Travel

Life Beyond Europe

Is there more to life than Europe? I guess the answer to that depends who you ask. I say, absolutely. Others say, probably not. There was a time when, if someone said to me that I needed to go abroad, I thought of Europe. No, not just Europe, but Western Europe. Now days, I’ve managed to expand by horizons a bit, but Europe still has a powerful draw to it.

I have some friends that travel exclusively in Europe. I consider them tourists, not travelers. Tourists get packages and then go out and see what they have been told is not-to-be-missed. They are most likely itinerary driven people. I hate itineraries! All of the things that you will remember about a trip ten years later will not be in the itinerary.

If this is your lifestyle, that’s cool. Go, and enjoy. There are an INFINITE number of tour packages that cover Europe. And, there are a large variety of travel shows that cover Europe. It is easy to travel in Europe. The network of auto routes and trains is almost all-encompassing. More importantly, Europe has all the stuff people expect when they go somewhere that isn’t there home. It has deep, deep history. It has world class museums. It has excellent food. It has the sun-washed beaches and snow covered mountains. There is little that you can look for that isn’t there, somewhere.

It can also be easy to go to Europe and then just keep going to Europe. That’s what happened when I started travelling again. I had lived in Germany for several years when I was just out of high school. It was those in-between school and college years. Germany was a wonderful place. It was magical. It had mountains, and snow, great beer, and awesome food. The discos were loud and awash with people. There were festivals in every little town. Is was just a great experience. SO, when I decided to get back out on the road it seemed like the place to go. Quickly however, I decided that as much as I liked Germany, I also wanted to see other places. So I went to England. Then, I went wondering all over France. Then, I set down in Portugal, took the train across country to the channel, a train across England, and a ferry to Ireland. Needing a change, I spent weekend in Rome one winter, and Walked around Monte Carlo during the Grand Prix one spring.

I had settled into Europe. Why? Simple, it was easy. A quick flight from the east coast of America to anywhere in Europe isn’t hard to find. Hotels are on some lame similar standard with the States, and you can normally drink the water. It’s just easy. It was at his point that I went, what am I doing? Isn’t there more to life than Europe? Isn’t there a whole other planet out there?

The answer is yes. Yes there is a whole other planet out there to adventure around. Peru is fascinating. Australia is large and wonderful, sun-washed and hectic. Egypt is lost in time and antique. Costa Rica is jungles and surf. It’s all out there somewhere. All you have to do is go looking for it. Personally, I’m happy that I went to see other places.

Now, one could say that you can also find all of those things in Europe, if you look. That would be absolutely true. You can find pretty much everything above, save the jungle. That’s okay too, they really don’t need any jungle. But, back to the question: Is there more to life than Europe? I guess the answer is: do you want there to be? I would say that if you are happy doing the European shuffle, then do it. If you long for foreign lands and mysterious tongues, then do that. I like the second option, but I’ve already done the first one. Think about the way you travel. Think about the things that make you happy. Think about the types of activities you like to do and the excitement that drives you. Then, when you’re done thinking about it, go do it. If wondering the beaches of Europe makes you happy, do it. If wondering the bazaars of Cairo makes you happy, then go do that. I’ve done both. One experience isn’t better than another. They are individual experiences that I enjoyed completely.

So, I guess the answer to the question is – maybe?

Now, go on. Get out there.

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The old fortress in Lisbon, Portugal. Taken from the rooftop terrace of my hotel, somewhere around 2009.

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Travel, Uncategorized

Packing.

There is a truism about traveling the globe, I think. That truism is that you are always going to come back with more stuff than you left with. It habit, especially for us first world people. You buy cool stuff found along the way. You pick up gifts for people back home. Lets face it, nobody can resist that souvenir T-shirt from the street vendor. It’s a fact of travel. That being said, I like to leave space in the backpack to allow for newly acquired stuff. Not a lot of space, but enough so I can come home with one bag the way I left home.

Backpacking is a style I have been employing so long, I can’t remember another way. Well, that’s not completely true, I used to take a large blue hard-sided suitcase to summer camp as a kid. I held everything I needed for the week at camp and was basically indestructible. I think it was one piece of a set my mother picked up when she was young. It was old and showed the signs of many, many places. But camp was a learning experience. So, was the military. You go into the army ad they give you a fancy green backpack. You put all your stuff in it, and then you put it on your back. I learned fast during those days that LESS IS MORE. if you don’t have it, you don’t have to carry it around.

I have never forgotten that lesson. I still travel that way today. Still, less is more. Whether your in Cairo or Paris, Lima or Honolulu, if you need to find something you usually always can. Dragging around a lot of “Maybe” items doesn’t happen. You can rent gear or find a place that sells it. It’s a great world out there, and they have stuff.

As far as my individual travel style, I pack for a week. If I’m going out for a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, I pack for a week. 7 days worth of pants (shorts and jeans), 5 days worth of shirts (I will have bought a couple by the time the week’s out) and 10 days worth of underwear and socks (Cause sometimes you don’t actually find the laundry mat where you think you will). It’s really that simple. It also takes up surprisingly little space in your pack. Extra space is god when you’re on the go. It allows for the rest of the crap you need to pack.

My standard packing list is pretty much like this:

Kelty Backpack (2600)

Rip Curl drawstring bag

Journal with extra pens

A cloth Royal Crown bag containing toiletries, Zantac, and Imodium

A small backpacker first aid kit

A small cloth zippered bag with passport, shot records, travel itinerary, diving cert card and log book (If Required)

A couple of trash bags for the odd rain event

5 shirts, 2 shorts, 1 pair of jeans, good long sleeved shirt, 10 days underwear and socks, hiking boots, Tevas sandals, a rain shell, and a hat (usually bought along the way)

Multi-country electric adaptor

Apple phone charger

Camera battery charger

digital camera

and an external battery for the iPhone

That’s really about it. That amount of stuff will fill the backpack about 85 % full. The drawstring bag can be used to carry stuff onto the plane or as extra storage. I pull the drawstrings full out and tie them off to the carry loops on the backpack. Sometime, you just end up buying extra crap.

I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of stuff. It’s not. It’s what I need to get around wherever I’m at. If something really comes up missing, I go buy one. To be completely honest, the only things you actually need to travel are a passport and a good credit card. The rest of it is just stuff. Back in the days of the tall ships people went abroad with just the clothes on their back. They all had a good time. You can too.

I can just images the thoughts at this point. I can’t go on vacation with just that little bit. I have to have changes of clothes. I have to have extra shoes. I have to have my computer and my dvd player and my big thick book (Okay I admit I drug a copy of On the Origin of Species all over Europe one summer). The truth is , you don’t. You don’t really need it. You certainly don’t need to be dragging it everywhere you go. Trust me, your back will thank you if you don’t.

This is the way I roll. I understand that other people don’t roll this way. I have lots of friends who have multiple bags all the time. If that is what you need for a security blanket, then do it. I have found a way that works for me. It may or may not work for you.

The one thing I absolutely do recommend is leaving a little room in your suitcase or backpack for the stuff you pick up along the way. The first time you find yourself in Heathrow, watching a bunch of shocked people trying to stuff all of the crap they brought into one piece of baggage because the customs people at Heathrow will only allow a single piece of baggage through x-ray with you, you start pack less. You also laugh when you get to the other side of the x-ray line because you only brought one bag and breezed right on through. Just sayin.

Try less. Just a little less. You find it’s not that bad.

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What’s in the pic, It’s all you REALLY need.

 

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