Deciding what to wear for the next 433 days

What a challenge! Who knows what they’ll wear – in advance – for 14+months on an around-the-world trip? We read blogs about packing, got advice from other travelers, and thought a lot about what clothes we already had and how to build a simple travel wardrobe. We made lists – and adjusted the list often – in the months leading up to our trip. Now we’re back and friends have asked, “Just what did you wear?”

We started with a core wardrobe: neutral, packable, lightweight pants with interchangeable tops that would easily fit in our suitcase.   Did we mention we each traveled with a carry-on sized suitcase?

Not all clothing was purchased for the trip or marketed as “travel” clothing.  Joe’s REI shirt is at least 10 years old.   Beth’s Columbia Sportswear shirt is at least 12 years ago.  They’re important items in our wardrobes and we’re happy they made the trip with us.   Photo taken at Bay of Islands, North Island, New Zealand.

Not all clothing was purchased for the trip or marketed as “travel” clothing. Joe’s REI shirt is at least 10 years old. Beth’s Columbia Sportswear shirt is at least 12 years ago. They’re important items in our wardrobes and we’re happy they made the trip with us. Photo taken at Bay of Islands, North Island, New Zealand.

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Joe’s favorite shirt for many years wore out before the trip. Why not have one sewn for him while we were in Hoi An, Vietnam? He loves the brilliant blue. Beth is wearing her favorite Royal Robbins pants. So lightweight and cool! Photo taken on the island of Madeira, Portugal.

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Joe brought his old standby REI pants on the trip. He did splurge on a Tommy Bahama black t-shirt, picked up in Naples FL on our drive across the US in 2013. Photo taken in Sydney, Australia. 

Ta Prohm Kel

Most of Beth’s clothes were neutral colors. However, she had a bright red Chico’s top that was so lightweight for packing it made the cut. Photo with son, Joshua, taken in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

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We needed earth-tone shirts for the safari we planned to take on our 14-month trip. So Joe picked up a few shirts that he knew he’d be able to use, even if we weren’t on a safari. Photo taken on the Samaria Gorge hike, Crete, Greece.

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Beth brought Eileen Fisher grey linen capris which she’d almost worn out before the trip. To pack or not to pack? In the end, she threw them in the suitcase.   They were just too perfect. Sadly after nine months they started to literally fall apart. Beth picked up these replacement linen pants on Crete. The shirt was purchased at a tiny shop bordering a causeway in southern Florida. The sign said “2 shirts for $25”. This was one. Photo taken on the island of Madeira, Portugal.

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We both like Royal Robbins pants: well-made, good fit, lightweight and ever so packable. Joe often wears long sleeve shirts as protection from the sun. He found this one on sale a few years ago at a Territory Ahead store in Santa Barbara. Photo taken in Tokyo, Japan.

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Did we make any mistakes packing? YES!   This shirt would have been fine to wear in some places, but looked out-of-place in just too many countries. We boxed it up and sent it back with other packing mistakes part-way through the trip. Photo taken in Hanoi, Vietnam.

For the number of pants and shirts packed – here’s the tally:

PANTS:  Joe: 2; Beth: 4 (one was mailed back)

SHORT SLEEVE SHIRTS:  Joe: 5 (two mailed back, one was added); Beth: 5 (one was mailed back)

¾ LENGTH SLEEVE SHIRTS: Beth: 2

LONG SLEEVE SHIRTS: Joe: 4 (two were mailed back, one was added); Beth: 3 (2 were mailed back)

If we learned anything from the experience we’d agree any clothing going into the suitcase should meet all of these criteria:

  • you love it and would wear it every day if you had to;
  • lightweight and packs well;
  • easy to hand wash and will dry overnight;
  • and can be worn with everything else in the suitcase – no clashing!

Now we’re back from the around the world trip and still find ourselves traveling, and – would you believe? – still wearing those same pants and shirts. After all, we love them and they pack so well.

 

February 2014

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As we lounged by the pool

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A peaceful pool and garden in Palm Springs

This was what we wanted: blue sky, warm sun, and a place to stay with a peaceful garden by the pool. We would spend time in Palm Springs reading, writing, and napping. Then, as we settled into lounges by the pool, we jumped up to observe a hummingbird that flitted by and settled on a branch. Back to relaxation. A few moments later, a yellow-rumped warbler landed on the palo verde tree. We jumped up again. Back to relaxation.

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Mockingbirds made their presence known by their constant calls.

We now spent our time by the pool with binoculars in hand and our bird guide, ready for new sightings. A problem arose: we had trouble identifying so many of the birds. We needed help. Time to leave the pool and reacquaint ourselves with birds in this desert area.

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve offers free bird walks every Wednesday morning.

The group walked through the desertscape, easily spotting regulars, like western bluebirds and house finches.

The group walked through the desertscape, easily spotting regulars, like western bluebirds and house finches.

Careful observing was rewarded, and we picked up a few uncommon bird sightings: sharp-shinned hawk and a western kingbird.

We stopped under a tree where a barn owl had nested in previous years. Bone remnants left from little animals the owl had feasted on littered the ground, like this hip socket.

We stopped under a tree where a barn owl had nested in previous years. Bone remnants left from little animals the owl had feasted on littered the ground, like this hip socket.

The healthy green on the tree is mistletoe, a parasite that grows on the tree and can eventually kill it. How does it get on the tree? After Phainopepla birds feast on mistletoe berries, their droppings can seed and eventually sprout on tree branches.

The healthy green on the tree is mistletoe, a parasite that grows on the tree and can eventually kill it. How does it get on the tree? After Phainopepla birds feast on mistletoe berries, their droppings can seed and eventually sprout on tree branches.

We watched a pair of red-tailed hawks circling. Our guide pointed out this is part of the courtship ritual and that red-tailed hawks are one of the few bird species to mate while in flight.

We watched a pair of red-tailed hawks circling. Our guide pointed out this is part of the courtship ritual and that red-tailed hawks are one of the few bird species to mate while in flight.

After a morning of bird watching at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, we were ready to head back to our lounge chairs by the pool. Thanks to our volunteer bird guides, we’ll identify whatever flies by. No doubt we’ll need a refresher bird walk next Wednesday.

 

February 2015

 

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Travel inspired by a book

We’re not the only ones to read a book and be so inspired by the sense of place described in the book that we started planning a trip.

Long ago, with our children leading the way, we visited Canyon de Chelly after reading “Sing Down the Moon” and traveled to Prince Edward Island after reading “Anne of Green Gables”. The Channel Islands stayed on our list for many years. Inspired by “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, it was based on the true story of a young Indian woman. She finds herself stranded alone for 18 years on one of the Channel Islands, many miles off the coast of California.

Although our children were grown and “out of the house,” we still wanted to visit that place too. Many trips were planned that would take us to The Channel Islands; none of them happened. Would we ever make it to this place?

We set out for the largest island in Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz island, a one-hour boat ride from Ventura, CA. Passengers were on the alert for sightings of whales, dolphins and seabirds.

We set out for the largest island in Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz island, a one-hour boat ride from Ventura, CA. Passengers were on the alert for sightings of whales, dolphins and seabirds.

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A large pod of common dolphins swam alongside the boat. There was a sighting of a fin whale, too.

Long streams of seaweed drifted in the water at the Scorpion Anchorage.

Long streams of seaweed drifted in the water at the Scorpion Anchorage.

Our first view of the Santa Cruz Island hills.

Our first view of the Santa Cruz Island hills.

Chumash Indians had lived on the island until the early 19th century, and, within 40 years, the entire island had become a sheep ranch. The ranch has now been shut down. It had disrupted the island’s environmental balance. All domestic animals were removed from the island, and efforts to restore the island to a balanced ecosystem are underway. Today, the National Park Service owns 24% of the island, and The Nature Conservancy owns the remainder.

We hiked up a trail overlooking Cavern Point and fields of blooming January flowers.

We hiked up a trail overlooking Cavern Point and fields of blooming January flowers.

The Channel Islands were never connected to the mainland so endemic species of plants, birds, and animals can be seen. On our hike toward Potato Harbor, an endemic Island fox appeared at the top of the hill on the path ahead. The fox quickly maneuvered off into the brush and made a wide circle around us, only to rejoin the path below us. We took photos as he made his way down the trail.

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The Island fox is a descendant of the mainland gray fox, but has been on the northern Channel Islands for 10,400 to 16,000 years.

Would we have taken the boat ride out to visit Channel islands National Park had we not read “island of the Blue Dolphin”? Probably not. The book inspired our trip and changed how we saw the island. We thought about the Indian girl as we walked on the cliff looking out to sea. The beauty and remoteness of the island must have been a blessing and curse as she struggled to live alone all those years. The Channel Islands didn’t disappoint us, and we’d love to go back again.

 

January 2015

 

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A bouquet gathered around the world

As we traveled around the world, we gathered our bouquet from flowers we loved so much that we felt we just had to photograph them. Anytime is a good time for flowers and gardens that offer us color and beauty… Wouldn’t you agree?

Singapore

SINGAPORE

Tokyo, JAPAN

Tokyo, JAPAN

Guilin, CHINA

Guilin, CHINA

Hoi An, VIETNAM

Hoi An, VIETNAM

Stewart Island, NEW ZEALAND

Stewart Island, NEW ZEALAND

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near Sydney, AUSTRALIA

Arusha, TANZANIA

Arusha, TANZANIA

Chania, Crete, GREECE

Chania, Crete, GREECE

Madeira Island, PORTUGAL

Madeira Island, PORTUGAL

Apeldoorn, NETHERLANDS

Apeldoorn, NETHERLANDS

 

 

February 2014

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No-fail travel photography

Dust off the camera and start to focus. We consider National Parks the perfect destination for scenic vistas; sightings of animals and birds; majestic trees; and wildflowers. With great subject matter and inspiration from the Park, we take a lot of photos, and a few came out well enough to tell a story.

We’ve been to California many, many times and never thought to visit Pinnacles National Park until our daughter, who loves the great INdoors, raved about camping and hiking there. We quickly scheduled a visit for a sunny, 60-degree day in January.

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A visit to Pinnacles required juggling the binoculars and camera.

We were surprised at how close we were able to get for a photograph.

We were surprised at how close we were able to get for a photograph.

What are they? A quick email to my friend, Joyce, and we got the answer:

What are they? A quick email to my friend, Joyce, and we got the answer: a Padre’s shooting star.  This particular species, Dodecatheon clevelandii, blooms in Pinnacles in January.

Sometimes in photography, color and shapes are the subject matter….

Sometimes in photography, color and shapes are the subject matter….

…whether it’s one tree or a forest.

…whether it’s one tree or a forest.

We’d be happy to return and just photograph the rock formations at Pinnacles National Park.

We’d be happy to return and just photograph the rock formations at Pinnacles National Park.

We spent a very full day at Pinnacles, and it wasn’t enough. With every step we saw another photo opportunity. If you’re feeling uninspired to pick up your camera – just head for a nearby National Park. It always works for us.

 

January 2015

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Between a rock and a hard place

Our hike started as they all do: trail map in hand, legs stretching for a good stride, eyes darting up to take in the dramatic view and down at the dirt trail ahead.

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So, how did the hike turn into squeezing between rocks…

…and finding ourselves lost inside a (dark!) cave?

We chose to hike the relatively easy Balconies Trail at Pinnacles National Park. What had we read before starting the hike? A talus cave was mentioned. We remember not looking at the photos of the trail because it might ruin the surprise for what we would see. (Just like we don’t read movie reviews because we don’t want the whole story revealed before we see the film.)

The trail had been scenic and easy.   Then a hiker passed by and mentioned the cave just ahead. “You’ll need a light,” she said. We hadn’t remembered anything about going so deep into a cave we would need a light. No matter. Joe is always prepared. We retrieved an old Petzl headlamp from deep in his daypack.

Boulders blocked the way and required a bit of fancy footwork.

Boulders blocked the way and required a bit of fancy footwork.

We continued to climb over and around boulders as we entered the cave.

We continued to climb over and around boulders as we entered the cave.

We walked further into the cave, trying to use the daylight that filtered in as long as possible. Even when we turned the Petzl lamp on, we couldn’t see any way to continue forward. Was the path to the left or right? We tried to inch along the right wall of the cave, but that lead to a dead end. We retraced our steps and saw that on the left, rocks rose up, as if a rough staircase, to the ceiling of the cave. We decided to climb the rock “stairs” (as it was our last option) and a small hole appeared above us: a way to continue forward.

After more climbing over and around the rocks, Joe scrambled out first into the light.

After more climbing over and around the rocks, Joe scrambled out first into the light.

See Joe hunched over in the low passageway?

See Joe hunched over in the low passageway?

One last squeeze before we returned to the trail.

One last squeeze before we returned to the trail.

If we’d remembered that a talus cave is formed “when steep, narrow canyons were filled with boulders, leaving passages between the larger rocks” (Wikipedia), we might have understood that we needed to look for open spaces between the rocks to proceed – not a cavernous walkway.

Was our hike (once lost and then found) telling us something? We were between a rock and a hard place, persevered, and were rewarded with a grand ending. Life should always be this adventurous and fun.

 

January 2015

 

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Before you settle on a destination – check the weather

We know what we like. We prefer our weather to be warm. For hiking, give us 70-degree temperatures and overcast skies (but we’ll settle for sunny). If we’re at the beach – make our water and air temperatures warm. Weather plays a key role in making sure we get to do all the activities on our list. So, of course, when we’re ready to choose a travel destination, we always take a look at the weather.

Royal Palace

We originally thought we’d head to Cambodia in October. Then we saw the average rainfall there for October — over 9 inches. No thanks! We switched to December with only a ½ inch of rain. We got only one rainy day, in Phnom Penh.

Following good weather can get complicated on a trip with multiple destinations. We’re sometimes faced with hard choices. Our upcoming April to mid-November 2016 trip to South America presents a case in point. We decided we’d start the trip with the Galapagos Islands, followed by a few months studying Spanish in Ecuador.

We want to go to the Galapagos in the calmest ( because Joe is prone to seasickness) and warmest (we want to snorkel) time of year. We put a few notes in our weather chart about what to see in the Galapagos month-to-month.

We want to go to the Galapagos in the calmest ( because Joe is prone to seasickness) and warmest (we want to snorkel) time of year. We put a few notes in our weather chart about what to see in the Galapagos month-to-month.

Early April is our choice even though it will be rainy – a small price to pay for seeing blooming wildflowers, sea lion cubs, and mating land tortoises.

The other places on our wish list are Machu Picchu (Peru), Bahia Bustamante (Argentina), and Torres del Paine National Park (Chile).

We plotted out the temperatures and rainfall month by month except for winter months in Patagonia.

We plotted out the temperatures and rainfall month by month except for winter months in Patagonia.

Clearly, anytime between May and the end of August looked ideal as far as rainfall for Machu Picchu since we plan to do a lot of hiking.

We read about Bahia Bustamante years ago, and it’s been on our list since then. It’s a 210,000 acre sheep ranch in Patagonia with guest rooms, set on the Atlantic coast, with penguins, sea lions, lots of birds, and a number of animals we’ve not seen but only heard of. We can hike, kayak, and explore. When to go? November through February is best. April is good too. We planned to be in South America until mid-November, so a visit to Bahia Bustamante would have be the last stop on our trip in early November.

Last on our wish list is Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. We hear that this is a spectacular park with a big caveat: weather can be very uncooperative for actually seeing and doing anything. My chart indicated 4 of the months between October and April were possible. If we chose October – what would it be like? I looked at Wikipedia and the entry said, “Visiting the park is recommended between late December and late February, during the southern summer…. Outside of this time frame, the weather becomes too extreme for the majority of the public.” If we follow Wikipedia’s advice, then the timing isn’t going to work for this trip.

We managed to work in three of the four places on our list within our timeframe. Now we can research other places of interest to visit between our trek in Peru in July and November when we arrive at Bahia Bustamante.

You can be sure we’ll be looking at weather patterns for guidance.

 

January 2015

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