Thinking About Packing…

Guide books, travel blogs, and YouTube videos will devote a large portion of their energy to a subject that brings many pre-world travellers stress and, dare I say, TERROR!

WHAT DO WE PACK?!?!

What is the right bag? Do I need clothes with special wicking fabric? Should I roll or fold? Do I need packing cubes? What tech doodads do I need? And on and on…

JBot and I have always kept the Rick Steves mantra “pack light, pack light, pack light” in mind in all of our previous trips. And we plan on doing the same again. Everyone gets a bag (carry-on sized), a few days of clothes, and… that’s pretty much it. It is not really a source of stress for us.

The one big item that JBot researched was cameras. Buying a new camera just didn’t make sense. Neither of us has photography training. I really don’t like the idea of having a large and expensive bulky item that flashes with similar fashion to a neon sign: STEAL ME. We both also prefer living in the moment and grabbing quick shots. Therefore, we decided to upgrade our cellphones. JBot found that the camera quality on a Google Pixel 3a was pretty much equivalent to a fancy camera as well, cool! The cloud aspect will be helpful to keep an extra backup of all our photos. He also purchased a two year warranty which will be a good safety net during travel. And for some of us who are a bit dropsy when it comes to cell phones. Ahem.

However, the big reason for wanting to post was to share this video from Lefie. She has a YouTube account in which she talks about the philosophy of minimalism. Her challenge of “what’s the worse that can happen, you will feel slight discomfort?” is an essential question. Especially for us pampered Westerners.

Country Profiles: New Zealand

Photo credit: 2il org/Flickr

Glow worms!

Hobbits!

The How-to-Dad guy!

Suffice to say, we are VERY excited about travelling to New Zealand. It is our second most anticipated place, after Japan. Unfortunately, like Japan, it is also a very expensive place to visit. We will try to do our best to plan well and to have a great time without breaking our budget.

We will be arriving after Mexico City. Most likely flying from LA, unless the situation in Chile improves we switch back to our original route. We have gone back and forth many, many, MANY, times with how to get to New Zealand. We even considered a re-positioning cruise ship! The Pacific Ocean is just too dang big and there is just no easy and quick way to get across.

The number one goal for our trip to NZ is to celebrate our son’s birthday. As per his request, we will be visiting the Hobbiton movie set. It looks really cool!

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States

Visa: Not required

Vaccines: Yellow Fever

Currency: NZD (0.88 CDN) as of 2019 07 02

Other Requirements: Onward ticket with visa. NZ$1,000/month

THINGS TO READ:

PHRASES TO KNOW:

  • Rattle ya dags! | Hurry up!
  • Just popping to the dairy. | I’m going to the convenience store.
  • I’m knackered. | I’m tired.
  • Wop-wops. | Middle of nowhere.
  • Get your A into G! | Rattle ya dags! (Get your arse into gear)
  • Pakeha | Fair-skinned.
  • It was choice, bro! | It was good.
  • Kia ora | Be well.
  • Yeah-nah | No thank you.

STUFF TO SEE:

(Source)

PLACES TO EAT:

FREE OR UNDER $10: (https://www.aucklandnz.com/visit/events)

  • Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery
  • Hiking (Mt. Eden, tallest volcano, or Cornwall Park/One Tree Hill, large Maori settlement)
  • Beaches (Muriwai Beach)
  • Ferry to Devenport, explore North Head (1800s fort)
  • Ferry to Rangitoto Island, climb the summit (1 hour)
  • Goat Island & Ambury Regional Park (day trip, glass bottom boat/kayaks or snorkelling)
  • Manukau Heads Lighthouse (free, donation accepted)

WHERE TO SLEEP:

Is traveling to South America a safe option?

The end of September saw protests begin in Santiago, Chile.

Santiago or Buenos Aires are the only two options for flying from South America to New Zealand.

If civil unrest continues, we may need to change our route and fly via the US.

Waiting and watching.

One million march to protest inequality, October 25, 2019 (via Santiago Times)

Amnesty link

Why is our daughter so excited about Mexico?

It could be the Mexican wrestling.

It could be tacos.

But, no. Its Los Espookys.

JBot read the subtitles out loud to her for the WHOLE SHOW (he glazed over the few swear words). It is funny and cute and cool. Check it out!

Country Profiles: Mexico

Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s map of Tenochtitlán (1556)

Now that we are a year away from the start of our trip, let’s start getting some of our research organized and up on the blog. We will be visiting roughly twenty countries throughout the world. There are a lot of details to understand regarding the logistics of getting to these places, what to do, and where to stay. Here’s how we are organizing each country’s profile:

  1. We start by looking at the travel advisories from Global Affairs Canada and the US State Department.
  2. Are any visas required?
  3. Are there special vaccinations required?
  4. What is the country’s currency and how does it compare to Canadian dollars?
  5. Are there any other special requirements for entering or exiting the country?
  6. Next, we collected a list of books, films, or music for each country to give a quick snapshot of the culture.
  7. Each country profile has a list of phrases that are useful to know.
  8. Then, we made a list of a) places to see, b) places to eat at, and c) places that are free or under $10 to see. These aren’t exhaustive lists, most have about five items. If a country has a certain attraction that requires early reservations, Studio Ghibli in Japan for example, this is noted.
  9. The last item lists possible places for sleeping.
  10. In addition, JBot created a binder of country profile information for the kids that uses CultureGrams. It may be available at public libraries? These CultureGrams provide useful timelines, an understandable summary of history, and general snapshots of modern culture.

Country Profile: México

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States (FYI, the travel advisories are severe for México. However, we are only visiting México City and are avoiding problem areas.)

Visa: Not required

Vaccines: Yellow Fever (Similar to malaria or dengue as it is spread via mosquitoes. A certificate to show you have been vaccinated will suffice. I always thought the name came from the Yellow River for some reason… It refers to the jaundice symptoms. Info on where to get shots in Canada are found here.)

Currency: 1 CAD = 15.0282 MXN peso (08.25)

Other Requirements: Obtain a tourist card upon arrival

THINGS TO READ:

PHRASES TO KNOW:

  • Disculpe – excuse me
  • Es una piña! – Literally “it is a pineapple” but it means “it’s a joke!”
  • Felipe y con tenis – “Felipe and with tennis” means happy and content
  • Voy a perseguir la chuleta – “I’m going to chase the cutlet” means I have to go to work but I don’t want to…
Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954)

STUFF TO SEE:

  • Mexican Wrestling at Arena México
  • Frida Kahlo Museum
  • México City Historic Centre – Unesco World Hertiage site includes the Zócalo (Aztec city centre, large square or plaza in colonial times). There is an archaeology site for the Aztec centre of the world (Templo Mayor), MUNAL (national art museum), the presidential palace, a cathedral, and a really, really big flag. The Palacio de Bellas Artes (iconic), the Museum of the City of Mexico, markets, and tons of other museums and palaces are close by as well.
  • Bosque de Chapultepec – huge park with a Castillo of the Spanish viceroy, the children’s museum. The really fantastic looking anthropology museum is close by as well.
  • Museo Jumex is a funky looking modern art museum in the Polanco neighbourhood.
  • Teōtīhuacān – you can take public transit!! Visit the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun by walking the Avenue of the Dead.

FREE OR UNDER $10:

  • Palacio Nacional – The office of the president, great Diego Rivera mural about the history of Mexico.
  • The Sears building has a cafeteria on the 7th floor that gives a great view of Palacio de Bellas Artes.
  • Free walking tour

PLACES TO EAT:

  • Mercado San Juan – Market in the city centre where you can eat chapulines (deep-fried grasshoppers in a taco) and escamoles (ant eggs)
  • In what I am guessing will be a trip-long trend, there is a Starbucks about three blocks from Templo Mayor
  • Lalo! – funky cafe, pizza, burgers, COFFEE
  • Taqueria Orinoco – dude, tacos.

PLACES TO SLEEP:

  • Gran Hotel Ciudad de México – too expensive but the interior is gorgeous! (Set for the James Bond’s film Spectre)
  • Hampton Inn and Suites México City Centro Historico – perfect location (2Q $118 USD 09.12)
  • Hotel Diligencias – They have a family room, $550 CND for the week, great location
  • Puntu DF – hostel that supports local arts. They have private rooms (with bath) that sleep two in a queen. $962 MXN per night ($66 CND)
  • Casa Eufemia – Hostel, we may be able to rent a 4 bed room. Cost for one bed is about $20 CND a night. Great location. They don’t have their own website though?
  • Hostal Regina – has a private loft room with 4 beds, however they are a party focused hostel, probably too loud. $1100 – 1300 MXN ($75 to 90 CND)
  • Hostal Suites DF – private room with 2 singles $740 MXN ($50 CND). A private bath as well.

12 More Months!

We’re at that phase of summer vacation where “back to school” starts to put the pressure on. One last trip to the beach, one last visit or road trip, one last lazy day before the hustle and bustle of school.

This school year will be different though. I have a feeling that our sense of excitement for the trip will be ramping up. There may be a lot of “hurry up and get here already!” sentiments. Pressure about route planning, to-do lists, and logistics will also be ramping up as well.

This weekend we spent a lot of time looking at the trip and trying to finalize our route. I think we may finally have an optimal plan. Fingers crossed!

Our major “tent poles” haven’t changed. Visiting Japan, for example, will never come off our route. But we have gone back and forth over the first leg of our trip several times. Several, several, several times! ^_^

Here are some of the tools that we use to help make decisions:

Budget Your Trip – This site allows you to look up a destination and see the daily cost of living, average housing, food, transportation, and entertainment costs. We used the feature that shows the values in Canadian dollars and then used those numbers to make our own spreadsheet. That way we could see if we were on target for our total trip budget.

Numbeo – Another useful site to get an overall sense of the cost of living in each destination. We used the comparison feature to compare with our home city.

Flight Connections – This site is really helpful. Search for a city and then see a visual of what places the airport flies to and at what frequency. Click on a route and see a typical flight duration. Does Cairns, Australia have flights to Alice Springs, Singapore, or Tokyo for example?

Google Flights – The map is not as intuitive as Flight Connections, but the general prices for a given month help to quickly compare flight itineraries to see what might be faster and/or cheaper.

Skyscanner – We used this to get a overall sense of the price of airfare.

AirWander – This is useful tool to find stopovers that are worth checking out, or if you’ve made an optimal route. For example, Muscat, Oman to Cairo, Egypt shows several cities (like Amman, Jordan) as potential stopovers that would actually make the trip cheaper. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth checking out.

We look at travel blogs and YouTube accounts with skeptical eyes as many of them are sponsored. However, Lonely Planet and Expedia have some YouTube videos that give a nice and quick overview of different destinations. This was helpful for getting feedback from the kids.

Okay, drum roll please, here is our current plan for our round the world trip:

Canada > Mexico City > Lima, Peru > Buenos Aires, Argentina > Auckland, New Zealand > Sydney, Australia > Alice Springs, Australia > Cairns, Australia > Tokyo, Japan > Seoul, South Korea > Singapore / Kuala Lumpur > Bangkok, Thailand > Katmandu, Nepal > Muscat, Oman > Amman, Jordan > Cairo, Egypt > Athens, Greece > Rome, Italy > Munich, Germany > Paris, France > London, UK > Back Home!

Should take about 190 days ^_^

How To Save Our Planet

Excellent short from WWF narrated by Sir David Attenborough (via Kottke)

(Definition of environmental justice – the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens, the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental justice is an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution.)

There are so many new electric cars driving around Ottawa recently! I mean, hey, the provincial government cancelled a plan to plant 50 million trees and vaguely stated “something’s going on” when commenting on record flood levels in Ottawa but the citizens seem to be shifting towards action.

16 Months To Go

April has sped by like a Shinkansen. Let’s check-in, shall we?

  • We had our initial meeting with our new lawyer. We’re finalizing our new wills later this week.
  • We got our new credit card in the mail (1.5% cash-back on international purchases).
  • Sadly removed Sri Lanka from our wish list due to the Easter bombings.
  • We talked with the oldest kid’s school about the school board’s “Reach Ahead” program so that he can start grade 9 online courses in grade 8. We really liked the sound of the online courses TVO / ILC provides. The first talk with the guidance counselor ended with a “no.” We’re hoping to meet with the principal later? If it doesn’t work out we may just homeschool over the grade 8 year and do it ourselves. Hack your education!
  • I really enjoyed this video from Max Joseph about how to read more books in your lifetime. Lots of sweet bookstore eye candy here!
  • I am also very excited about this Fug Girl’s Guide to London.
 Livraria Lello, bookstore in Portugal.
Livraria Lello in Portugal. One of the “top bookstores” in the world and a famous writing location / inspiration for JK Rowling.

Dangers of Ocean Travel

We had seriously considered crossing the Pacific by ship but ended up changing our route. Man, am I sooo glad we did!

I was watching Youtube with the boy the other day and sat through the following while experiencing absolute terror.

Oh my heavens, rogue waves are bloody terrifying!

Checklist check-in

We are one and a half school years away from our trip (I like to think of it in terms of grade school years, helps to keep things orderly).

We are trying to knock some of the easy stuff on our checklist out of the way this season:

  • Finalize spreadsheet of home budget and travel budgets.
  • Switch any lingering bills to paperless billing.
  • Update wills.
  • Apply for travel friendly credit cards. No extra fees for us!
  • Transfer some of our savings to our US bank account, save Canadian $ from further rate drop.
  • We were going to get a 52-page passport but they actually don’t make those anymore. We looked into where the different Canadian embassies are around the world. It shouldn’t be a problem to get new ones when start to run out of pages. Some places might be quite pleasant to wait for the passport to arrive!
  • JBot has been backing up our back-ups and doing things with our cloud that I don’t understand ^_^ I think the idea is to move to a VPS (virtual private server).
  • The kids have been doing skating lessons this winter. We’ll continue swim lessons when the weather warms up.

And that’s pretty much it for this year. Some things just need to wait until we are closer to departure. Vaccines, visas, travel insurance, and a good-bye party won’t happen until 2020.

Until then, we’ll keep reviewing our destination plans and dreaming of THE YEAR OF NO WINTER! WOOOOO!

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