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Price of beer in a bar: ~$4.75/pint of craft draft

Song currently stuck in my head: Black Betty (Ram Jam)

Ari Shaffir has a 4.5 hour podcast interviewing Rolph Potts, author of  Vagabonding (among other works). Readers of this blog will find plenty to enjoy. I think Ari keeps it relatively tame in this episode, but assume it’s neither SFW nor safe for the easily offended. Rolph mentions travel anthropology, basically looking at the social dynamics of travelers as a group and the repercussions of their interactions with locals. I had no idea this was an active field of study, but I’m fascinated. I always appreciate a deeper understanding or at least a new conceptual framework through which to view situations and activities in which I participate.

Ari previously interviewed former Black Flag frontman and asocial travel maniac Henry Rollins, who later sat down with Joe Rogan as well. The Rollins interviews really made me feel like I’m not doing enough with my life. He’s like a character out of a Gibson novel, if one of the contemporary ones.

So there’s over 10 hours of travel related audio content to help you while away the workday and/or chicken bus ride. Joe’s conversations do tend to be less focused than Ari’s (and that’s a low bar to start with).

The Girlfriend passed along this handy map of The US superimposed over a map of Europe to show how the latitudes line up. Looks like our trip will be… refreshingly brisk?

I continue to update and tinker with my pack. I’m aiming for a base weight (Total Weight – Weight of clothes I’m wearing) of 10 kg, since that’s the carry on limit for our flight. It looks like I should make it without much issue.

What might be more of an issue is political unrest in Poland, our first major stop on this trip. I’m eyeing the situation anxiously but thus far there’s been no violence, just a little ‘democracy in action’, so as of right now we plan to stay the course. Literally.

Price of beer in a bar: ~$4.75/pint of craft draft

Song currently stuck in my head: Bird 1 (Underworld)

The core clothing in my pack is as follows:

1 Pair of Ecco loafers

3 pairs of Smartwool merino wool socks

3 pairs of Icebreaker/Cabela’s merino wool breifs

1 Pair of Dickies cotton/poly pants

1 Pair of Old Navy wool/poly pants

2 3 Icebreaker/Cabela’s merino wool short sleeve T shirts

2 Exofficio Give-n-Go short sleeve T shirts

1 The North Face synthetic button down

1 Colombia synthetic button down wind shirt

1 Merona cashmere sweater

IMG_20170707_104936

The wool socks/underwear/Ts were purchased on deep discount, often clearance. Everything else was bought second hand for ~US$5. Wool is the standard for onebaggers due to it’s odor resistance and weight/warmth ratio. The Dickies are a little more non-standard, but I think they’ll do well. They’re well made, stain resistant and quick drying. Average highs in Krakow are around 66 F (19 C) in September and we expect the weather to dip from there as we move into warmer climates in colder months.

Basically everything you see pictured can be interchanged; the T’s under the button downs under the sweater, the Ts on their own, the Ts and button downs on their own, the Ts under the sweater, all with either pair of pants with my shoes. I don’t care as much about variety as being able to grab whatever is clean in whatever temperatures and prolonging my time between washes.

In my opinion the Give-N-Go Ts are incredibly overrated. They smell awful within a few hours, the lighter colors are transparent enough to simulate a wet T shirt contestant’s costume and the necks sit in an odd way that isn’t uncomfortable but is often unsightly. But I’ve got 2 of them and this is what they’re made for, so I’m going to give them a shot. There’s not much in this pack that will make it to Asia (most of the items have been chosen to be discarded after several months of use), but the Give-N-Gos are light enough to consider pushing forward.

I will be carrying additional clothes for exercise and/or around the house lounging and will also bring a black Salomon soft shell jacket, but this is the entirety of my core wardrobe for the fall/winter/spring in Central Europe.

Price of beer in a bar: ~$4.75/pint of craft draft

Song currently stuck in my head: Cannonball (The Breeders)

My bag is either a Maxpedition Doppelduffel Adventure Bag that was sold out the backdoor or a pitch-perfect counterfeit. It’s identical to the bag shown except it lacks the branding and instead has a small ‘WFS Tactical’ tag, which appears to be a tiny online seller whose wares are diverse enough they almost certainly aren’t manufacturing them. This bag is serious overkill for this trip, but it’s a sturdy convertible duffel/backpack so I’ve opted to love the bag I’m with rather than buying something new. Maxpedition bags are popular with technicians because they generally have a high level of integrated organization. In fact, the only thing that bothered me when I got fired from my last job was that they wouldn’t let me keep my Maxpedition Versipack. My other two options are an REI Flashpack 45 and an Osprey Porter 46.

The Doppel is bigger (57 liters) and stronger (read: heavier) than I need for this trip, so my Flashpack 45 would probably do just fine. It’s ~ 2 pounds lighter and 45 liters should be plenty of space. I have the old model, which is the one you see reviewed on the other end of that link. REI overhauled this much loved line this past year and long time fans aren’t particularly happy with changes. I bought it on clearance about 10 months ago and it’s barely breathed fresh air, but for this trip I really want a duffel that opens wide. My bag will spend the overwhelming majority of its time on a table during this trip, so top loading hiking packs like The Flashpack would be somewhat out of place.

The Girlfriend will be using my Osprey Porter 46. This bag was recommended by a friend after she and her husband took an around the world trip with a pair of these. It’s pretty much custom made for this type of travel (guesthouses, airports, train stations and ambling unfamiliar urbanity) and wears comfortably thanks to a nice thick waist belt. The Doppel is a little too much bag for The Girlfriend, both in weight and fit, so while I’d be happy to carry The Porter myself that’s probably not how it’s going to turn out this time.

Testing photo upload from mobile app.

Price of beer in a bar: ~$4.75/pint of craft draft

Song currently stuck in my head: Right Here, Right Now (Jesus Jones)

I had hoped Jesus Jones would be the banner act for the developmentally lethargic 90s retro craze I was promised, but it seems like The Spin Doctors won that title. Now every other theatrical flashback to ’94 is introduced with Two Princes. Fair enough.

Our tickets are purchased, two direct flights from O’Hare to Berlin for US$766.16 total via Justfly.com. We’ll be visiting with some expatriated Americans; old friends that we hope will drop in occasionally during our travels across Central Europe. We’ve arranged a 30 day rental in Krakow (or something) to kick off our stay in earnest and then we’ll be feeling out what our limited budget will allow. We intend to work our way South, eventually departing the land mass and heading along the typical backpacker trail through Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand…). We’ll be working our way slowly across former Soviet Republics in the fall and winter and Asia in the spring and summer, all in an attempt to take advantage of long term discounts on lodging and low season prices on everything. I have a feeling we’ll gravitate toward higher ground in Asia because the summers are supposed to be brutal throughout much of it.

I’m pretty excited about my pack, which came together suddenly after a prolonged period of dithering. The Girlfriend and I have both picked up a lot from the onebagger and ultralight communities and are putting those ideas to work on this trip through no small amount of hand wringing about which interoperating series of garments provides the most flexibility for the lightest weight and lowest volume. I’ve long been advised to show up in Asia with as little as possible and equip yourself locally, so our packs are tooled almost exclusively for Europe. We’ll be looking at an average high of 66 (19) in Krakow in September and even though we’ll move South from there I expect the temperatures to descend over our time in Europe. If we make it to the Croatian Coast in May, we should be poking back into temperatures close to autumnal Krakow.

Here‘s where I’m at right now, pack wise. That page will update as I make changes to my pack. I’ll get more into the bag and it’s contents later.

Price of beer in a bar: ~$4.75/pint of craft draft

Song currently stuck in my head: The irritatingly catchy theme from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I visited my parents over the weekend, packing lighter than I’ve ever traveled overnight before. I spent the last year or so preparing for a lengthy backcountry hike, aiming for a base weight under 20 lbs. While that trip isn’t going to come together, I learned a lot during my preparations and most of it is directly applicable to travel generally.

I spent 4 days in the same T shirt, pants, underwear and socks this past weekend. I know what you’re thinking, but keep in mind the shirt, underwear and socks were all made for this purpose. They were all lightweight merino wool, which suppresses odor and maintains it’s shape and comfort for surprising amounts of time. I’d say ideally the socks should have been swapped after 3 days and everything else could have easily gone on for 5th or 6th days. The T and underwear were both Cabela’s + Icebreaker, a joint venture that might be close to discontinued. I got them on clearance for about $13/each, but you’re probably going to pay 2 or 3 times that for comparable items at retail prices. The socks were Smartwool.

When you hear me say wool, don’t picture warm sweaters. I wear the lightest weight merino T in their line, which is 150 micron if I remember correctly, and comfortable up to about 80 degrees F. Mine is black, so a lighter color might push a bit higher. The briefs are similarly reasonable in warm conditions. I wouldn’t hesitate to try them in the tropics. Why not, everything else is terrible.

The pants are 5.11 Tactical Taclite Pros (or very similar, the product models change over time). I have mixed feelings about the pants. They dry fast and shed water and stains relatively well, though you would not mistake them for rain gear. The construction is solid and the cut allows for a wide range of mobility. But the main slash pockets are cheap and developing holes, the snap tends to unsnap too easily, they don’t breathe as well as I’d like… they’re a mixed bag.

Since the weather was predicted to be stable and I wouldn’t be spending much time out doors (this is the Midwest, getting things done is just a walk to the car, a walk from the car), this outfit plus a lightweight windbreaking Columbia button down was all I needed for day to day wear. Full synthetic shirts like this hold odors terribly in my experience, but the wool T prevents that layer from ever coming in contact with sweat or the bacteria that cause body odor, so working together they’re fine for days of wear. Add a pair of sweats and a T shirt for evening wear (I left for this trip directly from the gym, otherwise I’d have packed actual pajama pants), a stick of deodorant, a toothbrush, some face wipes and I’m there. The entire kit fit in a small day bag, about 11″ X 8″ X 4″, pictured below, excluding what’s already on my person.

This was a car trip, so the convenience of a small bag was minimal. I wasn’t lugging anything through airports, bus stations and the like. But the additional advantages of a small kit, like having far fewer things to keep track of, to pack, verify and manage, and far less to unpack/wash/etc, upon return, were greatly appreciated. This was a bit of a dry run, as many of these items will form the core of my pack for Europe. So far they’re even better than I expected.

Price of beer in a bar: ~$4.50/pint of craft draft

Song currently stuck in my head: Don’t Do Me Like That (Tom Petty), though when I sing it aloud I insert alternate lyrics about my cat

Perpetual Tourism ain’t what it used to be. Panama, a favorite destination, was punching 180 day tourist stamps the last time I was there, now they’re tweeting that they won’t even re-stamp people who perform the ‘reset shuffle’ by dipping into Costa Rica for a couple of hours/days and returning. Bolivia now requires a US$135 Visa for American Tourists and limits your total time in the country to 90 days per year. I believe this is new since I was last there in 2007. The EU is poised to make good on their long standing threat of requiring Visas from countries that require Visas from any of their members, the US among them.

Visa requirements are usually a tit-for-tat affair; if one country requires them, they can expect their residents to experience the exact same treatment when visiting the target, usually right down the exact dollar amount. So there’s a solid precedent for The EU move. The EU (and/or The Schengen Visa Block) already limits tourists to 180 days per year within the block, which is a substantial hurdle to my lifestyle. Schengen Area (which is The EU Visa Block) is 26 countries, give or take. That’s an average of less than 1 week per country, travel time included, before you need to vacate for 6 months.

All of this is a pain in my ass. I have no particular interest in putting down substantial roots any time soon, but I’m also not looking to be forced to move on every 6 months for at least 6 months. I just want to go somewhere cheap, safe and beautiful and spend money there without hiring a lawyer and applying for ‘residency’ before I leave. I don’t intend to be a drag on social services (or even be entitled to them). I don’t intend to take anyone’s job. I just want to pick a beach or mountain town, spend a year or two there, and stay or move on as desired. I’d like to be able to sign a 12 month lease on an apartment, but if I have to move every 90 days so be it.

The EU decision looms as The Girlfriend and I are in early stage preparations for a long term Central European trip, as the ‘Central Europe’ map taped to our living room wall attests. Our trip in 2007 was typical traveler stuff, a new town every few days, working our way in a line across South America. Our trip in 2010 was a more controlled experiment in cost of living, selecting towns and staying in them for at least 30 days each. Central Europe is envisioned to be somewhere in between. More info will follow as the situation develops.