Category Archives: travels

Packing for a Two-Week Trip (Again)

Two years ago, I got a Timbuk2 Aviator backpack for a two-week trip to Europe and documented what I packed and the results.

I’ll be going on a similar trip again this year, so I’m reviewing my packing list to see what I’ll change this time. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Swap for smaller / lighter: pajamas, running tank, water bottle (just bought a collapsible Vapur bottle), dress, raincoat (just got this, very packable)
  • Swap for better: Instead of $10 Forever 21 skinny jeans (seriously!) I picked up a pair of Prana Halle pants in grey. I like that they convert to capris. I’m also going to try this Royal Robbins shirt – the sleeves can be configured in three ways.
  • Skip: Swimsuit (didn’t use), printed leggings (wore once), possibly the rain jacket depending on forecast.
  • Add: Sandals would have been nice in the heat, so I’m hunting for a lightweight, flat pair that I can walk miles in. I usually wear sandals with a 2″ heel and they are too bulky to pack.

Clothes for a 2-week trip to Europe

 

Here’s the full list from last time with notes:

  • 2 dresses – pack a very thin, light dress instead of jersey
  • 1 skirt – keep
  • 2 pairs of leggings (1 black, 1 gray print) – skip 1
  • 2 pairs of tights (1 black, 1 gray) – skip 1
  • 1 cardigan (gray) – keep (similar)
  • 4 tanks (black, gray, blue, green) – maybe bring 1 very light running tank and 1 or 2 others
  • 1 collared sleeveless shirt – maybe skip
  • 1 light, short-sleeved sweater -replace with tshirt
  • 1 pair running shorts – keep
  • 1 pair sneakers – keep
  • 1 pair flats – pack sandals in addition, or instead
  • underthings – keep, of course
  • sleepwear – bring something much lighter / smaller
  • scarf – keep
  • rain jacket – maybe keep depending on weather
  • on the plane: jeans / tshirt / hoodie – swapping jeans for pants

Two Weeks in Germany with the Timbuk2 Aviator

Here’s a post-trip followup to my earlier post about packing the Timbuk2 Aviator.

I was very happy about my decision to take a backpack instead of a rolling suitcase.  After our flight, we had a train journey with three transfers going from Frankfurt to Berlin – and that was just our first destination. Rolling a suitcase through stations and down the train aisles would have been frustrating.

My Timbuk2 Aviator in the train station

Unlike some other huge backpacks I’ve worn, this one didn’t stick out far enough to make me feel like I was going to knock people over. When I first saw it, it was taller than I expected (extending above my shoulders), but it’s a good tradeoff for a slimmer pack. The backpack was comfortable and distributed the weight nicely on my shoulders; I never pulled out the hip straps.

I brought a small purse for everything I needed at constant reach – passport, wallet, phone. Like other backpacks I’ve owned, there’s no easy way to reach inside the backpack while you’re wearing it. Had it been cooler, had my clothing not suffered from minuscule female pockets, or had I been willing to wear one of those passport holders around my neck, I probably could have forgone the extra bag, but it was small and convenient, and I needed to bring one for day trips anyway.

Timbuk2 Aviator in Action

The packing cubes worked perfectly, and I packed well for an unpredictable trip which ranged from 50 degree rain to 90 degree blazing sun. As we traveled, we picked up some souvenirs along the way – beans from Bonanza Coffee Roasters, some spirits from Dr. Kochan Schnapskultur… even with heavier bags, we still were able to hike to the top of the Flak Tower in Humboldthain before our train out of the city.

We’d also packed a collapsible zippered shopping bag from Target. I picked it up in Portland OR last year and it’s fantastic, because it has more structure than most collapsible bags and folds flat. Before we left the country, I put my packing cubes in the folding tote and stuffed my backpack full of delicious German groceries – dark chocolate spread, Haribo gummies, dessert wine, chocolate bars, even my favorite fizzy vitamins. I zipped away the backpack straps and checked it on the way back – it weighed in at 13kg. The backpack provided good structure and protection, and our fragile goodies arrived unscathed.

Athena Bust

Travel Inspirations

I just came back from a two week trip to Germany with so many images and places stuck in  my mind.

This Athena bust is a Roman copy of a Greek statue from around 400 BC. Her power rushes across the room and punches me in the heart.

Athena Bust

How could someone in a world so different from mine – with different parameters, knowledge, struggles – produce this work that strikes me so deeply? It’s evidence of a human condition universal across time and place, and I don’t even mean that in a warm and fuzzy way.


Then this torso – I am angered by the Christian vandalism, parts removed and chest carved with crosses. I write down the saying on the outside of the sister museum, “Artem non odit nisi ignarus” (only the ignorant hate art). I am disgusted by the idea of original sin and its self-hatred.

But a few days later, I am taken by the sweet smell of incense in a giant stone cathedral, floored by the melancholy organ.

We visit high-vaulted brick churches and I think how transformative it would have been to stand in the same place in 1300, to be bathed in music and mystery for the first time. Later, I learn that their construction created wastelands as nearby forests were decimated to keep the fires burning to bake bricks. It is all so complicated. In young America, it’s easy to think that it’s not.

No photo of the primitive weapons from Germany in the first century AD, but you’ve seen their kind. Surely they saw some brutal fights. Did any of my ancestors use weapons like these? Suddenly I am overwhelmed with the many lives and struggles and fragile coincidences that led to my existence, and I remind myself again (as I do every day) never to waste it.

Packing for a 2-week Trip with the Timbuk2 Aviator

When we booked a 2-week trip to Germany, I needed to replace my broken old backpack. Timbuk2’s Aviator backpack (the smaller, non-wheeled version) caught my eye. I liked how the front fully unzipped so you could pack with full access, just like a suitcase. I also liked the subtle design and black color; it’s more of a city bag than something you’d take on a camping trip.

The reviews were perplexing – some said it was perfect for a weekend trip, some for a week or two. The inner dimensions of the bag weren’t published, so I thought these photos might be helpful to others.

Here’s what I’m packing. It helps that we’ll be in an apartment with a washing machine during the first week.

Clothes for a 2-week trip to Europe

  • 2 dresses
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 pairs of leggings (1 black, 1 gray print)
  • 2 pairs of tights (1 black, 1 gray)
  • 1 cardigan (gray)
  • 4 tanks (black, gray, blue, green)
  • 1 collared sleeveless shirt
  • 1 light, short-sleeved sweater
  • 1 pair running shorts
  • 1 pair sneakers
  • 1 pair flats
  • underthings
  • sleepwear
  • scarf
  • rain jacket
  • on the plane: jeans / tshirt / hoodie

I bought the slim packing cubes from eBags and luckily they fit perfectly in the backpack. Everything except the shoes and rain jacket easily fit into 3 packing cubes.

I packed these in the main compartment along with 1 pair of shoes, an umbrella, a rain jacket, and a hairbrush. I stacked them on their short edge to make more space, but if I didn’t have much else in the main compartment, I would have laid them flat.

The top compartment of the bag will fit my glasses, chargers, and a bag each of liquid and non-liquid toiletries. I like this clear quart bag by Flight 001. I felt frivolous ordering it but I’m so tired of sandwich bags that disintegrate halfway through a trip.

The backpack zips up nicely and cinches on the sides.

That’s it! I’ll tell you how it goes.

Photos from Quito and Nono Ecuador

Here are some photos from Quito and Nono Ecuador. I have yet to finish editing our photos from the Galapagos – soon!

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<p>&quot;Brugmansia have also traditionally been used in many South American indigenous cultures in medical preparations and as a ritualistic hallucinogen for divination, to communicate with ancestors, as a poison in sorcery and black magic, and for prophecy.&quot;<br />
<br />
When we were in the village of Nono, north of Quito, we saw these flowers and our guide told us they were often used to drug people and steal from them - it basically puts you in a conscious but nonresistant state, like date rape drugs.<br />
<br />
Turns out it is the same drug I was wearing on a patch behind my ear for sea-sickness (Scopolamine).<br />
<br />
This might explain why I hallucinated several times when I woke up in the middle of the night. Hilariously, I hallucinated Galapagos animals. A penguin by the doorknob, sea lion climbing the door, iguana on the lamp. Otherwise, no side effects.</p>

Brugmansia

"Brugmansia have also traditionally been used in many South American indigenous cultures in medical preparations and as a ritualistic hallucinogen for divination, to communicate with ancestors, as a poison in sorcery and black magic, and for prophecy."

When we were in the village of Nono, north of Quito, we saw these flowers and our guide told us they were often used to drug people and steal from them - it basically puts you in a conscious but nonresistant state, like date rape drugs.

Turns out it is the same drug I was wearing on a patch behind my ear for sea-sickness (Scopolamine).

This might explain why I hallucinated several times when I woke up in the middle of the night. Hilariously, I hallucinated Galapagos animals. A penguin by the doorknob, sea lion climbing the door, iguana on the lamp. Otherwise, no side effects.

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galapagos journal

Galapagos Journal

We went on an amazing trip to the Galapagos last month. We saw and did so much, I knew I had to keep a journal to remember everything. Some of my fellow travelers asked me to scan it, so I figured why not share with the internet too? (Click for an interactive version).

galapagos journal

 

I love to keep a paper journal but it’s been difficult to find the time in the last few years, so I relished the chance to spend a computer-less vacation with pens and paper. The notebook is made by Michael Roger and the markers are Staedtler Triplus Fineliners (both found at the Brown Bookstore during a quick lunchtime shopping spree). I have very little drawing experience and sometimes I feel held back by a perfectionism which I have little chance of achieving, so I ONLY brought pens, no pencils. If I made a mistake, I made a mistake – it was freeing and fun.

I thought the journal might be interesting to anyone considering a trip to the Galapagos who wants to get an idea of what it’s like. You have to visit the islands with a guide, so an organized trip is the best way to go. Our trip was organized by Beyond Your Backyard Adventures, a small trip geared towards people who really want to get out and see everything (no whiners!) We had an amazing experience and are still working through thousands of photos.

How To: Add a Public Transit Shortcut to Your Android

Shortcuts to Transit Directions

As a frequent bus rider, I don’t know how I ever lived without the transit directions in Google Maps.

I’ve discovered an even easier way to access bus schedules from my Android phone. I simply created shortcuts to transit directions for my favorite destinations (like work, home). This means that if I’m running late at work and miss my usual bus, I can just click the shortcut to see the next 3 buses. It doesn’t matter where I am, clicking the shortcut gets me home!

How to create a shortcut to transit directions:

  1. Go to your Apps (on my phone, I click the round icon on the bottom middle of my home screen)
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  2. Along the top, click Widgets
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  3. Flip through your widgets until you find the one called Directions & Navigation. Press and hold to drop it onto your home screen.
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  4. Add your home or work address (or anywhere else you like to go a lot). Don’t forget to choose transit (click on the bus image).
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  5. Remember to put a screen lock on your phone. It’s good for many reasons, but especially important if someone could steal your bag with keys and easy directions to your home :)

Quick Trip to New York City

I grew up in the NYC area but hadn’t been back lately, so I was excited to take my in-laws on their first trip to the city the day after Thanksgiving.

Staying in the city with four people would have been pricey, so we decided to try the Hilton in Stamford, CT, which we snagged for only $90/night. It’s not too long a drive from Providence and it’s in walking distance from the train station, where you can catch a 50 minute express train to Grand Central Station.

We walked over 10 miles a day, all over Manhattan – the best way to sightsee.

Statue of Liberty in the Fog
The Statue of Liberty in the Fog, from Battery Park

Here are some of the places we went. It sounds like a lot of food for 2 days, but when it’s cold and you’re burning a thousand calories walking, you’d better stop for a snack or two.

Food & Drink

Sightseeing with First Time Visitors

BCycle Charlotte

Charlotte’s new bike sharing program, BCycle, had only been installed a month and a half before our visit. I’ve never tried a bike share and we were car-less in Charlotte, so I decided to explore Charlotte by BCycle for a day.

Charlotte BCycle

For $8, you get a 24-hour pass (longer-term passes are also available). As long as you return each bike within a half hour, you can take unlimited rides without any additional charge. Bikes come with a lock and basket but not a helmet, so I brought my own. The system was hassle-free and easy to use.

I started uptown, rambled down the the Sugar Creek Greenway, followed the almost entirely bike-laned East Boulevard to the Trolley Rail Trail, then took the trail back to uptown, switching bikes at each station along the way (Link to Map).  Though the bike rode smoothly, a heavy 3-speed was totally exhausting for this road bike girl! So on my way, I stopped for a necessary snack at the Common Market. Later in the day I took another bike for a spin down to Elizabeth Creamery for a scoop of praline ice cream. By the end of the day, I had ridden 8 bikes!

at Common Market

I didn’t see a lot of other people riding bikes in Charlotte, and when I did they were riding on the sidewalk, a practice that is illegal (or at least frowned upon) most places but seemingly the norm in Charlotte.  Some of the streets uptown had bike lanes and the drivers were courteous, but if you’re skittish on the roads, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Trolley Rail Trail would be good places to ride.

BCycle Along the River

Chicago Day 1

It was a foggy but unusually warm weekend in Chicago.

Chicago

Our flight landed early in the morning; a quick train ride later, we were downtown and walking to XOCO for the perfect rainy day breakfast – amazing drinking chocolate and churros. I had the Aztec (fresh-ground chocolate + water + chile + allspice) while J had the Champurrado, a rich and thick chocolate thickened with corn flour.

Churros at XOCO Cocoa at XOCO

We walked around for hours. Soaked with rain, we decided to stop in to Berghoff’s for a warming lunch before the Art Institute.

Chicken Spaetzle Soup Berghoff Beer Sampler

At the Art Institute, we were lucky to catch a free talk on Joseph Cornell (the museum has quite a few of his famous boxes). Among other sights, I loved the surrealist art in the Bergman collection, the Claude Cahun photos, and the Thorne miniature rooms. What a great museum.

We ended the day with my first real Chicago pizza – Lou Malnati’s. It was as good as I hoped (or better).

Pizza at Lou Malnati's