Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quote-worthy Musings

I stumbled upon this cool quote today:

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I've ended up where I needed to be." -Douglas Adams

Well Douglas Adams rocks of course, hands down. Also, it relates to my thinking recently.

   Something about me: I love planning. Especially travel. From the past trips I've been on, I'm always right on top of the planning. Back when I was 12 my dad won a plane ticket to Japan, and he bought another one so we could go there together as a "field trip." This is why being unschooled is so awesome by the way. So my dad lets me figure out all the sites to see, the best way to get around, the areas we're going to...from what I remember, pretty much everything. (That's good experience and practice!) I even learned a few characters of Japanese. (When we got the immigration forms on the plane I was like oh my god I know what that word is!)

   Since then, and before that at age 9 in London, I'm mostly in charge of the planning. It might also have a little bit to do with some OCDness, but mostly I just can't wait to write down pages of info for my next big adventure. I'm getting to something, don't worry:


   I've finally accepted that. It's HARD. But the more I read about these kind of trips and people's experiences, and realize what I want it to mean to me...the more I come to terms with the fact that once I get there, who knows what the hell will happen. And don't read into that badly. My story isn't going to become Taken 3. It's just, as much as I look up every single possible city and plan a route this way and that to the exact day, I know I will have about 200 times more fun if I let things go. So that's what I'm doing. The nature of this trip is unlike anything I've done before, so my mindset just had to adapt.

   Who knows, maybe Tessa and I will end up staying a month in Romania volunteering at some animal shelter for abused and neglected dragons? If that did happen by the way, I'd probably be sworn to secrecy and for the good of the creatures, you wouldn't hear about it on here.

And I'll leave you with another fabulous quote from one of my favorite books:

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go..." -Dr. Seuss

It's now December, seven months till departure!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Nifty Thrifty Avenues

Clothes! Especially in Europe, clothes are a big thing. Read: SCARVES.

Well obviously we haven't been looking at scarves, because we're looking at more practical, lightweight jackets for now to protect us from the elements...and also, it'll be June. Temperatures range from between 40-80 degrees Fahrenheit for where we're going. (well, maybe room for one, ultra-light-easily-washable-neutral-colored scarf.)

This week was the first time we've taken a look at clothes seriously for the trip (well, I'll speak for myself) and Tessa made a list. The question is how many "outfits" of clothes are necessary for a four-month-long trip with only a backpack to fit it all in. I've been guestimating a week's worth all together, but it's more complicated than that, I'm finding. Also: there are some key points to look for in backpacking clothes (in my experienced three hours of browsing eBay for them):

  • Quick drying--for an overnight hostel stay, washing out your shirt in a sink is easy and effective, but packing it back up the soaking wet the next morning is not desirable. Especially since we'll be moving around a lot, packing up and repacking up, again and again.
  • Light-weight--that's a huge factor. Our backpacks can only be like 22 pounds or so, and half of that (hopefully less) will be of clothes. We'll probably get tired of what we're wearing pretty quickly, so the more the selection we can squeeze in there, the better. This will be hard for the one or two jackets/sweaters we have to bring, but those can be worn or bungee(ed) on top too, possibly.
  • Unwrinkles--not as important, but I, personally, don't care to look like I've been living out of a backpack, even though I will be. There are some great skirt designs especially made to not wrinkle, but still small and durable enough to pack well. I haven't looked into any specifically yet.

To give you an idea of what we did tonight with some jackets/hoodies/windbreakers...(for the cooler portions of our trip. Russia possibly, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. Also, who knows when it'll rain?

Patagonia, Ex Officio, and REI. These are the brands we are looking for. eBay has become an incredibly important place to look because people sell their expensive clothes once worn! It's pretty crazy, but true. Because these are still "brand-name" clothes, albeit of a different kind, a pair of lightweight-quickdry underwear can still run from $20-$30. But on eBay, there's many for under $10 (NEW, don't worry.) Still pricey, but they're meant for what we're doing/using them for, so we'd get three worthy pairs, for the price of one.

Also, thrift stores! I get most of my clothes from Goodwill and it's friends. If you know how to look, there are treasures to be found! Tessa has found a bunch of wool socks (important for our HTH section of the trip in Iceland and Norway) in bins of mix-matching randomness sock-boxes at her local thrift store. So instead of spending $40 in three good pairs of necessary socks, she spends $1.75. I told her to grab a few pairs for me, next time they appear. Phoenix doesn't really have more than a bunch of swimsuits in the winter. Wool? What's that?

Besides surfing eBay, I'll definitely be checking Goodwill more often because there's always something potential useful there! In the past, I've gotten a pair of great recycled-tire tennis shoes for $1. Jeans that fit perfectly and still with the tag on saying $120 for...$10. Now that I'm looking for long-sleeves and such, I'm sure I'll come across something! Oh wait, still warm Arizona....perhaps a road trip is in order. Or a phone call to Tessa.

Adios for now,


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Uplifting News

   Punny! I swear I didn't try to do that. ...Alright, I spent five minutes thinking of a catchy title.

 The biggest expense of the whole trip, is the initial ticket to actually get us to Europe and there's always the option of a cargo ship but...I prefer planes. I'm not quite that adventurous. Yet. Though, my penpal, Katharina, has told me she's considering charting a plane across Russia to get here via Alaska. She has guts, man. I wouldn't try that unless I had my sabre with me! And, possibly, spoke Russian.

   Right. So I asked my dad to look into getting wholesale tickets for us. Beacuse he's an awesome travel agent and "knows people" and he gave me some good news!

   Tessa and I are going to use what are called "open jaw" airline tickets. I've recently learned about them, and they're pretty wicked; exactly what we need. Here's the route I'd take using Delta (the cheapest) Air...Well, first I'd have to get a ticket from Phoenix to NY, because I'm flying there early for a national book conference a few days before. (I know, right? It's a BOOK conference. And as a blogger, I get a freakin' media ticket. Very neat. :)) Tessa is meeting me in New York, from Seattle.

   I just realized I don't actually remember my actual route...oops. So, here's Tessa's would-be itinerary:
(flying in from Seattle on another ticket) On Icelandic Airlines: New York--Reykjavik--London--(travel for four months with moi! Then make our way back to...)--London--Seattle.

   It's cheaper to do this than a single round trip, or one-way in two different cities. Because she's leaving from New York, but coming back to Seattle. Make sense? And it's called an open jaw ticket, because if you look at a map, it's like a big ">" see? Now you're getting it. My route would be similar. Not sure if we'd be able to get on the same flights though, because coming from Phoenix, I'd use Delta, and she'd be on Icelandic...but we have a couple months to figure it out!

   The ticket cost is about $300 less than we'd looked at before, so that's encouraging. Still over a thousand, but every dollar counts. This is good news, and we are happy. Now, for luggage restrictions...gotta look those up, especially for small airlines within Europe. But that's a project for another day.

   I have a feeling I'll be saying that a lot.


  Post Script: I hope that wasn't all too dry to read. Learning all this stuff and especially new travel terms is fun to me. :)
And speaking of, I love how while researching all this, I'm avidly watching Lost on Netflix...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What I'll be posting.

My first post! Greetings subscribers.

   I have made this blog to keep everyone up to date about what I'll be doing/seeing/visiting along my European travels. But since Brilliant Tessa and I don't leave until June, eight months away, I will keep whoever's interested updated on our planning, scheming, and other interesting travel related things between now and then.

   First, thank you to my brother. He spent the entire morning writing the code and manually, um, weaving...the RSS feed through his site? I can have email subscribers! I'm not really sure what he did, but it looked complicated all the same. Anyway, it *should* work.

   Right now, Brilliant Tessa is figuring out a day by day expense sheet, breaking costs down by each country. This includes looking up train schedules, estimating the expensiveness of the country, and looking into any personal contacts either of us may have there, in case we can stay with them. (Instead of hostels or couch surfing.) Lots of work considering we change our minds about a place every few days or so. Yeah, we're getting there.

   For the most part, with this extremely rough estimate and not even including exchange rates, it's about $400 (each person) a country. That's four night's stay, meals, transportation to get there/while there, possible museum passes, etc. This adds up quickly considering we're at...15 countries now? Anyway, once we get this done, planning our actual dates of travel (week to week) will be easier.

Example chart:
St. Petersburg & Moscow
Snacks for bus $5
Bus from Tallinn to St. Petersburg $20
Hostel in St. Petersburg 3 nights (Babushka House-six bed dorm) $42
Snacks for train $10
St Petersburg to Moscow train $45
Hostel in Moscow 3 nights (2 bed private room) $75
Food, Activities, Transportation in St Petersburg & Moscow $90
Dine out in St. Pet and Moscow $30
total $317

   For a few weeks near the end of the trip, we will make our way to Norway and Iceland. These are the coldest places, and also where we will be doing our 'hut-to-hut' traveling. (What is HTH?) These are located in the high-above mountains. We stay in hostels day to day and hike in between them to get to the next one. They say it gets to/below freezing even in midsummer, so I am working right now on getting a good packable but insulated sleeping bag. My amazing hiking boots came in the mail recently, and I'm super excited to try those out! The weather here is finally cooling off enough to start taking hikes, so I will break them in soon. I'll definitely need them over there.

   Also, today a friend of mine gave me an address for their friend in Paris. Now I'm going to go write a letter to her, and ask if she has room to host us for a few days next June! Maybe I'll try a little bit of my rusty French...or consult my good friend, Google Translate.

In case you're wondering:
   The temporary background to the blog is a picture I took in Melk, Austria last year. It's this beautiful little village located along the Danube. The village has pretty much one single attraction, Melk Abbey. I took the picture from one of the balconies of the Abbey, looking out at the oncoming storm over the village. The sun was setting, and it was absolutely breathtaking. And since it's below freezing in December, I could actually see my breath being taken away in little white puffs.

Until next time!