Category Archives: Pre-Trip

Gear – Take Two

Yes, I do have some gear, too, and I have more than Matt. Women just have a few extra things, and I do have some stuff I’m going to use up during this trip. If this is not enough, I will sadly toss some of my belongings. Here we go.


Fleece, 3 t-shirts, 1 buttoned shirt long-sleeve, 2 buttoned shirts short-sleeve, 2 long-sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of travel pants, 1 capri-style pair of pants, rain jacket, hat, bathing suit, flip flops, underwear + socks, sleeping pants, Chaco sandals, trekking shoes


Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, facial soap in box, regular soap in box, disposable contact lenses, miscellaneous medication, travel toilet paper, sunglasses, miscellaneous items men wouldn’t bring


Rough Guide to Central America, Lonely Planet Argentina, travel pillow, 2 travel towels


Nook + cable, notebook + cable, cell phone + charger, MP3 player + connecting cable, headset for using Skype, headlamp

There are probably a few things I forgot to list here, but these are the main items with the notebook being the heaviest. The travel pillow was very useful on the flight, yet bulky to carry along. We shall see. I also brought a book that a friend of mine gave to me, so I don’t know what’s going to happen to that when I’m done…


Here are some pics before we left, courtesy of my mom-in-law.


REI is my one consumer weakness, so buying stuff for this trip was not difficult. Everything must fit in my 65 liter pack (expandable to 75 liters). Everything should be as lightweight, functional, and durable as possible. All clothing should be synthetic, as it is easier to wash, dries faster, and holds its shape better than cotton. I may end up discarding some of this stuff, but this is everything for now.

Three t-shirts and one nicer short sleeve shirt for when I don’t want to look too scrubby

three long sleeve shirts

2 pairs of pants, one convertible

1 pair of shorts

1 fleece

4 each of socks and underwear

1 rain jacket

flip flops

chaco sandals (these are very heavy and may have to go at some point

1 travel pillow

various toiletries

simple first aid kit

small sewing kit

netbook (the heaviest item in the pack)

my kindle

Downtime In The Burbs

Well, we’ve been hanging out here in the suburbs, trying to relax for a few days before we take off to Argentina, and I must say that vegetating feels very rewarding. Apart from raking leaves, and taking care of a few things, we haven’t done much, and it feels good that way.

After a while though, I just need to repeat that I’m not made for the suburbs. It is nice to relax for a while, and I do enjoy the company of my in-laws, but there is NOTHING going on here. For any sort of entertainment you need to drive to the city. There is nowhere to walk except into the woods, and all our friends seem too far away, even though we’re only about 19 miles from where we used to live. Two different worlds. In my little village in Germany, you run at least into someone occasionally (if you like it or not), but here, there is hardly anyone outside. The American suburbs are not for me, and we are so moving back to the city when we’re back. But Buenos Aires is next…

Goodbye American TV

Despite it’s faults, we do produce much better television here than in most other places, and I will miss it. Watching Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen however, I’m a little suspicious of the director’s motives. Is he trying to give me an epileptic seizure? Seriously, why is it not possible to leave the camera on a single frame for longer than 2 seconds?


I think I’ve finally recovered from a hellish weekend of moving and my last day of work on Monday. In my next apartment I vow to have less stuff, although I’m not really sure how that is going to happen. I’ve spent the last several days mostly vegging out. I feel like I’m retired, and I love it! Now seems like a good time for some pre-trip thoughts, and to welcome our readers to our blog. My (now former) co-workers gave us 64 views on the day I plugged this blog. Not bad for a blog with almost nothing posted!


This blog will be our account of our extended travels beginning in November 2010. We had originally envisioned this as a “trip around the world,” but found the prospect of planning such a thing too daunting. So we decided to start in South America, travel for as long as we wish, and then move on. There is no itinerary, and 5 days before departure we have made no specific plans save to book a hotel for the first several nights. I prefer it this way because, unlike most frenetically planned 1-2 week trips, it will allow us to be flexible. There are, of course, a few “must sees.” Iguazu falls, hiking in Patagonia, and Machu Picchu are top priorities, as are some of the major cities like Buenos Aires.

Getting from Place to Place

We depart on a one-way flight to Buenos Aires on November 10, and arrive sometime the following morning. We plan to do most, if not all, of our traveling after that using over-land transit. Although it will be more difficult, I find traveling by train, bus, chicken cart, etc, far more interesting than hopping over vast distances by plane. There will be more opportunity to rub elbows with locals and see things, perhaps unexpectedly, that we would not otherwise see. For some reason I also have the strange idea that the experience will be  far richer if some things require ingenuity and persistence. We will, of course, use flights to get between continents, and to avoid places that are simply not safe.


We will try to keep a table of our expenses, and I hope to get around to putting up some kind of spreadsheet soon. I really have no idea how much the trip will cost, although I always vaguely thought that I could live with averaging about $100 per day. The purpose of this is not to be boastful about what we have, or to moralize about anyone else’s financial decisions. It is to offer some practical advice for others. I expect that this won’t even be very hard, since keeping a detailed spreadsheet of my expenses is already a nerdy habit of mine. My hope is that someone reads our blog, and realizes that they too can go on the travels that they have always dreamed of.

Shameful Moralizing

Okay, I lied, this will be the first and last bit of moralizing that I do. I’ve been struck by how many people say how much they wish they could do what we are doing. My answer is always, “you can,” most people just don’t realize it. Americans (and Germans) live in a fantastically wealthy society with innumerable luxuries, most of which we really don’t need. There is no inheritance paying for this trip, although I wish there was. It has taken us five years to save the money that we need. For five years we’ve lived in a tiny Boston apartment, seldom eaten out or gone to the movies, and have gotten by on a $50 per month shared cell phone plan an 8 year old car. I get looks of astonishment when I tell people that I do not have, nor want cable. I admit, I’m a cheapskate.

Nevertheless, people are usually dumbfounded as to how we could manage to afford this trip. It rests of course, on the assumption that both daily life, and travel need to be expensive. True, most of us choose to make our lives expensive, but it doesn’t need to be so. To quote the venerable traveler Rolf Potts, “you could work for eight months as a toilet cleaner to save enough money to ride a motorcycle across China.” So get saving, and realize that you don’t need nearly as many things as you think you do.


Last night, we had our farewell party with our closest friends, and we’re now less than 4 weeks from our departure date. We’re excited and thrilled about the upcoming trip.

Giving notice wasn’t too hard, because we’re trading 9-5 with excitement, fun, and adventure. Our friends will still be here when we return, and a new job will come up somehow. I’m confident this was the right decision. And this morning, we woke up to a changed wallpaper background on our computer screen. Thank you to our dear friends! We’ll miss you, too!

Vaccinations And Medical Precautions

Before you head out on your little adventure, make sure to get all the proper vaccinations in order to avoid any major illness you might encounter on the road.

What did we do?

We went to a travel clinic in Cambridge in July, and had a consultation with a specialized travel doctor. Since we weren’t really sure about our itinerary, we told her that we’re planning on going to South America, Central America, and Asia. She then recommended vaccines for the following diseases:

  • Diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (DPT)
  • Hepatitis A+B
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Polio
  • Yellow fever
  • Japanese encephalitis

I also decided to get the seasonal flu shot at my primary care physician later on. Some of these shots require multiple visits (three for rabies, two for JE), so you need to make sure to get started early. During our first visit, we got 5 different shots, and were totally wiped out the next day. The doctor had warned us that we “might feel a little fatigued”, but that was an understatement. All the vaccines were in the form of shots, except for typhoid, which is an oral “live vaccine”, which you take throughout the course of a week every second day. Yellow fever is also very important, since some countries (like Peru) won’t let you in if you hadn’t had the shot. You also get a yellow book as “proof of purchase” to bring along on your trip.

What else?

In addition to the examples above, we also got prescriptions for malaria pills, and “issues” we might encounter on the road, such as altitude sickness (for instance for Peru), and traveler’s diarrhea (yeah!!!). We had some issues ordering them online, because we didn’t understand the process too well (you have to mail in your prescriptions, and THEN place the order, for some reason I thought they would call the doctor and confirm…). So we ended up getting the following drugs.

  • Malarone – to prevent malaria (South America and Asia)
  • Chloroquine – to prevent malaria (Central America – the strain there is different there somehow)
  • Acetazolamide – for altitude sickness
  • Ciprofloaxin – for moderate or severe diarrhea
  • Azithromycin – for moderate or severe diarrhea (mostly for Asia)

What would I do differently?

I would start ordering the drugs earlier. We ended up only getting a 90-day supply of malarone, because you can only do re-fills every 3 months, and now we’re too late for the second order (at that time, we will be out of health insurance coverage in the U.S.). As far as health insurance was concerned, we got everything covered with Harvard Pilgrim, except for a few co-pay amounts for our drugs. The travel clinic required us to call our insurance before our visit to make sure they covered “preventive travel medicine”.