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:
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.
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.
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.