Decluttering, Travel

Saying No To Freebies (And When To Say Yes)

Along with lightweight travel, I have been reading sites on no impact and clutter free living. One of the things at I have been trying to improve at is determining when to say yes or no to freebies. Like many people, I have a soft spot for those free items handed out at conferences and on flights. When you stop to think about it, however, most of these items ultimately end up in the same place, the trash. Take this flight that I was just on. The stewardesses had been going up and down the aisles, handing out free drinks in plastic cups along with straws and napkins. Bea over on Zero Waste Home talks how on many airlines, even the recyclable items often end up in the trash bin. In the end, I declined the free drink and the snack. I do have some work to do, as I am drinking water from a disposable water bottle. At least we will continue to refill it throughout this trip. For our trip to Australia, we will bring our own water bottle from home.

Of course, there are times when you have to seize the opportunity to get something good for free. For example, this morning, we were in the Milwaukee Airport, awaiting our flight to Boston. We heard on the PA system that they were looking for volunteers to give up their seats. In return, travelers were offered free roundtrip tickets. With our open travel plan today, there was no reason to say no to this offer! These tickets will come in handy in the next year as we plan additional screening dates for Autumn Gem.

Standard
Decluttering, Journal, Tech, Travel

Lightweight Travel to Maine

Rae and I are at SFO right now, awaiting our red-eye flight to Boston. We are headed to Maine for a Labor Day weekend wedding at which we will be the photographers. For the past several years, I have endeavored to lighten our luggage on all our our travels. While I didn’t think it was a problem at the time, I seriously overpacked when I was studying in France during college. I brought way too many clothes packed into two suitcases and a garment bag. In addition, I had a backpack and a laptop with me in the City of Lights.

Since then, I have flipped to the other side of the equation. I am constantly looking for better ways to pare down my luggage load. This trip is a little different in that we are bringing a lot of photophores gear to Maine. Still,we are not checking in any luggage on our flights. Some of my photo gear and laptop are stored in a LowePro CompuTrekker AW backpack. The tripod, camera bodies, some lenses, and accessories are in a Pelican 1510 hard case. Rae is carrying all of the clothing in a soft bag that’s backpack sized.

Why travel so light is a question I have been asked before. While I get to save a few dollars avoiding the airline check-in baggage fees, the main reason is that I enjoy having everything with me at all times. There’s a certain sense of freedom and liberty when you don’t have to lug and drag tons of stuff with you everywhere. Rae and I still remember all the steps we ascended and descended in the Paris metro stations; it’s not a good memory to have! From that point forward, both of us have followed a minimalist approach to travel. Furthermore, I enjoy the challenge of reducing what I bring to the bare essentials.

We are about to board the airplane, so I’ll be signing off now. We have some new gear to test on this trip, which I will describe in a future post on this site or on the Autumn Gem site. Stay tuned!

Standard
Journal, Travel

New North Face Surge and Recon Bag Differences

Rae and I were at Valley Fair this evening to meet up with Felix, Osvaldo and Cheryl. We went to the Eddie Bauer store to look at their new bag lineup. With its Adventure and Vantage backpacks, the company is taking cues from and targeting The North Face’s Recon and Surge packs. Eddie Bauer is currently having a back-to-school promotion and backpacks are $20 off. While the packs were of lesser quality overall than TNF’s lineup, they are $40 cheaper.

We then went upstairs to The North Face store. A few months ago, I bought a green Surge backpack. While inspecting the display Surge, I immediately could tell that this was the next year model! The new packs sport YKK zippers and have a lightly padded waistbelt instead of a simple waist strap. There are fewer pockets in the secondary compartment of the Surge, and the shoulder straps have been redesigned. The company also moved the top handle to the back. On the previous edition of the Surge, the top handle was attached to the part of the backpack that opens up. If you were to open the bag, the handle becomes useless. Good decision to move it up top.

While I find my Surge to be a serviceable backpack, there’s still room for improvement. Ideally, I’d like something that’s a cross between the Surge and the Recon. Give me the dedicated laptop compartment of the Surge and add the expandable mesh front pocket from the Recon. I could do without one of the front compartments of the Surge but keep the waistbelt and top handle of the 2010/2011 model. In a way, I kinda just described the Eddie Bauer Adventure backpack! One day, I’ll develop some mad sewing skills and fashion my own ultimate backpack!

Update: I just placed an order for an Ivar Revel G2 backpack.
Ivar packs are unique in that they have a shelving system inside the back. Most backpacks, including the Surge and Recon, are basically big pouches where everything sinks to the bottom. While comfortable with light loads, these backs can become a pain when fully loaded. I’ll likely be testing the Ivar in the Bay Area before our Autumn Gem tour to Australia next month. In the meantime, I’ve put up the Surge for sale on Craigslist. As I mentioned above, it’s a fine backpack, but not quite ideally suited for my needs.

Standard
Autumn Gem, Travel

Autumn Gem Tour Packing Recap

Packing for Autumn Gem Tour

Over on our Autumn Gem blog, I posted a recap and analysis of our packing strategy for our 25-day, 17-stop tour of the documentary. We’ve gotten packing light down to a near science, but there’s always room for improvement. Ideally, we’d like to go from three pieces of luggage to just one. Identifying what worked and what didn’t will help us reach that goal in the future! In an ideal world, I’d love to travel for months at a time with just a backpack. Computing and camera decisions always factor into the ability to do this, however. Carrying around a full-sized, 15-inch laptop (two of them on the tour!) and a digital SLR makes this nearly impossible.

When Rae and I traveled to France and Spain, I made what was at the time a painful decision to leave the computer and camera behind, taking only a small Canon PowerShot with me. In hindsight, it was a great choice, as the reduced bulk made moving from place to place much easier. Despite wheels and handle, rolling suitcases really do a number over time. At the time we went to Europe, the iPhone and iPod touch didn’t exist, but these devices today can replace a laptop for email and basic browsing tasks. Finally, a newer cameras like the PowerShot G11 or S90 offers the manual controls and RAW image support that I’ve come to rely upon in my DSLR.

The other benefit of packing less is that you have less to worry about losing. It was pretty easy to make sure that we had everything we needed before traveling to the next tour location; there wasn’t much to begin with!

Read the rest of the article on the Autumn Gem web site for more about our packing strategy during the tour.

Standard
Qiu Jin, Travel

Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

We arrived yesterday afternoon in Beijing. Today, we’re going to visit the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

When I started to wear glasses during high school, I remember people calling me Pu Yi. We had been watching The Last Emperor in class, and they must have found a resemblance with me and the last ruler of the Qing Dynasty.

We had street food yesterday, and no one got sick! The chicken satay was great (and cheap at $2 RMB)!, and we’re looking forward to eating more from the street vendors.

Standard
Apple, Qiu Jin, Travel

MacBook Pro Woes

I’ve been experiencing random restarts and kernel panics lately on my newly purchased (yet already outdated) MacBook Pro. I’m typically using Aperture of Final Cut Pro when this happens. The computer’s optical disk drive suddenly whirrs, the screen blacks out, and the familiar restart process begins. To say the least, this has been very annoying, especially when I was well into importing a tape of HDV footage!

When I get back next week, I’m scheduling an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar at Valley Fair Mall to get this looked at. Who knows, they might replace it with one of the newer MacBook Pros!

Standard