Wednesday, March 30, 2011

And We're Off...

By Brian at 9:47 AM
Melissa and I leave tonight on a British Airways flight to Spain. We're starting our trip in Madrid and will be there for the first five days, including potential day trips to Toledo and Segovia. From there we head to Morocco, with our first stop in Marrakech. We then venture out to the desert to ride camels and camp out among the sand dunes. Then back to civilization to the beach city of Essaouira. We'll hit a few more Morrocan cities before heading back to Sevilla in Spain just in time to catch the tail end of Semana Santa.

We've been planning this trip for over six months and it's crazy that it all begins tonight. We're truly going to miss everyone, but with Facebook, this blog, and wifi almost everywhere we won't be that far away.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

35 Pounds

By Melissa at 10:11 AM
"Wait, I have to pack ALL the stuff I want to bring for an entire year into that? No way!" was my initial reaction when Brian showed me the carry-on size bags at R.E.I that he thought we should buy for the trip.  I immediately started mourning the year-long loss of my 40 pairs of shoes. Those black pumps I had recently worn to a party suddenly seemed much cuter than when I had angrily kicked them off at the end of the night vowing to never wear them again. We travel quite a bit and I have gotten very good at packing light, but when you're going to be on the road for an entire year it's daunting to think about only having one suitcase. Following the initial shock and several trips to R.E.I, we bought one bag, took it home for a test pack and were pleasantly surprised to see that we would be able to to fit, albeit tightly, our gear and clothing in the bag.

After our first packing test, I actually began to look forward to packing up all of the now superfluous items in our apartment and sending them off to the storage space. Every time I move apartments it feels great to get rid of all the things I bought but don't really need. And I was going to be able to get rid of all of it for an entire year! No more paper shredder, no more exercise weights, no more shoes I never wear. Out of sight and out of mind for the next year; a new environment for our new experience.

So how do you pack for an entire year? Well I think the answer is that it depends on what type of trip you are taking and your personal travel style, but this is how we packed. We'll each be traveling with a total of about 35 pounds of clothes and gear between our carry on luggage and our small day bags. This definitely does not qualify as traveling light, but we balanced many factors including how often we thought we would have to carry the bag on our back versus being able to wheel it around, how often we'd need to do laundry and how many times we'd be willing to wear the same item in a row.

Almost everything we're taking with us
From Travel Gear

Clothing

Choosing the clothing we were going to bring took almost as long as planning our destinations. Okay maybe that’s because Melissa likes to shop, but it is difficult to choose clothes you have to wear for an entire year.  We used as many items from our closet as we could, but we did decide to buy a fair amount specifically for the trip.  Packing into a carry-on suitcase and only bringing a few outfits means we’re going to need to do laundry in our hotel room and so we needed to make sure key items will dry overnight. Also, as many other blogs pointed out, comfort needs to take precedence over style since we'd be wearing the clothes all day and sometimes more if we decided to travel on overnight buses or ferries, and many of our regular clothes did not fit the bill. We also didn't worry about bringing clothes for 100% of the situations we're going to encounter.  We can always buy and toss clothes along the way.

Melissa’s Clothes
  • Wind-proof, rain resistant jacket, aka soft shell jacket (1)
  • Waterproof shell/jacket with hood (1)
  • Sweater (1)
  • Long pants (2): light quick-dry pants and jeans.
  • Capri Shorts (1)
  • Skirt (1)
  • T-shirts (4)
  • Tank tops (1)
  • Long-sleeve pullover shirt (1)
  • Long-sleeve button down (1)
  • Pajama set (pants and shirt) (1)
  • Socks (5 pairs)
  • Underwear and bras (7)
  • Bathing suit (1)
  • Hat (1)
  • Scarf (1)
  • Glasses (1)
  • Sunglasses (1)
  • Sandals (1)
  • Waterproof hiking shoes/cross-trainers (1)
  • Walking shoes (1)

Brian’s Clothes
  • Zip-up fleece (1)
  • Waterproof jacket/shell with hood (1)
  • Sweater (1)
  • Long pants (2): light, quick-dry pants and jeans.
  • Shorts (1)
  • T-shirts (4)
  • Long-sleeve button down (1)
  • Short-sleeve button down (1)
  • Pajama pants (1)
  • Socks (5 pairs)
  • Underwear (5)
  • Swim trunks (1)
  • Hat (1)
  • Glasses (1)
  • Sunglasses (1)
  • Sandals (1)
  • Waterproof hiking shoes/cross-trainers (1)

Luggage

We brought a total of 6 bags with us:
  • Wheeled backpacks, carry-on size (2) and detachable small backpacks (2):
  • Camera bag (1)
  • Reusable shopping tote (1)

Everything fits into these four bags
From Travel Gear

Electronics

I’m just going to tell you up front we brought a lot of electronics.  I guess we fit into the category of 'flashpackers' who can't leave home without their electronics. I mean with so much free wi-fi, why would you? But really, whether or not you choose to bring a lot of electronic gear completely depends on your personal travel style.

Here are the pros and cons of electronic gear as we see them. Pros: You can easily keep in touch with your family and friends, you can easily check for and book cheap travel arrangements, if you plan to do work on the road you can easily do so, and you'll have fewer arguments with your techie husband over who gets to use the computer. Cons: You worry about them being stolen, it adds more weight to your bags and you might spend more time squirreled away in your room on your computer than out exploring. At the very least you'll probably want to bring a good camera, a netbook (or other thin, light laptop) and an unlocked phone that works on a GSM network. If you don't want to risk damaging your phone by jail breaking and unlocking it, unlocked cell phones are easy to come by overseas. You could also wait to embark on your trip before deciding what items you'll actually need, but most consumer electronics are significantly more expensive in countries other than the US.

Here is what we decided to bring:
  • 13” Macbook Pro (with upgraded 600GB hard drive)
  • 11” Macbook Air
  • Kindle
  • iPhones (2)
  • Canon Rebel T1i (dSLR) with two lenses and accessories
  • Point and shoot camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5k
  • Data and picture back up: 1 Terabyte Portable Hard Drive
  • Data backup via BackBlaze and Picassa

Miscellaneous Gear
  • First aid kit
  • Prescriptions from travel clinic (antibiotics, antimalarials, etc)
  • Hanging toiletry bag: contents also to numerous to mention and vary by person
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Clothes line
  • Laundry soap (Zote)
  • Sink plug
  • Stuff sack for dirty clothes
  • Compression sacks
  • Travel guide (for next destination only)
  • Phrase/language guide (for next destination only)
  • Notebook and pen
  • Luggage locks and padlocks
  • Ziplock bags
  • Travel size sewing kit
  • Sleeping sack
  • Swim googles
  • Metal water bottles
  • Ear plugs
  • Deck of cards

For a more detailed version of our packing list and the method to our madness, check out our Travel Gear page.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Travel for a Year?

By Brian at 11:17 AM
People often ask why we decided to take a trip like this. Honestly, there are a bunch of reasons, but we'll keep it to three.

Traveling as Personal Development
For those of you who know us, you are already aware that we travel frequently. We love traveling and meeting people from different cultures because it allows us to see ourselves as others see us. While we both enjoy working and living in the U.S., the more we travel, the more insight we get into our own lives and what we feel is really important in life. While we've learned a lot during our yearly two-week vacations, what better way to challenge our assumptions than spending a year abroad, surrounded by cultures foreign to our own. By experiencing so many different regions in a short time span, it will be enlightening to see not only the differences, but similarities between different cultures. Most importantly, we get to experience all of this together. No doubt this will have a positive, transformational impact on our lives and our marriage.

Living Abroad
It allows us to slow down and spend more time in places we like to fully absorb the local life. You can't travel for 52 weeks the same way you travel for two. That's why we're planning to spend two to four weeks at a few of our destinations to recoup, but also to experience life as a pseudo local. We're looking forward to sleeping in, shopping at the local market, catching a local show, and other domestic activities that are impossible to enjoy when you are limited to spending two days in each city.

Achieving a Life Goal
It's one of those goals that seems so far from reality, but once you change your mindset, question the doubts and risks, and dive into the research it becomes totally achievable. Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive and excited for us, which just reaffirms that for us, this is a risk worth taking. We are also fortunate enough that the timing finally worked out where we weren’t in college, graduate school, starting careers, changing jobs, planning a wedding or anything else. And after years of having this trip be just a pipe dream we're beyond excited that we are finally able to make it happen.

We're looking forward to what should be an amazing and unforgettable experience. A colleague of Brian's told him that we'll soon convert from "tourists to travelers." We're not quite sure what that means, but we're excited to find out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Welcome

By Brian at 1:38 PM
Welcome to Brian and Melissa's travel blog! We're still working on the site, but if you want to receive email updates, enter your address below.

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