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.

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: ~$4.50/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.