Monday, January 30, 2012

Clearing Out & Going Away

I spent this weekend clearing out my bedroom, hauling most of my belongings to Goodwill and storing some of them at my dad's place.

I'm getting down to bare bones — check out this emptiness.

Since I sold my desk chair ($5, even though I originally dragged it off the street for free), I can compute in bed without feeling too lazy. : )

I'm very happy with the amount of stuff I've gotten rid of versus the amount of stuff I'm keeping. It was tough to part with some items at first, but as I sold and gave away more and more, the easier it became.

The key question was: What is replaceable?

Photos and letters from loved ones are not, and I've kept those neatly bundled together in a plastic storage bin. Clothes, furniture and random trinkets, on the other hand, hold no meaning for me, and someone else will find them much more useful if I pass them along.

I'm also happy with the money I've brought in from selling stuff to friends, to thrift stores and on Craigslist — more than $1,000!

  • Furniture: $550
  • Clothing: $164
  • Miscellaneous: $305

Now I just have to finish cleaning up and clearing out of the townhouse today and tomorrow. I'll miss this place, but I'm also excited to move forward!


I had a little going-away gathering Saturday night, which seemed to come out of nowhere. How did it get to be time for that??

First, my closest girlfriends put together a Mexican feast of tacos, rice, beans and Coronas. Delish.

I requested this just so my friend Gillian would make her amazing guacamole, and it totally worked.

Later, we met up with more friends and enjoyed more beers at a few bars in Fremont. It was a laid-back, low-key night, which was exactly what I wanted. 

I loved being able to catch up with — and, sniff, say goodbye to — some of my very favorite people.

The good times and goodbyes continued on Sunday with a visit to John Howie Steak in Bellevue. My friend Amy told me I must experience the happy hour burger and Beecher's mac and cheese before I leave, and I was all too happy to oblige.

It was incredible. I could happily drown in that mac and cheese.

There may have been some deep-fried bacon involved. It wasn't my idea, but I didn't fight it, either!

My only problem is that I have a bunch of food in my fridge, freezer and pantry that I need to use up, but people keep insisting on taking me out to delicious meals. Take Friday's lunch that I shared with Meg at Poquitos in Capitol Hill, for example.

Man, it's just such a tough dilemma. How will I ever manage? : )


This week will be all about tying up loose ends. I need to:

  • finish moving out and establish my place on the couch at my mom's house (which will also serve as my permanent address)
  • cancel utilities accounts
  • forward my mail
  • sell my car (not looking forward to this — I have no clue who will buy a 1993 Dodge Grand Caravan with a cracked windshield and missing hubcap)
  • cancel my car insurance
  • obtain New Zealand currency
  • pick up the last few items on my packing list
  • test pack
  • freak out
  • actually pack
  • LEAVE!

Did I miss anything? (I've already done my taxes and have a $2,100 return on its way — woo-hoo!)

Six days to go...


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Friday, January 27, 2012

9 Days To Go! Pre-Trip Odds & Ends

I'm one of those people who always feels extremely disorganized, yet ultimately manages to convert chaos into productivity.

I'll often write to-do lists and intend to focus on a few specific items each day, and then I'll ignore the list and instead randomly choose a task from the clusterfuck of Things That Must Get Done that lives inside my head. I'll put something off for weeks, and then suddenly become fixated on doing that one thing right away.

It's a weird way to operate, but it's my way. My own haphazard, neurotic way.

Now that you know a bit more about how strange I am, here's a round-up of Things That Must Get Done that I've recently done! I am, after all, just nine days away from my RTW departure. Eeeee!


This is important because I need proof of onward travel arrangements in order to enter my first country: New Zealand. The Kiwis are more than happy to welcome U.S. residents without a visitor visa as long as:

  • they plan to stay for three months or less
  • they are actually going to leave and have proof of this
  • they have enough money to support themselves while visiting (NZ $1000/month)

That means I'll need to have my passport, Australia flight confirmation and a recent bank statement in hand when I fly to Auckland.

I booked a Qantas flight from Christchurch to Sydney on March 5, which means I'll have 28 days to enjoy New Zealand before I hit Oz. This was the first time I ever redeemed frequent-flyer miles (American Airlines AAdvantage miles to Qantas via the oneworld alliance), so I was quite excited to just pay taxes rather than the full ticket price!



One of my roommates is staying in our townhouse, so she recruited new girls to replace the two of us who are leaving. The girl who is moving into my room conveniently needs furniture and is happy to buy almost all of mine! That means I don't have to move a bunch of heavy crap down two flights of stairs.

Look! An unwieldy dresser I don't have to deal with!

I've also got something of a Facebook scuffle going on over this couch. It's a really comfortable couch and I absolutely love it... but it needs to go. Luckily, I have several friends who would like to have it. Come and get it, someone!

I will certainly miss this couch's nap-ability. Ah, well — I'll always have the memories.


These two achievements are completely unrelated, yet nicely demonstrated in this one photo.

My final three travel shots were a piece of cake compared to the six I received during my first visit to the travel clinic, and I'm oh-so-happy to be done with them. Any fear of needles I used to have is long gone by now!

And I cut about six inches off my hair because I needed a change and haven't had my hair this short since junior high. I'm not bringing a blow dryer or straightener on my trip, so expect to see either crazy hair or ponytails in most of my travel photos!


I'm bringing my passport, driver's license and immunization records on my trip, but I'll also bring backup copies of those documents in case the originals get lost or stolen.

Last night, it took me less than a half hour to scan my documents, save copies to my laptop and my email account, and print a few color copies of each to have on hand. I even laminated a copy of my passport and a copy of my driver's license with clear packing tape, just to be safe (and extra neurotic).

Side note: This whole process was made much more enjoyable by a few glasses of red wine.


I know next to nothing about how cell phones really work, so bear with me if this explanation is fuzzy.

My Samsung Vibrant smartphone was locked, meaning that it would only work on T-Mobile's network, so I had to unlock it to be able to insert a prepaid SIM card and use the phone in other countries. My understanding is that one can buy a global SIM card that will work across many countries, or local SIM cards for each country one visits. Is that right? Kind of?

Anyway, I had to unlock my phone, and I found that it's impossible to get an actual human being on the phone when calling T-Mobile. I ended up live-chatting with a customer service rep on T-Mobile's Web site, and she was happy to forward my request to the T-Mobile SIM Unlock Team (yes, that's a real thing). The following day, I received an email with my unlock code and instructions on how to do the deed.

I had my tech-savvy friend do the actual unlocking, as the process required the use of a non-T-Mobile SIM card and I don't just have those lying around. He popped in his AT&T SIM card, entered the code and boom — it was done.

My phone still works just the same, as far as I can tell, but now I'll be able to connect to other networks once I'm on the road. Good stuff.


I've seen the Kindle Keyboard 3G top many bloggers' lists of travel must-haves. It's obviously a great source of entertainment for reading, but its automatic access to free global 3G is the real draw for travelers. It means that, even in the middle of nowhere (with some network limitations, of course), one can hop onto the Kindle's experimental Web browser to check email, update Facebook or send a tweet for free.

I'm not so Internet-crazy that I'd die without 24/7 access, but it's certainly nice to know that I can connect if I really need or want to, regardless of Wi-Fi availability (which is notoriously sketchy in New Zealand and Australia).

And check out Benny Lewis's story about how his Kindle 3G saved him big-time. I hope I never get into a similar situation, but who knows — crazy stuff happens.

I'm already a little obsessed with my Kindle. I used to be a big book-reader before I got so into blog-reading, and I look forward to catching up on books I've been meaning to read for years. I'm also thrilled that I can "check out" e-books for free using my Seattle Public Library card! Technology is so freakin' cool.


This weekend, I'll be busy selling more clothes, donating much more stuff to Goodwill, driving a few must-keep items to my dad's place and otherwise clearing out of my townhouse (I'll be staying at my mom's house for several days before I depart). Oh, and my going-away party is Saturday night!

I can't believe next weekend is the weekend. Time flies... but I'll be ready.


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Thursday, January 26, 2012

My RTW Backpack, Round Two: Osprey Farpoint 55

Oh, hello there. Remember when I agonized between two travel backpacks, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each before finally choosing the Deuter ACT Lite 45+10 SL?

A funny thing happened. Last week, at 2 a.m., I bought a different pack online — sight unseen. It turned out to be friggin' awesome, and it's officially my new round-the-world backpack.

(I returned the Deuter pack to Second Ascent and bought a few different travel items with the store credit instead.)

Meet my best friend for the next year or so: the Osprey Farpoint 55.

After I first posted about choosing my backpack, a friend wrote on my Facebook wall recommending the Osprey Farpoint 55, which she used while traveling through Europe. I asked her for a link, checked it out and then promptly forgot about it for several weeks.

As I bought more and more travel gear, I realized how much I'd like to have a front-loading pack so I could easily organize and find all my stuff on the road. I also didn't feel great about the security of the top-loading Deuter pack, which featured a drawstring entry rather than lockable zippers.

I read several positive reviews of the Farpoint 55 (like this one) and decided to just place an order and see how I liked it. I'm so glad I took the plunge — it may very well be the perfect pack!

Here is a little photo tour of my favorite features.

The harness is very comfortable, with a padded back, hip belt and adjustable sternum strap. The hip belt does not have pockets, though, which was a feature I liked about the Deuter pack.

The Farpoint 55 more than makes up for that missing detail with this panel that can either be rolled and stowed under the pack or zipped up to conceal the harness and hip belt.

This is ideal if you want to check it at the airport, although I plan to go carry-on only throughout my trip. It's also convenient if you'd like to simply carry the bag (see the handle on the side?) and give your back a rest.

This little red zipper is one of the main reasons I bought this pack. It unzips... release the detachable daypack! That makes one fewer item I have to worry about buying.

The daypack isn't some flimsy little thing, either. With its 15L capacity, it easily fits my 15" MacBook Pro and has great pockets for storage.

I'll be able to stow the main pack on planes and buses while keeping my new Kindle Keyboard 3G (yay!) and other important items nearby thanks to this daypack. And since it also has a padded harness, plus a sternum strap and hip belt, it'll comfortably accompany me on adventures that call for a lighter load.

Back on the main pack, lockable zippers meet to protect its single point of entry. (The daypack's zippers do not lock like this.)

And the whole pack opens wide to welcome a whole mess of travel gear. Mesh pockets on the inside front panel and compression straps on the back panel complete the simple interior.

The Osprey Farpoint 55 comes in two sizes: S/M and M/L. I went with the S/M, as I believe the size difference is in the height of the main pack. Both sizes come with the same 15L daypack.

Here are the stats (including the daypack) for both sizes:

  • 52L
  • 3 lb. 12 oz.

  • 55L
  • 3 lb. 15 oz.

And for the daypack alone:
  • 15L
  • 1 lb. 10 oz.

So my pack is actually 37L with a 15L daypack. 37L sounds small, but it looks like it'll hold everything just fine. Not that I've done a test pack yet, but that's coming up on my to-do list!

Forgive this explosion of information, but I was quite confused about the main pack capacity vs. daypack capacity as I researched this backpack, and good photos of the pack's features seem to be nonexistent on the Web. I hope this post will be helpful to others who are considering the Osprey Farpoint 55 for their travels.

I'm really excited to get this bag packed and see how it performs on the road. And I won't have long to wait — there are only 10 days to go until my departure!!


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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Real Costs of Travel Vaccinations (Brace Yourself)

Today is my last visit to the Hall Health Travel Clinic at UW for my final three travel shots. Woo-hoo!

My initial visit to the clinic included a wonderfully comprehensive consultation with a nurse practitioner, who answered all of my health-related travel questions and helped me decide which vaccinations to get. She also showed me the costs of each vaccination, which nearly made my eyeballs fall out of my head.

A representative from my insurance company had assured me over the phone that a number of the vaccinations would be covered, but I still held my breath every time an "explanation of benefits" letter showed up in the mail.

Luckily, the news was always good. Thank goodness for insurance! (I'm on my mom's plan.)

Check out the breakdown of costs without and with insurance:

First of all, none of my visits required a co-pay, so it seems like the $20 I'm responsible for is just a co-pay for my initial visit.

Second of all, HOLY HELL! Vaccinations are expensive. I am so, so lucky and thankful to have insurance that covers so many of them.

I feel the same way about my travel prescriptions, although the numbers aren't quite as dramatic:

I did a lot of frustrating back-and-forth with my pharmacy and insurance company to get my prescriptions filled — especially the malaria pills — but it was worth it in the end to get the full supplies and save $224. Whew.


I'm not posting all of these numbers to brag about what great insurance I have, but to show what a difference insurance has made in my pre-travel health costs.

The first thing I did when I decided to quit my job was ask my mom if I could hop onto her insurance plan. She checked and found that since my quitting was a "qualifying event" and I'm under 26, she could add me to her plan at no additional cost.

That is really what allowed me to quit my job at the end of November. If I hadn't been able to join my mom's plan, I would have stayed employed while preparing to travel. I would have been miserable for these past two months, but at least I wouldn't pay those huge out-of-pocket costs for travel vaccinations and prescriptions.

Then again, I like to play it safe. If you've prepared to travel without health insurance, I'd love to hear about how you did it!


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Friday, January 20, 2012

A Matter of the Heart

With just 17 days to go until I leave for New Zealand, I can't believe how few things I have left to do. In particular, I've checked off nearly every health-related task on my to-do list!

I'm happy to have completed all of these tasks from a Meet, Plan, Go! travel checklist I picked up at an event a few months ago:

Last week, I had one last teeth-cleaning at a new dentist's office. Some commenters suggested their favorite dentists, but none of them were covered by my insurance. Check out the killer view of Shilshole Bay that I enjoyed from my new dentist's chair, though!

Great place! When can I move in?

I also had an annual physical exam with my doctor and everything checked out fine. I did, however, mention my concern about a possibly genetic heart condition, and my doctor said I should definitely have an echocardiogram before my trip so that I'd be aware of any problem I may have.

This freaked me out a bit, but considering I just intensely trained for and ran a marathon with no symptoms of a heart condition, I wasn't too worried.

Until I showed up for the appointment.


An echocardiogram is a sonogram of the heart, and the process is similar to what pregnant women experience during an ultrasound. I knew I'd get to see my heart live and in action onscreen, and I thought that would be pretty cool.

It wasn't until I lay down on this bed that I realized it scared the shit out of me.

I much preferred the view at the dentist's office.

I've been very lucky so far and have had quite a healthy life. I've never even broken a bone.

Unlike a broken bone, though, a genetic heart problem is not so easily healed. As I settled onto my left side and my beating heart popped onto the screen, I couldn't stop thinking that there was something wrong with me.

To make matters worse, the room was dark. The ultrasound technician was stone-faced as she captured measurements and pictures of various parts of my heart. It's such a powerful organ, and yet it looked so terrifyingly delicate. 

I watched the screen and thought that it was pumping much too quickly, and that the valves were flapping around too wildly. I had no clue if what I was seeing was good or bad, and I was convinced that the technician's silence meant something horrible.

There came a point when I could no longer look at the screen, and I just stared at the wall behind the technician's head with silent tears rolling sideways down my face.

She must have noticed because she said that she wasn't supposed to tell me much — a cardiologist would have to look at the pictures and write the official results — but that I shouldn't worry. I wiped away my tears and continued to stare past her for the next 30 minutes as she captured nearly 100 images of my heart from all angles.

I had a good cry in my car after that.


My friends and family assured me that I would be fine, and logically I should have believed them. I tend to go into some situations expecting the worst so that I won't be caught off guard if the worst actually happens. That way I'll be pleasantly surprised by good news, and, in theory, have a bit less wind knocked out of me by bad.

A few days after the test, I was thrilled to read these four sweet words in an email:

"Your echo was normal."

Immediately I felt silly for overreacting about the whole process. But good health is so precious and so fleeting. I've watched people's lives change in an instant on TV, on blogs and in real life. It is always heartbreaking and sobering.

I was prepared for the worst, and somehow I got the best. 

It makes me appreciate what I have. It reminds me that one day — maybe soon, maybe 50 years from now — I will no longer have it.


Sorry for a bit of a depressing post, but I've spent much of my week thinking about this. I now know that I'm going to start off on my RTW trip completely healthy, and I continue to be so grateful that I decided to travel.

Once I started running regularly, I realized what a waste it was to let this body of mine remain motionless on the couch for so many years prior. And once I quit my job, I realized what a shame it was to park it in a cubicle for 40 hours a week.

Very soon, I'll be running, jumping, hiking, swimming, dancing and otherwise flinging this body around the world because I can and I should. My heart can more than handle it.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Zealand Adventures Ahead!

It was a huge step for me to buy my first one-way plane ticket to New Zealand. And then... I just had to figure out to do once I got there.

I went into decision-making mode this past weekend and finally have a general itinerary in place!

First, I'll land in Auckland at 8 a.m. NZDT on Feb. 5. I've booked a hostel for my first few nights — 12-bed dorm style — so I can explore the city a bit.

Then I'll head up to the Bay of Islands, which is kind of pretty. (You might not want to click that link if it's currently snowing outside where you are, as it is in Seattle.)

GQ Trippin' just posted about their experience in the Bay of Islands, where they snorkeled, kayaked, fished, hiked, sunbathed and more. It looks like a ton of fun!

From there, I'll head back to Auckland, and then set off on an adventure through both islands of New Zealand. Use your imagination to add a trip from Queenstown northeast to Milford Sound — another not-ugly place.

How am I doing all this, you ask? I'll be cruising on a Stray bus!

Stray is a hop-on/hop-off bus network for travelers who want flexible transportation across New Zealand. Once you purchase a pass from a wide range of route options, you can use it for up to 12 months. That means you could hop off at any point, stay there for a few days, weeks or months, and then hop back on the bus to continue the route.

I'll be in New Zealand for about a month and my route takes a minimum of 19 days to complete, so I can stay a few extra days here and there to take a break from constant bus travel.

You can also book activities and accommodation through Stray, or just do your own thing. And from what I've read, it's easy to make friends with fellow travelers on the bus — good for me!

There are several "backpacker buses" that run similar routes, like Kiwi Experience and Magic. I first learned about them at a Meet, Plan, Go! happy hour, where co-founder Sherry Ott told me about her experience with Magic.

I just loved the idea of being able to travel with other people and have easy access to tons of fun activities. I ultimately chose Stray after reading many positive reviews that painted it as a great experience for adventurous young travelers.

Check out this video to see some of the activities I'll be able to do as I travel with Stray. It starts out a little slow, but give it a few minutes!

People keep asking me if I'm excited or scared to leave, and if it feels real yet. Now that I have a good idea of where I'll be going and what I might be doing, it feels very real and I'm definitely EXCITED!

Those capital letters represent the fact that I'm dying to escape Seattle's frigid temps for summer in the South Pacific. And yes, I'm aware that it rains quite a bit in New Zealand all year round, but I'm from Seattle — I can hang.

I am a bit wary — but not scared — of a few things:

  • For the first few days, I'll have to learn how to make my way around Auckland alone. 
  • I'll check into and sleep at a hostel for the first time. 
  • I'll meet a bunch of new people and worry, as always, that maybe they won't like me and I won't make any friends. I know it's stupid, but I can't help that little insecure part of me. 
  • I'll have to learn how to handle New Zealand dollars and interpret time based on the 24-hour clock. I know these things might be easy for some, but words are my forte — my brain has to work harder when numbers are involved.

Those are all things I'll figure out as I go along, and my little worries are nothing compared to the excitement I feel for all the adventures to come.


Where will I decide to hop off the bus and stay for a few days? I've chosen a few stops already, but I'm also open to suggestions!

WELLINGTON: I actually know (and "know") a few people in Wellington, and I'd like to meet up with them while I'm in New Zealand's capital city.

I met one of them under unusual circumstances at the World Domination Summit in Portland. I found an iPhone in the restroom at the WDS after-party and, since I was a bit tipsy, decided that it was my mission to find the owner.

Luckily, the phone wasn't password protected and the owner's Facebook profile was open. I simply walked around the party full of hundreds of people with the Facebook photo in front of my face until I found the right woman: Christine Brooks of Wellington, New Zealand.

Christine hadn't even realized she'd lost her phone and was beyond grateful for its return since she was heading to the airport shortly. She insisted on buying me a beer, but — since I was a bit tipsy, remember? — I declined. I said she could buy me a beer in New Zealand instead. I'm gonna get my beer, people!

The person I "know" in Wellington is Nick White, who was also a WDS attendee, but one I didn't get the chance to meet. Nick is a mountain runner and a head and neck cancer survivor. I highly recommend you take five minutes to listen to him speak:

When I asked Nick via Twitter if we could meet up in Wellington, he replied, "Definitely! Bring your running shoes."

QUEENSTOWN: I don't know anyone in Queenstown — yet — but it sounds like a helluva fun place. It's known as the adventure capital of the world, so I'm sure I'll find no shortage of things to do. Remember that travel insurance I bought? Places like Queenstown are the reason why!

NELSON: I'd like to say I want to spend some time in Nelson because it's the sunniest area of New Zealand, or because it has an amazing arts scene. Both of those things are true, but the real reason I'd like to visit Nelson is because it's where my high-school English teacher, Prudence Hockley, was from.

Ms. Hockley (as I knew her) tragically died on Christmas Day. She was an incredible teacher, and the type of person who absolutely lit up any room she entered. I am so saddened by her death, yet feel so lucky to be able to spend some time in her hometown. She often spoke fondly of New Zealand, and would draw a kiwi ("the bird, not the fruit," as her saying went) on my essays along with her commentary.

I don't expect anything in particular from Nelson; just some time to wander and reflect on an incredible life cut short. Life is to be lived. With her unapologetic tattoos, piercings and overwhelming zest for the day-to-day, Ms. Hockley helped remind us all of that.


Sorry to end on a sad note, but that's all I've got for now. My travel planning is chugging along, and I feel adequately prepared for this huge transition that's just a few weeks away.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Life. Is. Short. Do what you have to do. There's no time like the present.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Toughest Part of Travel Planning (So Far)

I tend to let myself feel overwhelmed by the idea of things.

Getting my travel vaccines and choosing travel insurance seemed like two of the most daunting tasks on my to-do list, yet they were both much easier than I expected. Once I got over my initial fears and jumped right into those processes, everything was totally fine. Piece of cake. Bring on the next thing.

But something I never thought to worry about has cropped up as the most difficult task yet: picking up my travel prescriptions!

In one corner, we have an extremely busy and understaffed pharmacy, complete with brusque technicians and a pharmacist who shouts her drug counseling at you from 15 feet away. Who needs privacy?

In the other corner, we have an insurance representative who says he can override 30-day fill limits, but only if he puts you on hold one thousand times while you roam the grocery aisles listening to The Killers ask, "Are we human, or are we dancer?" (I won't even comment on that grammar abuse.)

Somewhere in the middle, we have a massive, soul-sucking vortex of red tape, where efficiency and good customer service go to die.

OK... deep breaths... I'm done ranting. I know that some stuff just won't be easy, and I've been outwardly patient and polite to all parties involved even though I have a bit of internal frustration. Luckily, I have plenty of time to get this stuff sorted out, even though it has taken much longer than I thought.

The lesson here is to get started early when you have to deal with doctors, pharmacists and insurance companies — especially if you need to skirt the usual rules due to extensive travel plans. I'd hate to spend my last few days in Seattle frantically convincing my insurance company that, yes, I really do need that many malaria pills. (Don't worry, parents — I finally got 'em.)


The highlight of this week has been the fact that I've received daily packages filled with the travel stuff I ordered from the Interwebs. It feels like Christmas all over again! I've almost forgotten that I was the one who paid for it all. Almost.

Is this the perfect cozy, lightweight, moisture-wicking top for layering that I've been looking for? I think so! I'm a sucker for thumbholes.

My strategy is to pack versatile clothes that I can mix and match with ease. Dark neutrals on the bottom (black, navy, gray) will work great with deep, bold colors on top (like this blue, purple, red, etc.). I'm no fashionista, but even I don't want to look mismatched on the road.

I'm beyond excited to get my hands on a Versalette — the signature piece of the brand-new sustainable clothing line {r}evolution apparel.

Co-founders (and world travelers) Kristin Glenn and Shannon Whitehead designed the Versalette to be worn more than 15 different ways, including as a scarf, tunic, dress, skirt and bag!

{r}evolution apparel Introduces the Versalette from {r}evolution apparel on Vimeo.

I threw some funding toward Kristin and Shannon's wildly successful Kickstarter campaign and, in return, will receive one of the very first Versalettes in March. Well, my mom's house will receive it... and I hope it'll find its way to me eventually. I think it'll quickly become a must-have for any female traveler.


My friend Caleb Wojcik of Pocket Changed put together a great list of 35 Cubicle Renegades to Watch in 2012. If you like learning about folks who've bucked the nine-to-five grind to pursue other dreams, you'll want to check it out and add several new blogs to your reading list — I sure did.

I'm very lucky to count numerous friends among those 35 faces, and I somehow made an appearance as well. Thanks, Caleb, for labeling me a cubicle renegade rather than an unemployed bum!

Also this week, I discovered LandingStanding, a travel blog written by a young husband and wife who've just begun their RTW trip in Santiago, Chile. Meg and Tony kindly included Answering Oliver in a Best of the Rest roundup of their favorite travel posts from around the Web — thanks, guys!

I love those kinds of posts because, again, I find so many new blogs to read. I look forward to following Meg and Tony's adventures and maybe even meeting them on the road this year.


I'm not sure how else to end this post except to say that I leave for New Zealand in 24 days! Ahhh!


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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fancy Undies, Travel Insurance and Loving What's Next

My travel preparations haven't been all that organized, and this post will reflect that. I hope you're ready for this hodge-podge of updates, which includes everything from choosing travel insurance to stocking up on some damn pricey underwear!


I've bought a ton of travel gear online, but underwear is something I need to see in person before I can plunk down my credit card.

A number of travel bloggers rave about ExOfficio underwear for its comfort, durability and quick-drying ability. The Web site says its also treated with something called Aegis Microbe Shield to "maintain freshness," which I think we can all agree is a good thing.

I was happy to discover that the company is based in Seattle, and its flagship brick-and-mortar store is just a short drive away in Bellevue. After perusing the selection, I found a style that is very similar to what I usually wear and picked up three pairs. I'll supplement those with a few pairs of less-expensive undies because, at $18 a pop, I can't stomach buying more!

Based on reviews, I'm confident that these undies will hold up and keep me comfortable throughout my travels.


Someone gained a few pounds over the holidays and is having a fun time squeezing into her favorite jeans. OK, I might be exaggerating — the jeans still fit, but they're not all that comfortable. I can't imagine traveling in them!

I think many people leave denim behind as they pack for their RTW trips — it's heavy and takes a long time to dry — and I may be one of those people. If a little holiday weight-gain has left me crying for my sweatpants, I don't even know what'll happen once I begin eating a whole bunch of new foods on an unpredictable schedule. And I have big dreams to keep up with running as I travel, but who knows how that'll work out (pun intended, of course).

That's why I picked up a pair of lululemon yoga pants that are substantial enough to pass for dressier black pants, yet comfortable enough for long-haul plane rides. I'd also like to find a lightweight pair of convertible (roll-up) cargo pants, but my search continues for those.

Clearly I have my priorities straight — I'll be dressing to eat!


I did a major closet-and-dresser purge this past weekend and couldn't believe how many clothes I owned! I had entire drawers full of items that I never wore, but I kept them because I thought I might need them someday. Ha.

This was just the contents of one drawer — workout clothes, race shirts and sleep shirts:

Now that I have a good idea of which items I want to bring with me (thanks to my packing list), it was easy to part with the stuff I know I won't need and won't miss when I return. I did start filling a plastic storage bin with a few must-keep items, though, including the perfect pair of black pants and a nice dress that I could wear to a wedding, funeral or job interview.

The vast majority of my wardrobe, including shoes, filled several bags...

...and the nicer items netted me a total of $127 at a thrift store called Buffalo Exchange! The rest went to Goodwill.


Insurance is one of those terms that really freaks me out, like mammogram and Social Security. I feel like it's something adults are supposed to deal with. How am I even remotely qualified to choose an insurance plan?

I suppose I legally became an adult more than six years ago, but... but... I still don't like it. I wasn't looking forward to researching, choosing and purchasing travel insurance to help keep me safe and healthy on my trip.

It turned out to be really freakin' easy.

I began my research by checking out BootsnAll's travel insurance comparison chart. I knew I wanted a plan that covered adventure sports and emergency evacuation, and that I could easily purchase and maintain online.

World Nomads caught my eye for all of those reasons. I loved that the plans were straightforward and affordable, the site was easy to use and I could purchase a policy from two days to 12 months in length with unlimited extensions while on the road.

I then Googled around and read World Nomads reviews on travel forums, including those from people who made successful claims and were happy with the service. Shannon's rave review on A Little Adrift helped seal the deal.

Since I know I'll be traveling at least through August and I can easily extend it online, I purchased a six-month travel insurance plan... while watching my favorite TV show (I ain't ashamed).

Heh. Gotta love The Twitter.


Semisonic sings, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." (Like that '90s flashback? You're welcome.)

My year-long gym membership ends tomorrow. My roommate is actively seeking someone to move into my room. It's quickly becoming time for me to sell my furniture and car. My friends have started planning a little going-away party.

I'd be lying if I said these things didn't make me sad. There have even been a few emotional evenings when I've cried myself to sleep thinking about everything I'm leaving behind and all the things that will never be the same again. Then I feel stupid because so many people would kill to be able to do what I'm doing.

I've decided that it's OK to feel however I feel; there's no point in trying to avoid it. I only need to remember that while one great part of my life is ending, another very exciting and long-awaited part is just beginning.

From Love Life — a wonderful Christmas gift from my dad's girlfriend, Pam.


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

A One-Way Ticket With My Name On It

I can't tell you how many times I've dreamt of buying a one-way ticket to the other side of the world.

But I can tell you how it felt to finally do it.

It was exhilarating. Reassuring. Awesome. And scary!

Yesterday I booked the first leg of my round-the-world trip to Auckland, New Zealand. The journey officially begins on February 5, 2012.

I depart on a Sunday afternoon, so hopefully I can convince someone to drop me off at the airport. Anyone... anyone? Then a brief flight to LAX and a three-hour layover await me before I head to Auckland, where I'll arrive at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

Who needs Monday? Just fly to New Zealand and skip it altogether.

Now that I have a one-way ticket with my name on it, my RTW travel planning has kicked into high gear. It feels real now!


I returned to the travel clinic on Tuesday for round two of my immunizations, and I enjoyed a delightful rabies shot with a super-painful side of Hepatitis A/B. In two weeks, I'll head back for three final jabs.

I also picked up three of my travel prescriptions at $10 each, but my pharmacist ran into a snag with the malaria pills. He has to call my insurance company to see if it'll cover more than a 30-day supply of the pills, as I may need up to 120 pills to keep me malaria-free in Southeast Asia and beyond. I hope they'll rally for me (and my wallet)!

Finally, I found a doctor who's covered under my new insurance and scheduled a lady-parts exam for next week, as January is my usual month for that annual adventure. I also need to find a new dentist and squeeze in a teeth-cleaning before I go.


I've been studying and bookmarking RTW packing lists across the Web for months now, and I finally put together my own list this week! The Excel spreadsheet contains items listed under the following categories:

  • Clothing — things to wear, plus shoes.
  • Electronics — things to keep me connected and entertained.
  • First Aid/Medical — things to keep me alive.
  • Toiletries — things to keep me somewhat clean and mildly presentable.
  • Documents — things to keep me out of jail (or travel limbo).
  • Miscellaneous — things to keep me safe, dry and comfortable. Also: duct tape.

I'll share my complete packing list once it's finalized (read: at the last minute). Right now, the spreadsheet is full of highlighting, hyperlinks, little explanations to myself and question marks. No one needs to see that much crazy.

In the meantime, check out some of the packing lists and guides I consulted while compiling my spreadsheet:


Apparently there are two types of decision-makers: those who must research every available option until they find the best one possible (maximizers), and those who are happy to choose something once it meets their requirements (satisficers).

I tend to be a satisficer when it comes to shopping, but I find myself researching the hell out of travel gear like a maximizer. There's nothing wrong with that — I want to buy quality stuff, of course — but I don't want to get so bogged down in all the options that I don't make any decisions.

Last night, I found a nice balance between, "Hmm, now I'll read the reviews on this site..." and, "Just friggin' buy it already!"

Here are some of the items that are currently on their way to my front door (with non-affiliate links to where I bought them):

Sea to Summit Silk Liner (traveler size with pillow case)

...and more!

Between booking the first of many plane tickets and purchasing this haul of gear, my travel fund took a mighty-fine beating yesterday.

Luckily I'm racking up airline miles with a rewards credit card (which I pay in full every month), and it looks like I'll be able to snag free flights to Australia and Singapore at the very least. Woo-hoo! I'll get more into my amateur travel hacking efforts in another post.

NEXT UP: I'm in the midst of making plans to travel across the North and South Islands of New Zealand. G and Q are currently driving down the North Island and have reported via Twitter that it's all rain, rain rain. I hope it clears up for them soon, and for, well, the entire month of February!!

Is that too much to ask? : )


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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Countdown to RTW: One Month!

It's now 2012 — the year I'll travel the world.

I'm incredibly excited, but also freaked out that my trip is happening so soon! My townhouse lease ends on January 31, so I have less than a month to get rid of my furniture, car and other crap, buy all the travel stuff I need, tie up loose ends, pack and be ready to go.

I should also buy a plane ticket to New Zealand at some point, right?

Luckily I thrive under the pressure of a looming deadline — I was a journalism major who loved to hammer out all her stories at the last minute — and the fact that my departure is now in sight is such an incentive to get movin'.

It's starting to feel real.


I ended 2011 with a few fun activities that didn't directly relate to travel planning.

Last week, I met up with a Seattle Twitter friend, Mindi, for coffee at the lovely new Milstead & Co. in Fremont. Mindi is a proud member of the green-aproned mafia (works for Starbucks) and shared with me her plentiful coffee expertise, of which I have approximately none.

We also chatted about running, traveling, blogging and more. It was a delightful meetup on a rainy afternoon. I love it when an Internet friend becomes a real-life friend!

Mindi also generously gave me several Eagle Creek packing cubes and a small camera bag left over from her days of frequent travel as a sports journalist. Score! Thank you, Mindi!


The last activity I did in 2011 was pretty cool — I flew!

My dad and I spent an afternoon at iFLY Seattle, where a powerful vertical wind tunnel simulates the experience of skydiving. I've been skydiving twice before, but I was still a little nervous to jump into the 90+ mile/hour wind at iFLY!

My dad reserved our flights ahead of time, and we arrived plenty early to check in and watch other fliers in action. About 30 minutes before our flights, we watched a brief instructional video and learned hand signals from an instructor. Then we each got geared up with a flight suit, goggles, earplugs and a helmet.

Once it's time to fly, each person jumps into the wind for one minute while the instructor helps position his or her body correctly. If you're too stiff, don't keep your chin up or don't have your arms and legs spread just so, you fall to the bottom rather than fly up high.

It's more difficult than it looks!

My dad had trouble breathing through his nose, so he kept his mouth open. The high-speed wind caused him to make some pretty funny faces!

We each flew twice for a total of two minutes. You can also pay more for longer periods of flight, but I had plenty of fun in just two minutes.

The instructor told me that iFLY is actually more difficult than real skydiving, and I thought the two experiences felt completely different. I'd say that if you're afraid to jump out of a plane but still want to fly, definitely try indoor skydiving. At $60 for a standard session, it's also much more affordable than a $200+ real skydive.

If you have the guts and the funds, though, go for the real thing! There's nothing quite like free-falling down to the earth. There's also nothing quite like the sense of relief you feel the moment that parachute opens. : )


I hope to do lots of fun stuff throughout my travels, although I'm good on skydiving for a while and don't know if I have the guts to try bungee jumping — eek! Extreme activities also tend to be the most expensive, so I want to pick and choose wisely.

I'm definitely going to go ZORB globe riding in New Zealand, though. How can I pass up the chance to roll down a hill in a giant plastic bubble??

I'm also open to suggestions. Be sure to let me know about any activities I MUST try as I make my way around the world!


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