A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.


"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sacrifices

In a bid to save money I've totally changed my lifestyle and downgraded so many things it's ridiculous.

  • I have given up my Laura Mercier foundation and buy my make-up at Walgreen's
  • I have banned Whole Foods for Trader Joe's, and a little begrudgingly, I even choke down Charles Shaw
  • I pack my lunch for work, like I did in the 6th grade. Sandwich and pickle. Yogurt. Banana.
  • I smuggle liquor into shows in a flask. Sorry, but one cocktail in a San Francisco venue is $12!
  • I steal sugar packets from Starbucks. They can spare 'em.
  • I've stopped getting regular pedicures, waxes, and haircuts. Much to Ron's dismay.
  • I walk everywhere including 2 miles to and from work to cut down on transportation costs.
  • I eat out at a real restaurant only once/week. Trust me, this is a big improvement from the 3-4 times we used to!
  • I use little bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner.
  • I find myself taking free food anywhere I can. Saving that free bagel from a work breakfast for a lunch later on.
  • I wash and reuse ziploc bags as many times as I can.
  • And most importantly, I haven't bought a single new thing for months unless it's going with me on the trip.
All the little things are totally adding up. The only habit we can't seem to break is the cleaning lady. After Ron and I work a super long day neither of us want to come home to cook and clean afterwards. We love the fresh smell of fake lemons from a newly cleaned apartment and just pop in a couple frozen indian dinners and put our feet up . Of course, when we don't have jobs, there's no excuse for this luxury. I'll have to break out the feather duster (wherever it may be) and I think Ron would look smashing in those pink, rubber gloves. Getting a good mental image...

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Delicious Ambiguity

After meeting with my friend JC, a long-time vagabonder, we may opt for the "no plan" plan.

Or as equally wise Lao Tzu puts it “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cellphones

I must have spent 100 hours researching cellphones. Since we are going to so many countries it is not viable to buy local SIM cards as we go. So I've been looking at cells with best coverage and international roaming rates, cells for data only (email and internet access), and cells for emergencies only. All the options open seem clunky or way too expensive. The best I found was with Truphone where you can get a Truphone SIM with Local Anywhere that allows you to make local calls from hundreds of countries over VOIP for super cheap. The only catch is that it's not launching until later in the year.

So I think we have decided to forego the cell and travel the old fashioned way: with a guide book, our intuition, and the occasional germ infested pay phone.

We are still considering a phone just for emergencies which you can get for 50 bucks from recommended travel sites like Mobal. But is it worth it? Will you have coverage when you need it? And who you gonna call when you are lost in the Himalayas? Ghostbusters, that's who.

We are also going to do what was unthinkable a few months ago. And that is to cancel our current cell accounts at Verizon vs. keeping open a pay-as-you-go option that would cost about $120/each for the year we are away.

Ok, I've decided and Ron is not convinced since he has a lot of clients with his cell #. But what are the chances we come back and live in SF and he decides to continue restoration? At this point we think we may move from the Bay Area to a smaller town. Somewhere a little less hectic. Where we can buy a reasonably priced house with a wrap-around porch. And you don't have to wait in line in your car for 20 minutes to enter the parking lot at Trader Joe's, then wait for a parking spot, then wait your turn in the bread aisle, then wait in line to pay. I hate waiting to wait.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Happiness for 99 cents

Or, how best to exchange the dollar....

After some internet research it sounds like the best deal is to get a MasterCard Capitol 1 No Hassles Card that is the great for international travel with no foreign exchange fees. As long as the merchant doesn't charge for credit transactions this will be the main choice for our charges: rooms, flights, train tickets, etc. Except in Africa. I hear it's a no-no to use credit cards because of the rampant fraud problems.

As far as getting money out of your bank account regularly so you don't have to carry too much at once, the best I found was to open a Schwab High Yield Checking Account (only catch: you have to open a Schwab One Brokerage Account first. ) which has no account fees and no minimums. Just takes a little time to apply for one, transfer money in, then apply for the other. I've called and emailed Schwab twice, and I have to say they have FANTASTIC customer service. After the trip we may have to dump good ole B of A altogether.

Why is Schwab checking so good? Well, you get a Visa Platinum card that you can use at any ATM all over the world, they do not charge you to withdraw money from a foreign bank, and they even reimburse you if the bank charges you a fee! And on top of that there are no extra foreign currency exchange fees. Can't beat that with a stick. Now, where did that expression come from? You can beat most things with a stick. And in the case of a pinata, you even get a sweet surprise afterwards.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cameras

I opted for a small, lightweight point-and-shoot digital but Ron wanted a little more control over the final picture but more control makes it a bit more bulky for sure. We both got an extra battery pack and two SanDisk 8GB Memory Cards because I'm sure we'll be taking a zillion pictures.

Keeping those photos is another story altogether. I upgraded to a Flickr Pro account that allows unlimited uploads. The only snag? The uploads take forever! I uploaded one weekend worth of photos and it took over an hour. And that's on my PC with a blazing fast internet connection. I really don't want to spend the whole trip stuck in an internet cafe. I also got a Kingston 32 GB Flash Drive that I can archive some photos. But in the end we may have to take photos at a lower resolution, keep the best and dump the rest.


Canon Powershot SD990IS 14.7MP Digital Camera with 3.7x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Silver)Ali's Camera: Canon Powershot SD990IS

14.7 Megapixel / 3.7x Optical / Optical Image Stabilizer / 2.5" TFT PureColor LCD / PictBridge / DIGIC 4 Image Processor / Face Detection / SD-HC Memory Card Slot



Canon Powershot G10 14.7MP Digital Camera with 5x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized ZoomRon's camera: Canon Powershot G10

14.7 Megapixels / 5x Optical, 4x Digital Zoom / 3.0" TFT Color LCD / PictBridge / Optical Image Stabilizer / 28mm wide-angle lens / SD-HC Memory Card Slot / Still and Movie

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Backpacks

Everything I've read lately gives the sage advice that you will be happier if you can take half as much stuff and twice as much money. The money is what it is at this point but we kept this firm in our minds when we bought our packs.

We decided to go for the smallest backpacks we could bare, and they are not yet fully packed and they are already almost full. This is going to be tough pickings to bring only the bare essentials but I think we will revel in the freedom if affords us. Being able to carry our packs on planes and buses. Not having to make a beeline directly to hostels and just not being so bulky we knock people over when we turn around. The 30-40L size backpacks is heavily recommended by Travel Independent a great site on travel.


We both ended up getting the same pack, a Deuter Futura Pro 42 pack from REI. Mine is blue, his is red. It's really comfy and the frame holds the pack away from your back which is a big plus if you sweat like me under exertion. There are a lot of compartments, on top and bottom, and one that opens between the two so everything is easily accessible. Also has a built in rain cover. I'm really loving it! But let's see after I've carried it a few months : )

Our goal is to keep the pack weight under 10 kg or 22lbs.

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