Sunday, January 30, 2011

Assembling Stuff (and looking for your ideas)

To understand this post, it will be helpful to know my summer plans...

Although June is still a ways away, I am slowly assembling what I plan to take with me on my around-the-world trip. This evening, sitting by a roaring fire as the temperature outdoors drops, I have been looking at hand-held phrase translators. Should I acquire myself one? Do any of you have experience with them? Simple handheld phrase translators for a dozen languages cost as little as $20. Unfortunately, most are for European markets with Mandarin Chinese as the only Asian-language option. Franklin makes a number of models that have 16-20 languages that include Thai and Vietnamese. The 16 language/$49 version looks tempting.

For $250, I can get a Lingos translator with double the number of languages, including Cambodian, Burmese and Laotian. But I’m too cheap to invest that much in something that I am not sure I’ll need. In the past, I have managed to get along well without knowing any of the language in Japan and Korea.

A low tech option is to buy a folding laminated card with stock phrases on it (there are a few phrases one needs to know such as: “Quick, where is the bathroom;” “What is this?” “Is this eatable?” and that all important phrase, “Beer, please.” These cost less than $10 a piece and are available in Chinese, Russian, Thai and Vietnamese. They also look like they’d make nice placemats.

Another thing I have pondered is an electronic reader. I haven’t yet gone the Kindle or Nook route, but knowing that I will have many days (actually weeks) on ships where I won’t have access to or to a library, I’m tempted. Furthermore, there will be lots of time on a train in which I will want to read. One option is to take a handful of books with me and drop them when finished and try to find used books to pick up along the way. But, I like to make notes in the books that I read which gives me another reason to acquire an electronic reader. I know you can take notes on e-readers, but has anyone actually done this? I’d love to hear your takes on the various options on e-readers? What brands should I consider or avoid? What features are most desirable?

In many ways, I don’t plan on buying a lot for this trip. I’m taking an old backpacking—an internal frame Kelty that has served me well on short backpacking and as ski trips (it has slits to hold skis when you don’t need them, a feature I don’t think I’ll need in Southeast Asia.) The pack has approximately 3000 cubic inches of space (compared to my regular backpacking pack that has over double that amount). The lack of space means less weight and more flexibility. Besides, I’ll be traveling in the summer and won’t need a lot of bulky clothes. And since the pack is scuffed up, I hope it will be less temptation for thieves.

I have a number of pairs of light-weight, quick drying pants for fishing that I plan to pack. I don’t think I’ll need to purchase any new clothing. I also have a lightweight silk sleeping bag liner that I’ll use in hostels and hotels where the beds look suspicious. I have a jungle hat and mosquito netting and got a small waterproof camera for Christmas.

Somewhere along the way, I will have to acquire some dress clothes for the Holland American cruise home. I don’t think my jungle attire will be well received in the formal dining room and I don’t plan to take such a ship without enjoying good food, so I’ll have to either ship such clothes to Europe or find a place to pick up a dark suit or tux along the way (I know, it’s hard to image Sage in a tux). Decisions, decisions. What items would you pack for such a trip?


  1. I can't help you out with your electronic choices as I don't own any of those devices. And I can't help you pack because I've never taken a trip like this. But might I suggest you pack me in your backpack? It sounds like a wonderful trip. ;)

  2. The note taking capability of the nook is limited. These ereaders have to be recharged every few hours, too. If those are not showstoppers, you can load one up with more reading material than you can ever hope to consume. I'd travel light and buy clothes as I need them. Wash and wear underwear (from a travel store) is handy - dries overnight. That's my 2 centavos.

  3. I know nothing of the electronic gear but to me t sounds like your experience with the physical gear is spot on. Keep it as simple as possible, and if your family is meeting you in Europe then can't they bring a set of dress clothes for you with them?

  4. The Kindle is nice for travel but you will need the occasional recharge.

  5. I think I'd forgo the electronic translator, even for Chinese. Although Mandarin is nominally the lingua franca, most people in the country outside of Beijing don't understand it. I'd go with the laminate card, I think.

    BTW, the German translators I've seen have been crap, for what it's worth.


  6. Those translators look like good ideas, but would be one more e-device to keep up with. I have a bit of prejudice against the Kindle - I love a printed book. I'm sure I'll cave at some point. :)

    How nice that you are taking a cruise home. Probably shipping dinner clothes over would be your best bet.

  7. Having been to a few third world countries, my advice is none of the above. Anything electronic is a pain in the ass. You are tied to finding electrical outlets, then you have to have the right adapter to get things down to the right voltage (and pray you don't get device destroying abnormal power surge which is typical in third world countries) and if you don't have these things or aren't around electricity, then you essentially have an expensive weight to carry around. Also, those things are big magnets for pickpockets and unsavory type. I also forgo the translation cards. Even though it has the translation, I can't pronounce it so they can understand it and I end up having to have them read the card to understand. It is much faster to just point at what I want. It truly is the universal sign language. Besides, I like the surprise of never knowing exactly what I'm going to get. I think in a trip like yours, the less gear you have to worry about or fuss over, the better. I would take paper books for entertainment and donate them where ever I finish with them. English language newspapers are found in most urban areas and I will often read every article in one of them for a day's worth of entertainment.

    I think you are spot on for the clothes and pack although I would be tempted to go with a soft pack just so it can squeeze into various compartments that a rigid frame might not. Probably won't apply to boat travel but it might on trains though if they are anything like American trains, an internal framed pack should fit. But if you are doing a lot of hiking on the way, the rigid frame would probably be worth the risk.

    My $0.10 worth anyway. Now can you give me advice on how to get rid of my jealousy!?

  8. Get evening clothes made in Hong Kong and post them to the shipping agent of the line. Or simply buy one in the UK. You will pay as much in postage and storage from the US as you will for a new one. And what the heck do you need anyway, you're not Lord Fauntleroy. Further, what with the Delhi Belly and the Russian Runs you'll end up looking like you've your dads clothes on anyway.
    Bring water tablets, you'll not always have access to sealed Coke. A good tropical insecticide and a separate fungicide, non powder. And get advice on Gold Plated travel/health insurance, with a repatriation clause. Oh, and talc. But it might be better to get that within borders, you'll be asking for trouble trying to carry it through borders. It's a bit of a joke in far east customs circles and WILL see you in a Black Hole of Calcutta.
    And don't forget the Compeed* for blisters.

  9. Wish I had your planning dilemmas. :)

  10. i would definitely get a reader...and i wonder if there is a way to incorparte both of these into one....i admit my ignorance but it is a thought...

  11. WHAT?! Trip around the world???? I'm with Hilary...take me with you! CANNOT WAIT to hear about this adventure...and if you need a translator...I'm sure I can pick up a few languages before you leave;))

    (as for your comment on my pictures were taken in Yoho, a national park just inside BC border. The west coast trail...yes! It is in BC along the ocean. Can't wait for it:) Although...your adventure still sounds like I'd like that one:))

  12. My daughter got a Kindle for her birthday so that's about all I can really comment on and we're learning everyday just what more you can do with one...well worth the purchase!

  13. Hilary, I'll take the larger backpack then :)

    Ron, I've know the e-readers like Nook and Kindle go for long periods without recharging--something like 25 or more hours

    Walking Guy, when I suggested they bring an extra suitcase, they rolled their eyes

    Charles, I am leaning toward the Kindle (if I decide to go that route)

    Randall, it's in the countryside you have the hardest time finding someone who doesn't speak English, at least that is what I found in Korea and Japan

    Lynn, I agree with you about the printed word!

    Ed, thanks for the advice, it is amazing how easy it is to point and buy!!!

    Vince, I might be able to get the clothes made cheaper in Vietnam! I may not be a Lord, but I am ME and I do clean up fairly well. I will have along water purfying tablets, that's a given. Also, I might even carry a water bottle with a filter, that I've used on canoe trips. YOu can drink water right out of the river (or a tap in SE Asia)

    Tim, I'll keep you posted!

    Brain, It would be nice to put an e-reader and a translator into the same piece of plastic

    Dawn, you'll have to come as a hand-held translator as Hilary is already riding in my backpack :)

    Karen, i'm leaning toward a Kindle

  14. My Self, my Bible and a Great attitude. The rest will translate well on it's own!

    The reader does sound really practical, as well as the basic language translator.

    One question? What about special Medical Needs or emergencies. I'm sure you are well versed in that from hiking...but what about the ability to research endemic diseases for particular regions, as well as precautions.....Avian Flu, Malaria's, TB, Parasites are a few that come to mind

  15. Sounds like the electronic translator would be cheaper than a bunch of fold-out ones.

    I've always said I don't want a Kindle/Nook...but that if I were going back to Spain, I would. It'd be a lot smaller and more convenient than a bunch of books. Since you like to travel light, I definitely think that'd be the way to go. You can go back to paperbacks upon your return :)

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  17. Very cool Blog, I would certainly purchase an ereader, I have the Kindle from Amazon and I have packed it with books, PDF files, plain text word documents and other materials. The battery lasts for about three weeks of intense reading between charges. I hope this helps you out.

    good luck on your trip