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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?

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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.

 

Preparing for Departure

My time in Jersey has been full of making final decisions in preparation for departure. I’ve done two big shopping trips to get the few items that I’ll wear for the next year, have had numerous conversations with tech people from Verizon and Best Buy about phone and computer options, have backed up all my files onto an external hard drive, have ordered so many random supplies on Amazon that the mail people in my parents’ building now recognize me, and have gotten visas and hostels for three different countries.

My first flight is almost here, and while every day I check off multiple items from my to do list I also add more so that it just feels never-ending.

At some level, this never-ending feeling may just extend throughout the next year. No matter where I am, I will soon have to figure out where I’m going next, how I’m going to get there, where I’m going to stay, and what I’m going to do. As soon as I get to a place I’ll be able to delete its logistics off the list, but then I’ll have to add on logistics for the next location.

I’m hoping I’ll have a mental balance about this. As I said before, I don’t want this trip to be about crossing off lists. Unfortunately there is still a degree of planning that must happen at stages throughout it. However while my list right now consists of things like “practice packing,” my list in the future will have things like “pick bus or plane to get to Santiago.” That sounds a lot more fun, doesn’t it?

10 day countdown.

Bucket List Reflections

I want to preface this post by saying that I love my bucket list. It’s motivated me to go out and do so many things throughout San Francisco that I never got to before, and it has been a great excuse for get togethers with friends and in different neighborhoods. But there is a mentality that comes with a bucket list that I am trying to shake before I go on this RTW adventure.

Lists in general are made to check things off. Who doesn’t get some sort of satisfaction out of putting a check mark next to or a red line through an item on a list? I have even added things to lists just so I could cross them off. When planning a visit to a new place, it seems natural to me to make a list of what interests you and try to get to as much of it as possible. I am guilty of traveling this way in the past, but I am trying to remind myself not to focus like this going forward.

As everything I read keeps telling me, a RTW trip isn’t about checking things off your list. It’s about being there in the moment. Say I miss a big tourist attraction because I get lost – this isn’t something to stress about. Wandering the streets of a town is just as good a way to get to know it as hitting the highlights; often it’s actually better. I may find some off the beaten path site that is even more interesting, or maybe I’ll have a chance to interact with locals, or just get a better feel for the architecture (I am an architecture student after all).

And isn’t this how I grew to love San Francisco anyway? It took me years to get Alcatraz, I avoid Fisherman’s Wharf like the plague, and despite living on a trolley car line I never take it. I like exploring the neighborhoods of SF without an agenda just as much as anything on my bucket list, so I should enjoy other places I visit in the same way.

So even while I make amazing progress on my bucket list (seriously, I’m almost done!), I am still trying to keep in mind that lists will not be a main focus of my RTW trip. The things I see and do will happen as they happen, not because I needed to write a check mark.

Getting Back into Planning

April sort of got away from me. Between playing host to visitors, bucket list and catch up dinners, and a weekend trip to wine country, I feel like I haven’t done anything productive toward my departure for a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a ton of fun during this planning hiatus. Many many bucket list activities were checked off and I spent time with some of my favorite people in the world, family and friends. I don’t regret it at all.

But April is almost over and it’s time to get back to it. I’m at the 6 and a half week mark until my flight to Brazil, and I was feeling a little stressed that I wasn’t close enough to being ready to go. So I scheduled in some planning time to do things like post furniture to Craigslist, start clearing off my bookshelf, and read more of my next how to plan a RTW trip guide. It was while reading this guide by Rough Guides that I came across their incredibly useful “Departure Checklist.”

Starting from what to do at 6 months out and counting down until the day before you leave, I discovered it perhaps a little later than I should have. I took a deep breath and read on, hoping I was at least somewhere near where I should be according to them.

Rough Guides' Departure Checklist

Rough Guides’ Departure Checklist

I am happy to say I am right on track. With just under 2 months to go, I have checked off everything I was supposed to by this point at pretty much the exact intervals they suggest. I am now in the middle of all the doctor/travel clinic/dentist appointments, and have figured out strategies for all my visas. Everything that is left to do is in the one month or less categories, and it is all things that I was planning to do either in the next two weeks or in the three weeks I have on the east coast with all the time in the world to go get the rest of my gear (I had the great realization that I won’t have to go to work anymore; so much more free time!).

So thank you Rough Guides for making me feel better. And thank you me for planning just like a guidebook. I am feeling better but there is still much to be done. There is also still a lot to be said, so hopefully this marks my return to blogging. Stay tuned for some decisions on what to bring, more bucket list fun, and general reflections as I approach my departure. 

A Wish List

With my birthday less than a month away, a few friends have unnecessarily and incredibly nicely asked me to write a wish list of things I want for my trip. We stopped doing friend gifts a while ago, opting for celebration dinners or even just a text if we’re not near each other, so their justification was that it’s the only tangible gift I’ll get for past and future birthdays.

I figured that a wish list could be helpful for anyone really to see some things that I’m hoping to bring with me. It’s easy to start thinking about packing with the essentials – what you’ll bring everything in (I chose backpack), how many items of clothing, the necessary medical kit – but then there are additional things that make it on some lists but not on others. Some people swear off accessories like alarm clocks, while others stress the need for such a device. Personally, I won’t be using a smartphone for an alarm clock and have a few early flights, so I think this would be helpful for me.

So here are a few additional things in a range of categories that I’m considering bringing with me:

  • GoPro camera
  • GoPro mounts: Head Strap + QuickClip and Wrist Housing
  • Guidebooks: Lonely Planet or Rough Guides guidebooks. (I’m still debating which of these companies I prefer and need to spend some more time in bookstores comparing them. I’ve been a LP fan for a long time so I tend to default to them, but after a brief comparison the other day I’m leaning toward Rough Guide to South America on a Budget to start with, then LP for Australia and NZ. Either could work in the other countries. Even though I know I can find a lot of information on the internet, I still want to use guidebooks for each country/region.)
  • 1L water bottle
  • And on that note, water purification system (I’m thinking tablets)
  • Travel Sentry lock (for hostel lockers)
  • Multiple port charger
  • Travel adapter (for outlets)
  • This portable washing bag thing looks kinda awesome: http://thescrubba.com/
  • And maybe a portable clothes line to go with it?
  • Small travel umbrella
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Leatherman
  • Packable rain jacket/shell (I’m thinking Outdoor Research, Marmot or Patagonia. Something that folds up into its pocket or very small at least, but still is good in terms of water protection.)
  • Laptop (most likely a netbook, mainly for blogging, emailing and skyping)

 

Going to See the Elephant at Anchor Brewing Company

IMG_3669One of the activities on my bucket list was to go on a tour of the Anchor Brewery. I’ve grown to love the Anchor beers (personal favorites: California Lager and Zymaster) and just love brewery tours in general, so this was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Unfortunately the only time to do these tours is a weekday and you have to book a while in advance. A little hard when I’m still working.

Then the Bold Italic emailed about a competition to win two tickets to Anchor’s SF Beer Week kick-off party to release their new IPA. I entered, as I do with fun sounding local events, not expecting to hear anything. Then one day I got an email with the subject: YOU WON! This is how my brewery tour bucket list activity changed to a brewery party instead.

All we knew was that they were going to release their IPA and the theme was to See the Elephant. This vague invitation was enough to convince me and friend to go, and it ended up being an awesome event that is definitely a bucket list highlight.

To “See the Elephant” is a 19th-century metaphor for the hopeful but risky pursuit of happiness, adventure, and fortune. From the Anchor Brewing Website:

The expression to “see the elephant” originates from a tale that predates the California Gold Rush.

There once lived a farmer who had heard of elephants but had never seen one. He longed for the day when he might catch a glimpse of this rare, exotic creature. When the circus came to town, he loaded his wagon with fresh produce and headed to the market. On the way, just as he’d hoped, he came across the circus parade, nobly led by an enormous elephant. The farmer was ecstatic, but his horses were terrified. They reared and bucked, overturning his wagon and scattering its precious contents in the road. “I don’t give a hoot,” exclaimed the farmer. “I have seen the elephant!”

The elephant became the universal symbol of the Gold Rush, as evidenced by the journals, letters, and sketchbooks of the forty-niners.

So to recap: I was now at a party at Anchor Brewing Company that was focused on pursuing your hopes and dreams. I couldn’t have imagined a better theme. It was a convergence of this major life decision I’d made to take a break from my every day life and pursue my travel dreams with a bucket list activity of beer tasting.

IMG_3671This party was designed to be an adventure through the brewery. Each of us was given a map and a passport; stamp every destination in your passport and you got a goodie bag when you left. At each passport stamp location you could learn something – about IPA’s, elephants, or other participants’ ambitions. During this entire event, the tap room was open with unlimited pours of whatever they had on tap, with a few stations scattered throughout the floor serving the IPA and California Lager, as well as some food stands. Not only were we inside the brewery for a release party of a new beer, but we got to wander around at our leisure, participate in activities, learn about beer, and taste their beers! You can understand our excitement.

Second only to Brews on the Bay (a personal favorite San Francisco event), this was an amazingly fun and well-executed brewery party. The staff was engaging, we learned a lot, and who doesn’t love beer tasting. By the end we had stamped all our passport locations and took home some fun Anchor Brewing Company swag.

At one of the passport stamp locations, there was a board where we had to write down what our version of Seeing the Elephant was. “To See the Elephant is to…” This was a no brainer for me. Without hesitation, I picked up my chalk and wrote down “finally go on my Round the World adventure.” To me, this trip is my pursuit of happiness, adventure and fortune.

Thanks Anchor Brewing Company (and Bold Italic) for an awesome night, fantastic beer, and another reminder about pursuing what really matters.

A few more pictures from the night.

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Signs directing us from England to San Francisco and India

The board where we wrote down what Seeing the Elephant is to us (and my friend pointing out what to do)

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We made it to India

The Revised Plan

About three months after I wrote my first list, I started to freak out a little. I had been looking into flights and timelines, and realized that I was committing to an outline through June of 2015. Doubts started coming to mind about whether I should lock myself into a whole year on the road. I’ve never traveled alone for that long before, can I really make it a year?

Also as I was looking at RTW tickets I was being locked into starting and stopping in the same country. So on the reverse side, what if I didn’t want to come back at the end of a year? I’ve always wanted to live in Europe again, but these tickets weren’t letting me have that option, I had to come back to the U.S. Will I want to?

And as I told people about the last leg of my trip – Middle East and Africa – the general response was concern for my safety. I realize that traveling alone as an American girl is going to have its challenges. I do think that I’m a very aware traveler and I will keep updated on where I should and should not go. But this feeling of uncertainty started to sink it. How could I know what the world will be like in 2015?

So I thought a lot about what I’m doing and had some key conversations, and I was reminded that this trip is entirely my choice. Sure I started out thinking it was a year and I’d hit all my original pillars, but if I’m feeling unsettled about it I can change it so that I feel better. I thought more about how I could make this is a trip that was more on the exciting side than the terrifying side (although it will still always have both elements) and eventually came around to a compromise that made me feel worlds better.

9 months up front. No return flight.

I came to the 9 month mark because of three points in the trip: 1) starting in June, I could start at the World Cup, somewhere I’ve always dreamed of going, and somewhere I knew I had friends to help me kick this journey off; 2) my family agreed to Christmas in Thailand, giving me visitors to look forward to and a little taste of home 6 months in; 3) a friend decided to come to India with me in February 2015, so I would again have a friendly face and wouldn’t be alone in India. This gave me a structure that I felt good about and the timing worked out to hit pillars 1, 2, 4, and 6. This is how I ended up with the route that is on my Itinerary page.

Not having a return flight gives me freedom, and that freedom was relieving. Now in March of 2015, if I want to keep going and make it to 3, 5, and 7, I can. Or if I want to go live in Europe I can. Or if I’m exhausted and need to come home, also possible. Or maybe I just did not have enough time somewhere and I can go back. I’ll be halfway around the world with endless possibilities and that became the most exciting part of this plan.

The most important thing I learned from all of this: this trip will evolve. No matter how I set out, anything could happen along the way, and I have to be open to it and ready to just go with it. If necessary, I can and should change whatever I need to to make this experience the best that it can be for me.

Which includes not totally freaking out when I think about leaving. I’m happy I’m past that point.

Where to Start? The First List.

Ok so I want to do this. Great. Now what? How do you go about planning a trip like this?

Of course at first I wanted to go every place in the world I had ever heard of, and more that I hadn’t heard of, and try to fit it all in within the year. But I had to remind myself that this isn’t about checking boxes, getting a picture of a place or putting a pin in a map and moving on. I needed time in places. Not to mention that it is logistically impossible. There is just no way to go everywhere in this one trip.

In this trip being the key phrase. I will get to them at some point.

I also knew I had to narrow down some of the larger areas and focus on just a few regions. I have already been around Europe a lot from high school and college so I ruled that out completely. China, Japan and Russia just seem like their own trip to me, and places I can visit any time in life. I wanted this to be a backpacking trip, staying in hostels and meeting other travelers around my own age doing the same kind of trip. I also knew I had to pick places that were relatively cheaper since I am not planning on working while I’m abroad. This narrowed down my focus to South America, Southeast Asia/India, Australia/New Zealand, and Africa.

Now the trip needed structure, something to base my route on. So after looking around at various travel blogs about how to start planning a RTW trip, I decided I had to pick my top list, my must sees, my “pillars,” and write them down.

Writing them down is key. Not only will I not be able to forget them, but there’s something permanent about writing them. I could step away and revisit them, give them time to sink in, make sure these are really the pillars that I wanted to base the next year of my life around. I started an Evernote so that as long as I had some sort of technology I wouldn’t be without them, and now they’re in my small travel notebook that I carry with me everywhere.

I thought about what was important to me – architecture and nature. They may seem like opposing ideas, but it’s amazing how similar they can be. Mountains and buildings, made by different forces, both have the ability to inspire a feeling of awe within me. I studied and now work in architecture, so that’s a given, but I have also always loved landscapes and being outdoors. I knew I wanted to have a mixture of important architectural and natural sites.

A few things I kept in mind: I did not want to repeat anything (e.g. I went to Machu Picchu last year so I didn’t need to put that on the list anymore) and I wanted to spread the destinations out around my target regions.

So I drafted my list:

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1. Taj Mahal
2. Iguazu Falls
3. Great Pyramids
4. Angkor Wat
5. Mt. Kilimanjaro
6. Great Barrier Reef
7. Wadi Rum/Petra

I wrote this list on the first page of my notebook in July 2013, 11 months before I planned to leave. I wanted to structure my future planning around it but also had time to get used to it. And I am very happy I did that. If you’ve looked at my itinerary, some of these places are missing. I went through some major revisions in the next half a year to get to where I am today. But that’s for another post.