The winds are stirring

Well, I got an offer on the house today. We have to negotiate a final price and such. I’ve seen so many business deals go south in my life that I’ve come to expect the worst.

If something does happen, I could be out in 2-3 weeks.

…then the fun starts.

Happy 2007 (Why am I still here edition)

Here is the view of my backyard taken this morning:

Before you start swooning over the beauty of the snow covered trees and the ice covered lake (especially if you’re from an area where it doesn’t snow), let me remind you that winter royally sucks. It gets old after the first dozen or so you suffer through. Even though this winter has been pretty mild so far, it’s still winter and therefore, still sucks.

I had really hoped and expected to be on the road by now. But what can you do? Since my last update, I’ve been in a holding pattern waiting for my house to sell. December is a crappy time of year to sell a house. I have however been surprised with the level of activity I’ve seen in the last two week when I figured it would be dead. I have a good feeling about the next 30 days and I hope that I’ll have something by then.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing some low-level stuff getting ready for my trip. The biggest thing has been changing my diet. In the last 2 months, I’ve lost about 15 pounds. This has been a function of nothing more than eating less and eating better. I have cut out almost all fried foods and sugar and I try to only eat when I’m hungry. As a result of this, I’ve also reduced the point at which I’m satiated, which means I consume smaller portions as well. I’ve dropped a full pant size, but oddly enough, I have yet to have a single person say to me “have you lost weight?”.

The next step to move from just dietary changes to physical ones as well. I’ll be starting up the gym membership again within the next day or two. I’m going to try and get back in some sort of reasonable shape in the month or two I have remained here in Minnesota. I think there are two reasons for the success I’ve had in losing weight this time around: 1) I kept the plan simple, and 2) I have created an enormous negative incentive if I fail. I’ll be doing the same with my work outs. (while I know this smacks of New Year’s Resolution, this is really part of something I’ve been doing for months. It just happens to be occurring over the holidays)

So that’s basically it. I’m waiting for my house to move and when it does I expect a flurry of activity for a few weeks after that moving getting ready. In the mean time, I can do some more work on this website (like get a real designer) keep pimping my myspace page out.

Pacific Itinerary – Part One

The question I get all the time from everyone I talk to about my trip is “where are you going?” My reply is always “everywhere”.

I really have no set schedule I’m going to follow because I’d rather be flexible and I think if you plan more than a few months ahead, you’re going to eventually have to change it due to factors beyond your control, so why bother?

I do however have a good idea where I’ll be going first for the first few months of the trip. I’ll be starting in the South Pacific. Here is my current itinerary for first few months I’ll be on the road:

  1. Hawaii – This is an obvious starting point for anything in the Pacific. Its the cheapest place to fly to in the Pacific from the US, and there are connecting flights to most major Pacific islands. I’m planning on spending a few weeks bumming around Hawaii testing my equipment, doing some test video, and getting used to living out of a backpack. I’ll try to hop from the big island to Oahu where I’ll get a flight to the next stop, which is….
  2. French Polynesia – Papeete on the island of Tahiti is the capital and hub for French Polynesia. I’ll probably also visit Moorea and Bora Bora as they are not too far away. Bora Bora is a must see. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Most of Frech Polynesia is high end resorts, but I’ve found several cheap hotels/hostels which I can stay at on the cheap. If I want, I could always splurge on a nice hotel for an evening just to shower and abuse their free internet. From here, my next stop is…
  3. Easter Island (Rapa Nui) – If you made a short list of places on Earth you have to see, I’m sure Easter Island is somewhere on the list. The problem is, its in the middle of nowhere. Literally. Under the administration of Chile, flights there only come from Santiago and Papeete. From everything I’ve read, flights are shorter, cheaper, and less crowded when you fly from Tahiti. I’m planning on a full week in Easter Island before I fly back to Tahiti. From there, I’ll catch a flight to….
  4. The Cook Islands – If you’re not geographically inclined, the Cook Islands are where this season’s Survivor is taking place. Raratonga, is a popular tourist destination, so this shouldn’t be too much of an exotic adventure. There are a bunch of other islands in the Cook Islands, but I don’t know much about them. I’ll decide when I’m there if I’ll be visiting any others. After this, things start becoming difficult as far as connecting flights go. If possible, and I don’t know if it is, my next stop will be….
  5. The Kingdom of Tonga –The fact that I don’t know if any flights go from Raratonga to Tonga is indication of the relative popularity of Tonga as a tourist destination. Up until Tonga, all my previous destinations will have been territories of other, larger countries (France, Chile, and New Zealand). Tonga is the only country in the Pacific to have never been colonized. Tonga has been in the news the last few days because riots have destroyed much of the capitol, NukuÊ»alofa. The king of Tonga died a few months ago, and the people have been rioting for more democracy. When you’re a small country, burning a good chunk of your infrastructure doesn’t seem to be a great way to get your point across. From Tonga I’ll head to (assuming I can get a direct flight)….
  6. Niue – A single island in Free Association with New Zealand, Niue has about 2,500 people and had its ass handed to it in 2004 from Cyclone Heta. Prior to the cyclone, they had a working wifi network that covered the whole island. I’m not sure what the current state of the island is. I know many of the residents left to work in New Zealand after the cyclone. When I’m done here, my next stop is…
  7. Samoa – Proud homeland to many a professional wrestler. Apia, capital of Samoa, is a mini hub for the region. Its a very short flight to….
  8. American Samoa – We totally own this. We (meaning the US) even have a National Park in American Samoa. We took it from the Germans after WWI because it was a good coaling station. Back in Apia, I’ll have the opportunity for one of the real gems in this trip. A chance to visit….
  9. Tokelau – Also technically a part of New Zealand, Tokelau consists of a whopping 3 atolls and has a grand total of 1,500 people. Unlike other atolls, there are no landing strips anywhere in Tokelau. The ONLY way to get there is via a 38 hour boat trip, where you have to sit on the deck of the boat. Once you’re there, you pretty much have nothing to do other than hang out with other Tokelauans and help fish and do whatever it is Tokelauians do.
  10. To be continued…..

Over the river and through the woods

I’m off to Wisconsin again to put another load of crap into storage and have Thanksgiving with the family.

I’ve also started a myspace site for my trip. If you have Myspace account (and I don’t blame if you don’t have one), you can add me at

I see London, I see France

As my trip creeps ever closer, the reality of it is starting to permeate my thinking about everyday stuff.

Over the next two years, I’ll be living out of a bag. The amount of “stuff” I’ll have at my disposal is going to shrink dramatically. I’d guess that 90% of the “stuff” I’ll be carrying around will be things that I don’t yet own. 99% of the “stuff” I do own will be put into storage.

The stuff I bring with I have to select carefully and give to thought to things I normally don’t have to think about. Take, for example, underwear.

I currently wear Hanes ComfortSoft boxer briefs. (a fact I’m sure you were all dying to know). As underwear go, they are great. They are comfortable and durable. However, I’m not bringing them with me. The problem is, they are made out of cotton, and cotton is a bitch to dry when they get wet. While in Hawaii this year, I jumped in the water wearing shorts and my underwear underneath. It was a bad move for obvious reasons. Even with my body heat, they still took forever to dry and were wet long after my quick dry shorts dried.

Impromptu swimming sessions aren’t my primary concern so much as impromptu laundry sessions. I plan on bringing no more than 4-5 pair of underwear with me. That means I’ll have to do frequent laundry, sometimes in a sink or a shower. Cotton just isn’t going to cut it. I’m currently thinking about getting underwear from Ex-Officio. (yeah, I’ve spent time researching my underwear…) They are expensive, but should be much easier to clean and dry than regular cotton undies…..they also claim to be odor resistant, which I’m sure will come in handy when I’m in the middle of nowhere.

This nitpicking has extended to all sorts of items I’ll have to bring: towels, toothbrushes, shirts, pants, shoes, etc.

I’ll eventually publish a complete list of everything I’m taking with me. Until then, if you have any suggestions for stuff that will travel well, I’m all ears.

For those who are interested…

I’m playing around with Google Earth. I’ve manually created a .kmz file for Google Earth that shows the locations I’m going to be visiting in the Pacific Island part of my trip. You can download it here.

I eventually want to automate the .kmz file from the posts on the website, but I’m not sure how to do that yet. There might be a WordPress plug-in that already does it, but I haven’t found it.

If you don’t have Google Earth, you should get it. You can easily waste an evening just zooming into places around the world. (it’s not the same thing as Google Maps. This is a desktop program you install)

Eat Cheese or Die

I’m in Wisconsin right now updating on a dial-up connection at my parent’s house. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be shuttling back and forth between Minnesota and here moving boxes of books and other crap I’ve accumulated.

The house has been up on the market for only a few days but it’s getting a pretty good response. I’ve had 4 people come through on Tuesday and a few on Wednesday.

I got to meet Scotty and Fiddy from> on Sunday. What they’re doing is sort of audacious. They’re trying to hit all 50 state capitals in 50 days via hitchhiking. They had no real plan on how they were going to get anywhere, did manage to visit Alaska already. How they get to Hawaii is still totally up in the air.

This is a short update as dial-up is the more painful than passing a kidney stone.


So far, I haven’t purchased anything for the trip. This has been by design. Because I don’t know the exact day when I’m going to start, I’ve been holding off so I can wait for newest models of the stuff I want to come out. So far, this strategy has paid off in spades. New models of HD cameras are coming out every week as are new and better laptops.

Now I’m facing the serious problem what what to buy and I have to make some decisions soon. At a minimum, I’m looking at buying the following items:

  • Laptop Computer capable of doing simple video editing
  • HD Video Camera, preferably one with a built in hard drive
  • GPS
  • iPod Nano

My biggest concern before I purchase anything is power. In particular, how I have charge everything. I’d like to minimize the amount of transformer bricks I have to carry. Ideally, I’d like to be able to charge everything off of the USB port on the laptop. As this probably isn’t possible, I’d like to keep it down to no more than two transformers I have to carry. I also plan on bringing several NiMH AA batteries and a USB charger. I’m also toying with the idea of a solar powered charger for small stuff, but I doubt I’ll do it. What I’ve seen available is very cumbersome and not very powerful.

I’m strongly leaning towards the Macbook Pro. It comes bundled with iMovie and I can now run Windows on it if I need to. There are two things which might persuade me to not get one. First, they are heavy. The 15″ Macbook Pro is 5.6 pounds and the 17″ is 6.8 pounds. That’s pretty heavy. Granted, most of the time I wont have to worry about carrying it around on my back, but its still a lot to carry. It’s a helluva lot more than my current laptop which is 2.87 pounds (my current laptop also doesn’t have a CD drive and only has a 10.4″ screen). In the end, I think I’ll just deal with the weight. I’m not climbing Mount Everest.

The second issue is a bigger problem: compatibility with camcorders. In particular, new hard drive camcorders. All the ones I’ve seen so far record in MPEG2, and iMovies works in MPEG4. Converting from MPEG2 to MPEG4 isn’t appealing, but using a Mac and a HDD camcorder is.

Video Camera
Unless there are some announcements really soon, I think I may end up going with a MiniDV camera. Carrying and buying the tapes would be a pain, but it might just be the best option available to me. The other thing I have to consider is the size and weight of the camera as well as the weight of extra batteries. There are some very small units that can fit in the palm of your hand, and some a bit bigger that have much better quality. How big I go and what quality I get is still up in the air. Ultimately I have to balance carrying around the media for the camera, carrying around the actual camera, and the quality of what I’ll be taking.

Digital SLR
I’ve put the least amount of thought into this. There are lots of good models out there, all of which are compatible with Mac, and they all use very standard formats. This is really my smallest worry for technology. My biggest concerns will be batteries and how I can charge them.

I have two options. 1) I can get a normal hand held GPS. 2) I can get a smaller USB GPS that plugs into my computer. There are pros and cons to each. The hand held unit I can take with my absent my laptop which would be very handy. However, its probably a tad bit heavier and requires batteries. The USB GPS is smaller, needs no batteries, but I have to have the laptop with me and on to function.

Other Stuff
I’m going to bring an iPod Nano rather than a full blown iPod for music. The Nano is smaller, with a longer battery life. I’ll bring my current iPod just for storage. I’ll just keep most music on my laptop. I’ll also bring my pocket camera (Sony DSC-T1), but I’m not thrilled about the fact that I need another power brick to recharge it. I wish I could charge it from USB. I’ll also need a very lightweight tripod.

I’m trying to lose weight and get in better shape before I leave. For that reason I haven’t purchased any clothing. I do however have a good idea of what I’m going to bring. I wore a pair of Hardmountain covertable pants for most of this year. I wore them every day over 4 months this summer. They are amazingly comfortable, durable, easy to dry and can function as pants or shorts. Likewise, I want to get synthetic shirts that dry easily. I’m assuming that I’ll be doing laundry wherever and whenever I can, so having quick dry clothes will be handy.

Shoes are another area I’m up in the air about. I’m probably going to bring a good pair of sandals (Chacos or Tevas) and a pair of sneakers. I want to, and probably should bring, my hiking boots along. They are very bulky and heavy, however.