Monday, June 30, 2008

Tips for Travelling Light

Seeing grown men sobbing at the gas pumps isn't uncommon anymore. Think of what must be happening at the airlines! They are grasping at every possible straw to make ends meet in the face of skyrocketing fuel prices.

Enter the twin horsemen of "Extra Charge for Baggage" and "No Free Pop" on most airlines. The No Free Pop thing is easy to handle. But a zero tolerance policy on carry-on is a wee bit scary.

The airlines used to turn a blind eye to people like me who got on with a camera bag and a backpack. Those days are gone. As I get ready to depart for the Big Apple, I've had to think in terms of what things I MUST take with me:
1) My camera with two lenses and assorted photography stuff will not be given to some dexterity challenged baggage handler. The very thought makes my blood run cold. But I use an Olympus eVolt 500 and that's a big sucker. (My wife, by the way, has started travelling with a point and shoot compact and has been getting some wonderful shots. I am not there yet.)
2) My laptop (which keeps me in touch with my business, family and you guys) has to go. I use it for Photoshop work on the road, storing photographs and much more. But it's a 17 inch screen. **sigh** I have an older 15 inch that will work. Maybe...

3) My iPod is my only line of defence if there's a crying kid on the airplane or if I am seated with a travelling salesman who can't (or won't) take a hint when you don't ask a single question about what they are blathering on about. I've loaded my iPod with great music mixes, books on tape -- and even a movie. Fortunately an iPod is small.
4) The latest issue of Photoshop User, my Bible and a Robert B. Parker novel.
5) Extra glasses -- since not being able to see on a trip would really suck.
Aside from the usual stuff (lens wipes, rocket launchers, sunglasses etc.) that's it for carry-on.
What do I PACK? Answer: don't pack anything you would be heartbroken or really screwed if it gets lost. This means:
1) Two extra pairs of underwear. That's it. I know some people are cringing. But I am gone for a week. One pair of underwear can last two, maybe three days. Plus I understand they have additional underwear available for purchase in New York if I need it.
2) Two t-shirts and one long sleeve shirt. That's it.
3) One pair of cargo pants. If it's nasty I will put the legs on. But this way I also have a second pair of shorts if I need them. (Sure. Cargo pants are for geeks, right? Well I am a geek and I intend to be a warm geek if it gets cool.)
4) My Logitech portable speakers for the iPod. This way my wife and I can listen to music or books on tape in the hotel room. It's a tiny little speaker system that travels well.
5) My Backpack. Since we leave the hotel room early in the morning and don't return till late at night, my backpack is important. It carries my camera gear, clothes and iPod as well as all the assorted junk we pick up as the day goes on.
This all leads to the Stuff I Will be Wearing:
1) My Tilley Hat. This goes with me everywhere. It's easy to wear a hat and take it off. With this little marvel I don't care if it's raining, snowing or blowing. It even has a secret compartment in the crown for stashing extra money. Shhhhh...don't tell anyone.
2) My Palm Pilot has all the information I need for emergencies or simple schedule information. This will be in my pocket. It's an invaluable travel companion: When we get to the Park and Fly parking lot for example, I will go to the date I expect to return on and make a note of the stall we're parked in...because there's no way I will remember on my own. This way I can flip open my Palm Pilot with a suitably smug expression, and tell the driver where to take us. (It's a good idea, at this point, to avoid smug side glances at the guys who are red-faced ripping their pockets apart looking for the scrap of paper they got when they arrived.)

3) Travel Pouch: travels inside my shirt and contains money, passport and important documents. (Speaking of money -- it's a good idea when travelling to put your money and charge cards in several different places: a money pouch, a pocket, in your shoe -- whatever. This way if you get robbed or your pocket gets picked, you don't lose it all.)

4) Earphones, extra batteries for the iPod etc.

5) I'll be wearing my all-purpose waterproof windbreaker which has doubled as a pillow, a blanket and a towel (don't ask.) It crushes up small, can be easily packed and covers me for every reasonably anticipated weather condition NYC can offer in July.

That's it. I'd like to leave a little room for other stuff I find along the way to bring back. But overall I've found I usually take way more than I use. The notion of wearing clothes and just leaving them behind in favor of new stuff is something I am playing with...but I am also pretty we'll have to consider that.

I get really pumped before a trip. I believe the "before" part is almost as good as the actual trip. There's this air of mystery and anticipation that comes just before a trip. I don't know who I am going to meet or what pictures I will get. I don't know if the weather will be warm and wonderful or rainy and nasty...but it's all part of travel and being a travel addict.
Here are a couple of tips for getting through the airport traffic with a minimum of teeth gnashing and hair pulling:
1) Keep your laptop in an easy-to-access case. This way you can get it quickly.
2) Wear slip on shoes. Americans security is SO excitable. Slip-ons means you can get in and out of the shoes quickly.
3) ALWAYS get to the airport early. Those cool people who arrive just in time for the flight are actually stupid. Imagine getting a flat tire...or realizing you forgot your passport or...??? Better to sit quietly, wait for your flight and read a good book.
4) Avoid making jokes about bombs in the airport line-up. These people have no sense of humor and you vastly increase your chances of deep blushing and uncomfortable sitting if you do.
5) RELAX! My wife has the notion that I get all flustery at airport securtity. Pfffft. It's all part of travel. Besides I always sweat like that.
6) Take a minute before you leave home to look over ALL your stuff and ensure you have the stuff you need. While it is true that they usually have a lot of stuff at your destination, it's usually expensive stuff and it's never quite the same as your own stuff. Trust me. Take a minute. Stuff can be very important.
So here we go...on this GSoTT ("Great Summer of Three Trips) -- with the first about to launch NOW!

Start Spreading The News...

...we're leaving today on the Red Eye to one of our favorite destinations: New York City. It's a place we've been to a number of times before, my wife and I. There are a lot of known things about New York -- stuff I know will very likely happen. At some point:

1) I will go to Strawberry Fields and try to find a fresh way to photograph it. I find this little mosaic monument to slain Beatle John Lennon fascinating. The people who go there are fascinating. The things they leave behind are fascinating. The fact that he was gunned down just across the street is fascinating...and sort of creepy. But fascinating.

2) We will dine at our favorite restaurant in Little Italy called "Pompadoro's" where they serve food so good you wish you had at least another two stomachs. (We will also have a cheese pretzel even as we remind each other that it isn't good for us.)

3) We will take a LOT of pictures. You'll see some of them here and also on my NAPP portfolio

4) We are going to take an Amtrak to Philadelphia to have a look at an authentic pirate ship exhibit (a National Geographic production starring spoils and artifacts from the pirate ship Whydah) and will very likely run up the steps of the museum just like Rocky did...a sight sure to bring unbridled mirth to the locals.

5) We will be two of the thousands watching the fireworks on the 4th of July from an island. (Americans -- particularly New Yorkers) KNOW how to celebrate the holidays.

6) Sadly we won't be able to go to the New York Renaissance Faire (which was a Travel Hightlight of All Time last year) or see a Shakespeare in the Park play -- because neither will be active during our time there.

We leave on the red-eye tonight.

Want to come along?