Month: June 2014

São Paulo

I left São Paulo with conflicting feelings: three days absolutely flew by, but I also felt like it was enough time to get the city. It is huge, yes, but there doesn’t seem to be too much to see from a tourist perspective. I feel like I did everything I wanted to, and on top of city sights I was able to just enjoy being there for the World Cup and in the Vila Madalena neighborhood.

Monday morning (6/23) I got an early start and did a solo walking tour through Centro SP, thanks to the guidance of Lonely Planet. Centro is a bit nuts – it reminded me a lot of Taksim in Istanbul. There is some historic architecture scattered around, but it is surrounded by nondescript towers, leaving an impression that was just ok. There are pedestrian-only streets running throughout Centro, and some that you’d swear were pedestrian-only until a car almost hits you, lined by what used to be beautiful smaller buildings that have had their first floors converted into run-of-the-mill shops. People are everywhere, and right now there are people hawking Brazil paraphernalia every step you take.

What I found to be more interesting than the physical make-up of the city was observing the buzz of the city. I admit, I’m usually the pedestrian with headphones in controlling my own soundtrack as I walk around. I commuted this way on the Metro but took out the headphones once I got into Centro and just listened to the soundtrack of the city. It was fascinating to me. Hearing the local language, music, traffic, and occasional soccer horn set the scene. I was aware of this as I was walking around, and made a mental note to recommend others also ditch the headphones and let in the sounds of the city.

Monday afternoon was a completely different scene. After lunch in Vila Madalena watching the Chile/Netherlands game, and a quick wander through the Beco de Batman (the Bat Cave) street (more vibrant street art), me and a couple new friends from the hostel got ready to go into Centro again to the FIFA Fanfest for the Brazil vs. Cameroon game.

We were too late. The Fanfest was already full to capacity, so we walked half a block up and got a table on a side street that had a small TV outside. But what more do you need really than a street full of soccer fans, a TV, and access to Brahma (the beer of choice). It was so fun to watch with both locals and visitors – the Chileans that were still there from their afternoon game were definitely the most vocal but they were also supporting Brazil. Everyone was singing and chanting and just so happy to watch Brazil win.The Chile cheer has become a favorite just because it’s so addictive to yell: “Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le! Viva Chile!” But this was nothing compared to the scene in Vila Madalena.

We got back on the Metro and, after picking up some R$4 beers on the way, joined the street party on Rua Aspicuelta. Street party doesn’t even begin to do this scene justice. Block after block was entirely packed with people. If the bars were open we didn’t even know it; people had full bars set up in the trunks of their cars or in carts in the middle of the street. We navigated through a sea of people making friends on the way. “Making friends.” Most of the time this consisted of Brazilians asking us to kiss them. Sometimes they didn’t even ask but just went for it. I don’t even know how to describe this night other than hilarity and insanity. The Brazilians sure do know how to celebrate a win. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures, it wasn’t the kind of place you want to bring any electronics. We went equipped with a little cash and nothing else.

Tuesday (6/24) was a little quieter. I took the majority of the day to do some more exploring in a different are of Sao Paulo. Thanks to a recommendation, I went to the Itaú Cultural in Bela Vista to see an exhibit on Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Having an architecture background, this was right up my alley. (And being a backpacker, the free admission was also perfect.) It was a very interesting exhibit with his drawings, some models, and a documentary about his work. I was especially fascinated to see his drawings. Having been a part of producing concept design books for my job, I was captivated to see how he put his drawings together. Back in the days before computers too. This was my nerdy moment of SP.

From there, I walked down to the Ibirapuera Park. This beautiful park was a nice escape from the bustle of the city. I sat under a large tree, facing a building that resembled a modernist painting, reading and enjoying the warm weather. I stopped by the Modern Art Museum (picked up a little Brazil notebook in the gift shop that has already been so useful for addresses, directions, and general notes), and wandered through the park. I stumbled onto a little lunch spot where I had a local snack (it was basically an empanada, just a Brazilian version) and watched Uruguay beat Italy (seriously the World Cup is on everywhere) before wandering back out and home. It was lovely.

I had started out my day thinking I’d try to make it to a museum, maybe the contemporary art museum or the soccer museum. I’m happy I didn’t go that route. Not only did I really enjoy my wandering, but it further proved that cities everywhere have a lot to offer without having to cost a fortune. Since I’m still so early in my trip I’m obviously budget conscious, and I had a terrific day full of culture and nature without spending anything. If this keeps up then I’ll feel a lot better about the splurge moments (thinking ahead to Rio now).

Tuesday night was a much more tame street party, just within one block this time, and some fun chilling in the hostel. Then it was up early and off to the airport.

My impression of São Paulo is positive, but not raving. Vila Madalena is very fun, with the rest of the city seeming large but not exactly packed with a lot of attractions. The excellent Metro (R$3 per ride) makes it very manageable to get around; I was definitely impressed by the public transportation system. The Viva Design Hostel was also a highlight – new, clean, friendly, and full of other travelers, solo and in groups ranging from 23 to 38, from Australia to Chile to Holland. I even made plans with a hostelmate to go to Brasilia and Salvador together after the World Cup is over.

I would call this first stop a great success. It was what I was hoping I would find on this trip: great people, interesting places, a mixture of alone time and group fun, and the ability to navigate a new, big city where I don’t speak the language.

Instagram

So my blog had an instagram, @travelabrodge. I was planning to use just that for my trip photos so they’d all be in one collection. However instagram needs me to re-validate my account by texting me a code, and my phone is shut off, and it isn’t sending to an alternative number. So for now, I’ll just be using my normal instagram @kten421 and tagging everything #travelabrodge Maybe I’ll get it back up again at some point… Thanks to everyone who was already following it!

All Modes of Transportation End in Argentina

I’m in Argentina!

I had a few days to kill between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and instead of visiting one of the beach towns between the two cities I decided to give nature a few days and go to one of my top locations right away – Iguazu Falls. And man was it a full day of transportation to get here.

This morning I left my hostel in SP at 10 am and got on the Metro. Took the green line, switched to the yellow line, then to the red line. Got out and got on a bus to the airport. 1:45 travel time so far. R$7.50

Then I flew from Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguassu, Brasil. 1:30 flight.

I landed in Foz and jumped on the bus #120 into the center of town, got off and immediately got on the first bus I saw marked ARGENTINA. I got lucky – this bus left immediately after I got on. I would’ve had to wait a while for the next one. 45 min, R$2.85.

Then the ARGENTINA bus took us to the border of Brazil and dropped us off. And drove away. The driver gave us a little receipt saying we had already paid, and we were on our own to go get our passports stamped for exit from Brazil. 20 min, R$4.

The tiny little immigration office was probably the most informal border crossing I’ve ever been through, but no less official. Good thing the immigration officer in the Sao Paulo airport told me to hold onto that customs form; they asked for it when they stamped my passport here to exit. As soon as I got my exit stamp, it was back to the bus stop to wait for the next bus to come pick us up on its way to Argentina.

It came and the 5 of us who had gotten off the previous bus and were now in this crazy border crossing adventure together jumped on. 5 minutes later and we were at the Argentina border. Back off the bus, into immigration, which ran like a quick service ticket counter, and 30 seconds later I have a stamp to get into Argentina. Through the shoddiest security screening I’ve ever seen, and I’m back on the bus. At least this bus waited for all of us. No extra cost.

After a winding tour through Puerto Iguazu, we made it to the main bus station in the center of town. 15 minutes.

Just a short half a block walk and I’m at my hostel Mango Chill. And boy is it chill. There’s a BBQ dinner every night (for extra), and the chef is a bit of a DJ so it sounds like a club out where he’s cooking. There’s a small pool in the backyard and tomorrow at 4 there’s a yoga class, included in the price of the room. I even got a free welcome beer (Budweiser, he knew I’m from the US).

What a crazy day of travel. I’ve never done a border crossing like this before. It took a lot of blind trust and a little comfort in other people with backpacks doing the same thing. The email confirming my hostel had directions so I wrote those down and just set off, assuming I’d know what TTU was when I saw it and that the bus labeled ARGENTINA would actually be that obvious. In the end, it worked out.

The funny thing about doing a crossing like this is that there were 4 other people doing the same thing, but we weren’t all traveling together. It ended up being me, a Brit, two Belgians, and an Argentinian. We didn’t talk while doing it, but we would all look around once in a while to make sure that everyone was still doing the same thing. If one of us had strayed, the rest would have questioned what we were doing. Even without speaking, we knew we were all in this together.

So tonight I enjoy Argentinian BBQ at the hostel, and tomorrow it’s off to explore the falls. 100% chance of thunderstorms. Oh joy.

Shoes – Only 2 Days In

Before I left my mom said that I should document my shoes as a photo project. They’re bound to get dirty over the course of the year. Well, it only took 2 days for these shoes to look like this:

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I blame the street party in Vila Madalena last night after Brazil won. (More on that to come, these Brazilians are nuts.)

At this rate, I’ll probably need new shoes by the time I leave South America.

I’m Here!

I’ve checked into my hostel in Sao Paulo and now I feel like I’m traveling. There are tons of Brits here, plus an American and Australian so far. They’re all on multi-month journeys too; most are around 6 months into their trips already and are excited for me when I say this is my first stop. I feel like the newbie.

The hostel – Viva Design Hostel – is awesome. It’s new, it’s got an amazing common area, and the receptionist is so friendly and helpful he made me feel like I’ve already been here for weeks. People have said this is one of the best hostels they’ve stayed in and I can see why already. I think I may have spoiled myself too early.

This afternoon I walked around the neighborhood I’m staying in, Vila Madalena. It’s supposedly the “bohemian” neighborhood. From what I can tell, that means it has a lot of bars and restaurants. They all have outdoor seating that is so tempting; I wanted to go into every place I passed. It also feels a lot like San Francisco with its hills and street art. I’m excited to go down to the “party street” this evening to watch the USA vs Portugal game. From my hostelmates, it sounds like a fun area.

Stairs in Vila Madalena

Stairs in Vila Madalena

For some reason, whenever I’m around a foreign language I default to German. I keep finding myself saying “Ja” for yes and thinking about questions or words in German. That doesn’t work any better than English here. Even Spanish hasn’t been helpful. So hopefully I’ll get better at some Portuguese words soon so I don’t feel quite as lost. I have a cheat sheet written on my arm for the basics. How touristy of me.

Day 1 – All Travel

I ate all my meals on planes today. On the one hand, it’s a good way to start the trip. I didn’t actually spend any additional money (except on some M&Ms and a trashy magazine, the travel essentials). On the other hand, it means I just ate plane food all day. Which, as we all know but may have forgotten if you have only taken domestic US flights where they’d rather make you buy something or starve, is not great food. But it’s free food nonetheless. I’ve had some great plane food in the past – El Al to Israel was definitely the best, complete with hummus and champagne – but this was just regular old pollo or carne. At least they gave me wine with dinner!

My first flight from JFK to Bogota was actually quite pleasant. The seats were fairly comfortable and they reclined way more than I’m used to, the scrambled eggs weren’t too bad, and I had my choice of movies and TV shows. It made me wish that US flights were more like this. I got through breakfast and The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I thoroughly enjoyed, you should see it if you haven’t), then, just like the rest of the plane, I fell asleep. I’ve never been on such a quiet flight. I swear 90% of the plane was sleeping for at least an hour or two. By the time I woke up we were an hour an a half away from Bogota. A few TV shows later and I was in South America.

International flights still include checked luggage, and having my backpack checked through to Sao Paulo really alleviated the stress of this layover. The security to get to my connecting flight was quick and painless, so I had time to stroll around. And what was the first thing I heard when I walked into the Bogota terminal? Danza Kudro.

Some of you reading this know what that means (assuming you guys read this, you know who you are). Others probably have no idea why that matters. Danza Kudro became the anthem of our trip to Peru in 2012. We heard it, and danced to it, everywhere. I can’t say I remember much of the dance anymore, but hearing it within minutes of entering South America was both hilarious and comforting. It reminded me of how great that trip was, and except for the sadness of not having my friends with me this time, it made me excited for my next adventure. It also just made me laugh.

Since security was so quick, I had plenty of time to kill in the airport till my next flight to Sao Paulo. I quickly learned that airport waits are not as bad when the World Cup is happening. It was on every TV in the terminal, so I settled into a seat in front of the huge curved flat screen, along with a decent sized crowd. I was just in time to see Argentina pull off a win at the end of their game, then had to wait a quick hour until the Germany vs Ghana game started. Even though I couldn’t understand the Colombian announcers, they were so entertaining. The quick talking and excitement when anyone got remotely close to shooting on goal made me smile every time. And I wasn’t the only one. I can’t wait to hear the announcers in Brazil.

I got to see the whole first half before I had to board, and I boarded worried. As of writing this, I still don’t know what happened. 0-0 at the half was unsettling. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m a big Germany fan. After the US of course.) Hours later when I got internet: I just found out the score. HOW DID THEY TIE? WHAT ARE YOU DOING GERMANY? I am not happy. Moving on.

My second flight started out much different. Apparently Avianca doesn’t warn anyone when you’re in or in front of an exit aisle. This caused some seat shuffling and one passenger demanding a refund since her seat wouldn’t recline. I had no idea I wasn’t going to be able to recline for 5.5 hours either, but at least I was able to get my window seat back after they tried to give it away. When everyone calmed down it was an easy flight again, I had the pollo, and two more movies later we were almost in Sao Paulo.

Two things that came out of this whole day of travel: 1) I seriously need to work on my Spanish and Portuguese. 2) I’ve been thinking about doing a sort of photo project on this trip. I want to focus on something(s) that is consistent but has variety within each place. I am already thinking of taking a picture of my view every morning to show the variety of accommodations, and I want to take pictures of my bags as time goes on and in different locations, since I’m sure they’ll get beat up. But as I was handed my first of 4 airplane treats today (seriously they love to feed us) I quickly thought to snap a picture. Part of being a traveler on a budget is taking advantage of what’s included in any price you pay. Breakfast included is one of the things I look for when I book a hostel. It’s usually not stellar, but it can save a lot of money over time.

These free meals will vary, like my Israel flight meal did from today’s chicken and rice. Or the German hotels’ cold cuts for breakfast did from my Istanbul hostel’s rolls and cucumbers. So I’m playing with the idea of taking a picture of all the “meals included” I get. I’m sure they’ll vary everywhere I end up, and it could turn out to be an interesting story of what different places think should be complimentary. Also, so many people document their food these days. Typically they show food that is pleasing to look at as well as tasty, and often from great but not inexpensive restaurants. This is sort of a play on that – I won’t be paying for pretty food, but here’s what I got. And maybe it won’t look worth documenting alone, but that isn’t really the point. I wouldn’t be photographing food for food porn but as more of a cultural experiment. Who knows, maybe every hostel in the world thinks rolls and sliced meats and cheese are breakfast. Or maybe what is offered will end up reflecting the location.

Anyway, it’s just an idea right now. But so far I have pictures of today’s breakfast and dinner, on tray tables of course. I’ll try it out at my hostels this week (all with breakfast included) and see if it’s as interesting as I think it has the potential to be. I’ll keep you updated.

For now, I have arrived, but I have arrived at an airport hotel after midnight just to pass out. Tomorrow I will really arrive in Sao Paulo. Maybe then I’ll post the “I was dancing in the street in excitement that I’m finally doing this” post. Although I’m still not sure when what I’m doing will actually sink in.

Bon Voyages

Over the past month I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people. I’ve moved out of the city I loved with some of the best people I’ve ever known, I’ve reconnected with college and high school friends only to say bye again, and I’ve gotten together with family in a wonderful sendoff celebration.

All of these goodbyes have been sad, and they’ve made this very real. But more than anything, they’ve reminded me of all the fantastic, supportive people I have in my life. For that I am forever thankful. I will miss you all so much.

I know I am looking forward to taking a break from our hyper-connected technological world for a bit, but I can’t help but feel grateful that the same technology I’m escaping will allow me to keep in touch from wherever I am in the world. Through this blog, through email, facebook messaging, google hangouts, and WhatsApp (yes I have decided to bring my iPhone as a wireless device), I will at least be able to say some quick hellos and hopefully have some great catch-up sessions while I’m away.

And maybe I’ll be able to convince more people to join me. Or at the very least, I’ll be able to feel like it hasn’t been so long when I see everyone again upon my return.

So for now, all of you have been a part of this journey already. Thanks for everything, thanks for following so far, and I will try my best to follow through on my promise to keep this blog updated so you can all come along with me, at least virtually.

9 hours till my flight.

Auf Wiedersehen, USA.

Packed and Ready to Go

I’m all packed. As someone who has a bad habit of packing very last minute and overpacking, this was a big accomplishment for me. I started out with an idea of how much I could bring, and in my typical packing style grabbed way more than that and laid it all out. Then I started the process of elimination.

They key is that every top I’m bringing can be worn with every bottom. I tried to have a bit of variety – at one point I had out two green v-neck t-shirts and two gray t-shirts, that really would have been wearing the same thing every day – and allowed myself one non-plain shirt per category. I found myself bored with all the solids so I threw in something different in each style. I did actually try on everything I’m bringing just to make sure it all works.

Here they are, my clothes for the next year:

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Not bad right? This is what I’m bringing:

  • 3 t-shirts
  • 4 sleeveless shirts
  • 1 comfy long sleeve shirt (pre-treated with insect repellent!)
  • 1 nice long sleeve shirt (sometimes I’ll want to actually look decent at a dinner)
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of ankle length black Gap Body athletic pants
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 black maxi skirt
  • 1 bathing suit
  • a weeks worth of underwear and socks
  • 4 bras from regular to varying degrees of sports bras
  • 1 pair of athletic shorts and tank to sleep in (this was a last minute addition)
  • 1 packable rain jacket (Marmot)
  • 1 packable coat (one of those synthetic down ones that’s really warm and gets really small, by Mountain Hardwear)
  • 1 pair of low ankle hiking shoes
  • 1 slip on day shoe
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 pair of fold up black flats (again last minute and for the occasional nights I want to give the other shoes a rest)

I ended up allowing myself 1 more of everything than I planned. So that overpacking habit didn’t exactly go away. But it all still fits so I’m starting out with all of this and if I need to make changes on the road I can. Plus when it’s all packed up, it takes up no more room than this:

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Packing cubes are a traveler’s best friend. Everything I just listed (except the shoes and jackets) is in those two cubes. It’s all contained and hopefully will help reduce wrinkling at least a little, although it’s inevitable that it will all end up wrinkled. One cube is tops – shirts, bras – and one is bottoms – pants, underwear, socks – and everything in both is rolled to take up less space.

In addition to what I’m wearing, I have three other small packing cubes: electronics, medical kit, toiletries. I could list everything that is in these, but it’s a lot of little things and you can easily find these lists online or in RTW planning books. To summarize, I have medicines to cover itching to colds to common problems travelers have adjusting to new foods, in addition to my malaria pills. I have all manners of getting clean and minimal items to make me look pretty (aka not really much makeup). I have some helpful survival tools like duct tape, water purification tables, compass, headlamp, foldable 1L water bottle, and a leatherman. And I have all the chargers and GoPro mounts I need to make sure I can post more pictures along the way.

This is how it looks all packed up:

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Honestly it is not as big as I thought it would be, and not too heavy really. These packs are engineered so well that it doesn’t feel nearly as bad as it probably sounds like it would, carrying all of that. Then again I haven’t run through a crowded town trying to catch a bus with this on my back yet, so I’ll let you know if I say the same thing when that happens.

Then I got an awesome second bag for a day bag. I can’t rave about this bag enough from Fjallraven (mine is navy). It is a tote bag and shoulder bag, but it is also a backpack and a messenger bag. It is waterproof, rolls up to barely anything when I don’t need it, and has a laptop sleeve inside that is well hidden. Durable and with a zipper that I can keep a hand on while walking through crowded cities, it has everything I wanted and never thought I’d find in one bag. And with a lifetime guarantee, I see this thing lasting for a long long time. (Thank you to my friends who brought me to this store. On the way they told me: “You will buy something here.” I was skeptical. You guys were right.)

So there it is, I’m ready to go. Or at least my clothes are ready to go. As for my mental state, well, we’ll see how I feel at the end of the day.

…Ok so I’m cheating a little. I’ll be in Rio de Janeiro for 2 weeks with friends, and since I have all this extra room in my bag, I’m bringing a Rio-only set of clothing that I plan to ditch once I leave. But 2 weeks in Rio during the World Cup deserves some fun outfits! So when you see pictures of me not in anything I just listed above, that will be why. When I leave Rio though this list will be it. I’m just allowing myself a little fun in the beginning. Nothing wrong with that right?

Bucket List Results

I know you’ve all been dying to know how I did on my San Francisco bucket list, or #brodgesbucketlist as it’s now known. Below is the entire list – maroon text is completed, black text I didn’t get to do. What do you think?

The Bucket List

The Bucket List

I think I did well! 34 out of 40. There are a few missing, unfortunately, but for all the ones missing and more I did plenty of #unofficialversion bucket list items. Plus there are a few that I did part of – my last weekend I did make it to Bootie and then Aces, we just happened to nap during what was supposed to be the EndUp time so I didn’t count it. And then there are a few that I admit are a bit of a stretch – I did go climbing at Dogpatch Boulders when I stopped by my friends’ climbing competition, and we did have a growler from Magnolia at their apartment after, so technically that counts right?

In the end I am just so happy that I was able to do as much as I did, and I’m even happier that so many people joined me for the fun!

I’ve posted some highlights already, but really everything I did could have had its own post. I had the best time exploring all the city has to offer. My last months in SF could have been filled with sadness about my upcoming departure, but instead they were a celebration of the wonderfulness of the city and all my friends.

There are still plenty of activities to do and places to visit in San Francisco, so when I return one day I hope more of you will join me again for my #brodgeisback list.

 

Electronics Decisions

Just a few days now till takeoff. I expected this to be the time where I’d be so excited to leave that all I would be doing is reading my guidebook and talking endlessly about everything I’ll see.

Instead, this is the time where I’m doing runs to various stores for final supplies and calling every account I have to either tell them that I’m leaving or cancel them. Tedious stuff, but necessary.

The shopping trips are pretty easy to figure out with some research (and I’ll post my final packing list soon) but the electronics have been a constant debate full of store visits, online research, and support line calls. Here’s where I’ve landed:

Cameras

I’m bringing two. First, I got a Canon G16. I basically describe this as a souped-up point and shoot camera. It has many of the settings of a DSLR such as Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and more, but without the detachable lenses. It won’t fit in my pocket, although honestly what camera would fit in women’s clothing pockets, but it will fit nicely in my day bag. It is less showy than a DSLR and more portable so I can quickly bring it out for a picture and put it right away, hopefully not attracting much attention. It will still take very high quality pictures and video, and with a viewfinder and large back screen for image review it is really the hybrid camera I was looking for. This is what most of the pictures on my blog will be taken with.

Then I got a GoPro Hero3+. I was debating this one for a while, but on a trip like this I felt like I just had to take one of these. I’ll probably use it primarily for video, but the camera option is great. Small, portable, waterproof, it will be used in a range of ways. I imagine strapping it to my backpack and documenting arrivals to and travel around new places, as well as using the wrist mount while skydiving and scuba diving. It has a different purpose than the Canon, since I can’t actually see what I’m shooting and don’t have as much control over the images, so I think together they’ll fully document all my adventures. Plus I like the ability to take video and images without having a camera in front of my face the whole time.

I figured I get one chance to do a trip like this (theoretically), so I chose to get both cameras so I could document it how I wanted.

Laptop

This was a tough decision. I know there are computers in internet cafes and hostels, but I also know that this would be my main form of communication. Talking to friends and family on skype in a cafe is not only very public but also very slow. Add in online banking, hostel and flight booking, and regular email communication and having my own computer sounded not only better but more secure.

Plus I want to blog, obviously, and be able to upload photos and videos to the cloud. If something were to happen to my electronics, the cloud is the most logical place to store everything. Cafe computers are incredibly slow for this purpose, and would be seriously limiting.

Then I had to find a small, portable laptop that won’t weigh down my bag and can handle everything I just mentioned. After talking to numerous people, I decided on the Lenovo Yoga 11S Ultrabook. At 11.6″ it is very portable, but with an i5 processor it can actually handle the tasks I want to use it for. It was unfortunately more expensive than I wanted, but since I need something that does more than simple word processing and minimal email I had to go for it.

For those of you thinking “why didn’t you just bring an iPad or a Macbook air” (this is a common question), here’s why: 1) iPads don’t have real keyboards, USB or SD drives, and only really work with wifi, 2) Macbooks are pricier and don’t have as many ports as Lenovo (mainly SD card reader) and 3) Mac just seems to scream “steal me!”(Yes laptops can scream that no matter what but this one is at least a little more discreet, and yes I will still make sure to be careful with it). So far I’m very happy with this decision.

Phone

I came up with a phone plan a long time ago, then got talked around in circles about all the options by everyone and ended up talking to lots of people about what to do, and now have gone back to my original idea. Well, sort of. Honestly this one is still not entirely finalized.

Despite having an unlocked iPhone 4S, I have decided to just get a phone when I get to Sao Paulo that can switch out SIM cards. I will really only use the phone for occasional texts when meeting up with people or the rare phone call to a hostel. Calling home I’ll just use Skype or Google Hangouts. So I only need the local SIM card, which I’ll have to change often since I’m going through a lot of countries.

This means that I’m going to suspend my phone plan in the US for as long as possible. I have to suspend it, not cancel, because I don’t want to lose two things: unlimited data and the phone number I’ve had for the past 13 years. I can suspend it for up to 6 months within a 365 day period, so after 6 months I’ll have to start paying my US phone bill again. I talked to Verizon and reduced my plan to the absolute minimum I could without losing those two things – 30 min of talk, no texts, same data plan – so that it’s not too big of a hit when it is reactivated in January.

Since my phone number will reactivate in January, I didn’t want to risk messing up this plan by switching out SIM cards on the road. Plus using a phone with data isn’t entirely essential, and I already have enough electronics that I’m worried about being stolen, so I don’t want to have an iPhone as my communication device.

All that’s left to decide now is whether I take the iPhone as a purely wireless device. I would be able to sync maps for use offline, use WhatsApp while I’m in a wifi zone to talk to friends, have a calculator and clock, and Instagram when on wireless (a friend did mention once that she was concerned I wouldn’t be able to Instagram while I’m away). Honestly right now, I’m leaning towards leaving the iPhone behind entirely. But I still have a few days to decide this, so TBD.