Travel is not being the Vagabond

Its almost the beginning of February which means the last month I will work. In March, I take off and fly to Japan and then to Vietnam. Once in Hanoi, I will spend 3 months living and playing, eating and drinking, seeing and doing. Then I catch the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City for more of the same.

To tell the truth its been since 2011 that I have had this dream. At times, I never believed I would get to be within 30 days of going. 30 days of being able to leave the Bay Area. A place I never cared for or wanted to live in. I remember back then sometimes after beer only fantasizing about what it would be like when all the things would come together. I wondered then if I would find a job that would let me pay off all debt. Dreams, dear friends. Dreams. So much closer to reality.

The blog is about to turn a corner, become a new thing. That one category Travel will have a new friend soon join it. I am going to launch the category Vagabonding because what I will do is not travel. Travel to me has a beginning and end. I saw this happen time and again when I traveled for work. I would go to India or Singapore or Hanoi or wherever and it would begin and end. My friend AFT does the same. There is a sublime difference between traveling in a number of days that some company buys you. Then you have to live by a set of company rules. They tell you how long to stay and when to go.

Vagabonding on the other hand has no rules. You wander place to place with no fixed home or job. You may wander. Wandering is another great word and when you combine it with lust, you get the true measure of the words.

So welcome my new category dear readers. I’ll embrace the wanderlust and finally be that one thing which was withheld me. First off Japan and then Vietnam and Cambodia. Perhaps Thailand and Laos and China. Life is open for business.

It was a fine day out

With only 30 days left here, decided to hit the streets for a bit. Went to Mountain View and a few other fav places with my FujiFilm X100F. I also have the wide angle lens now so I wanted to start testing it. Only means I don’t have to take a step or two back at times so far. More testing is needed!

Here’s some efforts for the day!

Traveling and Walking with Sound

Lately I’ve been looking at the portability of choices especially for listening to music on my travels. Bluetooth headphones are essential to me since having some cable that runs to an adapter on my iPhone is not ideal. Nor is a cable around my neck or between the earbuds. When I go walking for over an hour a day or like last night for two hours, I want something that can be easily used and then maintained afterwards. I’ve had cables snagged on tree or bush branches, got cables all twirled around in a mess, and had to carefully place expensive bluetooth headsets into a type C or micro USB cable to charge which just adds another thing to manage.

Since I’ve simplified to a two device footprint that are apple devices, I decided to go with these little guys.

There are a few reasons why these fit the bill for me. First off, they are easily transportable to the point of being able to be lost and I’ll cover that in a moment. Second they fit into the choices I made very easily since the case is a charger and the case takes a lightning cable which makes it fit inside a traveling ecosystem. Third off, the sound and pairing is excellent to my non-discriminating and audiophile ears and they do not pop out of my ears. Finally, no cables or distractions from actually listening to the music.

One of the points though is tracking and keeping these things. By themselves, I could see just losing track of them in a rush to pack or leave a coffee shop or something. I started looking for something to help me remember to pack or hook these to the inside of a daypack or my Tortuga Outbreaker. Enter the PodPocket case which comes in handy colors from my travel buddy Amazon here. The case I bought is the blazing red one like this.

The attraction thing is the color and the keyring and still maintaining the portability of doing the primary stuff with it. Simply place the whole thing in the daypack or pocket or attach via the keyring. I think its harder to lose a thing that is bright red and cries out for attention.

I’ve read others that downplay the audio quality and claim you have to carry another device for X or Y reason. I don’t see that. I listen to music with them on my iPhone 7 plus and I hear all the wonderful sounds. They seem to stay active with no cutouts and the quick maintenance and placement into a case is the best. Charging in the car is easy as well and I can quickly slip them into the case which charges them.

Perhaps they do not have some audiophile quality sound but these tech things are still emerging and how we use them is too. The AirPods are just a update to a bunch of cables and chargers and leave me feeling more productive and able to enjoy music faster. I am not real Apple lover but I chose the ecosystem because of the devices which do not take up space when traveling. Having the 12 inch 2017 MacBook and the iPhone 7 plus lets me go with things in a compatible technology. I can take or read notes on Ulysses on my iPhone or read a story that I have started working on.

The AirPods are just a generational leap forward and perhaps in a year there is something else better. For me, having a set of devices which link up by opening and store the configurations in iCloud mean an ease of travel.

Its Life, Right?

Love and hate. Twin forces that I saw last night at a Carl’s Junior by where I work. Here’s the view. I go out to eat after a 2+ hour walk after work. I order my usual 1/3d pound combo which I like. There is a couple sitting across the restaurant. Since they are the only other customers I engaged in some observation. I can hear the woman from across the restaurant recriminating, spiteful, insulting. All pointed to the guy she is with. The server stops by and she hated the sandwich. Okay. Got that. She paid for it. They get up to leave and they walk out different doors and she is stridently asking him if he is going to unlock the car any time soon for her.

I remember the saying,

familiarity breeds contempt

What is it that brings this out in people after what I think were probably years and years together? Was she that way when they met? What are his faults besides just “taking it” from her? Is he just a doormat and won’t stand up for himself? I remember back to being married and a thing I still believe.

You never really know another person when you marry them. You only know what they want you to know. Just wait for the divorce though. Then you learn the whole story. All that stuff that is covered up that the other person does not want you to know is stripped off and you see the naked emotion and desire and fault of the person just like they see yours.

I guess the thing that remains is that I am so glad to not have another person injecting themselves on things, saying cruel things, becoming insulting and demeaning in a restaurant. As I walked out I told the same server my sandwich was good. She just nodded and said thanks. I think people hear it all in that endeavor.

Perhaps that is just me. Maybe my ego and narcissistic aptitudes come bubbling up when I hear people talking that crap to one another. Perhaps I remember 22 years of married life and what I learned after it. I wonder if the guy goes out ever and has a beer, wonders what the Hell happened. Perhaps his significant other is not so significant and he is beaten down and shuffles through life forever feeling the sting of personal defeat. Maybe he has learned how to deal with it all and he just stumbles through life from one fast food restaurant and a forgettable sandwich to another.

I’d say life is too short and we only have a few runs at things. Imagine being with another person and having that person descend to insult and injury.

There is no place to go next. Life is a wall. You order another burger.

I blog therefore I am… I guess

I’ve read a few blogs that I follow of late which record some reason to blog as being successful, finding more followers, some kind of financial benefit, or a desire to “get ahead”. I admire the goals that some people have writing these things and if they know a way to get ahead doing a blog, I think they should go for it. Do reviews of restaurants or hotels? Do travel blogging and become digital nomads? Great. Include Adwords? Fantastic. Happy for you.

As I sit over the morning coffee that my Chemex dutifully delivered I thought about my reasons to write these things. I’ve been doing this since about 2001 when I started at Advogato which is gone now after a great run of letting a variety of people report on news, create journal entries, rate others. It was a fun place to record things I was doing way back then as I worked at a Startup during the dot.com boom days.

Then I worked at Technorati for awhile as it rated the most authoritative bloggers and also highlighted rising stars. This was done using a model they developed. I left there with questions though. Why does a blog have to be successful? What happens if no one reads it? How many blogs are started with the first Hello post that WordPress does and then simply discarded like so much detritus left in the backwashes of this digital world?

It was then I knew that I did not do this to reach a number of readers or to measure success or make money. I did this because I wanted to do this and I felt compelled to write time and again. There is nothing here you have to subscribe to. No Google Adwords or asking you to donate via PayPal links.

I do this only to record my passage of time, the thoughts that crease this brow, the stories I like to find and build here. None of this is likely to produce a financial highlight nor was it ever meant to. I do this not because I like to but because I have to. I’ve realized linking in or seeing someone link to my blog out there means nothing to me. I like people that comment or that follow my blog but I don’t do this that for that reason.

Simply put, I do this because I have to do this. I do this because I love to do this for its sake alone and if you choose to read or not; that’s your choice of reading or following. I bought the domain with no expectation of financial or personal remuneration. I did the domain because I wanted to. I bought the personal service because I wanted to.

You will never see Adwords or links to donate here folks. Simply because this blog ain’t good enough and I don’t desire that. I don’t really write for any of you but if you find something in what I write and choose to follow, thanks! I am like the 5 pound chicken trying to lay the ten pound egg. Sometimes it gets unbearable and I have to turn to this media. I feel the need to create and document as this life force within me calls for the discussion.

No one expects anything and I don’t deliver on expectations. I am busy trying to get rid of responsibilities not gain more. If you blog for another reason, great. The world and WordPress are open to you. I’m just saying I don’t and never will.

Hang in there. The blog will become more obtuse as we go 🙂

The Electrical Lifeforce and other Thoughts

I’ve been spending a few days considering things like what basic electrical adaptors and USB chargers are best for me. Here’s the scenario. You don’t want to carry a bag that has so many adaptors and plugs and doodads. You don’t want to carry multiple things when one will do. You have to find devices which will power and empower you and your devices. I bought a few things now which I have come to find out will not work overseas or are not specifically supported by their own website or on Amazon to work. Electricity is something to be careful with here folks. You are gonna tap into electrical systems in countries which vary wildly. Find a reputable travel site or blog and read what works that they report on. I found this site which lists the devices recommended. I opted for two of them:

  1. MAKETECH Compact Aluminum 2-Outlet Travel Power Strip. This device handles a multiple number of functions which I find very useful. It has two American plugs and it also has three USB chargers.
  2. Flight 001 4-In-1 Adapter. This thing is all color-coded so the forgetful nature I have should not be able to miss this thing.

Remember that neither of these convert power but only adapt and provide. Be sure your devices support the 110 to 240 levels that you plug in.

So lets talk use cases for the MakeTech device Flight 001. This device plugs into the Flight 001 4 in 1 adaptor in the wall in a hotel room. It provides outlets for me for my 12 inch Mabook and for my camera battery charger. There are three USB ports on it as well. These ports will hold my iPad mini 4 and my iPhone 7 plus cables as well as the cable to charge my camera and my headset by switching the adaptor for Type C at the end off or on.

I’ve eliminated the need to carry a completely separate 4 port USB charger with this configuration! I may just buy a second MakeTech device and pack away to ensure things remain stable.

Main Lesson Learned

Be careful out there. Some devices and doodads look too good to be true. Read the specifications but also read real user reviews on Amazon. People have experienced the devices and reported and have probably done what you are gonna do.

I also wanted to limit the number of electrical plugs and adapters to carry. The MakeTech appears to do just that. But read the device stuff and be sure. I will not really know until I am sitting in my room in Hanoi and I want to charge my iPhone. But I can do some preliminary research and ensure the things I’m buying will work reliably.

In Other News…

A few other interesting tidbits from the life of Mike and his places. My manager at work asked me just the other day to extend a month to help finish a project. Totally unexpected but the money is nice! Now I will stay gainfully employed until the last day I am here. Thanks company! My wallet thanks you a bit too.

I also paid off my car loan Friday. A major milestone was reached and I am now debt free for the first time in years. No more revolving and interest bearing debt with credit unions. Now I can transfer the car to my daughter before I pull this plug.

I also realized that I will be very glad to leave this place. The whole degrading thing with Trump in office really makes the USofA look bad. We look like we are spiraling around in some lower arc with less morals and convictions and values. How is it possible I wonder? Its past the comics posted on Facebook. We just seem to be lost and wandering in a dark place where conspiracy theories and alternate realities drum beat our days. I’m sorry everyone. We’re not all that way. Its almost MLK day and he said not to judge by the color of the skin but the content of the character. We seem stuck on the first thing. Will we ever get to the second? Maybe in 2020. Will I be back then? I don’t know. Is there something to come back to?

Electronics and Support Gear – Capsule Workflow

This is part two of my capsule workflow. This post is oriented toward portable electronics I have selected for my travel. There are a few prerequisites that I decided on to fulfill the needs.

  1. The devices should be multiple use devices and should all fall in one OS and application ecosystem. I believe its difficult to have an Android phone with a iPad mini and a Macbook laptop because something as primary as my application ecosystem must synchronize and be available on all devices. By multiple use I mean that all should be able to be used for an intended purpose but also be extensible to other uses. My iPhone 7 plus is great at being a phone but its also a collaboration device, a consumption device, and its SIM unlocked so it can participate in various places easily. The iPad mini 4 is the same. I can read on it but also consume stuff easily and with a device with a portable foot print. Finally, my 12 inch MacBook is a great device for this as long as you extend its single Type C port with a dongle that can hold memory cards, USB, ethernet, and power.
  2. Power supply is a basic need here. The devices are nothing if you cannot reliably charge them in different places. To satisfy this, I’ve gone with an international adapter and a 3 port surge arrest. In that I plug in two things. One is the 4 port USB adapter which will do iPhone, iPad, and camera charging as well as my chosen bluetooth headphones and my MacBook charger.

One primary need for the two things is portability. I’ve gone back and forth on what bluetooth headphones I should bring. I’ve tested any number on all three devices and there was always something I liked less. I am no audiophile or have a demanding need. I want a single device that is of high quality that can be used in multiple settings. I don’t mind paying if I get that. The next area of portability is how all this stuff is carried. A single pouch with a zipper is ideal for the following items:

  1. International Adapter and Surge Arrest
  2. 4 Port USB charger of a reliable nature (Anker or Aukey)
  3. Two lightning cables (one for phone, one for iPad)
  4. Two micro USB cables (one for headset and one for camera)
  5. Camera charger unit

All of this must fit in a large zipper pouch which can be stored in my Tortuga Outbreaker backpack. With all this, I have the necessary technology to hit the road and maintain the needs I have to charge and use devices. I like to have these devices available for use and I get a lot of joy out of my MacBook and iPad mini.

A final thing for the electronic workflow is to practice packing it all in a larger zippered pouch. I’ve traveled with the same stuff before so I kinda know it fits but when you are gonna hit the road with only a carry-on, I think practicing makes perfect. Selecting the right gear to pack including a zippered pouch and the backpack is key. Both things should be flexible and easy to maintain. I believe the Tortuga Outbreaker is just that.

This concludes my second post on capsule equipment for electronics. My final post will be on support items and their workflows that I will want to carry to maintain comfort, keep money and cards safe, and also ensure that there is security to my ephemeral existence.

Stay tuned!

Packing and Organization – A Capsule Workflow

Pack for a week and travel for years is not the province of the hostel going crowd. What is needed is an example and workflow that anyone can follow that is considering the adventure of a lifetime. I’m going to help that along in a series of blog posts regarding building that capsule from a base of clothing we all can have available with the finalist bag I have chosen to carry. Without further ado, the bag I have chosen to carry is the Tortuga Outbreaker. Here’s the bag.

First off, the clothing and I must state that since this adventure has no real end that I cannot pack that way. So the first blog post focuses on capsule clothing and organization to control that clothing. I’ve taken ideas from Tortuga’s post on this here. The basic idea is to come up with a set of foundation clothing one can use that is the baseline. Here is mine.

Clothing

Socks and Underwear – 6 pair of each. I bought some Merino wool socks but I am not going to buy some $50.00 a pair underwear so I go with cotton.

Shirts – I am going with 6 cotton t shirts packed.

Pants and Shorts – I am going with one pair of jeans I wear, a pair of Chino’s and a pair of shorts.

Jackets – One hoodie I will wear.

Organization

Now we come to the all important organization of these items. Remember, I am not going to discuss electronics, camera, or other non-clothing stuff at this point. This post is only about clothing.

Packing Cubes – The bag I have chosen has small cubes already included in the main compartment. I will need a single large cube that will fit my t shirts and pants. This cube is the foundation element in the pack. The clothing is rolled where it makes sense and stowed in a packing cube unzipped half way. The packing cube is then placed in the primary compartment of the bag.

I believe that packing cubes make up a necessary organization and functional need for clothing particularly. The Outbreaker has smaller “cubes” already in the bag so I will use those for smaller clothing items. There are four of them so two will be for socks and two for underwear. There are zipper pouches that can hold the shorts and laundry bag.

This creates the foundation organization I need and lets me look at a composite capsule list for not only clothing but my next post which will be electronics. I don’t feel a pressing need to be truly minimal here so I am taking a bag that will hold 45 liters. That size is the upper limit on carry on but also the so-called “sweet spot” for travel like this.

Stay tuned for the next in the capsule series which focuses on the choices I’ve made for electronics. There’s a tradeoff on these things so I am still looking at choices. Do I carry the iPad mini 4 or my kindle reader? I can see one or the other but not both. We shall see.