Go See Run Eat Drink... Pay

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I know this post has been a long time coming, but once again I have to say that this is partly because there were a lot of numbers to crunch, and partly because I’m less and less inclined to settle in for hours of blog writing when I’ve got a new job to find and a new life to design. The end is nigh, people.

On to the numbers, but first a word on where all they all came from. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to learn that I was keeping careful records for the whole trip. I tried to write down everything I bought so I knew where my money was going. (This is not a new habit for me, it’s one I’ve cultivated for a few years now and also one I highly recommend.) Those numbers went into a spreadsheet for each currency or region. I tended to start a new file whenever the previous got so large and unwieldy that opening, saving and otherwise manipulating it caused my tiny computer to grind to a halt and caused me to contemplate tossing it, and all its spreadsheets, from the nearest balcony.

29 different currencies displayed for all to see at my Welcome Home Party

What I’ve been doing for the last week is going through all these spreadsheets, making sure that they included everything they should, making them all look the same, and making sure they all added up approximately correctly. I also spent a lot of time categorizing things so I could tell how much I’d spent on food, travel, accommodations, etc… Here are my categories:

  • Go: Airfares, visas and visa service fees, rail passes, inter-city buses, taxis, local buses, metro tickets, rickshaws, boda-bodas, cycle rickshaws and any other thing related to getting from Point A to Point B that separated me from a small or large bit of my money. I assigned the cost of airfare to the destination to which the plane delivered me, except for the two trans-oceanic flights, which I put under “Whole Trip” costs. This category also includes the costs of the Intrepid, Dragoman and Imaginative Traveller tours I did in Russia, Africa, the Middle East, India/Nepal and China.
  • See: Admission fees (for museums, galleries, temples, churches, cathedrals, etc…) walking tours, audioguides, trusty LP guide books, shows, movies, and activities like hot air ballooning, Tea Ceremony, lion walking, etc.
  • Run: Food and drink supplies bought for long runs leading up to the marathon in Athens, and Hash Cash – the fee paid to run with each different hash group (mostly to cover the cost of beer). These fees ranged from free-for-visitors to £1.00 in London up to a high of about $12.00 CDN in Singapore.
  • Eat: Food of all kinds: Steve’s Weird, Pam’s Normal and everything in between. Bought in restaurants, from street vendors, in grocery stores and in markets.
  • Drink: Beer, mostly. Also cheap wine in boxes. And that disastrous affair with vodka in Russia
  • Sleep: Hostels, hotels, hostals, pensiones, guesthouses etc…
  • Talk: Cell phone SIM cards, cell phone air time, the cell phone internet USB thingy in the UK, internet cafés and wifi internet charges
  • Live: A large category – toothpaste, shampoo, and other toiletries, pay-for-use public toilets, laundry, new clothes, postage, books, newspapers, haircuts, small bits of gear, blah blah blah
  • Give: Souvenirs and gifts sent home to others, or bought for myself. Also: baksheesh, tips and bribes of all kinds.

I separated out some expenses that I thought really applied to the trip as a whole. That’s where those ocean-crossing airfares went, along with the cost of the new computer, new camera and iPhone, and the big chunk of cash I lost along with my wallet in Barcelona.

Also, a word about currency exchange rates, and that word is: “Ugh”. They fluctuate all the time, so I just picked one rate for each currency that was something close to what the real rate was when I arrived and left it at that. There’s a huge margin of error here, but too bad.

So how does it all shake down? Well, it seems that travelling the world for 351 days cost me about $64,000, or $182.00 per day. I suspect that’s pretty high, and that many hardier backpacker types could do it for much less. To them I say: “Go ahead. Be my guest. And have fun with your dehydrated cup-o-noodles and your twelve-bed dorm rooms and your dodgey, smelly, glacially slow intercity buses. If you’re looking for me I’ll be over at the bar having a drink and waiting for them to call my flight.”

Here’s a look at my big tally-up spreadsheet:

The red numbers are the three highest in each column, the green are the lowest. Ooohhh… conditional formatting! (Sorry these numbers are so tiny and fuzzy, but that’s what happens when you try to cram 424 numbers into 600 pixels. Click here to see the Google spreadsheet, which is still a Work In Progress.)

And what do we learn from these numbers? Surprisingly, Russia turned out to be the most expensive place overall. This is partly because of the cost of getting there, and partly because I was on an Intrepid Tour, which adds substantially to the cost of visiting. Also, I was only there for a short time so that expensive airfare was only averaged over ten days. Denmark clocks in as second most expensive, again partly because the airfare from St Petersburg was not cheap, and I didn’t stay long. Also, as I mentioned when I blogged from there, Denmark is freakin’ expensive. And it turns out that Japan was expensive, just like everyone says. It’s number three on the overall list, and number one for both food and accommodations.

As for the cheap spots? My numbers are skewed; Singapore and the U.S.A top the list, entirely because I stayed with friends who gave me a free bed and fed me (Uganda, which also falls into the “generous friends” category, was fourth cheapest). Third on the list is the perennial favourite of cheapskate travelers the world over: Thailand. It really is cheap. I remember thinking that when I was there – that even when I tried to indulge myself, I still couldn’t manage to spend more than about $10 on a meal, and the hotel room (once I moved out of the fancy place) was ridiculously cheap.

A caution to anyone who might be tempted to use these numbers to budget their own trip: Your mileage will certainly vary because every choice I made every day had an impact on the bottom line, and everyone makes different choices. The fact that Hong Kong was relatively cheap for mean doesn’t mean it would be for everyone. And I spent more money in Greece than many people might, but I was being more self-indulgent there than in other places. Oh, and speaking of self-indulgent – look at all that red in the VACATION row! Top three for Eat, Drink, Sleep, Live and Give. What can I say? I was a good vacation. And I’m still not going to tell you where I went.

Other random thoughts and caveats:

  • It’s really not possible to feed yourself as a tourist in Malawi on 63 cents a day, although I suspect many Malawians might. That number is so low because I was eating all my meals with the big orange Dragoman truck, which was part of the cost of the tour. That 63 cents per day was the average cost of me buying cold drinks and snacks outside the food provided by the tour.
  • Similarly, do not plan to travel to Thailand for a mere 55 cents per day. I was already in the region and took a cheap (but comfortable and air-conditioned) minibus across the border from Laos, so the “GO” part of Thailand was misleadingly cheap.
  • Seeing things in Zambia was expensive, but included some really cool big ticket items: walking with lions, riding in a helicopter over Victoria Falls, the gorge swing and other adrenalin activities and, of course, the swim and breakfast at Livingstone Island at the edge of the falls. All expensive, but mostly worth it. (Similarly, Turkey included the hot air ballooning, and Belgium included a guided tour of WWI battlefields.)
  • Macau is unfairly tarred as the most expensive place to eat, but that’s because I was only there for a day and I went for a really nice dinner. Please don’t skip Macau because you think it’s over-priced.

And that’s what it all cost. Go ahead and ask me specific questions in the comments, but I’m not going to get into any blow-by-blow stuff. I deliberately decided not to give you the country-by-country, day-by-day costs because:

  1. That’s a bit personal, thank you very much, even for someone whose life has been on public display for a year.
  2. It is a LOT of numbers. No really. A LOT. Did I mention there were eleven spreadsheets?
  3. No one would get any further than about Day 6 because it’s so boring to go through that their eyes would start bleeding within minutes.

The paper wallet. Still hanging on.

And now, a few fun numbers that don’t have dollar signs attached:

  • 351 days on the road
  • 33 countries visited
  • 158 different beds slept in
  • 72 city maps fruitlessly consulted and roundly cursed
  • 29 different hash trails run with 27 different hashes in 21 countries
  • 24 flights composed of 37 flight segments on 17 different carriers
  • 23 languages misunderstood
  • 17 guide books consulted, abbreviated, mangled and discarded (15 LP, 1 Rough Guide, and 1 other)
  • 29 currencies gushing in an endless stream from 1 paper wallet that’s seen better days
  • 17 metro systems navigated
  • 21 overnight journeys by train, bus, plane and ferry
  • 38 Weird Foods sampled
  • 12,861 photos taken, which is an average of 37 per day
  • 1 trip of a lifetime

Oh, and also for the record, I swam in the Atlantic off the southwest English and Northern Irish coasts, and in “the Med, the Red and the Dead”, the Indian Ocean, Lake Malawi, the Zambezi River (Victoria Falls!), and the Nile.

And how am I doing these days? Pretty well, thanks for asking. I had a nice visit with my sister and family in Calgary, I’m on version 973 of my resumé, and I’m slowly devising a plan for the next few months that I’m both excited and nervous about, so I think that must mean I’m on the right track. My sum-it-all-up blog post is not even a vague spark in the back of my mind yet, but some day I’m sure my random impressions will coalesce into the grand finale we’re all hoping for. Yup. Any day now. Yessiree.

More aimless thoughts on being home

Friday, June 11, 2010

It’s been eleven days since I got back to Canada, so there must be something to say. It feels strange to leave it so long between blog posts, but we’ve all got to get used to the idea that it’s not going to last forever, and there honestly doesn’t seem to be much to say. It’s time we started weaning ourselves off this thing. I know I owe you a post about how much the whole adventure cost, but I need some quiet time to sort through the eleven different spreadsheets involved. (Yes eleven. When I tried to do all countries in one it made my computer run slower than an Egyptian overnight train.)

So what’s been happening? Well, I had an excellent Welcome Home party last weekend. If you were in Winnipeg and didn’t come then you’re a big loser (Craig, Dorothy, I’m talking to you…). Not only did you miss a great party, endless rounds of “What was your favourite country?” and a chance to see my one hundred trillion dollar bill, you also missed the chocolate covered bacon!

The chocolate covered bacon salute!

And there was cake! I even got to pick it out myself! It had writing AND balloons! And it was chocolate! (And apparently I’ve reverted to age 4!)

Just like when I left town last year, I was reminded of how many great friends I have in Winnipeg, and I wondered how I ever managed to leave. I spent the whole evening bouncing around trying to spend time with everyone and mostly failing. By midnight, with rain falling outside, a hardy few of us remained in the living room while I blathered about geckos and tried to answer weird questions like “Where was the worst toilet?” (Mount Sinai. Though there was a train toilet in France that ran a close second. It was missing the critical flappy bit that covered the hole to the tracks, hence the updraft from the moving train caused anything that was intended to fall down to instead be sprayed upwards at an alarming velocity and coat every surface in the cubicle. On second thought, maybe that one was the worst…)

And just to prove what great friends I have, how about this for a cool Welcome Home present?

It’s a box of locally acquired Weird Food! There’s dried squid, canned jackfruit, pickled lotus root, green snack cakes, dried mango, apple sticks and, best of all: “chewy milk candy with purple yam and gelatinous mutant coconut” GELATINOUS MUTANT COCONUT!!! FiF, you rock!

All that Weird Food reminds me of the funniest comment of the week, which came from Karen. On my first day back, as she and Steve were getting ready to make supper, she called out to me from the kitchen, “Is there anything you don’t eat?” Then there was a pause, and then a defeated, “Never mind.” Heh.

I spent most of my time in Winnipeg in a whirlwind of lunches, afternoon coffees and suppers, trying to see everyone I wanted to before I packed up AGAIN. It was great, but felt rushed at times. Why the rush? Well, I’m currently engaged in my Triumphant Return Tour of Western Canada (TRToWC), and I felt like my family in other provinces might appreciate seeing me in the flesh some time before Labour Day. As easy as it would have been to continue lounging in Steve and Karen’s spare room, I knew I really should get on with it.

I had a surprisingly difficult time packing for the TRToWC. I’m so used to carrying the bare minimum of clothing that being presented with three suitcases worth of choice was frankly overwhelming. And how is it that I managed, suddenly, to be the custodian of four pairs of running shoes in various states of wear ranging from brand new to shocking? Luckily, any clothing from storage that’s worn below the waist was immediately taken out of the running, as were a few shirts that had a bit too much gaposis in the frontal region. Still, I was left with a dizzying array of t shirts and running clothing, and more socks than I’ve seen in one place in months. I’m now traveling with the Aeronaut and a whole other suitcase, and though I feel a bit sheepish about this considering my zealous defense of one bag travel, I can’t deny that it’s intoxicating having such choice. (Oooooh, lots of big words in that last sentence. And I didn’t even use a thesaurus!)

And now I’m in Moose Jaw, which hopelessly devoted GSRED readers will remember as the first stop in last spring’s Western Canadian Farewell Tour. It was a nice drive, and it’s great to be back in control of my own travel schedule, no longer subject to the iron-clad timetable of Japan Rail, or forced to arrive three hours before takeoff. Many people find driving on the prairies boring, but I love it. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true: there’s nothing to get in the way of the view.

Aaahhh! Now THAT’S a view! (Even if it is Regina…)

I’m also spending a bunch of time sending emails about possible job opportunities, or at least it feels like it. In reality there are only two or three avenues that I’m seriously pursuing, and they all seem to be the kind of thing that requires a few tentative inquiries and a lot of waiting. I need to keep reminding myself that it’s still very early and maybe it’s a bit much to expect to land on a Monday and have the rest of my life figured out by the end of the week. It’s just that I’ve spent the last few years with a pretty clear plan, so it’s disorienting to be facing such uncertainty. I know, I know, everyone tells me I should just relax and spend some time “processing” everything I saw and did in the last year, but what does that even mean? I have no idea. All I know is that right now the burning question is “What happens next?”

Home again, home again, jiggety jog

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I’ve been back for five days now and my thoughts are still scattered, not because I’m overwhelmed with the enormity of what I’ve done or anything so grand and arrogant as that. It’s more that my days are full of small, busy, pleasant tasks that occupy me enough that I don’t spend a lot of time sitting around contemplating Deep and Meaningful Things. Consequently this post is simply a random collection of thoughts from the last week, but you should really be used to that by now.

It was great to get back and be greeted by Karen and Steve, who met me at the airport and stood up and cheered and waved their arms and rang cowbells in the morgue-like arrival hall when I emerged from US Customs. Thanks guys!

My triumphant (weary) return

Yep, Karen and Steve have been great – offering their spare room, wifi password and kitchen, even if their stupid gas oven is stupid and their stupid smoke detector is even stupider. Here’s a tip: when preparing to cook two pounds of bacon, first remove the battery from the smoke detector in the hallway. Or as an alternative, use the smoke detector as a signal of when to remove the trays of bacon from the oven. I like to call this the Mom Method. (Hi Mom! Love you!)

Why was I cooking two pounds of bacon? (Aside from the fact that two pounds of bacon is an inherently good thing in and of itself.) Well Karen and Steve are generously throwing me a Welcome Home party tonight and we decided that it would be necessary to have some kind of Weird Food to offer. Unfortunately the stock of pig ears, mopane worms and black jelly was shockingly low at the local Superstore, so we decided chocolate covered bacon would be challenging enough to be in the right spirit, and easy to prepare (it does only have two ingredients after all). So that’s why I was cooking up a mess o’ bacon, which Karen and I spent a happy morning dipping in melted dark chocolate wafers. The result was, I think, the apotheosis of the chocolate covered bacon form, and far surpasses the Santa Cruz Boardwalk variety. The differences are many. First we bought maple-smoked bacon, and cooked it to chewy perfection, as opposed to the American variety which was at the overcooked crumbly charcoal stage. Also we chose dark chocolate instead of milk, and after dipping we scraped off some of the excess coating to achieve the perfect chocolate-to-bacon ratio. And we left a small bit of bacon exposed at one end of each strip, which we dubbed the “Bacon Handle” and has the effect of being a convenient place to grab, and shows off the fact that there really is bacon in there. And when we taste-tested the cooled pieces later this morning? Well, let’s just say that chocolate covered bacon has rocketed to the top of Karen’s list of favourite things, and with good reason.

Karen’s Vanna White impression, showing off one of three trays of chocolate covered bacon

Besides experimenting in the kitchen, I’ve been letting lots of people buy me lunch. Apparently I’m going to be dining out on my adventures for a long while. It’s been really nice to connect with friends I haven’t seen in a while, though I’m already getting a bit tired of the questions. “What’s it like to be back?” “What was your favourite place?” “How are you adjusting? Isn’t it culture shock?” “Are you finally going to wear some different clothes?” “Are you contagious? If I stand too close will I catch anything?” Blah, blah, blah. The answers, in short are:

  1. Nice. Boring. Good. Weird. Normal. Exactly the same as when I left.
  2. Seriously? I went to 123 different cities, towns or discrete geographic locations. You want me to pick ONE PLACE?
  3. Just fine, thanks. No.
  4. Yes. Thank GOD.
  5. I’ll let you know, the test results aren’t back yet.

Being back has been strange and not. For instance, I thought it would be odd to drive again after a year but there wasn’t a even a moment of hesitation or awkwardness when I got behind the wheel. It was like no time had passed since I’d last stepped on the accelerator; the weird thing was actually how NOT weird it was. I drove downtown and had to cruise past my old workplace while I was looking for parking. (Note: It turns out that looking for parking is one of the things I did not miss at all, and I didn’t even realize it.) Driving in that neighbourhood was weird because it was sooooo familiar. I guess I got used to everything being new and different all the time, so it was shocking to round a corner and see a view that was so deeply etched into my brain that I felt like I could have driven it with my eyes closed. (I didn’t.)

Already the trip seems a bit remote, and when I think back to the early parts it’s kind of like a dream. I’ll be talking to someone, relating stories about the traveling and remember something startling like the fact that I walked with lions in Africa, and I can’t believe it’s possible I could have forgotten something like that. And that leads to the story about swimming at the edge of Victoria Falls or hot air ballooning over Turkey, and I start to feel a bit arrogant or something. I sense that for the rest of my life I’m going to be able to pull out a travel-related anecdote on just about any subject imaginable. “Ah yes, the bi-metallic question. Fascinating. That reminds of a strange thing that happened to me in Mto Wa Mbu. Oh, you don’t know it? Charming little town in Tanzania. Grow a lot of bananas there. Anyways as I was saying, there I was in Mto Wa Mbu…” It’s all a bit traveler-than-thou, if you know what I mean. I apologize in advance for this, and you should all feel free to yawn pointedly if I get too tedious.

How do you forget something like this? I suppose by doing a hundred other things in the subsequent months.

And here’s something I’ve been waiting about a year to sample: Pam’s Normal Food! This morning after my run I got to have a boring old favourite that used to be a staple part of my diet. It's nothing special, which is the whole point – just a toasted whole wheat bagel sandwiching an egg, cheese and sliced tomato.

Ahhh…. And see that shirt? You’ve never seen that shirt before, have you? That’s an old favourite too!

It only took about a day and a half for me to start feeling a bit lost and aimless. It’s true that I’m back in Canada and my round-the-world traveling is over, but I’m still going to be living out of suitcases for the foreseeable future. Don't forget that I have no job and no house, so I'm very uprooted right now. I need to start looking for work, but I think that process is going to be a slow one, and it’s a bit discouraging that I really don’t know when or where I’ll finally have somewhere to hang my hat. I’m really starting to crave having my own space. This is partly because I went and investigated my storage locker to make sure that everything was still ok, and so I could retrieve a suitcase of clothes. Therefore the bedroom I’m camped in seems absolutely crammed with stuff and I feel a bit overwhelmed by it. Then I realized that it’s really not much stuff at all – a grand total of two suitcases and one box. It’s just that I have nowhere to put it all to keep it organized. I used to dream about passports and airline tickets and exotic locations. Now I dream about having a closet.

So that’s the state of the union five days after touchdown: essentially fine, if a bit aimless. Now has anyone seen where I put my black running socks? I’m sure they were in the second pile from the left…

Hard-earned travel tips from one who’s been there

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I know you’re all waiting for some grand summing up of my big adventure: profound insights, life-changing realizations, blah blah blah. All I can say is I’m working on it, but don’t hold your breath. Instead here’s a much more practical offering: a bunch of random tips and observations on long term travel that I think I now have the resumé to offer with a certain gravitas. In no particular order, take them as they come.


Upon entering a new hotel room in a dodgy part of the world (Africa, Asia, the Middle East) check that the hot water, heating, air conditioning, kettle, internet or other amenities work properly. It's much more likely you'll get moved to a new room if you haven't exploded all over the first one before discovering there's no hot water and the shower sprays sideways onto an electrical panel.

The smallest hotel room of the trip – Jerusalem. You are viewing a less-than-single sized bed, which took up exactly half of the room. The bathroom was about 1” wider than the toilet and you stood in the doorway to use the sink. 200 shekels per night.


Always carry the business card of your hotel or hostel, or at least write down the name so you have something to show a cab driver to get you home. If the language does not use the Roman alphabet, get someone at the front desk to write it out for you.


Carry chocolate. Or candy. Or whatever makes things better when things are bad. God help you if your comfort food is Waldorf Salad or Baked Alaska.

Sweet shop window display, Barcelona


Always have a book, or iPod, or Sudoku or other distraction, preferably more than one. Travel involves waiting. It is inevitable.


Be methodical and disciplined about packing. Have a list and check it every time, or risk leaving your last pair of clean underwear mating with the dust bunnies under your bunk bed in Bratislava.


Always carry some kind of ID. A drivers license is good for this. It's official, and has a photo, but it's not the end of the world if you lose it.


In galleries, museums and other sights always take the guided tour, especially if it's free. You may see a smaller part of the collection but you'll get a lot more out of it.

Me at Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow. Certainly one of my top five museums for the trip, which included a brilliant, free guided tour.


Carry a photocopy of your passport information page with you all the time so you don't have to pull out the real thing to fill out paperwork. This also helps the authorities to know what embassy to contact when they pull you out of a ditch.


Shampoo is everything. It cleans hair, bodies, clothes and dishes. What else would you need to clean? (Well, teeth I guess. Toothpaste is allowed.)

Electric on-demand hot water heater in my B&B in Bushmills, Northern Ireland. They are everywhere. Why don’t we have these in North America?


Don’t be afraid to ask for help, directions or advice. People are usually friendly and genuinely want to assist. If they aren't they can be blogged about without mercy. The flipside to this is that people who seek you out to help you should not always be trusted, it's more likely you'll be the victim of a scam if the other person approached you first.


Pockets are handy. Pockets with zips are better. Pockets with zips and snaps are better still. Pockets with zips, snaps, padlocks and armed guards are recommended for the Delhi metro.


McDonald's is not the devil. If nothing else, the bathrooms are always clean. (But some of them actually require you to punch a passcode printed on your receipt into a lock on the door. France, I'm talking to you.)

McDonalds, Nezsky Prospekt, Russia


Carry a stash of US dollars in a secure place, just in case. A couple hundred dollars should be enough, though Intrepid travel normally requires to have quick access to about $400 when in dodgier regions, in case you need to get out of the country fast. Smaller bills are better. 20s are good. If you don't have US dollars, euros are the next best.


Don't be lazy about locking things up and keeping your valuables secure. The one time you leave your moneybelt unlocked in your hotel room (even if the room itself is locked) could be the one time it's not there when you get back. Also, ALWAYS lock your bag up on overnight trains and keep small valuables close to your head while you sleep. You may feel like a geek, but it's better than being a victim.

Jess, on one of four overnight trains in China


Trust your instincts. If a street or shop or person seems dodgy just don't go there. There will always be another one.


Haggle over prices when it's culturally appropriate, but don't get obsessive about it. Remember that you may be arguing over 50 cents, which is nothing to you but could be significant to the vendor.

Carving stall at Kande Beach in Malawi. I got a very nice carved giraffe here that I carefully mailed home from Livingstone, Zambia in the middle of January. It still has not arrived, and I suspect it never will.


Don’t feel bad about taking a break from local food or culture. If you feel like you need a burger and a night of "Dancing with the Stars" in your room, do it.


Get comfortable doing laundry in the sink, but understand it has its limitations. I found it helped to think of laundry treated in this manner not as "clean" so much as "thoroughly rinsed".


Wet sink-washed clothes should be wrung out vigorously, then wrapped in a dry towel and wrung out again. They'll dry much more quickly after the towel treatment.


Eat in sometimes, especially breakfast. Sometimes not having to venture out and stomach the local pig knuckle soup at 8am is a good thing.

Then again, sometimes you need the Full Irish Breakfast, including half a pint of Guinness. Like after arriving in Amsterdam on an overnight train after waking up to discover the dining car has been replaced, in the night, with several grim sleeper cars from Poland.


Try not to stress about the cost of changing money. A percentage point here or there is minor in the scheme of things. Accept that converting currency is part of the cost of international travel and move on.


Where it's safe and reasonably priced, rent a bike. It'll let you see and do more with less effort.

Sizing up bikes in Yangshuo, China


Pack earplugs and be prepared to get comfortable sleeping with them. The same is true for eye masks.


There are a few things that turn up just about everywhere: Coca Cola, Pringles potato chips, and Oreo-ish cookies. They are the holy trinity of long term travel snacky comfort food.

Well I didn’t say they were NORMAL flavours, just that they were there…


Carry a small quick-dry towel in your daypack. They’re good for drying your hands in public bathrooms, wiping the sweat off your face, and when dampened can be used for a quick sponge bath that’s remarkably refreshing, especially useful after crawling out of the jungle following a 12km hash run.


Bookstores in the larger airports will almost always have a good selection of guidebooks.

Excellent used bookstore in Hanoi, Vietnam


When you check a bag for a flight have them stick the baggage claim tag(s) in or on your passport instead of your boarding pass. You're much less likely to lose track of your passport than your boarding pass or e-ticket printout.


Don't ask a local person “Where should I go for ramen?” Instead ask them, “Where do YOU go for ramen?” There's a big difference.


And finally: I know it's practical and probably more secure, but I'm telling you this as a friend: wearing your daypack on the front makes you look like a dork.


That’s all I’ve got right now, folks. More profound thoughts to come, if I can manage to marshal them at all. In the mean time I’m relaxing in Winnipeg getting used to being somewhere where I can read all the signs and understand every conversation around me (which turns out not be a very good thing…). It’s all bit weird but it also has its compensations, like being able to walk into a kitchen full of familiar, favourite foods, or go for a run on streets I’ve run a hundred times before, or turn on the TV and watch a hockey game. So life is good, and some day soon I’ll figure out what happens next.