definitely concede that money will provide you some things that your thriftiness just can’t afford. I enjoy budget travel more, I suspect, than I would enjoy luxury travel. But it has been fantastic having these bonus adventures.

So, all of this just to say a really huge thank you to my ever generous parents. I had some of the coolest and most incredible experiences from that check you refused to cash. Thanks for always being a sponsor for my life, whether that comes in the form of money, time, moral support, manual labor, advice, encouragement, putting up with sprawling and never-ending projects, coping with having an unusually-minded and admittedly stress-inducing daughter…I appreciate it immensely. I’m grateful for you, and I’m grateful to you. And I’m so excited about the exact life I get to live, in part because of your steadfast support, even when you don’t agree with my decisions (i.e. dropping out of university, hitchhiking, moving to the complete opposite corner of the country…) I think so often it goes unacknowledged, but it absolutely doesn’t go unnoticed. Parents have a certain role to perform, but you guys carry it exceptionally well. I couldn’t imagine a better set of parents, and I wouldn’t want them if they existed. You guys are just right. I love you immensely.

Thank you. 

have you heard about me and the sea?

have you heard about me and the sea?
that noble pursuit of existing free
the chance to run wild (but not to flee)

the one where I slip off to foreign lands
ditch my current, well-worn plans
and lose my heart all over again

indefinitely, indelibly disappear
to oceans away from what’s been near
find another place to call my here

submit myself to irrevocable change
to the unknown, and to the strange
participate in a rare and magnificent exchange

learn to unfurl into curious new places
and find in myself newly filled spaces
a permanent scar of those distant traces

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