Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Vacation Packing Part Three: My International Travel Packing List

This is my third post about packing for vacation travel. My first one, Vacation Packing Part One: Figuring Out What to Pack, covers that onerous task of deciding what you'll need to take on your trip. The second one, Vacation Packing Part Two: Choosing a Bag, ... talks about choosing a bag, organizing yourself before the trip and how to roll your clothes to organize and maximize space in your bag.

In this post I'll tell you what I pack and anything I use to help make it work.

Here's my preferred bag. If you dislike bright colors please just look past that to what it is.

20"x11"x7" and weighs less than a pound
It's a Fairtrade bag from Africa and probably wouldn't hold up if I traveled every month. It certainly wouldn't do well if checked; however, it has worked well for vacations and weekends away. I like it because not only is it a good size, it's a back pack, and it is more vertical and thin than most. This means it fits in those sizing frames at the airport and the weight is evenly distributed instead of bottom heavy. It's very close in size to a roller bag, but because it doesn't have the wheel frame and it not only weighs ounces instead of pounds, it also holds more than a roller bag. Believe me, I've tested it.

Souvenirs: If you're traveling in your home country, you can make use of the local post office to send things home. I have found that it's often cheaper than checking a bag AND when you get the package in the mail at home it's like Christmas. If you're traveling internationally I suggest packing an empty duffel bag that you can check. That way it doesn't cost you on the way there, only on the way back. If you have purchased something fragile, put the dirty clothes in the checked duffel and the souvenir in your carry on.

What's on my International packing list? I'll list every thing but remember, I always adjust it according to my destination. So, the list is edited according to my plans and the weather. Remember, your list will be different in some ways because your needs are different.

I use a list app called Paperless. I've used it to create a check list of the things I have packed on trips over the years. When I need to create a packing list for a new trip I can quickly go through the checked items and uncheck what I will need. As I pack, I check things off and they move to the bottom. It's a list I can use over and over again.

General clothing: How many of each item I take depends on how many days we'll travel. I try to take enough to get me through several days with one or more laundry days. For example: For a trip of 10 days I'll probably take 5-6 outfits and do laundry once. I have done trips of that length with fewer outfits and an added laundry day, but it can be inconvenient depending on the circumstances. I take quick dry fabrics for everything rather than cotton since they dry faster and weigh less.

• socks
• underwear (Hanes Cool Comfort Microfiber for Women)
• warm layers: sweater (Something less bulky than sheep's wool and just as warm such as fleece, alpaca, silk, angora, or cashmere), long johns (Hot Chillys brand is great.)
• travel pants (No jeans for me. I like lightweight and preferably wrinkle free.)
• shirts (REI, Eddie Bauer, and Royal Robbins are my favorite brands)
• shoes: I always take two pairs so I can switch out and give my feet a rest. Since we walk a lot they have to be good walking shoes weather they're sandals or athletic shoes. NO high heels since they're practically useless for traveling for pleasure. Even for business I wear attractive but comfortable dressy shoes that are kind to my feet.

• A wrap: It's an all purpose accessory for the ladies. A scarf with a coat, a wrap for warmth, a way to dress up a more casual outfit, a head covering for cross-cultural situations that demand it...
• Cold weather: gloves, packable jacket, ankle warmers (short leg warmers), warm hat
• Warm weather: packable sun hat (My favorite is the Casual Traveler from Wallaroo Hat Company and has been all over the world with me), packable rain coat
• Appropriate footwear: warm walking shoes or boots, hiking shoes, walking sandals (I love my Tevas), lightweight walking shoe, whatever works best for your needs.

Toiletries 3-1-1 bag: I own a good quality 3-1-1 bag that I use over and over. I've also gathered the small sample sizes of items from hotels, emptied them, and refilled with my preferred products. These are generally smaller than the bottles you can get for this at drug stores or travel stores. I suggest filling bottles you have with product and use them at home for the same number of days you'll be traveling. This will help you figure out exactly how much of each you'll need and how small your bottles can be. I think you'll be surprised at how small you can go and how much space you'll save. Of course, if you're staying at a hotel that provides such things, you can used theirs instead of bringing your own.

• approved 3-1-1 bag
• shampoo
• face soap
• lotion
• toothpaste
• toner
• acne cream
• moisturizer
• sun screen
Ladies, consider make up options that don't have to go in your 3-1-1 bag. For instance, you might want to change to powdered products in place of liquid or cream versions.
Men, consider using a shaving soap bar and a brush instead of shaving cream or oils.

Toiletries Bag:
• comb
• toothbrush
• razor
• q-tips
• cotton balls
• powdered foundation and brush
• disposable face cloths with soap in them
• powder make up
• mascara
• lip salve
• tweezers
• soap slivers for hand washing when no restroom is available
• flat water bottle (I have an old Platypus that is flat when empty.)

Things for our health: My husband has a knack for catching a cold on vacation and so I always pack our tried and true treatments. It's also good to be prepared for a headache or the occasional small owie.
• 100% ginger tea bags (Traditional Medicinals)
• sugar free cough lozenges (Ricola)
• zink lozenges (Cold-Eeze)
• band-aids
• pain medication

Other stuff
• Journal kit (journal, pen, tape, eraser, pencil...)
• iPhone, cord, and plug
• wallet
• day bag/purse
• passport and photo copies (stored separately)
• plug convertor
• paperback book
• sunglasses
• toiletries
• basic jewelry (Don't take anything too flashy or valuable. You might even consider wearing a substitute wedding ring.)
• individual packs of powdered laundry detergent
• camping clothesline
• micro-cloth washcloth/hand towel
• printed copies of reservations and other papers

Hopefully these three posts will help you the next time you're anticipating a trip. If you think through it before hand, you're stress levels as you head out on your trip will be a lot lower making your travel experience so much more wonderful.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vacation Packing Part Two: Choosing a Bag, Organizing Yourself, and Rolling Things Up

In my previous post Vacation Packing Part One: Figuring Out What to Pack I talked about how to figure out what you need to take along on your trip and suggested ditching your roller bag for a bag that you carry. This post will cover choosing a travel bag/suitcase, pre-trip organization, and rolling your clothes to maximize space in  your bag as well as to organize your outfits.

Choosing a bag can be complicated.

I am a big believer in being able to schlep around your own bags. If you need help, you've probably got too much stuff and/or too much suitcase.

Have you ever tried to:
• drag a roller bag up several flights of stairs in an old hotel or bed and breakfast where there's no elevator,
• drag a roller bag down several flights of stairs to a hotel on the side of a cliff with a stunning view such as in Santorini,
• drag a roller bag or along 5 blocks of cobblestones in an old European city or village such as London or York,
• fit a roller bag into an overhead bin that was already full because everyone who boarded ahead of you took up all the space?

Believe me, a shoulder bag or backpack makes life simpler and easier. A bag with no wheel frame can weigh less, be easier to carry, and will often fit in the small slender spaces left between the roller bags in the overhead bin.

 When choosing a bag, make sure the one you choose will fit in the official airport carry-on bag sizer when fully packed.
• Recently it seems that they are being used to weed out the over-packers and those who like to bend the rules to suit themselves. Whoohoo!!!
• The general size rules have changed, so be sure and check for every flight and every airline you plan on using. Some are more strict than even the general rules and you may have to check your bag even if you're a light packer. So be prepared for that ahead of time.
• Just because you've been okay using the same bag for years, or had no trouble with it getting to your destination doesn't mean they will let it pass the next time. I've seen people have to check bags they'd been using as carry on for years because airline staff decided to check the actual size of the bag with the bag sizer.

Some of the bags out there that don't have wheels are still rather heavy. So, if you have to purchase a new bag, take a travel scale with you to weigh the prospects. Some bags are built so robust that they can weigh 2 or more pounds and that takes away from how much weight you can pack into it. Personally, I can deal with a total of about 12 pounds on my shoulder and up to 17 pounds if its a backpack. You might be able to handle more with no problems, but figure that out before you buy your bag.

Take your time to find one that is well made and as light as you can get it without compromising on quality. If you travel a lot or are going on long trips where you move constantly from place to place you'll need a more robust bag than if you are taking short trips and remain unpacked the whole time you're there.

Lots of pockets can help organize, but sometimes they just get in the way. So think carefully about what you need organized and what you don't. The main compartment probably doesn't need separations. You might want an outside pocket for your 3-1-1 bag, your electronics, your reading material, your glasses...anything you need to access quickly and easily while traveling.

Watch out for bags that get wider at the base when fully packed. That could disqualify the bag from being a carry on if the airline decides to get picky.

Organizing yourself before the trip.

A couple of things that I do in anticipation of a trip is a to do list, a packing list, and a gathering box.
The to do list is to help you remember to do those things that a successful trip depends on. For example: purchase something you need and don't have, stop the mail, arrange a pet sitter... It seems obvious, but you'd really be upset if you found yourself frantically calling a friend from the airport and asking them to break into your house in order to feed the cat.
The packing list is to help you plan ahead so you only take what you need. If you wait and just start to plan your packing when you are packing the night before you'll take too much or discover you're missing something important. I have found a list app for my iPhone called Paperless. It lets you create check lists that you can keep. I have created one for international travel and one for domestic travel where I have entered all the things I have taken on those kinds of trips in the past. When I'm ready to prepare for a new trip, I can go through and select the things I'll need on my upcoming trip. As I learn more about my destination and plans I can refine it and so, when I'm packing the night before my flight, I just pull up my list and check things off as I go. It's made creating a packing list so much easier since I'm not starting from scratch every time.
The gathering box is for all the guidebooks, printed reservation information, special travel items, passports, visas, plug adaptors...that stuff that needs a place to live until your trip. I've found I do best with a box and it lives someplace easily accessed. It's usually a shoe box or a 9"x12"x5" box with a lid.

Rolling things up to organize your clothes and maximize space.

Organize your clothes by rolling up everything for one day together. I have found that when done neatly, this method can minimize wrinkles.

1. Lay out a shirt with everything alined properly. Fold it neatly in half longways so there are no wrinkles or bunching. Fold over the sleeves in straight line with the edge of the shirt. If you have long sleeves, fold them over one more time.

2. Lay out your underthings and socks neatly and flat in the upper half near the sleeves. Starting at the neck, roll up your shirt around your underthings making sure everything stays neat and flat. Now you have everything you need for one day, except your bottoms, in one neat package. An option is to place the added things near the middle of the shirt, fold the shirt in half and roll from the fold.

3. Roll pants/skirts up separately. You'll have fewer of these and will probably wear them with more than one shirt.

• Don't forget that you can put things inside your shoes. Jewelry, converters, cords, and any other small loose thing.
• Less is more. Unless you're working while you're traveling you probably don't need a computer. I usually don't even take a tablet since it's extra weight . I'm a voracious reader, but when I'm on vacation I try to spend more time talking to people and experiencing things rather than reading. For those times I want to read I take a paper back. It weighs less and when I'm done I can leave it wherever I'm at. If I need another one it's usually very easy to purchase something locally.

In the next post I'll talk more specifically about how and what I pack for my trips. Although I'll focus on what I pack as a woman, I'll add any tips I can for the men as well since my husband has a few to share.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Vacation Packing Part One: Figuring Out What to Pack

I've been traveling the world since I was 6 years old so I have some experience with packing. I've been packing my own suitcase since I was 9 and I've learned how to manage packing for all sorts of transportation, trip lengths, and locations.

In my trolling through the internet I've found a lot of people have posts about how and what to pack. I've yet to find one I agree with entirely so I thought I'd add my voice to theirs. I encountered a problem when writing this post however. My voice is a lot longer than most. LOL! So I'm doing a series. Bear with me. I'm a little passionate on this subject. This one is about figuring out what to pack.

Of course, how you pack needs to be appropriate to your personality and to your trip. You are going to pack quite differently depending on whether you're in your 20s or in your 40s. You're also going going to pack differently depending on whether you're back packing or going to a resort, going to Europe or going to Africa.

My first advise is to carefully consider what is appropriate and what is needed for your trip. 

Most people play the "what if" game about what they might need. By considering what is appropriate and what is needed you'll help alleviate that. You can find out what is appropriate by doing some research into what is appropriate apparel for your destination, what kind of transportation you will have, what experiences you have planned, etc.
 • Appropriate apparel for your destination: Look at what people are wearing in those destinations, use travel guides to assist you if needed. Your travel experience will be richer if you respect those norms. If you don't you could attract unwanted attention or be barred from going places you had planned on seeing and experiencing. While this tends to be more true for women, it doesn't exclude men. What we perceive as normal can be disrespectful or even frightening to other cultures. Normal can even be different from place to place in the same country. Believe it or not, what works in New York isn't necessarily going to work in Denver, or Seattle.
Type of Transportation: Think about comfort and health. You might look good in high heels but your feet will rebel if you do too much walking in them. If you're sitting on a bus all day, tight clothes might start to become constraining and claustrophobic. If you're hiking mountains or hanging from zip lines through a jungle, baggy clothes could get in the way.
Types of Experiences: Will it be cold, will you be inside or outside, will it be sunny or overcast, will you be visiting rural areas or holy places, will it be hot during the day and chilly at night...? Make a list and figure out what those experiences will require.

My second advise is to pack as lightly as is reasonable. When I say "lightly" I mean both weight and quantity of the contents.

•  Plan outfits that mix and match so that you can have a new outfit everyday without packing a separate outfit for every day. If you choose a color scheme (like blues and greens) its easier to do.
Choose fabrics that aren't too bulky but do the job. If you need a warm sweater, sheep's wool can be very bulky, but you can get the same amount of warmth in a lighter garment in other fibers such as angora, alpaca, or cashmere.
Plan to do or hire laundry. Yes, it's okay to do laundry on vacation. Some hotels will have laundry service for a price and you can plan that into your budget. If you can't afford the money, take some powdered laundry soap to do it in the sink. If you do that, you might want to also include a camping style clothes line. Pick fabrics that will dry quickly...not cotton, and plan for time in the day to do it.

Finally: Pack everything compactly in the smallest bag possible.

Carefully roll up your clothes. I see a lot of people advocating for packing cubes and I think they're a waste of money and space in your suitcase. The reason people like them is for organizational reasons but you can organize just as well by rolling your clothes. I'll explain in more detail in my second post.
Unless you have back problems I recommend ditching the roller bag. I discovered several years ago that the frame for a roller bag takes up so much space that I could pack more in a lighter bag to be carried. By getting rid of the roller bag I cut down on weight, size, and added an incredible amount of flexibility. There are so many reasons why a roller bag is a bad idea, but I'll talk more about this in my second post. The ultimate bonus is when you amaze people who see you traveling with ease because you have everything you need but it's not weighing you down or getting in the way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Most Important People In My LIfe: Thankful!

One thing I have learned and begun to think a lot about is who the most important people in my life are.

My family!

I've always known it deep down, but now I'm really focusing on it as a way to move into my future.

My immediate family get a long really well and always have. We've always been there for each other and even our spouses fit in really well. I wouldn't be who and where I am without them. We REALLY love each other. How many people can say that?

Even a lot of my extended family can be included in that family circle of importance. Aunts, uncles, and cousins who have all loved me and allowed me to love them in our unique ways.

My family has never insisted I be anyone but who I am and who I was made to be. They never undervalued who I am or tried to push me into becoming something else.

Something even more wonderful? I see that legacy of love being carried down to the next generation.

For all of that, I'm very, very grateful.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Rediscovering My Style

A part of my "recovery" from a job that took everything from me leaving nothing has been rediscovering and growing my own style in a lot of ways.

One area I've been having fun with can fall into the category of illustration. As a fiber artist who crochets, knits, weaves, spins, and dyes I can't help but appreciate some of the puns in the English language that are direct descendants of those areas of industry.

Soooo...I decided to design some t-shirts. I've been wanting to do it for a long time and having finally found a subject matter (fiber arts) to inspire me, I had to figure out how to express it.

First, I had to take a look back at things I did a long time ago that I still like and feel a kinship to as an artist. What I found were the black and white works of art that were either drawn with pen and ink or cut from a wood or linoleum block and printed.

Second, I took a look at the tools available to me now. I LOVE drawing on my iPad when it's something that needs to be on my computer later. I use a wonderful app called ProCreate and a stylus to draw whatever I want. It uses layers which are really handy and offers all types of "tools" like markers, paint, pencils. All virtual of course, but they work really well.

Third, I started writing down all the fun fiber puns I could think of. I want to illustrate the fiber meaning while tapping into the mainstream usage. For example: "I spin a good yarn." It's illustrated with a drop spindle and yarn hank but in mainstream language it means that you tell a good story. Doing it this way makes it kind of an inside joke for spinners.

Fourth, I got on my iPad and started drawing the illustrations. It's just as time consuming as drawing with pen and ink, but when I'm done I can just send it over to my computer where I upload it into Illustrator for the typography to be added.

Fifth,....typography. There's something else I haven't done in a long time. For now I think simplicity is the best option.

Sixth, as they're done they'll be posted in my Zazzle store. I'm not advertising it much yet because that brings up a whole new set of things to work on. Like writing descriptions...yuck!
For now, it is what it is and you can check it out even though it's not "ready."

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Painting Epiphany

In my last post I told you about healing, getting my creativity back, and my resolve to reclaim my personal creative voice this year.

In the middle of February I had a lunch meet with an old work friend. She quit not long after I did. As we chatted about where we were both at I told her about how I had struggled to spend time in my studio and that I hadn't made a finished, ready for the wall, work of art in YEARS.

That conversation must have shook something loose because that night, as I was falling asleep, I suddenly had an epiphany. A painting I needed to do. I went to sleep resolved to locate all my painting stuff in the morning.

When I woke the next morning I was fearful. I was afraid that I couldn't do it, that I wouldn't be able to translate what I saw in my mind to the canvas. I had failed so many times before that it was not an unreasonable fear. I sent up an urgent prayer, "Please let me have this one."

I went down to my studio and pulled out my portable easel, a watercolor board I've had for years, gesso from my art journaling tote, the jar of brushes, and went upstairs to the kitchen and sunshine. I opened up the easel, mounted the watercolor board, and gessoed it with a couple of coats.

While that dried, I pulled out the oil paints. I couldn't open any of them with my hands, but they still seemed soft in the tubes, so I visited the garage and used a pliers to tease all but one of them open. The one that wouldn't ended in the trash. It wasn't worth worrying about. I had momentum and needed to maintain it.

I couldn't locate the solvent and so I sat down at my computer and located images in my photo files that would help me with my painting, 2 photos my Dad took in the early 1970s and one I took in 2009. They were images of the valley where we lived from the time I was 6 to when I was 10. Four years that I call home.

As soon as the board was dry I sketched the image I wanted onto the gessoed surface. It's an image of something I spent a lot of time looking at. It's what you see if you stand at the edge of the yard of our old house, looking out into the valley. You can see for hundreds of miles of rolling hills on a clear day. The main road into the valley is on the right. Today it's paved but when we lived there it was just the native red dirt. In the center of the valley is the airstrip and I have put the single prop engine airplane at the far end of it, about to land. The road and the airstrip represent the two main forms of transportation out of the valley.

After I got done sketching I took up the hunt for the solvent again, finding it. So I quickly roughed in the image with color.

So far it seems that I'm going to be allowed to have this painting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Getting Back to Making Art

Since I quit my job in January of 2013 I've been healing. I was left physically, mentally, and emotionally ill to the point that I sincerely believe that if I had stayed much longer I would have ended up in the hospital.

But, I didn't and I've spent the time since healing in a very deliberate sort of way, trying to listen to what my body, my heart, and my mind needed to become whole again. I've had so much help and support in this from my Honey and I feel like I'm almost there.

I haven't shared much of what I've been dealing with except with those closest to me. I have shared bits and pieces with friends and family, just to let them know how I am because they care. Being too needy is a good way to destroy relationships.

One thing that happened at that old job was that I felt my creativity was prostituted, even stolen, for someone else's agenda leaving nothing left for me. What I offered was also often treated as cheap and only as valuable as they decided it was. I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase "You're really creative, but..." I hung on to the scraps that were left, but nurturing one's personal creativity back to health is a grieving process as well as kind of like nurturing my body back to health. It can't be rushed. It takes as long as it takes.

• I continued doing my crochet and even found I was again able to do the work to publish the designs last fall. Doing handwork like crochet and yarn spinning was therapeutic and one of the ways I was able hang onto the scraps of my creativity that were left. Getting back to publishing was a sign that my brain could once again handle more complex tasks.

• I took classes to help revive my creative spirit and did a little art journaling. The journaling was helpful although I'm not really that kind of artist. I was able to use it occasionally to assess where I was at. It could be very revealing and I valued that. One thing that kept coming up that I couldn't figure out was that I had clearly "lost my voice." I needed to figure out how to find my own voice again.

• I decided this January that my word for the year is "Reclamation." I'm finally well enough to reclaim ownership of my creative voice, all the way through from design to art. Look out, here I come!!