I’ve been on a keyboard buying spree lately after cancelling my WayTools TextBlade order two weeks ago. While I like the iPad’s software keyboard, I can still type faster on a physical keyboard. Writing code on iOS devices prior to the iPad Pro has been a torturous exercise, with constant tapping and re-tapping of the 123 and #+= keys to access commonly used programming characters. An external keyboard makes this all so much easier.
With the money that was credited back to my account from WayTools, I now have three working keyboards that I can use with my iOS devices or Mac computers:
iPad Keyboard Dock (iOS only)
Logitech K811 Easy-Switch Keyboard
Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard (MFK)
These are in addition to my venerable Logitech K760 solar-powered keyboard which I’ve been happily using for the past four years.
Since my exercise and weight loss journey began in the middle of 2014, I have lost about five inches off my waist (34 inches to 29 inches). That custom tailored double-breasted suit from Hong Kong that I got in the summer of 1995? I’m glad that style is coming back into fashion because the muffin top is gone, and the suit fits me again! Those durable North Face shorts I wore on my Desolation Wilderness backpacking trips in the late 90s and early 2000s but hid in my closet the last decade because they had gotten too tight? Time to start planning another backpacking trip because they’re loose and comfy now!
Seeing that the clothes I’ve been wearing the past several years are now too big, I’m jumping head-first into this sartorial opportunity to do something I’ve long wanted to do but was afraid to commit to: creating a minimalist uniform for myself. I’ve been inspired by people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, President Obama and otherswho have adopted a minimalist clothing approach or a personal uniform. They’ve chosen to wear the same or identical clothes every day in order to concentrate on the things that are most important to them instead of wasting time on deciding what to wear. While my daily decisions don’t yet affect the financial future of multi-billion, multi-national companies nor the fate of the free world, I can still benefit from simplifying my life and freeing myself of the clothing decision every day.
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.
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!
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.
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!
The past few days, we’ve had some difficulties getting access to the Internet from the hotel. Here’s a photo of Rae, JP and me at the Simatai Great Wall in China. Tomorrow morning, we’re headed back to the States.