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Thursday, March 12, 2015

WHAT TO GET BEFORE YOU GO

DEDICATION

This blog is dedicated to the Vandenberg family who look to be escaping their birthplace to go live a life of adventure overseas.



TYPE OF BLOG

Before I started traveling, I read a lot of travel blogs. I found three commonalities. a) they were boring. Dull, dull, dull. b) everything was always 'super'. My thought was either they were getting money from corporate sponsors and didn't want to say "Gosh, this place really sucked ass" or they didn't want to say "You know, I saved up money for a long time, went to somewhere and it ended up sucking, gosh did I make a mistake." c) they were not informative past what you could get perusing wikitravel, wikipedia and other common sources. Most were less informative. When people say "Oh, you should check out THIS other travel blog, it is usually the things I've listed. Hence, I don't.

My blog has several drawbacks. It is naughty. Sometimes it goes off in random directions. Sometimes you ask 'why is this bitter old bastard traveling'.

But I hope that I am not repeating mistakes from the a, b and c listed above.


After a quick search on the internet, I am convinced this could be among the most gritty travel blogs in the world.

Most travel blogs like to show you wonderful locations their authors have been.  While overtly telling you 'hey, you should come' most people read that as 'it would be nice but in my soul I know it will never happen'.

In this travel blog, there may be some of that but also a lot of places the audience says things like "Get out Logan!" or "Gosh, I'm glad I'm not there!"



LOGAN GIVES AN INTERVIEW ON TV

Well, not yet but I've always imagined it would go something like this.



AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Go watch this car chase.  It's awesome.



WHAT TO GET BEFORE YOU GO

Some nice people who want to escape the cold tyranny of winter are going to be escaping Canada soon.  They are planning to move on a permanent basis outside of North America.  This got me thinking - what all should someone do before either moving or taking a trip?

Here are my recommendations:


PASSPORT
Jason Bourne would be proud.

Get a passport.  Sure, it sounds obvious but in the USA the number of people who actually own a passport is shocking low.  Also, people like to wait until way to close to the time for them to need it before they actually get it.  Can't speak for other countries but the price in the USA is about $100.  You can spend nearly that on a video game.  Buy your passport well in advance - they don't expire for a decade.  If owning a passport doesn't help motivate you to travel, you may need a lot more motivation - but it is still better than saying I will get a passport 'later'.


PACSAFE
The wire mesh that goes over your bag then can lock to something solid can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of stress.  See that long tail on the left part of the picture?  That goes around something and locks to it.  If someone has bolt cutters or infinite time to meticulously pull every item out through the mesh, they win - but most burglars don't have time or bolt cutters.  This prevents 'grab and go'.

Buy a Pacsafe or two.  These are less than $100 each (possibly with free shipping).  Lightweight - you can lift it with your pinkie.  They can be found here - but be warned, they come in different sizes.  Pay attention to what size you are getting.  If you get the 55L one and have an 80L backpack, you're screwed.  Also, buying one larger than your backpack does NOT hurt anything.   Buy one per bag of shit you care about.  I've heard people say "It's only clothes."  Sure - how much will it cost you to replace all of those clothes?  Quite a bit, especially if you've bought quick drying clothing and such.  [Disclaimer:  Logan gets zero money from the people who make pacsafe but would love to.  I like my money delivered by brimming dump trucks.]


LOCKS

As a side note, after you've gotten your Pacsafe and have the lock that comes with it, go buy one extra lock per Pacsafe and attach it to your backpack.  Keep the keys in a safe place and forget about them.  This is the 'oh, I need an extra lock' or 'I had to hack through the Pacsafe lock because I am a dumb-ass and lost the key' lock.  The weight is fairly negligible and honestly, locks made outside of western countries are shit.  The amount of times you need an extra lock (locker in dorms, etc) is higher than you might think.


SECURITY POUCHES
These are photos of my four year old one because Mountain Hardware wants to make it extra challenging to buy their shit.

Under the clothing passport holder.  Because I couldn't find it on the internet, I took several pictures of the one I bought in a Walmart (in the USA) for something like $10.  It has survived four years of extremely hard usage.  A value at twice the price.  Disclaimer:  This is not comfortable to wear under your clothing.  If you wear it under your clothing in a warm climate, it will quickly smell like ass.  Wear it under your clothing.  Buy two so you can wash one while wearing the other one.  "Oh, Logan, our passports will be OK in our easily stolen and pickpocketed bag."   You can always tell people who have the same lackluster attitude as in their own country and believe that the justice system works the same way as back home.  Zero sympathy.  Within this inside of a plastic bag you should have the following:  Your passport, extra money (in US dollars, four fives, five tens, ten twenties at a minimum), credit cards and a dozen passport sized pictures.  Pictures of you.  Not me.  I know it is tempting to carry tiny pictures of me around but keep ones of you.  These will be needed at some border crossings and so on.  If you don't carry them, you will get ripped off by locals later.  Do not smile in the photo, an off white background is best and dress very conservatively.  Do not make signs and stupid shit.   Think passport photos.

May not work as your passport photo though it will become the story of legend at the border crossing.

Note that the security pouch will not be 'invisible'.  The reason you are wearing it is because it is much easier to pickpocket someone than to decide to mug them.   If you are mugged, you can give them your pouch (better than dying though it may feel like it) but running into the kind of people who decide 'I'm going to mug these tourists' is much more rare than the expert pick pocket.

Also, I do not suggest things like money belts or calf pockets simply because you need to firmly attach them to you.  After a day or few, your skin will develop a rash and the things will stink quite a bit more.  Having things snugly fastened to you in hot climates is much worse.


PAYPAL
Note this blog is in no way affiliated with Paypal though we will accept your money if sent to us.  And by us, I mean 'me'.  And by me I mean 'send it'.

Open a Paypal account.  Put some money into it.  Get a Paypal debit card sent to you.  The debit card use to be a bit more of a pain in the ass - it was only for two years and of course they wouldn't send it overseas.  This is a job for whoever gets the dubious honor of becoming your relay person in the states.  Fortunately, Paypal has recently changed it so that debit cards don't now expire for three years.  The reason you want to get one of these is that they are painless - often cheaper than your own bank and they provide another layer of protection between your money and the ATM you're trying to get money from.

I'm sure that long time readers will remember a bank in Central America which sucked as much out of my bank account as rapidly as possible.  Not 'fishing equipment' - no - the bank itself.  Had I been using a Paypal debit card, they could have only gotten access to what was in there.  When you contact a bank about fraud the first step is to cancel the card.  Always have extra cards.  The weight is negligible and you won't notice them if you don't use them.


RELAY PERSON
Posting the picture of a sport in progress is the closest I will come to any sport ever.

Coordinate a 'relay person'.  This is a kind-hearted person that will lend you their address (you want to maintain an address in your native country), forward correspondence to you and so on.  This is pretty much only necessary if you are going to be gone more than a few months or a year.  Most of my readers are young enough that their parents can do it for them.  If you aren't, find someone you trust.  You won't need to go so far as giving them 'power of attorney' (getting attorneys involved is never a good thing) but having someone take care of things for you in your home country is never a bad thing.  When you first leave, there will be more but it drops off to nearly nothing the longer you are gone.


BACKPACK
Pictured is an 80L backpack.

The backpack.  Gosh, I wish I'd read a sensible article on this before I bought mine.  First, I don't recommend army surplus stores and such.  As anyone who has actually served in the armed forces will tell you, civilian stuff isn't generally made by the lowest bidder.

What I would recommend in a backpack are two things:

First, find the ones that have a big zipper (not pictured) that goes around the entire bag like a big happy face.  You can unzip the bag and fold it open.  Much better than digging through it like a mad badger any time you need something.

Like this but a full size backpack instead of a tiny day pack.

Second, buy the largest one you can fit onto your frame.  Many times, you are stuck taking something bulky but light - such as a jacket.  If you have a small backpack you can barely fit all your stuff into, you are screwed.  If you have a large backpack that is always half empty, you have plenty of space.  This is also good for the people out on brief trips who want some presents to take back home.  I've heard people who bought the 55L bags say "This makes sure I don't pack too much."  You could go that route or develop some fucking self discipline.

This will help.

How much should you spend on a backpack?  This depends on how much you will be traveling and such.  Generally, an 80L bag is a bit less than $200.  If you are spending less than $100 on a bag, it will probably fall apart at a critical time.  If you are spending more than $300, you are getting a bag for the long haul.   The bag is surprisingly critical.  No matter where you go, it will be you and your luggage.

Some people want to buy the luggage with wheels and such to drag around.  I don't advise this unless you are strictly staying within Western Europe and North America.  I admit that I've gotten at lot of cheap laughs watching people who were dragging their cases through mud flats and sidewalks or roads barely fit to be called that.  A backpack is the way to go.

Not recommended outside of the 'first world'.

After packing everything you are wanting to take into your backpack, wall six hundred meters with it.  Throw in three or so flights of stairs.  If you can't carry your stuff, it is time to get rid of some of your shit.  You carrying it.  Not other people with you - you.  [Yes, Logan has done this obstacle course many times.  Possibly hobbled myself from it but it is part of what needs to be done.]  If you think this is excessive, I would point out that I've done this more times than I can remember.  For example, the border between Cambodia and Thailand is easily this much of a walk - and there are stairs.

There are a number of clever things you can have in your backpack such as cord and plug adapters but generally, people wildly over pack.  Most of the stuff you simply don't need.  Just remember that most things (toothpaste, dental floss, make up, etc) are used in all countries.  Don't get tied to one specific brand and you'll be OK.


BANDANNAS
100% cotton

You may think "I don't wear these hence I don't need them."  You would be wrong.  You will probably end up wearing them in hot climates.  Also, they have a large number of uses - anything from wash clothes to bandages and yes, I've used them for both at one time.

The color you get is important.  I would suggest ugly ones in pastels.  Yes, pastels.

Many gangs and political movements wear or display certain colors for various things.  You do not want to be affiliated with any gang or movement, especially if you don't know what it is.  Nobody I'm aware of uses any pastel colors.   Ugly bandannas are better because it decreases the likelihood of the laundry service stealing them.  You may think that each and every time you get your clothing back you will count everything but unless you are extremely anal retentive that won't happen - and if you are, you probably won't be traveling.

How many bandannas?  Last I was in the states, they were about a dollar each.  Get ten per person.  If you don't use them at all in the first couple months, throwing them out won't be financially crippling.  Also, finding all cotton bandannas is sometimes more challenging than you would think.


WHEN SHOULD I BUY ALL OF THIS STUFF?

As soon as you make the decision to go.  I mean really make it.  Not a 'someday' type of 'promise' to yourself.  Perhaps having all of that stuff in a pile right next to the door will help motivate you to do something other than a 'staycation1'.   Buying it all (and starting on the paperwork for passports and such) half a year or year out is clever.

Note, if your sense of adventure is limited to reading travel blogs and you have no desire to leave the country of your birth, that is OK.  I was mainly speaking to the 'someday'  (ie 'I am lying to myself and to Logan') crowd.



SPECIAL NOTE

Everything you don't want to have become wet should be placed inside of a waterproof bag.  I recommend clear plastic shopping bags.  Clear so you don't have to play the 'what's in this fucking bag' game.  Shopping bags because they are usually free if not dirt cheap and easily replaceable.   Note that clothing is bulky enough that putting it within individual plastic bags is not feasible.  For that, you'll have to hope the rain cover of your backpack does it's job.  For everything else - especially if it can leak (soap, pens, etc) plastic bag them.



WHAT DOES LOGAN CARRY?

I was just searching through the large backpack and this is what I found:

Three extra pair of glasses - correctional - got these cheap in Cambodia.

Two rolls of toilet paper - good quality - if you are needing it, you don't want it to be shitty - pun and toilet humor intended.

Pack of playing cards - I realize these days most people instead want to pull out their phone to flash the amount of easily black marketable goods worth many times the average persons monthly wage in order to entertain themselves playing a game in order to drain the battery before something vital comes up like needing directions to where they are staying but I don't own a phone.

Cord (10m?) - this has all kinds of uses from on the spot repairs, temporary clothes lines, BDSM, repelling down into crocodile pits, etc.

Scissors - good ones in home made case so they don't cut through random stuff.  Useful if you are forced to cut the cord.

Medicine - note that it is cheaper overseas but have enough for at least a month when you start out.

Less than a week's worth of clothing.  All experienced backpackers always advise 'throw out clothing' if someone complains their load is too heavy.  The thinking is probably that the person should have already thrown out all of the stupid shit they thought was necessary.  My approximate clothing (it fluctuates and I am too lazy to go count) is about five shirts, one pair of wrap pants, one pair of more customary pants, a dozen bandannas, six pair of socks, eight pair of underwear/shorts.  For clothing, I recommend very conservative, no logos, no messages, not expensive looking, durable.   Believe it or not, I've seen people from the USA wearing shirts with the 'Merican flag on them and such.  Not really clever.  Just dress conservatively.

Because going through customs in this shirt would be awesome.  I sense a free cavity search on the way!!

Toiletries - fortunately, being male this means I don't have many.  Bottle of liquid soap (don't use bars), a wash cloth, deodorant, toothbrush, tooth paste, floss, ear swabs (like Q-tips but low quality local kinds) and a super fast drying towel I avoid using whenever possible.  If you use it a couple times it quickly starts smelling horrible but it is always good to have one in case the horrible place you are staying does not provide towels.

Sandals - the kind with a strap on the back to keep it on.  If you are going anywhere warm, you want these.  Get them where you live as the quality of footwear is shit in other places.  These also come in very handy when your shoes are soaked.

Shoes - I know a lot of ladies like heels but outside of the 'first world' you are risking major mechanical injury wearing them.  I recommend well 'broken in' shoes.  Buying a new pair of shoes 'for the trip' is a universally bad idea.  Having shoes that can walk through mud and shit is a good idea because you will.  Bring extra socks.

The last weird thing I have is a 'HIT' pack I picked up in Indonesia.  It is a small heating unit that plugs into a wall which heats up a small tab (sold separately) which makes a smell mosquitoes either hate or die from.  I've no idea which.  It isn't something I've seen outside of Indonesia but mosquitoes are dangerous as well as super annoying.  This makes them go away and it was cheap to boot.  Because they are so light, I bought all of the tabs the store sold and have been carrying them around for a couple years using as required.

You put the white tab into the light blue thing, plug it in and hope the place doesn't burn down.

In the smaller bag all of my computer stuff goes.  A trick I learned from my buddy Pete is to have a multi-outlet plug.  In many hotels, you get one or two plug ins.  Less places to plug in means you can't use as much electricity - hence more profits.

Mine is only a small three plug one but having more plugs never hurts.  Except in weight.

Sadly, my computer stuff weighs the same as everything in my big bag.  However, I get plenty of use out of my computer.  If your big back weighs over say 15KG, you might want to seriously reconsider.  If all of your stuff weighs over 20KG, know you have more stuff than Logan has needed for four years of living abroad and moving constantly.  Do you really want to carry that much shit?  I've come across so many people who wished they had 'packed less and brought more money'.


Kindle.  Another company I'm not getting money from.

If you don't have one, I recommend getting some sort of electronic reader.  "Oh, but Logan I like the feel of real books..."  Sorry, part of travel is 'getting over it'.  You could lug around 'real books' or put a couple thousand books on your kindle and have lightweight books to last a lifetime.

I don't have a reader but do have an MP3 player.  I listen to books since my eyes have gone bad due to my illness and bathing in shockingly dirty water from time to time.



YE OLDE NERO STORY


When Blizzard and Lumsie traveled together, Lumsie was "Hello Kitty"!

God, that still makes me laugh. Before that day, I'd never heard Derek's teeth grind together before!

The full story:

Derek and I went to some chapter - was it in Canada? I don't remember. Derek had been there a couple times before and kicked plenty of ass. He is like my polar opposite as far as being a player in NERO - ie competent. He had pretty much single handedly saved the day for the chapter last time he was there.

He and I arrive.

"Hello Lumsie! Hey everyone it's Lumsie! Hi Lumsie! Hi!" (pause, Look at Blizzard) "...Hello...er...Lumsie's friend!"

(Grinding noise)

Fantastic!



GAME REVIEWS OF STEAM DEMOS

I'm sure a lot of people will give me shit about judging a game within the first few minutes.  "Oh, it gets better, you just have to give it a chance."  It never does.  Also, the game developer - like an author has a job to draw people in quick.  If you can't make some aspect interesting for people - something to draw them in quickly - you have fucked the pie.


Seeing a lot of 'independent games' I can understand why no company would fund them.  It's great that you get some quirky unique games and I support their right to make them.  For many, I'm just glad I don't have to fucking play them.  The kind of programming asshattery and buffoonery makes me think there are good reasons why they don't get funding.


Black Ice Demo:  They actually had all of the right stuff for a demo in place.  Quick start etc.  A demo done right.  The game was just a bit too static for me - nothing seemed to be going on other than the shit I was starting.  No illusion of the world moving beyond me.  This game would have ruled the 1980's though!

Depth Hunter 2:  Makes me wonder just how bad Depth Hunter 1 sucked and who would be insane enough to fund number two.  This got old within the first three minutes.

Maker's Eden:  Obviously programmed by twats.  Couldn't shut off the music.  Trying to made me watch their self indulgent intro yet again.  WTF.

Merchants of Kaiden:  I do like 'merchanting' but this made me loath it within the first few minutes.

Salt:  Can't go under water.  That always smacks of lazy programmers to me.


1A mix of poverty, fear and a shitty job.



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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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