The reason why I suck at writing, hate reading and have never been able to pick up languages – and how I proved myself wrong.
I’m sitting in my dimly-lit, third-grade classroom. My mom and I are sitting in hard, vibrantly-colored, plastic chairs. My English teacher, who is sitting across from us, is your typical sweet southern grandma, until she opens her mouth.
“I know I’m not supposed to say it,” she says anyway, from her wrinkled, fuzz-covered lips, “but, if I were you, I’d go home and give him a good spanking.”
I don’t know if my mom nodded, ignored it, or what came after, other than the feeling of betrayal from my teacher, mom, and the educational system. I wasn’t a bad kid or bully. This discussion wasn’t the result of my lobbing spitballs. This was Mrs. Manard’s solution to my “C” level performance.
Looking back, I tried to do the things required to excel in school but, try as I might, I couldn’t do them the way I was supposed to. I disliked the slow pace of English class and reading large books that seemed irrelevant to my life. I already knew how to read, write, and speak. Knowing the rules as to why one should never end a sentence with a preposition felt unimportant.
Without knowing it, Mrs. Manard redirected my educational trajectory, and, by 10 years old, I decided, “I suck at English.”
My foreign language class wasn’t much different. Aside from having a much nicer teacher, I didn’t do well memorizing all the rules. There was no satisfaction in the months of repetition required to eventually say, “Your cow is fat.”
I had another epiphany at 12 years old. I was never going to be able to pick up new languages.
Some stories, like mine above, become obsolete in adulthood, but never get a makeover.
Being a “bad speller,” “bad at math,” or “not being witty” are a few examples of stories you may have calcified during childhood. They are either told to us, beat into us, or remnants of unwanted consequences we had to endure.
These stories are as relevant to us now as a favorite toy or blanky. They are anchors that swaddle us in chains, leaving us comfortably limited. We see these features as foregone conclusions, but, somehow, we are unable to remember when these features formed or when we last questioned them.
Maybe it’s time to update our stories.
The story above is part of my history. It made me who I am today. But, it’s based on old experiences and, therefore, outdated.
If a 10-year-old kid walked up to me now and told me how to live my life, I would think it was a joke. Yet, somehow, my 10-year-old self is still telling me how to respond to my environment.
I can’t continue to rationalize this logic. It is time to update my stories and make them more relevant to my current environment, social circles, and interests. It’s not about changing who I am, but ensuring I am not limited to who I thought I once was.
Like the rest of the world, the isolation of COVID provided me with an opportunity to pause, reflect, and assess. An opportunity to dissolve the negative assessments of my capabilities. This simple reframing immediately altered my perspective. I went from reasserting my shortcomings out of habit to searching for ways to reexamine them.
Take languages, for example. Soon after I took this new approach, I caught myself responding to the question, “Do you speak any other languages?” with a canned, “I am good with learning software languages, but have never been able to grasp foreign ones.”
The first time I used that response was in high school. High school?! It has been a reflex, hidden, very literally, under my nose for decades.
I decided to test the theory. I began looking for language apps. If one didn’t suit me, I tried another. I found groups at work that were studying languages (turns out a lot). I Googled hacks to learn languages quickly. I found platforms that connect users to native speakers around the world, so they could learn for pennies on the dollar. I kept what I liked and threw out what didn’t work for me.
A year later, I’m speaking French and Spanish at an Intermediate level. I now see the world in a new light. Like a veil being lifted around me, I now recognize the lyrics of foreign songs, follow dialogue in foreign flicks, and eavesdrop on tourists at my local coffee shop. I didn’t just learn languages. By challenging my old thinking, and with little effort, I illuminated a new world.
Enthused by the results of this formula, I applied it to my “sucking at English” and so many other false truths weighing me down over the years.
Through this experience, I had an epiphany: Maybe, I have always loved English and languages. Maybe, I just hated a few child classes that unfortunately bound me to a false narrative.
Let’s close the book on these old narratives and make room for a new, liberating reality.
Redefining your reality
Introspection is paramount in discovering and redefining outdated stories.I had to catch myself repeating old facts to others, and then determine whether it is outdated.
That’s your clue.
Then, reset and re-create that truth from scratch.
- Catch yourself. When you hear yourself assertively self-deprecating what you’re capable of, replace it with, “I haven’t taken time to be good at it.”
- Step back and see if you can pinpoint when you formed that opinion. Who were you then? Is it possible you’ve evolved in other ways since then? Are the issues that blocked you still present now?
- Cut out what’s no longer serving you. Do you spend hours on the phone or TV? Maybe cooking everyday is a burden and ordering out once a week removes it. Can you trade a day, hour, or activity to investigate this question? Maybe block your work calendar for 30 mins, one day a week, or add an activity to your wake-up or sleep ritual. Maybe you mow the lawn one fewer time a month, and it grows just a bit longer. These are a few trade-offs you can make to open yourself up to new possibilities. Personally, I deleted all my social apps and replaced them with Duolingo.
- Chose one thing from #1 and start researching ways to engage it for a few minutes gained in #2.
- Give it 6 months and see if your story changes.
– Dan Brown
Where the hatred started
Writing has never been easy for me. It isn’t for a lack of wanting, and my early school years weren’t nurturing.
Since I can remember, I yearned for the ability to get all my thoughts, observations and theories onto paper. My hands just couldn’t keep up. When I took a shot at writing quickly, the results were illegible. When I took the time to write cleanly, the thoughts would slip through my fingers.
I couldn’t strike a balance and wasn’t willing to push through the torture of building skill through the slow, methodical, practice of writing and rewriting my ABCs. I neither had the penmanship nor the patience. And, with that, I could only assume writing wasn’t my thing.
This frustration as a child turned into a hatred toward writing, and that hatred turned into avoidance.
I slogged through school and found creative ways around my poor penmanship. It’s not like I didn’t love other art forms, but putting pen to paper felt dull, overly academic, and unimportant. I didn’t see how writing could have the same beauty and value as a Picasso, or express the emotions of a Rachmaninov.
In an adolescent, cool-guy way, I would take a sort of pride in “not being a writer.” Or, I’d say, “I’m good at other things — how about you write it up?” It was easier to do than admit I was bad at it. The way most children respond when they try to justify a lack of skill in some area.
That became my story. And it was left unedited for decades.
Along the way, with the advent of the computer, I thought I was saved. I was one of the lucky ones where writing by hand became obsolete in my lifetime. Good riddance. I could finally leave handwriting in the rearview.
Once I was out of school and gaining balance in the real world, I took another crack at writing. Now that writing by hand was no longer a blocker, and spelling and grammar was managed by machines, maybe I could become a writer after all.
Confronting what I now realize are years of excuses, I decided writing would no longer be a weakness in my armament of tools. It was time to revise my story. Since then, I’ve had a lot of catching up to do.
Okay, let’s try that again
In my 20s, when I started my first company, I realized the power of the written word. In order to communicate a vision at scale, one must codify their thoughts so others may follow. In order to improve, I started a blog and set out to post daily for a year. While I evolved considerably from my first post to my last, I still had a long way to go.
Years later, after hitting a plateau and going on hiatus, I decided to hire a writing coach. She swore by the power of “morning pages” laid out in the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. In it, the author believes one must return to the written form to connect with one’s inner artist. My new teacher passed on that requirement to me, and with it, I had come full circle. In order to learn to be a writer, I had to once again slog through my pitiful excuse of penmanship.
What surprised me about this go around was, for the first time, this teacher told me she didn’t care about how my writing looked or what it said. To her, none of that was important. She just wanted me to use my hand to write — anything. As long as paper and pencil were involved, she’d be happy.
It was — freeing.
It shut down the overly critical side of my brain, further imprisoned by early schooling.
I had a second wind.
I began to write in my notepad, about nothing, for five minutes a day. Through aches in my fingers, and in spite of all my ideas vanishing right as I picked up my pencil, I followed the prescription. I planted notebooks, pencils and sharpeners around the house, so nothing could get in the way when the compulsion to write struck. At times, when I had nothing to say, I would scribble some variation of, “I am writing this even though I can’t think of anything so that I don’t stop writing until my time is up.”
After a few weeks, I could see a connection forming between my hand and my mind. Where thoughts used to swirl around in my head and go nowhere, now they had an exit route. I developed a pavlovian reaction to search for paper when the marble in my head began to rattle. And, unlike the brevity of notes I took on my phone or computer, I found my handwritten entries getting longer at each session.
The potential was certainly there, but I still had one issue to overcome: I couldn’t read any of it.
Tech to the rescue
I’m a gadget guy. And, I’ve used my affinity toward doodads as a mental hack, tricking my mind to focus on important things I need to do that I have no interest in doing otherwise. Sure, I could vacuum and begrudgingly roll over the carpets while wishing I was doing anything else, but I prefer to get a Roomba, configure it, and whistle while it works.
“Hold on!” I thought one night, staring at my pad and pencil, mustering the strength to start yet another writing session. “Can this trick help solve my aversion to writing? If a pencil and paper is a painful reprise to teenage angst, modernizing my workbench with A.I. apps that digitize hand-written text via an iPad and Apple Pencil is a different beast entirely.”
I can get behind this.
I scoured the app store for apps that could recognize my chicken scratch, while providing the right amount of tech-nerdiness to put a spoonful of sugar into my writing regiment.
I knew I found “the one” with Nebo.
The app perfectly merged modern digital tech with old-school writing and I found myself looking forward to engaging with the experience. I went from being forced to do “morning pages” each day, to feeling like I couldn’t stop journaling, writing or editing my work. What started as a few sentences a day has now blossomed into pages. In fact, this very text is being tapped out on my iPad using my Apple Pencil while laying in bed at 11:14PM with my wife asleep beside me, and I am having trouble stopping.
Whether one considers me a writer or not is unimportant, for I have fallen in love with writing, and with it my story has finally been rewritten.
“Back when I was a kid we had far greater attention spans!” Well, whoopy-doo for you.
Youtube, TV, Commercials, Audio books and Facebook. The list of products that drive us into a pattern of ingesting only short-blips of information goes on and on. Some believe the consequence is a loss in our ability to pay attention to any lengthy (more traditional) format, and in their mind, anything of real value.
I take issue with that belief entirely. I’d rather ask this: Why is there a requirement to be able to pay attention to long-duration formated info in the first place, and what makes that info so much more valuable? Isn’t the goal of listening, reading, or watching information to comprehend it? Where does “length” and “staying still” play into that requirement?
As a kid people thought I had attention problems. I had tons of energy and not enough places to put it all, especially during school hours. Reading one long-ass book (that I had no interest in) for a class (I didn’t care much about) was not very motivating; I perceived writing in much the same way. Needless to say, I didn’t accel in those areas much.
For me, learning was just that — learning. It wasn’t a proof of my ability to sit still and do nothing for a long period of time, or to impress a teacher. Learning was all about answering questions, digging into things that interested me, and unraveling things that confused me. When the internet became “a thing”, I found myself ingesting tons of information daily, and it allowed me to pursue those questions with ease.
Fast forward a couple decades and I’m sitting here auditing an edX class at 2x-speed. I’ve skipped over a few sections that do nothing more than set the audience up for what’s coming (e.g. Boring. I get it. Let’s move on). And you know what? I love it — I love taking classes! As for reading, In this new environment of self-paced, kindle-based, materials I’ve found myself reading more books than I ever had in highschool. Even writing has become interesting to me. I started a blog 7-years ago to become a better writer, and, over 200 posts later, I’d like to think I have improved quite a bit. With all this interest in taking classes, reading, and writing, I have to ask myself: do I have an attention problem, or am I just terribly adverse to boredom (and the old, slow-moving, teaching styles)? Which led me to ask, why the hell would anyone want to be great at being bored in the first place?!
As our technology pushes us into a new format of learning, maybe it is less about “shut up and sit still”, and more about, “here is the world — have at it!”
It’s easy to think the world is getting dumber. We see “views” on YouTube of someone getting hit in the nuts soar into the millions, and people with obnoxious (or useless) things to say use social platforms to say them at scale. It is important to remember that with or without these new mediums people have been dumb for a long time. It is also important to keep in mind that the speed of advancements in technology are increasing exponentially. Those advancements push social media, but they also cut the time it takes to roast a turkey, pop popcorn, and provide classes to people like me that can now learn more efficiently than they ever have before.
I think learning was built on an extremely inefficient foundation because we didn’t have any other way to do it. Now, we are finally trimming the fat. The problem is, our kids are now able to eat lean beef but we are insisting that they still must chew the lard first. Why?
I say, take those little bits of data, re-arrange them, pause them, and fast-forward them as you wish. Let your curiosity for answers be the guide, not a demonstration in formalities.
We aren’t losing the art of education, we are deconstructing it and reassembling it through the gift of technology. The world has started to suit everyone’s individual pace, interest, and schedule. All the lost hours of dramatic pauses, introductions, segues or fluff are gained in the hours we can instead paint, exercise — or better yet — learn something entirely different.
Sure, it may mean that listening to a 1-hour speech at work will be more difficult for a person that is used to this newer, more efficient medium — but who’s fault is that? Why the hell are people talking for an hour anyway?! Is it necessary to achieve their objective? Are we simply committed to a style of interaction in the real world for no other reason than our attachment to tradition? Are we simply not yet ready to embrace a more efficient style of information-sharing that the digital world has built from the ground up? If you are looking for art and style, maybe you should go see a play.
As we move away from requiring our audience to sit down and shut up for an extended periods of time, let’s keep our goals in mind. We are not here to prove to others that we can sit through something that does not excite us, but to find out what does. It is not to prove we can endure boredom, but to break the shackles that required us to be bored in order to learn. It is time that we agreed to fight boredom, and recognize it as an old, outdated, emotion.
Who doesn’t like a good challenge? I sure do. I love immersing myself in a problem and working hard to tunnel through its complexities to find a solution.
But, what makes a problem a good one to solve? Which problems should you avoid wasting time with, and which are worth jumping into to start your next wild ride?
Over the years I’ve compartmentalized problems into two categories that have helped guide me: “difficult” ones and “hard” ones.
A difficult problem is a problem that drains your mind and body. Everyone involved in these type of problems are spinning their wheels in circles, and are able to squeeze only a tiny of drop of value from each pass. Difficult problems are demotivating, repetitive and often fueled by dark clouds. Difficult problems are overcome, not solved, and one is driven to overcome them as a search for relief.
Their challenges are often emotional ones; often testing patience, not intelligence, persistence, or ideas. Most importantly, when a difficult problem is overcome the end results often places everyone in about the same place they started. A solution is a derivative of your current state at best, and incurs a great deal of wasted time and money. People tend to beat their head against the wall with difficult problems.
For example, problems that arise from convincing someone to want to be a better person, or to want to make better things, are difficult problems.
Hard problems are a joy, but not at the least bit easy. They are motivated by “why”, “why not” and “how can we make it possible?” Much like difficult problems, they are filled with long nights, and little sleep. Unlike difficult problems (where a relief from the pain endured is what drives you), the pain you endure from hard problems are a bi-product of your insesent need to find a solution; you push-on in spite of the pain.
Hard problems are motivating, inspiring, and complex. They may never find a solution, or its solution is hiding right around the corner; neither of which changes your resolve . Working on a hard problem can feel like chewing on glass while staring into an abyss, but you chew with vigor and you stare like a hawk.
Hard problems create competition, new ideas and challenges with others or within yourself (e.g. “I can do better than that”). Rarely will you see competition arise from a difficult problem.
You know you’ve solved a hard problem when you end up in a place you haven’t been before, with a new perspective and new insight and a new direction to follow forthwith. With hard problems, you are not only avoiding going in circles, you have taken a rocket ship leap to a new planet. The harder the problem, the farther you will fly. If only you can – just – get -to – the – next – solution! A hard problem requires focus. Neh! A hard problem fuels focus! A difficult one: a distraction.
For example, problems that arise from discussing how to be a better person, or how to make better things, are hard problems.
Avoid difficult problems if you can. Sometimes dealing with them is necessary, but recognize the difference; don’t let people (or yourself) mask one for the other. It can help both mentally and emotionally. Seek out hard problems by imagining what the world would be like if you solved them. If you find yourself in a difficult problem see if you can’t upgrade it to a hard one. How can you change “how come” into “why not”, or “no” into “let’s try and see what happens”?
Best of luck, and may your life be hard but not very difficult! 😉
The poem beautifully describes life’s ups and downs and the importance of knowing how to embrace them both. It celebrates the acceptance and abandonment of what you’d love to have or would hate to lose, and, in either case, having the capacity to move forward – without losing yourself.
It’s about putting yourself out there and playing out the entire story. It may be through a startup, a job, a piece of art or a night out with friends. To follow a dream, or to pursue a want, but not to become bound to any one mantra while doing so.
I’ve always had a soft spot for that type of duality-talk. I too believe life provides a bounty of gifts for those that dance the line.
That’s my take anyway, but the only true way to describe how it makes me feel is to be inside my head when I read it. Thus is the beauty of art and poetry: personal interpretation.
Want to take a crack at expressing your take?
Enjoy the black and white video and reading by Dennis Hopper in the video below created by Nikki Ormerod and Spy Films and let us know your take of this classic piece.
If you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you,If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,But make allowance for their doubting too;If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;If you can meet with Triumph and DisasterAnd treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spokenTwisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:If you can make one heap of all your winningsAnd risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,If all men count with you, but none too much;If you can fill the unforgiving minuteWith sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)
During our trip around the world we were sure to experience a range of climates. As such, packing the right clothes in the smallest bag possible was a challenge.
Originally I wanted to try “ultra-light backpacking.” That’s where you fill a 35L-45L (or less) backpack with only what you need, expectating to reuse clothes A LOT. There are certain types of clothing that are made for this type of use. For example, there is underwear that claims you can wear it for 6 weeks without a wash. Jackie talked me out of it – I’m glad she did.
I ended up going for a 70L bag (50L main bag with a 20L daypack) that is not carry on approved. I was worried about needing to check a bag in on every flight, due to the extra bag fees airlines may charge and the potential for lost luggage, but we decided we “needed” the all stuff we packed below and would make it work.
Most of the things we got below is from REI and Amazon. If you haven’t tried REI I wrote a bit on how I was skeptical to walk in the door at first but happy I did. They are awesome!
A video run through of the bag items a day before we left
What didn’t end up making the cut
I ditched all the wool sweaters and fleeces (top right of picture) and kept one thick hoodie and one long sleeve base layer. I figured layering undershirts could get me through most temperatures – and it has. I also got rid of the pajamas (bottom left of picture) since my sweatpants (or gym shorts) could be used for sleeping or working out. I also trimmed down my running clothes completely (bottom left of picture) since I could just use my t-shirts and surf-shirts.
What made the bag
- Osprey Farpoint 70L Backpack (50L w/ 20L Day Pack)
- I love this bag. You can read more about the bag returned and what I love about this bag here.
- 1 power adapter
- This was a nice grab from when Radio Shack had a going out of business sale. I am wishing we bought two. It’s not something you can just grab on the go, since every other country’s adapters are made for their plug’s inputs. Note, We didn’t bring a converter and haven’t needed one yet.
- 2 shorts (cotton, one hybrid, one bathing suit)
- It was nice having the hybrid so that if the bathing suit was wet I had a back up to swim in, and if the cotton one was dirty I had a back up too. Amazing how few people wear shorts in foreign countries. They can see me as a tourist a mile away in these things but I don’t care, it’s hot as hell in some places!
- 3 pants (one Jeans, one Lulu hybrid and one sweat pant)
- The tan Lulu pants are awesome. You feel comfortable hiking in them and you can wear them out since they really do look like khakis. Jeans are great to have to feel a bit more dressed up; I use them often. Sweats are good for working out or sleeping in as pajamas, but haven’t used them too often and thinking about ditching them; we are following warm weather mostly.
- Noise canceling headphones and batteries
- The headphone cable came in handy a lot when driving. We used it to hook into aux in our rental car to listen to music on our long drives. They ended up breaking, and took a lot of space, so I ditched them a few weeks ago. They were 4+ years old anyway so I got some great use out of them. Regular iPhone headphones aren’t cutting it when there is background noise so I will need to find replacements.
- A nice bday gift from a few years back from the Mosqueras. I really love having this on the trip. Although, this only works when you are on a private wifi network, like AirBnB rentals, it is small enough to be worth the space for the second screen on your TV for work, maps or movies.
- 15″ Macbook pro and charger – duh.
- Assortment of USB cables for iOS and non-iOS devices
- Sometimes I wish we got rid of a few. But we have so many devices that charging them (or using them) all at once requires more than you’d expect.
- Android phone (for travel SIM cards)
- A crappy phone that we can tether to any device for internet or make local calls or texts from. Our phones aren’t jailbroken.
- The plan hadn’t run out yet – so we froze our account for 6 months (the max allowed.) It’s been great for WiFi, movie editing, VoIp, hyperlapse, pictures, music and games.
- Kindle Paper White
- A solid going away present from the Odios. We use them every day before we go to bed. They’re great for flights and the beach since they are light, don’t reflect sun and have their own back light.
- Backup Drive
- Since internet on this trip has been almost non-existent (or slow as molasses) backing up our video and photos quickly has been crucial.
- Waterproof camera
- Jackie’s dad got us this for our trip and it has been a crucial item on our trip. Not only for taking pictures and video underwater while snorkeling, but, just as importantly, it has brought us peace-of-mind when it is raining or when we are walking near water or pools. Since it is durable we take it with us everywhere. If it wasn’t, we may have “kept it safe” more and miss some great shots.
- “Fast dry” towel
- Meh. We used this once, barely. Since we are staying in hotels we always have had towels. They aren’t great for laying on the beach so we ended up buying beach towels anyway.
- Button-up wool short sleeve shirt (Icebreaker)
- Great buy on Amazon. I got it for $60 and see it everywhere for close to $100. It definitely dries faster than most of my other clothes, but the ability to just put it in the sun and it smells fresh after wearing it has been crucial. Whenever I wash clothes or run out this is my go to. It also looks good enough to consider “going out” clothes. Very versatile.
- 100% Polyester Tennis Shirt
- This dries super fast BUT it also smells super bad after wearing it.
- Tee shirts (two light cotton ones)
- At this point I wish I had more light shirts. Jackie was right. I thought I would wear the icebreaker everyday but even though it smelled less and dried fast we didn’t always have sun or time to clean it when it got dirty.
- Loose Surf Shirt
- This shirt is SPF 50 so it adds extra protection from burns on long days in the sun or at the beach. Plus, if I get to go surfing I’ll have a nice rash guard. It is also one of the faster drying shirts in the collection.
- Camera stand and iPhone stand
- These items are light and compact, about the size of a cigarette box (only long nice wide.) I needed it to take the upcoming shot of my engagement, but since then I haven’t really used it. I have pretty good selfie arms.
- Travel under-clothes satchel
- I use this all the time when flying. It is a good place to keep your passports handy and safe. In shady cities known for pickpockets I use it instead of a wallet to carry my credit card and cash. I always leave my passport locked up in the hotel. Tip: To get a SIM card in each country you need your passport so bring it along with you for that.
- Bag lock
- Cheap and peace of mind. Not only for checking bags but a nice to have in places that don’t have a safe. I lock the bag up and slip it under the bed.
- Collapsible Sun Glasses (Ray ban)
- I love these things! Jackie got them for me on my birthday and they have lasted longer than any other pair. I think because they are easy to pack or stow in my pocket.
- Underwear (A few cotton ones and 1 ExOfficio)
- Jackie was right. Although the underwear claims to be able to go 6 weeks without a wash I really couldn’t bring myself to wear it for more than two days at a time – max. Maybe it does have anti-microbes that keep it clean, but I didn’t feel great about myself inside knowing I had used underwear on. Not worth the $40 bucks. Sure it dries fast but not THAT fast. I’m just not getting the value for the cost.
- Vacuum Bag
- This thing is amazing. I just stash all the fluffier items I need for cooler climates in the vacuum bag and it takes up little space. You just smuch the bag and seal it. Sort of a light weight travel trunk.
- 4 Shoes (walking, running/sneakers, sandals and boat)
- Sounds like a lot of shoes – and it is, but I’ve used them all. Not only based on the environment but it keeps my feet from getting too tired. Changing the form of my shoe has kept my feet fresh for the hundred of 30+ miles I walk a week.
- It sure is nice to see a number when you get home from a full day of walking. Turns the tiredness into a feeling of accomplishment.
- Worthless. Getting rid of them. Everywhere we wanted to see underwater we ended up renting snorkel gear (or getting it for free with a tour.)
- Collapsible Pillow
- Another non-starter. Jackie seems to use hers a lot, but mine has made it out of my bag once. It is super comfortable and compact – but taking it out and unfolding it only to have to fold it and packing a day or so later just doesn’t seem worth it. I typically have plenty of pillows on the bed of the hotel and on long flights they give you a pillow. I can’t bring myself to get rid of it though because that ONE place that I need it will suck.
- Collapsable water bottle
- Saw it on Tynan’s packing blog. Seemed cool when I got it, but, again, everywhere we went had cheap bottled water that was cold. It has sat in my bag all but once in an airport when we tried to use it from the water fountain but the taste brought us back to the bottle. I know it’s not environmentally as friendly but – sorry – I’m getting rid of it. Even if we wanted to save bottles we would just fill up an old used water bottle we bought.
- Bag weigher
- It has come in hand a few times when the bags seemed like they would go over. Though, we always have gotten away with a few Ks give or take and can’t carry much more. We would probably be fine without it.
- Bug spray/Sun block lotions
- Yeah. Especially in all the bug infested parts of the south pacific and beaches we’ve visited. We have gone through these bottles quickly.
- You know, the usual. Tooth brush, tooth paste, nail clippers etc. brought face wash, shampoo, and shaving cream but have used it infrequently since our hotel’s toiletries are usually good enough for me.
- Plastic Bags
- Simple but useful. I like using it to cover my shoes when I put them with my clothes. Call me crazy.
- Dr. Bronner’s Soap
- A useful soap that can clean clothes, wash hair or anything else you need. We’ve used it a lot for times we didn’t have a laundry service and needed to wash things in the sink. We haven’t used it for the other uses – yet 😉
- Granola Bars
- We always grab a box when we can. It has come in handy so many times when we were stuck between meals in transport or at a hotel.
- Vaccination card
- I haven’t needed to show it to anyone yet but it is small enough that I am fine to carry it everywhere I go just in case.
All in the bag weighs about 20Lbs + (4.5Lbs for the laptop.)
Since leaving SF I’ve bought …
- A Battery powered hair trimmer
- I thought I would go full beard but A) I found out you can’t snorkel with a bear and B) It is way too itchy and hot. The trimmer I got in Australia is surprisingly good. I love that I can drop a few double AAs into it and it works. No adapter or outlets needed.
- Per my realization above of the realistic use of my ExOfficos, I bought another pair and will probably get more as the time passes.
- A polo shirt
- Again, Jackie was right. I have quick dry and odor-fighting shirts but throwing on a fresh shirt just feels too good to pass up for so little bag space. I got a fake Lacoste in Istanbul for $5.
- Beach towels
- They are a PIA to carry, but the “quick dry” towels suck to lay on and we are visiting A LOT of beaches. They are pricey enough (and hard enough to find) that buy-and-ditch doesn’t feel like a good alternative. Having the vacuum bag has helped decrease the space needed to keep them.
- Sewing kit
- I have kept the sewing kits we have found in our hotels. It is useful to have a needle and thread for fixing clothes, or patching equipment.
After a month or so on the road I wish I had …
- Another (compact) adapter
- Using the computer and charging devices (camera, phones, backup charger etc) would go a lot faster if we had another adapter. Worth the space for sure. And as I mentioned above, you can’t find a U.S. adapter in other countries
- Another vacuum bag
- I can’t seem to find it anywhere else in the world other than REI in SF. I Wish I got two.
- A pencil and drawing paper (maybe some water color stuff that Silvio showed me)
- An Umbrella.
- That being said I’ve only wanted it twice so far. It would have been nice to have, but just carrying it the other 90% of the time would be annoying; I’m on the fence about it.
- An ethernet cable
- Another item I *sometimes* wish I had. There have been only a few times I had an opportunity to plug-in for a faster connection. Small item for a nice ROI – I think.
- They don’t make it like they do at home (and it is rarely available). So sue me.
- A few bottle top water filters
- You can’t find a bottle water filter easily like you can in the US. This would’ve cut down the need for water bottles immensely.
- A bigger collapsable water bottle
- Like I said in our itemized list, the one we got is semi useless because of how small it is (only a few gulps worth of water for Jackie and I) and because of a lack of a water filter to fill it safely with.
I think this is true all around the world. Rarely do powerful individuals represent an entire nation. Sadly, those that are bent on hate, domination or simply wish to see the worst in people get the most attention in our country and others. That’s what fuels the divide – the news and politics hoping to spark a nation’s fears to cause conflict, get ratings or advance an agenda. Don’t be someone’s pawn. Ask your own questions, start your own conversations and meet the people being ruled by the “other side.”
“Here we go – one month left until move-out day!” With our plane tickets bought, it just got real.
We posted to Facebook, Craigslist and taped signs on the street, “EVERYTHING MUST GO!” If you we’re looking to fill your apartment with more stuff, Sean and Jackie’s house was the place to be.
Why were we getting rid of everything? Well, this wasn’t like any other move-out day because it wasn’t really a move at all. We were going “nomad” for a year and for the first time in our moving history we were NOT figuring out how to relocate our stuff into another set of rooms and closets. It sounds like a subtle difference, letting all the things you’ve accumulated over the years go versus “go somewhere” but the feelings were monumentally different.
Our goal was to take everything we needed (and I emphasize *needed*) and make it all fit into each of our 50 Liter backpacks. So, goodbye couches, tables, blenders, utensils, and plates. Goodbye to our multitude of change-of-clothes options, Jackie’s coveted hairdryer, and, most notably, our current concept of home.
We’ve been planning this for years, well, at least talking about it for that long. You know the conversation, right? “Hey babe, what if we just dropped everything and just – went? Just you and I. Somewhere far away. Wouldn’t that be great?!”
The conversation would usually end with either an imaginative tour of all the top places we’d want to see or end with a comment like, “we have too much going on right now to leave.” Just like a modern day Goldie Locks it never feels like the right time to make it happen. The economy is always going too well or too poorly – when is the timing just right?
“Okay”, Jackie said, this time changing the typical end-game phrase, “If we did this what would it look like?” We talked about going to South America and making our way down to Patagonia. Maybe visit family in DC and then start in Europe? We could make the dollar stretch if we went to the South Pacific, right? How long would we go? Three months? Six? Sadly, the more time we gave ourselves to travel the more things we were able to do and thus – out of time again. In the same way our bag size grew and filled, it never felt like there was – enough. We were living Parkinson’s Law.
I won’t bore you with the play-by-play, but trust me in that researching locations, costs, transit systems and weather had us going back and forth between destinations, routes and timings ad nauseam.
But, now with our plane tickets bought there was no longer an ever widening gap between theory and reality. Our first stop is Fiji and we have 30 days to jettison what we didn’t need, pack what we do, and go.
Next up, making it happen economically!