Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Art of Travel Blogging

So many people say they will blog but once they begin their trip they fall prey to all the excitement of traveling and allow their blog to be an online ghost town.

Sometimes this can be chalked up to not having access to a laptop or computer.

When I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to take my laptop on a backpacking trip, I knew I would have to rely on my iPod for blogging.

Google's Blogger (host of this blog) has a simple method for blogging called Mail2Blogger. The problem is Apple's iPod won't allow for rich text in Mail.

Without rich text, you can't have bold words, lists or hyperlinks.

But a cool little (free) app called Markdown Composer lets you incorporate HTML in an e-mail, which you can then use with Mail2Blogger.

If you're a blogger using an iPod or iPhone and are looking to enhance your mobile posts, give Mail2Blogger and Markdown Composer a try!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Discovery Trekking in Canadian small business challenge

Small businesses really are the life blood of their communities.

The Scotia Bank is holding an online competition for small businesses in Canada making a BIG impact. In the running is Discovery Trekking Outfitters, operating in Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

Discovery Trekking makes a great Extreme Ultralite Backpacking Towel which I'll be trying out on my upcoming trip. They also have a variety of moisture-wicking clothing, dog and horse related gear and Hot Flash Wicking bedding.

In the US, you can find their towels at REI. And, of course, in Canada you can visit their store. Worldwide, just check out their website to order.

Owner Leslie Hanes says of Discovery Trekking:
We have grown from a home-based business to a world-wide exporter. Although our demand has grown to require additional outside production, we continue to manufacture to capacity at our facility in Campbell River. We are piloting a project to allow work-at-home moms to participate in sewing projects.
You can vote for Discovery Trekking online, it's very simple. And you can like them on Facebook.

Just the essentials

So what does one pack for a year-long Australia trip?

There are the obvious items: clothes, walking shoes, a towel, toiletries, a book?, water bottle, power adapter, a camping knife...

And, every backpacker will customize their packing list. Here's the short list of a few other items I need to purchase before leaving:

1. Apple Wall Adapter for my iPod--I can't brave that long flight and subsequent long bus rides without my entertainment. Not to mention, the iPod will be my blogging method. Right now I charge the device with a USB cord to my computer but I'll need a wall charger for hostels.

2. Handheld Luggage Scale--This is clearly not an essential item but really could come in handy. Even though I'll be traveling with one bag that I always plan to check on flights, the varying weight requirements could render my bag too large if I'm not careful. Having my own scale would save me a few headaches at the airport probably.

3. Compression Sacks--Mostly I'd like to have a couple of these to keep my pack organized. Specifically I want one for dirty clothes so that the stench and dirt won't soil my "clean" clothes. These would also be good for small miscellaneous items that will be hard to find if they get buried among my clothes.

4. Some sort of rain jacket or poncho--Australia weather is amazing but not perfect; it does rain there!! The hard thing about jackets is that I want something to be multi-use: good for rain, keeps me warm, something attractive. These can be heavy and take up a lot of room in my pack so I want to take only one.

5. Small plastic liquid containers--I don't remember any liquid limits in Australian airports the way we have in the U.S., but the smaller the better. I'll use these for residual shampoo, body wash, etc. when I get ready to leave one town and go to the next. More than likely I'll buy regular sized bottles of shampoo and body wash because that tends to be more cost effective but who wants to carry around half empty shampoo bottles in their pack? Not me.

6. Comfy nylon belt--Keep my pants up and look great, enough said.

7. Medium size lock--Sometimes hostels provide lockers for free use provided you have your own lock.

This list is probably a work in progress so stay tuned!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thinking about hydration today

Two Camelbaks pitched on my window...

I'll admit I have a bad habit of not drinking enough water (coffee and beer seem to go down easier!) But proper hydration will be a MUST in the Australian heat.

My wonderful friends Sarah and Elise surprised me with this beautiful blue Camelbak water bottle last week, and I couldn't be more thankful!

Jen's had her road map design bottle for a little while when she bought it in an effort to get healthier and avoid drinking sodas--not a bad idea for any of us.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review of Kelty 4500 Framed Hiking Pack

Pictured is Kelty's 4500 pack, made especially for Scheels Outfitters.

This pack boasts a lot of storage space, dependable stitching and Kelty's Cloudlock adjustable suspension.

My Kelty Scheels Classic 4500 arrived in the mail yesterday. I had only viewed this pack online and worried a bit about the size of a 73 liter pack (I'm only about 5' 5'' and under 150 pounds).

So when I opened the box, I was pleasantly surprised about the actual size of this Kelty hiking pack.

The adjustable shoulder straps and back panel ensure that this pack will fit comfortably on my back. Before any adjustments, I put the pack on (without weight) and the pack's length is too tall.

But, Kelty has made it easy to adjust the torso length by equipping this pack with Velcro flaps.

The hip belt is also a great selling point of this pack. Kelty's using Scherer Cinch Waist Belt technology to give extra support, and the pack has belt stabilizer straps to control the load on your hips.

Of course, your hips sustain a lot of the weight when you're backpacking with a bag this size, so I'm definitely excited about updating you all on how the hip belt works out once I start my trip.

One aspect of the pack I don't plan to use for this particular upcoming trip (but is worth mentioning), is the water reservoir pouch. Just throw in your
water and this pack will do what you need it to do.

If you're considering a Kelty pack but don't have a Scheels Outfitters near you, it's good to know that this pack is designed similarly to the Kelty Coyote series. Both the Coyote and this pack utilize LightBeam II dual aluminum stays. These are a nice compromise for an internal pack--you get the load bearing capability of an external pack without sacrificing the flexibility of a traditional internal frame hiking pack.

Once I get some weight in this pack and have it fully adjusted for my body, I'll give you guys another update on fit and feel.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brand new pack in the mail today!

There's a lovely Kelty pack sitting in my apartment now!

Check back later today and I'll have more photos and an initial review of the pack on the blog! In the meantime, go "like" my Facebook page.

No sneak peek...but here's the box:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tourism Australia's FB video project

Americans associate Oz with Outback Restaurants, adorable koalas and kangaroos and, of course now, Oprah. But it's so much more!

So when Jen and I discovered Tourism Australia's Facebook Video Project, I quickly penned an e-mail to their office.

They're looking for "bubbly" working holidaymakers with good English--well, Tourism Australia, look no further!

Not sure when the organizers will contact travelers they're considering but I figured it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and blog about this cool opportunity--one I really hope Jen and I can experience!

Feel free to comment on this post, especially if you want to encourage Tourism Australia to pick me and Jen!

The beginning of a beautiful relationship

They say you never forget your first.

We met on the Internet. I know it's not the traditional way but, hey, it was cheap.

Looking back, I pretty much knew right away, even though I left that site and entertained the thought of joining up with others for a couple of weeks.

It felt so one-sided though--like I needed the relationship more. I talked to my friends about it, even my parents, and they agreed: I needed this, and I needed to act quick before I left in June.

So after filling in the blank forms with all my personal details, I was finally taking the next step.

It didn't matter that we'd never actually met and "tried each other on" so to speak. We were (are) a match.

And, now the journey feels so real! I wish I hadn't waited this long!

I'm the proud owner of a brand new Kelty 4500 hiking pack...what did you think I was talking about?!?

It's shipping from a warehouse in Nebraska so it will be awhile before I hold my first-backpack-love in my arms. But, when it arrives, you'll be the first to know!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Catch the CouchSurfing wave

On the first leg of our journey, Jen and I will do a stopover in L.A.

What started as a way to break up all the flights and airport time, later became just an excuse to see a new city and try something new: CouchSurfing.

We've already found a super cool guy to stay with: Ryan. We're excited to visit Hollywood, Venice and Koreatown (not far from where Ryan lives).

But the best thing about CouchSurfing is the opportunity to stay with a local, learn from the local, bond with the local and (hopefully) cut past all the tourist crap. The principle is all about give and take, to host and be hosted.

If it goes well in L.A., we'll have more CouchSurfing experiences in Australia.

I'll keep you posted...