Friday, February 20, 2009

Needless tips for lengthy trips

I haven’t really blogged here since coming home from my trip a long while ago but in the last couple years I’ve heard from a lot of people planning their own trips and I thought I’d write an entry of tips and suggestions to answer some of the most common questions I get…

First, remember your passport. And remember that it’s the only thing you really need for a big trip. Everything else is truly a detail.

Scan your passport and e-mail it to yourself. Make a few copies and stash them in your bag.

If you’re bringing valuables (like a laptop), insure them through Safeware and lock them in a wire-mesh bag from PacSafe.

Remember a padlock, a tiny flashlight, and a Swiss army knife.

Get a Lonely Planet guidebook but don’t become a prisoner to it. The region guides (Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, etc) are sufficient unless you’ll spend more than a few weeks in a single country, then its worth springing for a country-specific guide.

Under-pack. If you really end up needing something you can buy it on the road.

I usually travel with 3-4 pairs of socks, t-shirts and underwear. Then one long sleeve shirt, one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts. One bathing suit and a pair of pajama bottoms come in handy too. And a very lightweight raincoat.

You’ll quickly find an efficient way to organize your bag; try to stick to it. Whenever I misplace something its because I’ve put it back in a different place than usual.

You don’t need to pre-book hostels unless it’s a super-busy season for the destination. The only time I’ve pre-booked was for Oktoberfest in Munich.

You don’t need a phone.

Check the foreign transaction and ATM-withdrawal fees charged by your bank, they’re probably outrageous. Capital One offers a “direct banking” account with no foreign ATM fees, which can save you hundreds of dollars over time. I’ve heard Charles Schwab has something similar but don’t know the details.

I like having a family member listed on my bank account in case something needs to be taken care of while I’m away.

Doing your taxes before you leave might be helpful.

High-deductible foreign health insurance is pretty cheap and can be a big help if something medically expensive happens.

Now go.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Map for Saturday TV premiere

A week ago, as I wandered around the desert, some friends got together to watch the U.S. premiere of ‘A Map or Saturday’ and sent along some pics…

Mom and dad watched at my cousin Sheri’s house with some extended family

Friends in New York (who you may recognize from my welcome home party) got together at my friend Katie’s apartment.

And in Vancouver (a few days before) Canadian Kate got a group together as well.

The sign behind Kate was better than the T.V. listing on a lot of U.S. cable systems which called the show “A Map for Sunday” Ouch.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Thanks for stopping by...

If you've stumbled here because of A Map for Saturday, welcome to the Fifty Weeks blog which I kept throughout my year-long trip. Below, I've linked to some of my favorite posts from the blog, if you're feeling a bit more ambitious you can scan the Archives. For what's new, check out my current blog tracking my drive through Africa. A full run down of what I've been up to is at

Here are some highlights from my year away:
Valentines Day
The Scene on Ko Phi Phi
You Can't Find City Hall
The Fires of Varanasi
On the Nepal Side
The Bus to Pokhara
Trekking in Nepal
Moving on Up
When Friday Rested
Sleep in Fact
The Fifth Bite of Dessert
My First Mugging
Pure Brazil
Drink Cart Land
a Place on Earth

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Interviewpoint

I've recently launched my latest project direct to the web, The Interviewpoint has in-depth video conversations with a wide range of guests. Check it out if you have a chance.

Monday, January 01, 2007

a Place On Earth

In heaven the beer is Belgian. The bread and cheese are French and the beaches are Brazilian. The waves are from Australia and the landscape from New Zealand. All the prices are Cambodian.

In heaven the soup is Vietnamese but the goulash is Hungarian. The city squares are Czech and the meadows are Irish. The bars are Irish too, but you don’t need to go to heaven to find an Irish bar.

In heaven the wine is Italian and the mountains are Nepalese. Dinner is Indian and lunch is Thai. Breakfast is Spanish and served just before going to bed. Whatever the meal, the steak is from Argentina.

The nights are short in heaven because the days are Swedish and it’s always July. The trains are German and always on time. The drug laws are Dutch.

In heaven the sun is Greek and the rivers Lao. The golf courses are Scottish. The composers are Austrian and the school children are Korean; I didn’t spend long enough in either country to nominate anyone else.

Friday, December 01, 2006

In the Bag

In response to Anthony's question I'll give some Xs and Os info...

I used a large Gregory backpack ( and a cheap, junky day pack. Inside I had:

-1 pair jeans
-1 pair shorts
-1 bathing suit
-4 t-shirts
-1 sweater
-1 short-sleeve polo
-1 light rain jacket

A shaving bag (toothbrush, contacts, ravor, soap etc)

Electronic equipment
-Panasonic DVX-100a video camera (and batteries and charger)
-1 wired lav mic
-1 shotgun mic
-2 mic cables
-1 small Velbon tripod
-15 or so tapes (i bought more and mailed as i went)
-15" Powerbook (and charger)
-2 small Lacie hard drives
-Avid software on the laptop

A large duffle bag that folded small to put my bag in when I flew.

A Pacsafe wiremesh bag (and padlock) to put the camera and computer in where I stayed

I got insurance for the pricey stuff through Safeware.

Internet access was good everywhere except India (I didn't belive it either until I got there). I scanned my key stuff (Passport, plane ticket) before I left and kept a copy on my computer, another in my e-mail, and another with my parents.

Remember your passport and bank card; the rest will sort itself out.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


It took 11 months to get to Costa Rica. But I slept most of the way.

It was snowing in Youngstown, OH at five yesterday morning. Then the sun came up in the Pittsburgh airport, I bought eggs in Atlanta´s international terminal, and withdrew Colones from the ATM near the San Jose baggage claim. I was in Costa Rica and for the first time since I left Argentina 11 months ago it really felt like I was traveling.

The twinges of excitement and fear on a cab ride from the airport to the bus station. The confusion over what ticket to buy and where to board the bus. The purchase of a lunch you can´t name even after you eat it. This is what travel feels like and you feel it much more when you haven´t done it in a long while and it used to be all you did.

When I went to a Berlin hostel this summer it felt like visiting the empty halls of your old high school. It all looked familiar but somehow I knew I didn´t quite fit in anymore. But now the halls are full and I took the bus from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, arriving 17 hours after I drove my rental car through the Ohio snow.

Rockin J´s might be one of the best backpacker pads in all the world. Or maybe I just forgot how great they can be. There were no dorm beds available when I arrived so I settled for hammock #44 just off the beach. There was a bon fire and a ping pong table, one dollar drinks and Mexican food. There were lots of high backpackers.

When I was in Berlin this summer I met up with Jens, my first real travel friend back in Sydney almost two years ago. He´s been home for a while now too. ¨I feel myself changing back,¨ he said. ¨I can´t explain how but I know it´s happening.¨

I knew what he meant. You can´t fight the changes when you come back any more than you can fight them when you go. Because they feel right and natural and you fit in better when you change. So it´s felt easy and fine to plot my next career move these last months. Easy to count the dollars I might make by selling the movie and imagine the things that might be available to me once it airs.

But how foolish all that seems from here now. In Puerto Viejo the hammocks are $5 a night and the bikes are $5 a day.

I flew to New York after a year of traveling and home swallowed me back up within a year. Then I came traveling again and it only took a day to be reclaimed.