Curse of Carry-on

Curse of Carry-on

Carry-on or checked bags

Oh ho (as in hi-ho, not hi you ho), this is a subject that has been done to death among travel blogs, but I’m going to put in my two cents. I am very much for doing a carry-on only traveling lifestyle. For weekend trips I’ve been known to go with just a day bag. My friends would occasionally think I was a bit odd for it. One pair of trousers two pairs of socks, two pair of underwear, and a couple of shirts and you’re pretty much set. That even feels like over packing for me. I understand that isn’t as feasible for women, but I’d counter that women’s clothes don’t tend to take up as much space per item.

My Carry-On

I have a couple of special needs for my carry-on. I just went back on the road and got a <href=>Tortuga Air. It’s an awesome bag, but I forgot to factor in my CPAP (machine for my sleep apnea. It takes up almost 1/4 of my bag. In retrospect I kind of wish that I had grabbed the full size Tortuga bag, but c’est la vie.

On this trip out to Australia I’m planning on being out here for a little while, so I brought an extra duffel with me. I grabbed the duffel bag when I was at REI because it collapses down to almost nothing and there were plenty of times on my last trip that I wished for another bag to make a quick trip somewhere (laundry, groceries, etc.). So I landed in Brisbane after about 24 hours on the road and they lost my bag. I’m not going to call out the airline because I heard that they found it and got it delivered to the house I’m going to be staying at in the same day almost. So props for them. However it made me re-evaluate what I put in my carry-on vs the duffel.

I’m pretty paranoid about airlines losing my bags when I know I’m going to be on the road for months, and potentially a year+, so I tried to make sure that everything in my duffel was disposable. I was a little stressed about it when I continued thinking about it the next day, so I made a list of everything in that bag that I could think of. A bit of it was clothes that are duplicates of ones that I already have but in smaller sizes. I tend to drop weight pretty fast when I’m on the road (always a plus), and I wanted to have some clothes around that I liked. If I lost those I’d be mildly irritated, but it happens. Interestingly the things that I would have been most irritated by were things that would have been inconvenient to replace. My Northface rain jacket that I got in Nepal (otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it), as well as my hiking sandals from Nepal. I brought my flip flops in my carry-on, which was kind of stupid. Do you think it would have been hard to find a pair of cheap flip flops in Australia? Of course not.

Oh well, I’m going to do a serious audit of my bags, which I was already planning on, but I thought I’d do it here in Australia. I guess this is a lesson from the universe about procrastinating.

General Thoughts

My general feeling is that carry-on is a better way to travel for me. I don’t really need much. It sounds like a self-congratulatory statement, but it’s true. I’d even go so far as to say that you don’t need that much either (yeah I broke the fourth wall and went all second person on you, deal with it punk). It was drilled into me when I was traveling the first time and my traveling companion, and very old friend, took my bag, on my request, and started throwing stuff out.

I had an entire separate first-aid kit. It even had that stupid red cross on it. It was huge. Almost all gone. So were my stash of thumb drives, and half my clothes, and a bunch of adapters, and tons of other stuff I don’t even remember. We threw it out and horrified the poor manager at the hostel in Nepal. I hope he grabbed the stuff and sold it.

I also had a 35L or so day bag and a 50L hiking pack. Granted that was everything I owned, but still, looking back it seems ridiculous to me. I had that very particular travel turtle look you know if you’ve been to many hostels. I didn’t even have any cold weather gear. I feel bad now with having a baggy of band-aids (plasters for my European friends) in my toiletry bag. I’m going to do a complete breakdown of what I have packed and then what I threw out. I think it might be good for people to see.

It also will show that even people that have traveled quite a bit are still prone to accumulating dross (also known as junk, but I like to sound fancy, FANCY!!! /with jazz hands). I’m not really a pack rat like some of my family, but I do like being prepared. There was a bit of kit that I wish I had on my first trip and I think I went a bit overboard when I came out this time.

The one thing that I missed having the first time was a good wireless card for my laptop with an external antennae. You don’t think it’s a big deal until you’re on the third floor of a hostel trying to get work done and they don’t have any wireless repeaters set up. Your options at that point are not to work, or try to get work done in the lobby where they are playing drinking games and blasting the stereo. I don’t know about you, but my willpower isn’t that strong and I invariably would end up playing the games and being merry. I mostly tried to get my work done during the day, but with time zone differences that wasn’t always feasible.

I’m finishing this post quite a bit after I started it (a bad habit to be sure). I got my bag back, and immediately threw out everything I didn’t need. Not really, It’s been two months and I still have too much stuff. However I hope to be back on the road again soon and it’ll necessitate me throwing out quite a bit of my junk. I’ll do a postmortem on it when I’m done.

Cheers and remember that you never really need as much as you think. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Wait, that might have been for something else.

Loss of Possibilities

I’ve been trying to start writing more, again, although most of it has been letters to family that I’ve fallen out of touch with. Fortunately family, to some extent, transcends the time that causes most relationships to fade. I suppose a decent definition of family would be the people in your life that are always happy to hear from you even after a huge amount of time has passed. I tend to be fairly friendly, and I have been blessed with better friends and family than I probably deserve.

Back to the writing though. I always enjoy writing, and I don’t publish most of what I write on my site. A lot of it is more of just processing my thoughts at the time. Putting it down on paper (or the screen, as the case may be) helps me articulate how I’m feeling about things. I’ve loved writing for a very long time, and used to do it almost constantly. I had notebooks full of bad poetry and terrible short stories. I hope they were all destroyed, but I’m probably not lucky enough for that. When I was first going to college I had to decide between writing and music. I ended up deciding on pursuing music as a career, which didn’t work out perfectly, but I don’t play much music these days and I still try to write when I can.

I was just catching up on my mother’s blog, which she still thinks is just because it’s hers, and not because I like it. I do highly recommend it to anyone who like thoughtful commentary on life with a Buddhist focus (Beginner’s Heart although she just switched blogs since I wrote this Tea and Breath is the new one). She was talking about how she was going to miss me as I went off and about again. I was struck with how much some people writing sounds like the way they think, not necessarily the way they talk, but that informs it. When I read my mother’s writing I can almost hear her in my head. Gentle, carefully reasoned, trying not to make anybody feel bad or upset, but in no way pulling punches or weak.

She is one of the most prolific personal bloggers I’ve ever seen, and by personal I mean not with any industry affiliation. I suppose some news bloggers might be more prolific, but I don’t read a whole lot of news these days. As I read her post on missing me and trying to remember that it’s bad Buddhist practice to be overly attached to things I thought about how much we rely on possibilities. I was living in Portland OR, and my parents lived in Tulsa OK. They rarely came out to visit. Once a year maybe, and the whole family would usually meet up for Christmas. We also tried to do 4th of July together. My point is that my parent’s wouldn’t come out super often. However what I think my mother was reacting to was the loss of the possibility of coming out.

This is the feeling that we have when we realise that a very old friend unfriended us on FaceBook, if you’re the type to pay attention to such things. It makes us realise that they weren’t our friend for years, but our friend years ago. You almost certainly weren’t going to catch up with that person, but now you realise that it’s too late. I’m not saying that it’s too late to spend more time with my parents, not least of which is because they will probably read this, but it’s that feeling of lost possibility or opportunity. As people we don’t generally deal well with loss, even small amounts of it, and when we feel that we lost something that is important to us, like the ability to see your son, it hits us very hard.

I tend to be a pragmatist on such things. I am probably going to see my parents around the same amount every year, although I most likely won’t be home for Christmas, so I don’t worry too much about it. I honestly don’t worry too much about anything. Most of my good friends will attest to this, but I don’t think this is an especially virtuous trait. People who worry tend to care, and very deeply, and while I care very deeply for my family, and friends, there isn’t a whole lot else that really hits on my radar.

It’s nice to have money, and toys, a nice house, a car, and a job, but it’s all ephemeral. These are things that we can lose, very easily if truth be told. Family, friends, sense of self, and the relationships we build are the things that we should be more focused on. Honestly I worry that I’m the finite time I have with my family. My nephew is growing up so fast, my brother and sister-in-law are building a whole life that doesn’t have anything to do with me, and my parents are not getting any younger. However I’m not really sure what the alternative is. I’m trying to build a life that allows me to spend more time with them, but that’s a bit of a catch-22 isn’t it? Spending all of my time away to try to get more later. I don’t buy into that for retirements. I’m not interested in saving for 40 years to finally be able to do the things I want when I’m too old to enjoy them. I also know that the longer we wait the more life gets in the way.

I talked with my brother a few years back, or more than a few now that I think about it. He said that he had always wanted to go travelling, but that it would probably not happen for years now. He didn’t regret his choices, and honestly I’m a bit jealous of the life he’s built for himself with his family, but he wanted me to approach my life decisions with open eyes. I think that I do that, but I suppose everybody thinks they do, especially the people with their eyes closed tightest, fingers in their ears yelling over everything that it’s all fine as their life goes over the edge of a cliff. Here’s hoping that I’m not one of those people, and that you aren’t either.

Noah Gildersleeve
Sunshine Coast AUS 2016

The Terror of the 40 Hour Work Week

So, I came out to Phuket in order to get back in shape. I enrolled in a fitness camp and did a meal plan and booked a room for a month. I have done about none of those things, but I have got a ton of work done as well as started to work on some side projects. I’ve been pretty productive even if my sleep schedule would make a doctor wince.

I was thinking about how my remote working situation has changed since I started this trip about a year ago. When I started I wasn’t working much at all because the internet in rural Sweden wasn’t very good, or it wasn’t where I was staying. Also the mobile was a pain/expensive to setup if you weren’t a Swedish citizen. In India I was working about 5ish hours a week over mobile 3g tethering. I’m going to write up a post on what types of internet I was using in each country, and where I got it.

Now I’m working more like 40 hours a week and it’s been a bit of an adjustment. I don’t do very well with a normal 8 hour workday. My working tends to be more in spurts then that. 12 hours one day, maybe just a few the next. I get on a roll and then go until I get out of the zone or get too tired to stay up. I’ve been told that this isn’t how most people work, but it’s always served me pretty well. It lends itself to having days scattered through the week that you don’t have to do a ton off work. Little mini days off help keep you sane. However I will say that if I’m working I tend to work more than 40 hours/week

I guess my point is that in our culture we have come to this shared delusion that all people work best in the exact same hours (9-5), and for the exact same amount of time (40 hours/week). People are a lot more complicated than that, and productivity/creativity is a lot more idiosyncratic to those people. I read once, and agree whole-heartedly, that motivation and creativity wax and wane. You shouldn’t feel the need to do mediocre work just because other people are. Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel the normal work week, and if your job doesn’t allow you to work in the way that you put out your best work then you might want to re-evaluate your working situation. Some of the best engineers I know put out a higher volume of higher quality work if they only work 30ish hours/week. This is heresy in an industry where 60+ hours/week is seen as pretty standard. Although that also isn’t an excuse to slack. If you miss deadlines or put out not much/low quality work then you have other issues.

Most people only work about that much anyways. They sit around, go to meetings, do email, and a cornucopia of other things that do nothing to drive quality or generate revenue for their respective employers. There was a time when I was in meetings for around 30 hours/week. I don’t really consider that work because it does nothing to push out product, or improve quality. I suppose you should take my hourly estimates with a grain of salt though because when I state those numbers I don’t generally include the previously stated activities. Although I will say that I generally prefer a quick Skype call to trying to hash things out over IM/chat. It generally takes a lot longer.

I’ve been ranting a bit, but I feel pretty strongly about this. I’ve been lucky that for the past several years I’ve had more flexibility with my work environments than most people. This has been a combination of luck, conscious choices, and having the pleasure of working with people that are way too good to be seen with the likes of me. Just remember that it’s more productive, and pleasurable, to structure your life around your work then the other way around.

An ode to Portland

I’m getting ready to leave Portland. I thought I was completely ready, aside from

  1. getting my car detailed (more expensive then I expected)
  2. returning the CPAP to Apria, which is at the freaking airport.

I have my bags packed for India and stuff set aside for the wedding I’m going to/for when I get to sweden. I was just getting ready for work this morning and looked around the room I’m staying in. There was tons of stuff on all of the surfaces. These aren’t the kinds of things I’m prone to noticing, as any of my roommates will vouch for. I guess most of that stuff will go into the trash, and the toiletries will go into my carryon.

One of my best friend’s weddings is rapidly approaching. I’m looking forward to it, but it marks the ending of a chapter in my life. This summer has been rife with weddings, and the accompanying festivities (ie. bachelor parties, rehearsals etc.). It seems like this summer is full of change for many. The cycle is a little off as Autumn and Spring are generally considered the seasons of change.

Spring for beginnings,

and Autumn for endings.

As I said this summer marks the ending of a chapter for me, and while endings are inevitably beginnings as well, I can’t help but reminisce.

I remember past summers spent in downtown Portland hopping from bar to bar hunting the elusive $3 well drink happy hour. I remember running delirious down Burnside with my friends as we tried to find some place to eat at one in the morning. I remember chainsmoking outside apartments talking with passerby. I remember farther back sitting on the porch with my brother and our roommate playing music in the moderate Portland sun. I remember sitting with my neighbor years later playing music while he sipped the beers that he mixed together and I drank cheap rum and Coke while I was supposed to be in class. I remember my first concerts in Portland with my brother in small dark bars drinking darker beer. I remember impromptu parties with 15 of my neighbors on Tuesdays as people kept showing up that led to incredibly hard mornings at work the next day. I remember hiding behind the fountains in the park with my friends late at night and taking photos framed by sparkling drops of water.

I also remember Springs spent waiting for the sun, walking between classes on campus with my hoody, long used to the Portland rain. Spring classes spent up late with my friends writing code while drinking Redbull. Breakfast before class with dark coffee and cheap eggs. The occaisional beautiful Spring Friday when my brother and I played hooky and spent the afternoon drinking beer and playing terrible golf in a Portland vineyard. I remember calling into work, or skipping class on Spring days and spending the day with one of my best friends playing Halo and drinking mimosas, swearing so loudly at each other the neighbor would come over to make sure we were ok, then would join us for drinks. I remember Winters spent with my brother. Holding tight in our impromptu fortress. I remember walking to the store so that we could by food and twice as much beer as we needed, then laying on our cheap furniture and watching anime and movies jury rigged to play off of our old laptops. Winters mostly moderate but for a few huge blizzards that brought poor Portland to it’s knees. Winters, Thanksgivings, and Christmases spent with new friends that became old friends, that became like family.

I don’t regret my decision to go traveling, but I will still miss my family and my friends. Excitement doesn’t diminish that feeling, but it does flavor it. It’s important to remember that as we move along with our lives that we don’t regret moving on. Treasure your memories and your loved ones, but know that all that’s past is gone. Moving on is as essential to new wonderful experiences as breathing, and when nostalgia causes my throat to catch I try to remember.

Just breathe.

Breathing and Stress

I used to be prone to vicious outbursts, and metaphorical self-flagellation. I would internalize conflict until I exploded in either violence, hitting walls or a punching bag if it was around, or going over the different viewpoints in my head arguing in increasingly circuitous paths that I would never tolerate in someone arguing with me. These days my anger tends to come from stress. Better from stress then hate I suppose.

I like to think that I’ve gotten better at controlling my anger. Internalizing that kind of anger is unhealthy, but if you can truly let it go then it can’t control you. Whenever I feel that anger building up it feels like I just have to explode or swallow it. If you swallow the anger it will build and fester. Instead I hold it in the my hand in my mind’s eye. Then I just breathe. I let it go. It will dissolve like mist into the world. Remember that no one is the villain in their story and that even malice is just unhappiness manifest. Also remember that you aren’t dropping the anger. That means that you still hold onto it. You’re just letting it go. Just breathe in and breathe out.

I try to remember this when my temper starts to get the better of me. My friends these days think I’m one of the calmest people ever, and don’t really ever get mad. As I mentioned before I used to have a wicked temper. I give credit to my mother who taught me to just count my breaths when I got angry. Soon my stress will switch from distress, unhelpful stress, to the lesser talked about eustress, helpful stress. The stress from making forward progress in life goals and going on an adventure. It makes all of my current stress seem small, and I try to keep that in mind as I center myself.

Family and Distance

I was just reading my mother’s blog. She was talking about letting go of family that is leaving, specifically me. I knew that having me leave would be hard on my family, but didn’t think to long on it. I already live 2000 miles from my parents and 2600 miles from my brother/sister/nephew. I call my parents every week, and I talk with my brother when I can (a 1 year old keeps him pretty busy). I’ll have Skype and a number that forwards to Skype, probably.

I guess that my mother likes knowing that I’m in a town that she loves, and she does love Portland but who doesn’t? Distance seems to grow farther due to borders. I guess that Terminus, Greek god of borders and roads for the lazy, still holds some power over our minds. This seems to be a fairly American concept too. Our country is so large that going over a border means great distance. In Europe two country borders might only be 200 miles. That’s a little over double the distance my mother used to commute to the college she taught at.

However the distance from my brother’s place to Mumbai is 8000 miles. I guess that she does have a point. Let me also say that my mother is super proud of me and supportive of my desire for travel. She has always encouraged me to pursue my passions, being the only mother probably ever that encouraged her son to stop being an engineer and pursue a job as a craft bartender. I pointed out that being an engineer paid more, and she pointed out that it wasn’t that much more. Long story short I did not become a craft bartender, but it illustrates how my mother isn’t afraid to buck the mold.

My brother is much more centered these days in his 30’s with a wife, a kid, and now a house. However he is taking his summers as a teacher and writing a book. He told me not to hold onto my itinerary too tightly and welcome unexpected invitations to do random things. He also told me that if I needed to come back to the states that I could stay with them. That’s always a nice offer to have on the table. We don’t talk as much as we used to, but I still consider him a close friend. He’s also much better on Skype then he is on the phone, so that might end up working out for the best.

I also have all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I mostly correspond with them via email and Facebook, so those relationships won’t change that much. I’m also going to try to get them to come out and visit.

I guess if you aren’t in the same city as people then the amount of distance becomes arbitrary. Especially with the asynchronous nature of most modern communication (ie. text, email, social media).