Archive for the ‘travel tips’ Tag

Stuffing shyt into a suitcase

 

 

Packing may cause a cute headache... awww

Packing may cause a cute headache... awww

Random Observation/Comment #139: For this Euro-trip, I’ve been planning my necessities since October.  My list on the exact set of clothes and underwear I’ll be bringing has not changed in quite some time.  This being said, I’ve started wearing the “less favored” clothes (including underwear) these past 4 months.  These adjustments to my fashion-sense have brought me closer to my wardrobe (haha – no homo).

 

I love packing.  I personally enjoy the reassurance that everything I planned on bringing is included when I can keep the checklist continuously updated.  Depending on the trip, I will either act like Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets” or wait until the last hour to stuff things into any suitcase.  The latter technique is used when packing short trips to familiar places like Vermont or Pennsylvania.  The former will be activated for this trip.

Everyone has been suggesting that I pack lightly, but unfortunately, I will be traveling through the freezing cold, moderate cold, lukewarm, and scorching hot temperatures.  The solution that made the most sense for me was to wear layers.  I’ll bring thin, long-sleeve shirts and just wear the short-sleeves under it while I’m traveling when it’s cold.  Thin shirts will fit into my luggage in the “rolling packing technique” and I expect to optimize my luggage space.  T-shirts should be cheaper in price, so even if I don’t pack too many, I will be able to purchase some during the summer.  I’m sure most of the time in Spain will be skins, anyway.

The following is my packing list for approximately 2 weeks-ish (keep layered)

  • Clothes:
    • Jeans – 5 pairs
    • T-Shirts – 9
    • Long sleeve – 6
    • Long sleeve over – 2
    • Sweater – 1
    • Jackets – 2
    • Socks – 10 pairs
    • Boxers – 10 pairs
    • Button up Shirt – 1
    • Dress Shoes/Dress Clothes? – (not necessary)
    • Normal Shoes
    • Hiking shoes – buy?
    • Slippers – brown
    • PJs – 1
    • Sweatpants – 1
    • Under-armor – 1
    • Long underwear – 2
    • Shorts – 2
    • Activities shorts – 1
    • Bathing Suit – 1
  • Accessories:
    • Belt
    • Watch
    • Wallet
    • Hat
    • Scarf? – maybe… my jacket zippers really high…
    • Face mask – if I go skiing…
    • Gloves – ski gloves
    • Umbrella – 1: shrinkable
    • Sunglasses – buy?
  • Technology:
    • Power Converter – 2: 220V
    • Phone – iPhone Activate
    • Phone charger
    • Camera
    • Camera accessories (wires, charger)
    • Laptop
    • Laptop accessories (wires, charger)
    • USB key
    • Headphones
  • Bathroom stuff:
    • Shaver with charger
    • Toothpaste
    • Toothbrush
    • Body Soap
    • Shampoo
    • CK-B
    • Tissues – 10
    • Lip balm
    • Nail-clippers
  • Medicine:
    • Stomach stuff
    • Cold medicine
    • Biotin
    • Zyrtec-D
    • Lotion
  • Bags:
    • Ziplock medium and large – 10
    • Normal Plastic – 5
    • CS Messenger bag
    • Jansport backpack
    • Black foldable carry-on
    • Large suitcase

Most people will not be traveling as long as I will, but some of the products I mentioned may have been overlooked. 

By the way, if you think this list was nerdy, you should have seen the more detailed one where I list the exact clothes I have planned to bring.  I have taken these out because I’ve noticed I call all my clothes by their brand names :P.  Happy Packing.

~See Lemons Pack

Advertisements

I know – I’ll just walk everywhere!

Japan's bullet train - siiikkkkk

Japan's bullet train - siiikkkkk

 

Random Observation/Comment #133: I avoid writing straightforward blog entries because I’m afraid the flair and side comments that feed my personal enjoyment would somehow be suppressed by length limits and those generic rules, like staying on topic or maintaining coherence.  At the end of the day, I am trying to write a travel blog, so I guess I could try to say more and write a little less (or at least follow less rants).  I could hear my parents cheering now.  I don’t think they understand half of what I’m saying, anyway.  (If at any point I get bored, I’m going to spew randomness).

In Europe, the main choices of transportation for a visitor from outside of Europe would either be cheap flights, car rides, or trains.  Car rides are actually quite cheap, but a little more unpredictable and sketchy for large groups.  As a single traveler, it might save money to use a Germany carpooling website to help with a few trips, but I wouldn’t make a habit out of it.  If you have a license, renting a car would be great since Germany has a large selection of roads that stretch through beautiful scenery and major tourist attractions.  I think my brother would absolutely love this opportunity, especially red-lining his four “classic” cars on the Autobahn.

If you’re traveling in groups, flights and trains are much more feasible.  It may seem like cheap flights would save time and money, but if you work out the calculations in the time and money spent with: traveling to the airport (cheap $20 flights anywhere in Europe are usually in less major airports), checking into the airport, flying, checking out, and going back to the heart of the city you’re staying, the flight only makes sense if you’re on at least a 2.5-hour flight.  Almost any other time, I would rather choose a Eurail pass and stop by cities along the way. 

If my main goal is to backpack and do this soul-searching business, I would definitely prefer a more spontaneous and junky trip.  I could sleep on the train overnight and probably find a lot of side adventures along the way (I’m hoping to repeat the Eurotrip movie in some way, shape, or form).  In general, I would suggest visiting the station a day before to ask for special tickets.  There may be slower trains that can cost much less.  In addition, some trains may require reservations, and I don’t think you would want to stand for an hour on a crowded train. When you get down to it, this train versus plane thing depends on the type of traveler and itinerary, but I personally suggest the train for those who prefer short trips across Europe.

Eurail passes will save the Europe visitors a lot of money especially if they are touring 5 countries in 15 days.  Not only will it save some headaches when trying to purchase tickets (although Europe is much easier than Asia), but a lot of money could be saved in the process.  A general rule of thumb for prices on trains in Germany, Be-ne-lux (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg), and France is approximately 30 EURs for an hour train ride.  If you divide the price of Eurail passes by the number of days you’re using them, the daily usage price is approximately $40.  Most people do not travel everyday and only spend a day in one city – you can’t see crap in a day, especially if you’re on the train for a few hours.  So for most people, the 10 days in a row Eurail pass is unrealistic.

Because I’m a study abroad student traveling mostly on weekends or Spring-break-type trips, I purchased a 10-day Select 3 country Eurail pass, which allows for a 10-day separate usage (not necessarily consecutive) within a 2-month period of starting the pass.  This means that long train rides will only count for one day.  As a general comparison of prices, a one-way ticket from Hamburg to Munich takes 6 hours and costs 127 EUR and a one-way ticket from Hamburg to Amsterdam takes 5.25 hours and costs 85 EUR.  A 10-day Eurail 3 Country Select Pass for youth (under 26 years old) costs $443.  Using that one day for a long travel with the rail pass (including the local transportation) would be well worth the price.  If I want to do a one-day trip to Berlin, which costs 55 EUR and takes 1.5 hours one-way, I would be saving at least 60% on the price of the ticket. 

It would be stupid not to take advantage of the Eurail pass if you’re studying abroad, but the type of pass you choose also needs to be well planned.  The main types of passes include:

  • Eurailpass normal – 15 day, 21 day, 1 month, 2 month, or 3 month pass, which works for 17 countries – this is better for tours
  • Eurailpass flexi – 10 or 15 days within a two month period for those 17 countries – this is for the traveler that wants to cross Europe in less than 2 months
  • Eurailpass select – 3-5 adjacent countries and then choose the flexi or normal pass type – this is recommended
  • Multicountry pass – for two adjacent countries – these prices are only about ~$30 cheaper than the Select 3 Eurail pass
  • Select country pass – single country – if you plan well, then this is your best choice, but the n-day usage is only within a one month from the starting day

For example, if you are only planning on staying within Germany for a month, you would not need a 3 Country Select Pass – a German rail pass would make more sense.  In general, the Eurailpass normal should only be used for following tours around Europe, which spends only a few days in a city.

Since I will be staying in Europe for 6 months and traveling on weekends, I bought three 3 Country Select passes for 10 days.  Each 3 Country Select Pass must include 3 adjacent countries and must be decided on the day of purchase.  I bought the Germany-Benelux-Czech, Germany-Benelux-Switzerland, and Germany-Benelux-France tickets.  This means that when I activate the pass of my choice (in my case, Switzerland first for some snow covered mountain views), I will have 2 months to use this pass for 10 days.  I can start any of these passes within 6-months of purchase.

I considered buying the multicountry pass deals, but by price comparisons they are only ~$30 difference.  I would personally rather have the freedom to be spontaneous than locked down to staying within the same few countries.

On a side note, it’s interesting how the thought process completely changes when planning for vacations because my previous comment about the freedom to choose places to visit would never apply to my life in the US.  Although the transportation system is not as efficient, I could very well take a quick bus to Washington DC for a short trip.  If I’m willing to spend 3 hours round trip on a train to and from Berlin to Hamburg, I should definitely consider day trips to beaches or whatever’s in New Jersey (I love New Jersey?).  I guess traveling from Hamburg to Berlin would be the equivalent of traveling from Long Island to Manhattan. I hope the change in excitement is as noticeable.  Damn, Long Island sucks when your brother sold the car you were driving…

~See Lemons on the Train

Please, help me, oh wise ones in the corner store by Cooper Union.

 

<insert something poetic>

Random Observation/Comment #128: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free” unless you’re really nice like the STA travel magical helpers.  These guys didn’t have wings, halos, tails, horns, excessive fur, additional limbs, or disproportionate body parts – I checked.  They’re just that one-stop shop, fully utilizing the Internet at their fingertips.  Bless you. 

 

If anything is taught to the “Engineers of our future,” it’s the warning of reinventing the wheel.  I think the emphasis of this school developmental process is not memorization, but the personal optimization of internal algorithms, data structures, and subroutines.  What I mean is; we’re all just learning how to learn and use our resources wisely.  If everyone started from scratch, we’d never keep up with Moore’s law.  It’s like asking someone who wants to write a book to build a typewriter and invent ink, first.  At some point, we must accept our technology and propel it as a tool.  That’s what makes us, as homo-sapiens, special – our developed frontal lobes give us the ability to plan ahead and use tools. 

Although this concept is easy to spot around us (just take a look at any invention and see how it’s commercialized to offer a more convenient way to perform a task), it’s terribly difficult to follow as an engineer.  This rule of not reinventing the wheel would work if the world wasn’t filled with such incompetence.  Sometimes your project is built with metal bars and the parts that you’re given are made of plastic Legos.  The functionality of that little wheel might exist, but it just doesn’t fit.  Duct-tape might work, but where’s the aesthetic appeal in that? I speak for all engineers when I say that we’ve had those frustrating moments when we’re completely perplexed by how much time and hair would have been saved if they simply wrote a few lines of documentation.  Isn’t it great to see comments around functions that simply say, “/*Fix this later */.”

Never the less, it’s useful to have references and it’s obvious that we all have different ways of thinking.  Replacing this unique individualism with a hive mind would be amazing with instant communication, but it would lose that “thinking out of the box” shyt everyone keeps talking about (just say “synergy” and I’m sure some business-major will jizz in his pants). 

Oddly enough, planning a trip is similar to writing a computer program.  Well, it’s actually nothing like writing a computer program except for this one thing (and even that one thing doesn’t really tie in that well).  A lot of people have traveled the world and they’ve felt their need to express their feelings about this privilege through their pictures, books, reviews, blogs, or well-paid television series.  I’ve emphasized the research phase of travel planning in previous entries, but I should mention again that no one knows what you want to see, better than yourself.  Some people love nature, while others love museums, so plan your trip according to your own (and travel partner’s) desires.  Remember the purpose of this trip – is this a honeymoon or vacation or self-help book in the making?  How does this relate to computer programming?  I don’t remember.  Moving on…

Someone actually found vacation planning to be a viable job market – go figure.  This means that there are angels in matching shirts, ready to book your flights, hotels, transportation, and give suggestions on places to visit with great prices.  If this isn’t in STA Travel’s motto or mission statement, it probably should be:  “Here at STA Travel, we understand the value of exploring the world safely and within your budget.  A live representative is waiting inside and ready to fulfill your travel planning needs.  ::rawr::”

Obviously they can’t do all the work for you – you have to know when and where you’re going, and how much money you’re willing to spend.   Actually, that’s about it.  I told them the days I’d like to travel and places I’d like to go along the way, and they just printed out the plane tickets (after paying them, of course).  Even if you have your own connections with travel agencies, I would suggest using STA travel as a major research resource.  Learn about where you want to go, and then speak with them to see if it’s possible within your timeline and budget.  They’ll help you solve the NP complete problem and tell you the must-see places along the way.  They’ve done this so many times that they know exactly what you need to plan a fun vacation at a reasonable price. 

By the way, I am not getting paid by STA travel to write this (although I would like to – actually this blog would be quite an elaborate sham for an advertisement).  They honestly work efficiently and walk you through the checklist to make sure your itinerary can, at least, prevent a few heart attacks from your worried parents.  Poor planning will probably build a terrible plot for an action/horror movie.  Imagine showing up to a foreign country without these essentials: Accommodations, Local activities, Transportation, and clean socks.  It would be a horror movie, for sure. (And I would watch it, enjoy the suspense during the movie, and then complain about how bad it was afterwards).

~See Lemons Happy to Receive a Helping Hand

Trying to Solve an NP Complete Problem of Europe

 

 

frustration? a tease?

frustration? a tease?

Random Observation/Comment # 126:  I never seem to stay on topic with my journal entries.  I read a lot of my suggestions from what’s supposed to be “useful to help other people plan,” but none of it is actually straightforward.  I enter a lot of weird commentary that just fills the lines with a horribly foul substance.  It’s not quite bullshit, but you do have to dig through something viscous to find what you’re looking for.  I oddly hope I continue writing this way because it gives me a glimmer of joy, just imagining the readers’ frustrations.

 

To summarize from earlier, I am bounded by a decision already placed into motion (the study abroad thing in Europe) so I researched in every nook and cranny possible to get an insight on different travel locations.  I did not know what I should choose exactly, but I knew I should take my time in each city and look for cities that were highly recommended by people who have my similar tastes.  Germany is a given, since I am centered there, but the bordered countries that are possible by weekend travel are quite numerous.  I could go basically anywhere in Europe because I’m right in the center.  In addition, since I have set housing in Germany, I will actually go on smaller trips based from Germany.  In my special condition (mostly applicable to study abroad students), I have chosen the main countries of Czech Republic, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and UK.

I chose the UK because of the cheaper flight costs to-and-from London.  Round-trip flights are always cheaper and if I want to travel Europe anyway, I might as well do a one-way flight to Germany and take the train back to London for the return.  I highly suggest considering this possibility: Book a roundtrip to a major airport, fly cheap across Europe, train ride one way back to the major airport while stopping by all of your desired cities.  You should probably check the airfares, but I know London Heathrow Airport is much cheaper because of the high volume of traffic.

Basically, once you have decided your generic path from the airport flights and dates of return, you will be given some restrictions by the transportation and number of cities you would like to visit along the way.  As I mentioned earlier, give yourself enough time to enjoy yourself.  Try to do a few city days and then a few nature walks to balance the week.  Although I will be abroad for 6 months, I will have a few major trips that require thorough planning. 

The weekend trips centered from Germany are quite ideal because I could still experience some backpacking without the heavy luggage.  Since I already know the countries I’d like to visit and the number of weekends I have allotted, I have planned the smaller trips based on travel time and location.  For example, my last trip must end in London for my return flight so it wouldn’t make sense to go to the Czech Republic and then make a “U-ee.”  That’s just inefficient and quite unnecessary.  Plus, the transportation problem (discussed in a latter entry) will make this much more expensive.  Therefore, my weekend trips will focus heading towards the Southern and Eastern areas since my final trip will be going west.

For the longer trips, I planned lightly and accounted for my heavy luggage.  Normally, I would like to stay in different places to make local transportation much easier, but with the luggage, I prefer paying more money in a central location and leaving my important things in a safe place.  I expect to spend a full week in major cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and somewhere in Southern France.  Along the way, I’ll definitely try the beer in Belgium and take pictures of castles in Luxembourg.  These plans are quite broad as of now, but I’m also expecting some change when I meet people abroad. 

Keeping this in mind, it’s also important to be flexible with your planning.  Sometimes the reading material for your city or country may have given you false impressions.  Booking hotels or hostels a week in advance would give you guaranteed spots, but if you want to leave, you should definitely have that freedom. 

There really isn’t an easy way to do this because unexpected weather patterns or other disturbances may drastically change your plans.  It’s impossible to account for everything, but it doesn’t hurt to do more research and have backup plans on places to visit.  Categorize your travel days to minimize your transportation costs and maximize the sights in the area, and include the backup days if weather isn’t on your side. 

~See Lemons Find a Solution that Fits

Making a REALISTIC travel wishlist

 

 

A time traveling dinosaur?

A time traveling dinosaur?

Random Observation/Comment #125:  It’s hard for me to accept the fact that I can’t experience everything first-hand.  I feel horrifyingly hollow knowing this fact.  It’s not even the idea that I wouldn’t be able to experience the differences between growing up as an orphan or as a medieval lord – I realize these are impossible given my current choices and subsequent timeline.  It’s the idea that I won’t be able to live all of the branches that exist in my lifetime.  The “Me” I think of now will only see that one path in the fourth dimension, even though there could have been infinitely more in the fifth.  Let me clarify with an analogy.  If we take these experiences as the pixel count of a simple Snake game (for those in my generation, we played this in high school on our TI-86 calculators instead of actually solving derivatives and integrals), the screen resolution cannot be fathomed.  If I were a snake trying to eat the experiences within my timeline’s ability (in this case they will come up as little pixilated apples), I would need to choose which path to take.  Given my time limit, I can only travel so many pixels my entire life.  Following the game’s rules, my snake tail will grow after eating every experience, but since the size of the board is so expansive, I don’t think that “oh crap I don’t know where to go without eating my own ass” aspect of the game will be taken account.  The new twist, however, comes in the weight of the experiences or the points each apple gives (the tastiness of the apple, if you prefer, since each experience is difficult to put a value to).  My limit, then, is not the amount of apples I eat, but rather the distance I travel.  If I see that I need to sacrifice a lot of “fun” experiences to reach the one in the end, I would have probably died with a shorter snake.  It’s quite unfortunate, but who says the size of the snake counts?  Well, if the size doesn’t count, then what is the ultimate goal of the game?  To tell you the truth, the programmer of this game was cruel, and He didn’t really have an intended purpose – you’re just procrastinating so you don’t have to pay attention during Calculus class…

 

Continuing from my previous post, I have decided to go to Europe based on that stage in my life.  I am ever-so curious and submerging myself into a spectrum of unknown, just hoping for any response.  Europe is broad and nowhere close to a travel plan because I haven’t introduced any realistic restrictions.  The two major ones are time and money.  Although there are other concerns with intensity of activities, weather preferences, and people you know in the area, I’ll let you weigh those independently.  If you already know what you’re looking for out of your trip, it’s highly probable that you’ve considered your time and money aspect within your first narrowing down. 

Let’s say you’re going to see friends in London and you have a week of travel, then you can already concentrate on London locations and nearby flights to a few days in Ireland, or something like that.  If you’re going on a tour provided by Intrepid, then you don’t even have to worry about the itinerary (except for the start and stop locations). 

For those who really just have a lot of time and money, and don’t want to do the whole tour thing, I suggest traveling with a buddy and working out your preferences.  Ask your friends for suggestions and talk to elders about their backpacking experiences.  Not only will you find that old people have a lot of great advice, but you’ll also find that they love talking about their experiences – trust me, it’s endless (don’t give out your number or you’ll be on the phone with your friend’s father for hours, appeasing that grandfather-storytelling syndrome).  It’s very rare that people would just want to pick up and go without some type of restriction, and if you really don’t have a preference, then I’m sure some blog or set of pictures will strike your fancy.  If you’re having difficulty with this step, you’ll really break down and cry when you have to choose the specific cities when everything looks so appealing.

In my case, I will be attending study abroad program centered in Germany, so I already knew I would be Europe (in retrospect, sorry if the last entry was a bit of a sham).  I also knew that I would be starting in March, so the winter season and heavy packing was also a bit out of my control.  The fact that the season is off-peak will also come into account when I decide where to go.

First, focus on the time restrictions and prioritize based on efficiency and personal preference.  In general, I found it too messy to think of the entire problem at once.  Before even planning the flight days, you really need a sense of which area you’d prefer and how you would get around this area.  Start by reading and looking at pictures to wherever you want to go.  I conducted this research phase very methodically by consolidating everything I read online into a 30 page word document.  I copied and pasted Seasonal Attractions and made sure I knew the weather for the countries ahead of time – it would suck to go to London during its rainy/bad weather season (which is pretty much, always).

After considering the climate, I read a lot of tour travel itineraries.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to just download an itinerary and follow the main attractions at each stop.  You’ll have to work out booking the hotel and planning the leaving times for the train or airplane, but you’ll be in control of where you go and what you do.  Most of the time, for the extra money, booking the tour would save a lot of headache.  Plus, if you’re traveling alone, a tour is a great place to meet new people and concentrate on relaxing while going to these exotic places.  I’ve tried the tour life and it’s, for the lack of a better description at the moment, really nice.

After looking at a few tour itineraries, you’ll see a lot of repeats.  Everybody wants to visit those main places to see those cliché things.  Obviously, they’re awesome and a must-see for a reason, but the problem I’ve always had with tours is that “rushed” feeling.  Six cities in two weeks is not enough time for the full experience – actually, one city in 30 years isn’t enough time.  There are so many underground treasures and hidden beauties that escape those camera lenses.  For this reason, I’ve decided not to deprive myself of these experiences that would have been so much more heart-felt if I just spent that extra time digging deeper.  It’s like not scratching that scratch ’n’ sniff sticker long enough to get through the first layer for the full aroma – all you get is that metallic disgustingness, if you’re not patient. 

I expect a much more thorough life-changing moment if I take my time in every city.  I’ve so often mistaken my purpose of traveling – it’s not a checklist, it’s a road strewn with stores on either side for miles.  Why would you want to take a shortcut when every section of road has its set of unique experiences?  You’ll probably read this type of response in many of the tour reactions – “I wish we spent more time in <insert city of preference here>.”  That’s because tours can’t cater to your personality.  If you spend the extra time planning, maybe you won’t need to sit through an architecture exhibit if you prefer nature.  That is, if you dislike uncomfortable situations.  Knowing me, I would probably heat the coals for the brander.

~See Lemons Plan the EuroTrip

Making a travel wishlist

 

 

"I need a picture encapsulating flying and travel. Okay, just put your arms up like you're flying."

"I need a picture encapsulating flying and travel. Okay, just put your arms up like you're flying."

Random Observation/Comment #124:  There isn’t a place I wouldn’t want to go.  I’ve spent the equivalent of weeks surfing “the inter-webs” researching different places to travel and unique experiences.  I’ve read magazines like Travel and Leisure, watched Travel Channel shows like Bizarre Foods and No Reservations, and joined social communities like travbuddy.com and couchsurfing.com to feed my urges.  Pictures and descriptions of these tourist attractions and remote places around the world keeps my mouth salivating and my fingers tingling to write the next random observation.  Two continents reached; five more to go.  My dreams are looking more like reality.

 

Given my desire – nay – my obligation, to firmly grasp my opinion and preference on specific choices, the process of whittling down to a list of places to travel is excruciatingly difficult.  If you could go anywhere, where would you go?  This was a surprisingly hard question to answer even after I claim to understand my personal preferences and scratched the surface of possibilities through research.  This is similar to asking someone, “What is your dream job?”  Without restrictions, the mind goes wild, as it’s suffocated by the avalanche of possibilities, and has no idea what to choose – it doesn’t even know where to start. 

My internal scales and counterweights try to find the positive and negative aspects starting with the hemisphere, and then with climate – these seem to be broad enough categories to narrow down the largest number of choices by the first split, making subsequent branches from this tree more effective.   But even thinking about a warm versus cold environment, I’m not sure where I would rather be.  I would like to pack fewer clothes, and I do enjoy beaches and nice hiking adventures, but there is that greedy (and possibly masochist) side in the back of my mind that begs for discomfort if it results in a solid opinion of a new experience. 

Now, many would read this part and counter by prosing, “Do you need to touch fire to know that you’ll get burned?” or to the extreme, “Do you have to kill yourself to have faith?” First of all, why would you take these examples to the extremities when you know I would be calculated with my choices (tsk tsk)?  And secondly, like everyone else in this world, I have been burned by fire.  Although it wasn’t a 3rd degree burn, I learned my lesson, and continuing with more extreme experiments, would be idiotic.  And thirdly, if I have a primary source defining the afterlife, I would most probably believe.  Unfortunately, it would take a very convincing person to overturn all of my doubts. 

Anyway, I digress, as usual.  After thinking about climate, I would try to choose a continent that is filled with the essence of what I was trying to fulfill.  If I were looking for history, I would go to Europe; for food, probably Asia; for deeper appreciation of running water and health care, Africa or South America.  Well, now that I sit and consider the actual tours available around the world, I can sense a piece of nature and history in every trip.  If I were to specifically consider technological advancements, then maybe the third world countries would drop from the choices.  So I guess the more realistic separation depends on the GDP of the country, or even the specific city, you’re visiting.  Would you consider a third world country as a part of your adventure?  Can you pass those hot summer days without air conditioning and clearly labeled “buffet” to all insects?  Does your definition of “vacation” involve bungee jumping, sitting on a beach at a resort, or traveling for weeks without showers? 

This brings up a valid point – perhaps the more useful separation (other than climate and comfort) would be to ask yourself what type of vacation you’re looking for.  The world has so much to offer that there will definitely be a right location for the particular dynamic range of personalities that fits your state of mind this year.  It might very well depend on your new year’s resolutions.  Those who have fallen prey to the ever-so-controlling “Working Beast,” with the whips snapping and chains shackling every attempt for freedom, want nothing but a relaxing time to spend with friends and family.  The exploration side of their life has been temporarily removed from their reality and replaced with an overflow of responsibilities.  As these responsibilities slowly check themselves off (graduation from high school – check; graduation from college – check; steady income … ), I suspect this sense of adventure will return.  Independent of when this occurs, I hope their knees can withstand their hearts desires.

For the traveling graduate with this sense of emptiness in their purpose and proper position stamped on the corner of a corner of a stained page in world’s history book, I suggest something more exciting than beach resorts, but something less promiscuous than stereotypical spring breaks.  Based on this purpose-seeking format, I decided to indulge in a learning adventure.  I could have chosen a food-centered country (not to say that I won’t eat), but I would feel less guilty feeding my taste-buds when my physique and health is less important.  Besides, there would be so much less to look forward to when I’ve already tried every taste, texture, and consistency from every corner of the world.  I hope the wrinkles I form will still maintain its curiosity and appreciation for surprises. 

I could have also chosen that “deeper appreciation for life” path, spending my time helping those in need around the world with the Peace Corps or working with my professor in Ghana to engineer sustainable products that many people take for granted every day.  Even though I would have loved to fully exercise my talents, I could already hear my parents’ worried wallows.  There would be no way in Hell they would let me work backwards.  If anything, they would ask me to consider changing the world at the horizon, not live in darkness to catch-up the less fortunate.  It’s important to see that the other side exists as well, but I do understand my parents’ concerns, and I will leave the much more valiant achievements to the other engineers – the engineers that deserve the utmost respect.

Because of this specific stage in my life, I have decided on the cliché “backpack trip around Europe”.  There are many restrictions in my travel, which will be discussed in the subsequent entry, but for the most part, I’ve at least picked the hemisphere and even continent. What do I hope to find?  Well, I’m not going to be actively looking because I do believe that these enlightenment moments are spontaneous and are very picky in only occurring when you least expect it.  I will, however, aid the process by keeping my senses open to every angle in culture, history, and business.  Whether it includes studying the different etiquettes and details that come with each culture, the mistakes we’ve all made throughout history, or the beauty of art, architecture, and life, I intend to absorb and filter the relevancy to finding a fitting career.

 Interestingly enough, I don’t want this trip to be the solution to all my problems, nor do I want it to guide me to salvation – I just want these experiences to make more splitting branches in my tree.  I don’t expect the next six months to answer all of my questions, but I want to at least know that I have the question relevant to the category.

~See Lemons Want to go Everywhere

Process for Travel Planning

 

 

This picture is the essence of planning (look closer)

This picture is the essence of planning (look closer)

Random Observation/Comment #122: I’ve been living vicariously through other people’s experiences and looking through the lenses of so many cameras in the past few months that I feel like I’ve actually gone to these places.  Of course, my senses have not been satisfied with just pictures and descriptions, but this research has started my appetite.   I hope my stomach (a.k.a. external hard drive holding pictures and entries) can handle the 6-month, N-course meal (where N is not limited to counting actual courses of meals that I have in the 6-month period (obviously)).

 

Planning a trip is a mixed bag of treats and mouse traps (I haven’t decided if the original purpose of the bag was to store mouse traps or sweets).  It can be deliciously fun while reading up on the exotic places around the world, but horrifyingly stressful when working out the full depth of choices ahead of you.  When I planned my trip to Japan, I simply booked a 2-week tour and let Intrepid handle the rest of it.  Throughout the entire tour, a single thought about train schedules, hotel stays, or language barriers never crossed my mind.  Now that I think back on all of the things my tour guide helped us with, it was definitely worth the extra money.  Since that was my first trip alone around a country where I barely spoke the language, I didn’t want to jump directly into the deep-end (or jump in without dragging a lifeguard with me).  Besides, the tour took us to all of the remote places that most of the locals never have the chance of seeing.  I went sea kayaking, paragliding, white water rafting, fed deer, built robots, and took +12000 pictures of every nature scene possible.  Wow, 2008 will be hard to top – good luck 2009, you have good potential.  I’d say that getting chopped up at a hostel in London would be a bit of a downer, but at this point in my life, I’d feel dead if I didn’t feel alive (that actually should make sense if you put yourself in my mindset).

It would be quite a long article if I presented all of the details I’ve been struggling with for the past two months to plan my destinations and logistics for this 6-month trip.  As a general outline, though, I think I will cover the following in my however-many-part series of “Preparation Project Clemens-in-Europe 2009.”  I know, I should have been more creative with the name, but “Operation Rename Project Clemens-in-Europe 2009” will execute in the near future.  I’m up for suggestions.

The following are some upcoming topics for the next month (after the thesis, of course):

  • Research – Where’s the fun at?
  • Travel Wishlist – Where do I want to have fun?
  • Narrowed Down Wishlist – Where can I have fun with my allotted time?
  • Set flight dates – Free time?  Whatever, just get me out of here!
  • See Travel Agency – STATravel – Please, help me, oh wise ones in the corner store by Cooper Union.
  • Schedule flights – Discounts are nice…
  • Transportation – I know: I’ll just walk everywhere! (BAD)
  • Sleeping Arrangements – Camping? Newspapers as a blanket in a park?
  • Itinerary – Anal planning? More like, well-prepared… bitch.
  • Misc Information About Country – What do you mean I can’t pay with the dollar? That’s like gold!
  • Packing – Money; check.  Laptop; check.  Ready! Whatever, I’ll buy clothes there.
  • Safety – Don’t die, don’t die, and don’t die.
  • Airport Traveling – Anal cavity searches don’t seem like fun (whatever floats  your boat)
  • Etiquette – Don’t be that tourist that knows nothing about where they are and how they should act
  • Last Minute Checklist – I knew I should have written this down somewhere… “Don’t forget your brain”

Thesis comes first.  I’m so excited.

~See Lemons Apply Dry Wall