Where did I put that bag at? I gotta go!

I tend to get quizzed, from time to time. A friend of mine asked me about my luggage situation the other day. This seemed like a worthwhile topic for an entry, so here we go.

To start the discussion, I will say that I am not opposed to buying luggage. I have bought lots of it. I have used lots of it once, and then given it away. My old office manager can attest to the fact that I was randomly coming in with backpacks, and camelbacks, and such for her. I guess I’m picky.

Okay, probably a fair assessment. I tend to find luggage that I like and hold onto it until it dies. When I replace it, if I’m remotely unhappy with the replacement, it goes. I want things that work the way that I want them to work. If they can’t do that, I’ll go buy something else. This approach leads to a lot of trial and error.

I have found that my packing falls into two wide types. I am, by nature, a backpacker. If I’m traveling somewhere for a short period of time, say less than a month, I’m almost always going to go with a backpack. I travel light and I travel fast, so I want something that is mobile over all terrain. This is what backpacks were designed for. As for volume, less is more. My small pack, for the weekend to weeklong trips is a book-bag sized North Face (which I have had for some 20 years and I keep coming back to). It’s about 1800 Cubic Inches. For bigger trips, the multiple week stuff, I have a North Face backpack and a Kelty backpack that are both right on 30 Liters. I choose between them based mostly upon my mood when I’m packing. They are different in compartment layout and opening orientation, so I go with whichever one feels right at the time.

It is my opinion that if you pack a lot of stuff, you just end up carrying around a lot of stuff. I have spent much time amused by people with the massive 60 Liter backpack on their back and the oversized day pack strapped to their front. It’s funny to watch them struggle and bumble around. I choose not to do suck crazy things to my back. There are few places in the world where you can’t do laundry or plug in a charger. I just assume that these people are practicing to be hoarders later in life or something.

That being said, if I’m going to be out for an extended period of time, several months to years, I do have bigger bags. My go-to set is a medium and an extra-large roller duffle bag from Eastern Mountain Sports. They are big enough to hold what I need and extremely durable. Both of my roller duffels have been beating around the world with me since about 1996 or 1997 (20 plus years). They are still in good enough shape and all the seams and zippers are still intact. They make good stuff.

Normally, I only pack the duffels if I am driving to a location or have a need to actually check luggage. If I can get away without taking them, I do so. Like I said, less is more. What’s the old saying about packing, pounds lead to pain? I try to avoid that.

I have noticed an increase in the last couple years of people going to roller luggage and just wheeling it around I front of them like it’s a baby stroller or something. I can only assume these people are new to the travelling game. Once again, they’re amusing to watch.

I find from talking to people as I go that everyone has a distinct opinion on travel luggage. It seems to be a very personal kind of decision to make. Everything doesn’t work well for everyone. Prime example of this, I watched a bunch of travel TV in which this soft-sided carry-on bag, that was sized to fit in the overhead was shown as the go-to bag. It had expandable sections and stow-away backpack straps. It looked awesome. I bought one, used it twice, and threw it in the back of the closet to rot. I hated it something fierce. I went back to my old North Face. Like I said, I’m picky.

I guess the boil-down for all this is, I found something that works for me by trial and error. Lots of error. If you are not super-good with your bags, I say switch them out for something else. A good bag actually does help make a good travel experience. It holds all of your stuff, and is one less thing you need to worry about. For me, it’s backpacks. For you, it’s ….

Well, that’s my two cents anyway.

The big yearlong bag and the small weekend bag. Both twenty years old and still going strong.

As a side note, the North Face backpack (the weekend bag) has also been my gym bag for a good fifteen years. So when I say its best up, its beat up!

Now, pack a bag. Get out there!

Collecting those memories.

A friend of mine asked me the other day what I used for cameras while traveling. This seemed a good topic for conversation, as I would image that everyone does something a little different. To start this I would think that there are probably two types of people taking pictures while traveling. These two camps can be defined as professional photographer, and the rest of us. The main difference between these two camps is equipment (and the willingness to lug it around).

Definitions being established, I can attest that I am firmly in camp two. I own a nice camera. It’s in a laundry basket in the storage unit, I think. Needless to say, I don’t use it a lot. I tend to use a nice DSLR and lens system when I am going somewhere that I am sure I am never going again or if luggage weight/size is not an issue. If I am driving and my bags are behind the seat of the truck, the big camera is a good idea. If I’m doing something that is only going to happen once, like watching the space shuttle lift off from Kennedy, I take the big camera. These are situations where I have made a conscience decision to carry extra weight and go for quality. There are times when quality is important.

The vast majority of the time, photo quality is a position of compromise. A thing where, good enough is good enough. Let’s be realistic about some things. The majority of us do not take vacation photos and enlarge them to 36×48, so heavy pixel density isn’t necessary. My largest enlargements tend to be 11×14. The vast majority of us don’t use our vacation photos for promotional brochures or book covers. I have used many photos for book research, but none for inclusion in finished books. The vast majority of us, me included, post or photos on Facebook, Instagram, in blogs they write, and twitter. I do all of the above except twitter. Then, they get stored in a digital file and left to wait out the ages.

I have spent a long time traveling. When I was young, the military taught me to travel fast and light. It was a lesson that I learned so well, that I still do it to this day. If it doesn’t fit in the ruck or the ruck is too heavy, it gets left behind. This mode of travel limits the amount of electronics that I tend to bring along. I almost NEVER travel with a laptop computer. I don’t carry a tablet or gaming device to pass the time. Weight can be much better utilized. My inclusions, currently, consist of an iPhone, a small digital camera, and a GoPro. I have also added a Bluetooth shutter button for the phone camera. I did this for purely practical reasons. The timer function on my phone takes a burst of between four and five pictures at one time. This chews up storage space on the phone that I can use for more pictures, if I use the Bluetooth button.

At this point in time, I use the GoPro (Hero 5) almost exclusively for underwater footage. This is because I haven’t owned it a long time, and really haven’t come up with a good alternate use for it. I am very comfortable using my phone and my canon digital camera. The canon is your standard pocket sized digital with an 8x zoom. It works well for all the tourist architectural photos and landscapes. And, as stated, fits in my pocket.

I find these three cameras to do everything I want them to do. I rarely run up against a situation when traveling that cannot be handled by one of these three cameras. Now, I admit, cameras are kind of like clothes. EVERYONE has an opinion about what is best. Everyone also has firm views about bad ideas. All I’m saying is these work for me. And, considering there is limited room in the backpack, they work well while requiring little room and adding little weight. Like I said, I travel fast and light.

That’s just my two cents.

For full disclosure, I took this with my older iPhone 4 so my current iPhone 6 could be in the picture. This explains the lack of picture quality. (I know. I can’t tell the difference either. 😬)

Get out there! Take lots of pictures!

Good Morning World.

Well, I made it back to my apartment by 11:00 pm. I talked to the roommate, and watched the end of the Roma v Liverpool match to wind down before I crashed.

A quick 5 hours later and my alarm was going off. Ah, yes. That work thing needs doing again.

I think this is one of the great unspoken elements of travel. It seems many people tend to plan extra out time before going. No one likes to be rushed getting out of town. You want to check your bags one last time and make sure you didn’t forget anything important (passport, etc.)

Not too many people ever seem to add this consideration to the back end of a journey. To leave a little time at the end to decompress and get it together before wading back to reality. I used to do it a lot. I’ve been forgetting it lately.

So, now i’m up with bloodshot eyes. Catching my ride to work, so I can spend the morning wading through a sea of unread emails. Good times.

Hopefully, coffee will fix this?

Get out there! Go see stuff!

Headed back to reality.

I was up before the alarm this morning. Good bed. Good sleep. Great room.

The morning has consisted of a shower, a very nice breakfast, and a taxi ride to the airport. Taxi driver didn’t have change for a 1000B, so he went hustling off to find some. The migration from sidewalk through tickets/customs and on to the gate area took all of about 15 minutes. Koh Samui airport isn’t very big, and all the people along the way are quite friendly.

As I always overthink the airport connection, I am here way early. I’m gonna learn how to arrive on-time, at some point. Now I’m just sitting here, drinking a complementary coffee. Bangkok Airways, for the win!

The flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok was trouble free and comfy. As expected, transitioning inside Bangkok airport was easier than last time. I’m learning to navigate this place. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. They say that if you travel the world for any good amount of time, you will end up at Bangkok airport. Check that box.

Turned the leftover Bahd back into dollars. Yup, took the hit in both directions. Its wasn’t much, so it’ll be okay. I kept some miscellaneous Bahd, as I did Cambodian Reil, for the collection. About enough to get a couple beers somewhere. You just never know when you’re going to need airport currency.

So, I’m at gate number 2, waiting on plane number 2.

Well, changing in Sri Lanka was chaos. My plane landed when my other plane started boarding. Fortunately, it was only one gate. Got there and they had thrown a breaker or something. No power to the x-ray machines, so no one could go through into the waiting area. Got it up and running after a minute, and there was a gigantic line trying to blister their way through. Apparently, the desk scanners went down too, because nobody went anywhere for a little it.

In the end, plane ain’t leaving without the pilots, and they were behind me. I will make the plane. Good. Good. Don’t want to be spending any more time than necessary here.

Well … I made it on the plane. What a crazy show that was. They made everybody wait while they pushed some old lady down in s wheel chair. That was nice. After, they just opened one door and everybody ran at it with their seat stub in their hand. Men, women, whatever, whoever made it through the door first won. Crazy!! Get me out of this country.

Planes fly, and so did mine. It went something like Entourage (Movie), Pacific Rim, and half of Thor Ragnarok. Kuwait airport was packed but moving fast, and I walked out the door to waiting taxis. After two weeks or so in Asia, the traffic in Kuwait City is positively provincial!

Good night!

Island Hoping, Again.

Realized that the ferry off of here and my plane flight out of here were not going to mesh, so a decision was made to get back on the same island as the airport. Booking.com to the rescue with hotel options. Found something decent for the last night in Thailand. Also set up a transfer to the hotel with the ferry ticket. Very cool.

The not so good news is that the ferry doesn’t leave until 1630. So, I’m killing a day before the ferry. I thought about rescheduling the diving for today, but if the ride back in was slow, like it was the other day, I’d have a problem with the ferry connection. I’m actively trying to avoid that.

Got up late. Walked out to the beach and chilled for a little while. Went back yo the room, showered, packed, charged the phone. Went up and checked out. The Thai guy running the place doesn’t really speak English, but I’m pretty sure I got the point across.

Rucked up, the walk from the hotel to the Pier area is a quick twenty minutes. Not sure how adding a couple t shirts and a scarf made the pack so much heavier, but it seems that way.

The Pier is active this morning. Seemingly, more people coming than going. I’m sure it’s probably fairly equal. The Hub, a corner beer, pool, food, hangout joint is stop number one. I like a large portion of the current crowd, plan to hangout. Breakfast and beers for a while, anyway.

General note: in a land built for backpacker, big roller suitcases are basically everywhere. I can’t see how it’s practical, but it seems to work.

A load a casual day drinking, followed by a hangout at the ferry terminal, a kidney jarring ride across to Samui, and I am finally on the same island as the airport.

Got the ferry transfer to my hotel. It was a twenty mi its twisting turning affair that oddly reminded me to Ireland. Well, if you had your eyes closed. This place looks nothing like Ireland!

The hotel is …. damned nice! I mean I have a room with my own pool, nice. The bed is super comfy too! Why didn’t I start here? The Samui Resotel Beach Resort is, in a word, FABULOUS.

Watched the end of Ghost Protocol and wandered over to the restaurant. I need food. And, a beer wouldn’t hurt.

Now, go. Find your own beach.