The Packing List

Image

Examining the method and madness of our brave, stunningly attractive, exceptionally intelligent, worldly (alright, I might be embellishing just a bit…) hero.

I’ve got a bit of time before my first flight leaves, so it’s time for me to start catching up on my blogging!

I put some thought in to what I packed. I also did a little bit of research in the process. I doubt that I got it right, but I don’t think that I got it too wrong either.

The thought process:

  • Duration: This coming three months will be the longest that I’ve ever travelled. That said, it’s much shorter than some of the journeys that people I admire have taken, and shorter than the journeys that I ultimately aspire to.
  •  Destination: The destinations that I’ll be hitting these next few months are forgiving, but offer a diverse range of possibilities. I’ve got Hawaii, where I’ll be staying in Kona as a WWOOFer for two months, and I’ve got Spain.

I backpacked Hawaii with a camp when I was younger, and while the circumstances are a bit different, I think that my biggest concern is gear that can handle working, hiking, surfing, and getting wet. Currently, I don’t foresee much else.

The last time I went to Spain, a few years ago, I fell in love with Madrid. I had an incredible experience that came from me being able to interact with the locals and see the city from a much more intimate perspective. I’d like to do that again. This means having gear that allows me go out without looking like a troglodyte. Europeans tend to have a much higher standard of dress than Americans, which presents challenges for a backpacker trying to be conscientious about the amount of shit (s)he’s lugging around.

My Conclusion? Screw it, I’m throwing in a bit of everything and using this is a learning experience.

On me: I wanted to keep down the weight of my bag. Excess luggage fees tend to occur at 20 kilos from what I’ve seen online, and pack wasn’t going to be light (I found out at the airport that it was 33lbs, so I was in the clear. This isn’t the recommended way to go however, and luggage scales can prevent expensive miscalculations). This meant wearing heavy items. Additionally, I wanted to wear my Bill F*cking Murray shirt in case I encountered any Chivers (long story for those who aren’t in the know).

  • -BFM t-shirt
  • -Jeans
  • -ExOfficio boxer briefs
  • -Thin, quick-dry, synthetic hiking socks
  • -Cowboy hat

Conclusion after today’s testing: This setup worked pretty well. I kept the hiking boots loose, and they turned out to be comfortable and quick to slip on and off at security. The cowboy hat (which goes with me everywhere) proved to be a bit of a logistical PITA because I couldn’t wear it while sitting down, couldn’t store it in the overhead without worrying about it getting crushed, and was a bit sketched out about it being under my seat. It spent its time in my lap.

In the Day Pack (my carry on): I wanted everything valuable that I had on me at all times. I also wanted to be able to keep myself entertained and connected, as well as be able to take care of myself if my primary back pack disappeared.

  • -My mac and its charger
  • -My kindle and its charger
  • -iPhone w/ OtterBox and its charger
  • -Sunglasses
  • -Seeing glasses w/ case
  • -3 notebooks (one for each of two online courses that I’m taking, and one general purpose)
  • -pens
  • -passport
  • -neck pouch with uncuttable strap
  • -a mini notebook
  • -my toothbrush
  • -floss
  • -deodorant
  • -a long sleeve synthetic shirt
  • -ear buds
  • -a first aid kit with immodium and benadryl

Conclusion after traveling with it all day today: I packed it perfectly. I primarily used my kindle, but also started this post in the airport. The long sleeve was very useful for when the flight got chilly. I sleep easily, but if you’re a light sleeper, I might consider the addition of ear buds. Also, I think that I’ll be adding a water bottle for next time.

My backpack: tons of things. I wanted to be able to test out EVERYTHING. When I’m done with this trip, I’ll know what I do and do not use, and won’t have to suffer through questioning whether or not there was an item to bring along with me. Additionally, I brought my travel Electrician’s tool kit (mini drill, kleins, channel locks, level, multi-meter) in case I can find some side work. Even as full as it is, it only came out to 33lbs total weight. Not bad.

  • -Athletic shoes
  • -Dress shoes
  • -Flip flops
  • -Rain Jacket
  • -2 Board shorts
  • -1 Rash guard
  • -1 Synthetic pants
  • -1 Short sleeve quick dry shirt
  • -Wrist brace
  • -Work gloves
  • -2 Thin, quick-dry, synthetic hiking socks
  • -1 ExOfficio boxer briefs
  • -Luggage lock
  • -Tool Kit
  • -Sleeping bag
  • -Sleeping pad
  • -Mini tent
  • -Pocket knife
  • -Floss
  • -Tooth paste
  • -Dr. Bronner’s soap
  • -Medium travel towel
  • -Head lamp
  • -Lip balm
  • -Sun screen
  • -Bug cream
  • -Aloe
  • -Small cologne vial
  • -Condoms

Conclusion: I’ll have to let yall know in 3 months!

Have yall got any thoughts on what I packed?  Suggestions or comments from your own travels?

-NSTB

Advertisements

Game on

Image

I haven’t slept a wink tonight and had about 2 hours last night. The excitement and the packing and the preparing and the saying goodbye to friends (I have incredible friends!) have been keeping me pretty busy.  I’m going to sleep like a baby on the plane.

In an hour and a half I leave for the airport.  Preparing for this trip hasn’t just been packing my carry-on and my backpack- it’s been packing up the rest of my life too.  While I don’t know what this trip has in store for me, I do know what happens when I get back home.

I have less than a week after my return before I leave my beloved Texas to give California a shot.  While this is exciting news, it’s surreal leaving home knowing that returning home means that I’ll be leaving home again.

While I’d like to think that life is always one great big adventure, I feel that I’m facing more opportunities and challenges than I ever have before.  God knows that I’ve been learning tons about both myself and the world around me in the last couple of weeks! I’m both excited and a little nervous, but I’m ready to bring it.

Game on!

P.S. I’ve just started playing around with my iPhone camera.  I’ll be posting pictures routinely (hopefully daily) and would love hear yall’s input and advice.  I’m very much new to this.

Making Willpower in to a Habit

Image

Making Willpower in to a Habit

I often find myself at the bookstore when I’m in between appointments without enough time to go home or without another errand to accomplish. Recently I stopped by Barnes and Noble and picked up a few books to read. The information that I found in one has made a huge difference for me already. The book is “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.

Covered in this wonderful book is making willpower in to a habit. This sounded a little silly to me at first, but upon further reading it seemed viable. I’ve been implementing it for a couple of weeks now, and the results have been astounding. The diversity of applications makes this even more appealing. I’ve used it for both thought process and physical activities, and it has worked wonders, especially for destructive thought processes that I’ve struggled with for well over a year now.

Duhigg cites a Scottish study involving older patients recovering from hip or knee surgery. The physical rehab necessary is difficult and painful, and many people forgo it entirely because they simply don’t have the willpower to push through. In the experiment, a control group was given a pamphlet detailing their rehab schedule. The experimental group was given this same booklet, but in the back were thirteen additional pages, one for each week, with blank spaces and instructions: “My goals for this week are __________ ? Write down exactly what you are going to do. For example, if you are going to go for a walk this week, write down where and when you are going to walk.”

The results? “The patients who had written plans in their booklets had started walking almost twice as fast as the ones who had not. They had started getting in and out of their chairs, unassisted, almost three times as fast. They were putting on their shoes, doing the laundry, and making themselves meals quicker than the patients who hadn’t scribbled out goals ahead of time.”

Upon examining the written plans, it was found that not only were they detailed, but they covered how the individual planned on the dealing with their “inflection points.” One example was a patient, knowing that he would be in agonizing pain any time that he went to stand up to go to the bathroom, who wrote in his plan that he would automatically and always take his first step, removing his immediate access to his seat, and therefor removing the temptation to sit back down.

It was also found that there was often reward at the end of the difficult task, providing encouragement to repeat it. In the case of the man previously mentioned, he kept a bowl of M&Ms at the bathroom door, and allowed himself one on the way in, and one of the way out. Rewards are necessary to develop a habit. According to Duhigg, “Our brains are wired to take patterns with clear rewards, and make them into automatic reactions.” Without providing yourself a reward, you will never be able to develop of habit- the task will remain an act of sheer willpower. We all know how well that works out over the long haul.

So, how do we implement this in to our daily lives?

  1. Write it down. Be detailed in your plan of action.
  2. Identify inflection points and write out how you’ll deal with them. Figure out what screws you up, and write out how you’ll deal with it. I’ve found that the plan for dealing with it doesn’t have to be complicated. The biggest key for me was being able to recognize an inflection point, and redirect my thoughts and actions toward my plan of attack.
  3. Reward yourself. This doesn’t have to be a huge reward. Sometimes huge rewards are just as destructive as the habit you’re trying to stop, like allowing yourself to binge as a reward for not skipping a workout. What’s been most helpful to me is focusing on the reward, telling myself that it’s a great reward, and then taking pride in having earned and achieved the reward. It’s amazing how powerful a single M&M can be when you take the time to think of it not as an M&M, but a trophy of your conquest, and a symbol of the hard work that you’ve put in to becoming a more complete person.

In my life, this has been most useful in helping me to deal with destructive thought processes. They used to eat at me daily, destroying my self esteem, getting the best of me for at least half an hour a day, and nagging at me throughout much of the rest of it. I often wound up distracted enough to forget about them for extended periods of time, but no matter how much I tried, they always returned. They routinely struck me in the mornings, right as I woke up, when I was too groggy to focus and force myself out of it. It wasn’t a pleasant way to wake up.

I went ahead and took the book’s advice to heart, and I’ve been doing pretty damn well so far. I wrote down my plan for thinking for positively, detailing the thought processes that I would avoid, and writing out the ones that I’d like to employ more often. I then identified my most common inflection points (mornings and rough work days) and what I’d do when the negative thoughts hit.

My method is simple. If I’m in bed, I sit up first, but otherwise this is how I deal with it anywhere. I identify it for what it is, and tell myself that I won’t be thinking that way. The complete thought goes like this: “A negative thought process is occurring again. I need to stop, and I will stop.” I then let the thought become like a balloon in my head, and “let go” of it, watching it float away, shrinking in the distance (a little trick of mindfulness meditation).

I immediately reward myself after stopping the negativity. This works in two ways: number one, it changes my focus to something positive, helping keep negative thoughts away; number two, it encourages me to keep going. My reward is the happiness that comes with overcoming this obstacle, and taking pride in myself for facing it, instead of cowering and letting it have its way. I bask in the warmth this achievement, and it’s better than any physical reward I’ve come across.

I’ve only been overcome once since starting this, and I was much quicker to regain my footing. I learned from my mistake and wrote down how I’d deal with the situation next time I face it. Rather than being ashamed of myself for the shortcoming, I’m confident that I’ll emerge victorious the next time we face each other, and I can’t begin to explain to yall how much this means to me. I hope any of you who’ve ever struggled with anything similar give this a shot. It’s worth it.

Here’s a link to where I picked up my quotes from: http://personalmba.com/power-of-habit-charles-duhigg/ .

For further reading, go ahead and pick up the book. Business, personal, you name it, there’s some way that this can be applied. Additionally, this is only a single point discussed in the book. There’s so much more to be found in it.

If yall have any questions, leave me a comment and I’ll respond ASAP. I’d other love to hear if any of yall have any tough habits or tricks for dealing with them.

Until next time.

-NSTB

Flying on the Cheap

Flying on the Cheap

There’ve been several learning experiences that I’ve encountered in the short period of time that I’ve be looking in to traveling. One of the most interesting was that tickets don’t have to be expensive. I realize that for many, this is hardly a revelation, but I’d always been under the impression that flying was a costly ordeal.

My lesson begins with the two gents that I mentioned in And So it Begins. It was brief, and went down a little something like this: “Brooooo, you should totally do Hawaii first.” “I’d love to, but don’t have twelve hundred bucks to blow on a ticket.” *Incredulous look between the two of them.* “I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than three fifty for a ticket out there.”

ImageOh really?

Their philosophy was twofold.  Firstly, you never want to buy a round trip ticket, because you restrict yourself from countless opportunities that might occur a day, week, or month later than your flight leaves.  Secondly, you can time ticket prices much better when you’re looking at one way tickets.  They said that the sweet spot was two weeks out to really nail a good deal on relatively short notice.

We wound up distracted after they dropped that pearl of wisdom, and before I remembered to pick their brains any further, we went our separate ways.  I panicked for a second when I went to find plane tickets this week, but regained my composure and did a bit of Google Fu.

The result was finding this gem. Here’s the breakdown of the useful stuff (most of it directly quoted):

  • “Prices are at their lowest between 18 to 28 days prior to your trip”
  • “Domestic fares are lowest 21 days before departure…” About 8% lower than average fares available six months before departure. The average fare increases 5% two weeks before departure, with fares increasing 30% from their lows the week before departure.
  • International fares don’t fluctuate as much; 34 days before departure, fares are about 4% lower than the average at six months before departure.
  • Generally, the more you can tack on to your vacation package upfront—even including things like meals and tours—the better the savings over do-it-yourself pricing. By booking a package deal with an online travel agency, people save an average of $525 on their vacation, with an average of $1,000 saved for weeklong vacations to very popular destinations.  An OTA can hook you up better than an airline.
  • Make sure you price out the activities individually to ensure that you are getting hooked up.  Sometimes it’s not such a great deal.
  • “Mid-day Tuesday to late-day Tuesday or early Wednesday is a good 24-hour sweet spot where you can find the latest sales.”
  • Airlines release their last-minute weekend deals on Tuesdays
  • “Wednesday is the best day to depart, followed by Tuesday and Saturday.”  Experts cite savings of up to 10% when traveling midweek to midweek.
  • For a weekend trips, you’ll find that airfare is cheapest when you depart on Saturday and return on Monday.
  • Don’t specify departure times, because ticket prices can vary significantly based on departure times.
  • Layovers can result in cheaper flights.  Don’t be afraid of one-stop flights.
  • Two one way tickets can be cheaper than one round trip ticket
  • Check your fares after you book.  “If fares drop the day after you bought your ticket, you can cancel tickets within 24 hours of purchase without paying a fee or penalty, according to Department of Transportation regulations. The flights must depart more than a week in advance. If fares drop outside this 24-hour window, most airlines have a credit or refund policy but they may charge a fee.”

I followed the instructions, started looking at online booking sites (I found Orbitz to have the best deals). The result?  $376.28 to fly from Texas to Hawaii, all processing and transaction fees included. I know of more experienced travelers getting better deals, but this is mind blowing to me.  What’s even crazier were the deals I saw going straight from LA and San Diego.

I’ve still got tons to write on this subject, but I hope that if nothing else, this gives a little inspiration to those of yall who are worried that traveling has to be expensive, and maybe saves you a few bucks along the way.

If yall have any tips or experiences, please share them- I’d love to learn more!

-NSTB

And So It Begins

And so it begins.Image

It’s been a while since I last posted. That’s mostly because my life took a very interesting turn recently. Through rather serendipitous circumstances, I met a of couple of couch surfers who are long term, low cost travelers a few weeks ago, and they introduced me to WWOOFing (I’ll explain in another post to come shortly). We got to talk of travel, and I heard all of these incredible stories, and tips, and ideas for how to live the impossible dream that they were living themselves. After a couple of hours of good times, and seeing my interest, I was urged by one to say “Fuck it!” and get going immediately to see the world. I told him that I’d think about it, and we went our separate ways. While I consider myself to be spontaneous, and flexibility is one of greatest strengths (born out of necessity to compensate for several weaknesses) I wasn’t quite ready to drop the ‘ol F-bomb and dive head first in to the unknown.

Apparently life wasn’t having any of my shit, and decided to say “Fuck it!” for me.

Put simply, I lost my job just over a week ago. The company executives took the time to sit me down and explain the situation, and honestly, I can’t fault them for it. I was always temporary, with plans to leave Texas for California this summer as I begin pursuing my education, and my dream of Berkeley’s Haas school of business. After several projects were delayed, layoffs became unavoidable. We were lucky to have a crack team where I worked, and so any layoffs presented a real loss of talent. The difference between myself and the guy who still has a job is that I wasn’t a long termer, and it would be a crime to lay off a company man for someone who is going to be leaving shortly. As I said, I can’t fault them. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting though.

I’m a firm believer that every challenge presents an opportunity, and that a great challenge presents an even greater opportunity. It didn’t take much brainpower to see the potential here. I began doing tons of research, reading blogs, talking to people with experience, and then researching some more. My credit score is now better than it’s ever been, I have plane tickets to both Hawaii and Barcelona, the bare minimum essentials in gear, and three months of travel ahead of me. The future is looking bright!

If yall have any inspiration to share, any comments on making it through rough times, or tips of backpacking, I’d love to hear them!

-NSTB

Making Molehills out of Mountains (or Doing the Reverse Mushu)

Image

Things add up very quickly in life.  Deadlines loom, obligations pressure, to-do items stack, and somehow in the middle of all of this we want to fit in time to achieve something for ourselves.  In the face of everything else we face in life, something as simple as losing 5 pounds, or finishing that novel you start months ago can start to seem like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon.

The good news for us is that the tasks that we set out to do are not nearly as difficult as they seem.  Many people, trying to provide some sort of motivation, talk about the incredible capacity for change and achievement in an individual.  That’s all well and good to certain extent.  The human body is an absolute marvel, and the things that some people have accomplished are astounding.  Having said that, I don’t believe that the dragons that most of us face require that sort of capacity for achievement, or that the dragons we face are dragons at all.  So many “incredible” things are within arms reach if we just realize that instead of a fire breathing monster, we’re looking at a lizard that we’ve built up in our heads.

The process of clearing the smoke and seeing the lizard you face is a surprisingly easy one.  It takes a piece of paper, a pen, and a few simple steps.

  1. At the top of your paper, write down a goal of yours.  In my case, it’s becoming capable of holding a conversation in Spanish in the next two months.
  2. Break down your dragon in to smaller parts.  A bit of time on google doesn’t hurt here, but don’t spend more than a couple minutes.  What does it take to speak a language?  Words!  Yes, words!  I’m going to need to learn the vocabulary of the language.  I also need to learn what to do with those words, so grammar is a must.  Beyond that, I need to speak it, so pronunciation and practice with implementation are necessary as well.  That’s pretty much it.
  3. Break it down further.  We’re making lizards in this step!  There are a lot of words in the Spanish language, so I need to make this more manageable.  How about the 100 most common words, 100 most common verbs that don’t fall in that category, and then the top 500 most common words once I’ve achieved those?  I now have smaller goals, and even a basic progression to look at.  Grammar is convenient because it comes in organized chunks anyway.
  4. Screw it- we’re going smaller!  Lets make this happen day by day, week by week.  For my example, I have a minimum of 200 words to learn in 8 weeks.  That comes down to 25 words per week, or 5 new words per day.  Easy!  Grammar and speaking?  I discovered Pimsleur some time ago, and it does a fantastic job of covering both.  If I do one lesson on the drive to work, and repeat on the way back home, 5 days a week, I can knock out a very large portion of their very effective Spanish lessons in 8 weeks.  I can also work on the verb conjugations, one tense per weeks in conjunction with the rest of the practice.
  5. Stick to it.

That’s it!

While the steps are fairly straight forward, and many people make it through the first four, many struggle with sticking to it. I’ll be covering a few strategies in the future to help, and what to do when they strategies fail.

Do yall have any experience with challenges that seemed too big to handle, or strategies for dealing with them? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

-NSTB