My Ultimate Packing Challenge: Packing for a RTW Trip

My Ultimate Packing Challenge: Packing for a RTW Trip

So as you guys may have seen on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) I’m going to INDIA! I’ll be heading there with my friend McCall for six weeks of yoga teacher training and trekking in the Himalayas. And of course, the Taj Majal. Lonely Planet India But first I will spend six weeks in Europe (I leave tomorrow, by the way!) and then fly to Delhi in April. I’m currently debating if I will add another six weeks in Southeast Asia onto the trip but I’ll decide that further down the line.

Anyway, what does this all mean for packing? Well, it means that packing will be a mother. I have to pack stylish winter clothes for Europe, yoga and trekking clothes for India and warm weather partying clothes for Southeast Asia.

Oh dear. Here’s my game-plan- I’m packing tons of leggings because I can use them in Europe (with boots) and in India (for yoga). McCall is generously bringing a few things to India for me like hiking boots and sunscreen. And if I make it to Thailand, I’ll just go on a Thai shopping spree in Bangkok. (I’ve always wanted to do that anyway).  

Bags:

Packing Around the World Trip

Jo Totes Camera Bag- My day bag and where I store my valuable electronics: camera, Kindle, chargers.

Wristlet – Daytime it’s a wallet and nighttime it’s a clutch! Genius, right?

Backpack- All clothes organized into packing cubes.

Clothes:

Packing Around the World Trip

1 peacoat (will ship home after Europe) (not shown)

1 pair touch-screen gloves (won in Angie Away giveaway! Thanks Angie!)

1 hoodie

2 light sweaters

2 t-shirts

1 chambray shirt

1 lace dress

1 tight, knee-length skirt

1 cotton dress

1 pair jeans

3 pairs leggings

1 pair of pijama shorts and lots of tank tops

1 pair of athletic shorts (double for pijama shorts)

5 pairs socks, 1 pair thick socks (skiing, hiking)

7 pairs underwear

2 bras (1 nude, 1 black)

1 pair tights

Shoes:

1 pair tennis shoes

1 pair black Tieks ballet flats (also won in the Angie Away giveaway!)

1 pair lace-up boots

Electronics:

Packing Around the World Trip

Canon EOS Rebel T2i + LCD screen protector + camera case + BlackRapid Metro camera strap + Canon 50mm lens f/1.4 + Canon kit lens

Kindle + case

iPhone 5S + case + screen protector (not shown)

iPod

1 mini speaker

Accessories: headphones, earbud splitter, 1 extra battery for Canon EOS Rebel T2i, 3 memory cards (16 GB, 4 GB, 4 GB), 2 converters (one europe, one u.k.), USB

Chargers: Camera, Kindle, iPhone, iPod, mini speaker

Extras:

5L dirty laundry bag

2 eye-masks (lost mine last time and had trouble sleeping for a month. Never again. Bringing two.)

1 Moleskine notebook and pens 1 mini Moleskine (to carry around during the day)

1 bikini (On my Southeast Asia I brought two which was great, but for this trip I won’t be on the beach as much.)

1 travel robe (won in Angie Away giveaway!)

1 mini travel towel (for washing face)

Combination padlock

Tiny flashlight

1 pair small scissors

1 pair earrings, 1 necklace

Sunglasses + case

 

Toiletries:

Shower: 2 small bars soap, Venus razor and 4 extra blades, deodorant

Skin: Face wash, acne medication, moisturizer with sunscreen, tweezers, Neutrogena face wipes

Hair: Lush solid shampoo and case, Lush solid conditioner and case, 1 mini brush, John Freida frizz serum, hair ties

Teeth: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, retainers

Makeup: foundation, blush, bronzer, powder, mascara, eyeshadow, brow pencil, liquid eyeliner, lip balm, lip stain, brushes, pencil sharpener

Miscellaneous: Tampons, nail clippers Medicine: sleeping pills, Midol, cold medicine, Advil, melatonin

 

Debit and credits cards:

Main: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card (has chip-in pin, great for Europe), Charles Schwab debit card (no international transaction fees, refunds the other bank’s fees)

Extra: (In case I lose others): Chase debit card, AMEX Starwood Rewards credit card

 

What my friend is bringing to India for me (thanks so much McCall!) 1 pair hiking boots, 1 pair black flip flops, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, Imodium

 

 

What I’m doing differently from my last backpacking trip:

I upgraded my iPhone from a 4 to a 5S so now I don’t need a point and shoot!

I’m also bringing stronger sunscreen to India, SPF 50, as I got horrifically burnt in Thailand.

I cut about six inches off my mane so now my hair will be so much easier to take care of. I used to spend around 45 minutes a day brushing my long, damaged hair.

I’m going to make sure to have a tiny notebook on my at all times to jot down in-the-moment observations.

I’m also bringing lots of make-up (Europe) as well as acne medication as I broke out so much in Asia. Never again!

And once I get to Asia I will always have toilet paper on me- there are so many bathrooms that don’t come stocked.

And surprise! I’m not bringing my laptop this time. I hated lugging my heavy laptop around Asia and working on the road definitely hampered my trip. As this is my last big trip I’m not working at all. (Plus I lost my main freelancing gig anyway.)

I’m also not bringing my PacSafe- as I’m not bringing my laptop I doubt I will need it.

What are some of your packing tips?

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How to Rent a Moped or Motorcycle Abroad

How to Rent a Moped or Motorcycle Abroad

I’ve wanted to write about renting a moped or motorcycle abroad for a while as it turns out there is quite a bit to know. Renting a moped abroad is something I’ve done several times now; from on the tiny Thai island of Koh Tao to the bustling beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Mopeds rule the roads of Southeast Asia and renting one gives you the freedom to travel independently. Plus, it’s fun to do with a big group when everyone has their own bikes! (more…)

How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

There is a widespread (and erroneous) belief that traveling has to cost a fortune.

Let me let you in on a little secret- it doesn’t.

I have traveled to 35 countries and besides family vacations as a kid, all on a tight budget. With a bit of finagling, you can save money both by saving hard before your trip as well as watching every euro, lira and rupiah you spend on the road. (more…)

Dealing with Flashers and Other Creeps on the Road

Dealing with Flashers and Other Creeps on the Road

 This post is graphic in nature, so please stop reading if you are a blood relative or I have babysat you. Thanks!

So in light of a recent incident here in France, I wanted to write about how to handle creeps both at home and abroad.

In short, last weekend a guy flashed me in the street and it really freaked me out.

It was six in the morning and I was walking home by myself in my safe, wealthy town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Granted it was late (or rather, early) but I was walking on a wide, well-lit, residential avenue, equipped with pepper spray. If you have to walk home alone, it should be like that.

P1060443

My extraordinarily wholesome town. Which goes to show you, bad things can happen anywhere.

But, no matter where you are, there are crazy, crazy men. Like this guy, who was standing in his doorway, pants down, staring at me, masturbating.

 

How I reacted:

Once I figured out what was going on I stopped walking, turned to look at him and released several blood-curling screams. I wanted him to know that what he was doing was HIGHLY unwanted and disgusting.

He reacted by putting his fingers to his lips to say, “shush.” Oh, so now you’re considerate, buddy, and don’t want to wake the neighbors?

Then I started sprinting in four-inch heels through the middle of the street. Obviously that’s a bit of a strange reaction, but my theory is that you should always try to out-crazy the crazies, right?

I ran to the main square of the town, which is the area most likely to be well-lit and full of people. And it was- the market vendors were already setting up the Sunday farmers’ market.

I walked into the first open store, the butcher’s shop, and asked them to call me a cab. They said they didn’t have a number and basically did nothing.

Sorry but mini-rant- doesn’t that seem weird not to help a visibly shaken-up girl with tears streaming down her cheeks who comes into your shop saying in broken French that she “saw a naked man on the street” and needs you to call her a cab? What happened to chivalry? Or basic human empathy?

I debated walking home from the main square. I live about 30 minutes on foot, and I decided to either wait until the sun came up or until I saw a cab.

Thirty minutes later I decided that I would just be brave and go alone. MIRACULOUSLY, a few hundred yards out of the main square a guardian angel cab driver picked me up and drove me home.

 

What I didn’t do:

I didn’t call the police. I’m not sure if this was the right choice but as I am a foreigner on a visa I really didn’t want to start legal trouble for myself. I also didn’t know if they would be able to find the creep anyway.

I didn’t tell the family I work for. I’m sure if this was the right choice either, but I didn’t want to worry them. Or explain that I encountered a half-naked, masturbating man on the street.

 

So naturally, I learned a few things from this experience. Namely that I will try not to walk home by myself in the middle of the night- if I go out in Paris I will either stay with a friend or take a cab back home. On that note…

 

Here are some ways to protect yourself when you’re on the road.

Never listen to your iPod at night.

It’s just not a good idea as you won’t be aware of your surroundings.

Carry pepper spray.

Thankfully I had pepper spray on me- it’s not fool-proof but it’s better than nothing. One problem? Pepper spray buried deep in your hand-bag is useless. Make sure to have it ready to go in your pocket.

Always have a cell phone- and know how to call the police.

I have a French cell phone. The only problem is I idiotically do not know how to call the police. (Wikipedia tells me the French emergency number is 17, fyi.)

Scream fire.

I actually learned this one from Adventurous Kate (ironically I read this post the night before this happened) but screaming fire is much smarter than screaming, “help.”

 People hear “help” and don’t want to get involved.  People hear “fire” and are curious.  That curiosity could save your life.

Travel with travel insurance.

I currently have no insurance as I’m not really traveling; and do you know how much it would cost to ensure nine months of living abroad? For my next backpacking adventure I’m going to purchase World Nomad’s insurance to safe-guard any injuries, attacks or misallaneous misfortunes.

 

Other resources for keeping you safe on the road:

Essential Safety Tips for Backpackers

Nomadic Matt – How to Buy Good Travel Insurance

Adventurous Kate – How I Survived a Mugging

Alex in Wanderland – The Hazards of Traveling with a Computer

 

The sad truth I realized?

Despite any illusions of safety, you’re never really safe, especially not as a woman. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel- bad things really do happen everywhere. You could be pick-pocketed on a bus in Argentina just as easily as you could be verbally abused on the subway in Chicago (ahem, I may be speaking from personal experience here.)

So travel, and live, with the knowledge that you can’t predict what will happen, but with the foresight to protect yourself as best you can.

 

Have you ever had a similar experience to mine? How did you react?

Also, this post has nothing to do with the very sad and tragic death of Sarai Sierra. I am a huge supporter of solo female travel and travel alone frequently- I just want women everywhere to be safer and to be aware of potential dangers.

The Expat’s Guide to Opening a Bank Account in Europe

The Expat’s Guide to Opening a Bank Account in Europe

As I recently discovered, European banking is completely different from U.S. banking. When I first arrived in France, I was completely baffled: How do you open a bank account in Europe?

And while I have a Charles Schwab debit card that allows me to pay abroad with no international transaction fees, I recently decided that I need a French bank account for a few reasons:

I am working as an au pair in Paris and need somewhere to deposit the money I am earning.

I need a card with a “chip” in it. (See the small silver box on the left side of the card below?) There are many places in Europe where you can’t swipe with your card (like the Paris métro for example), and must pay with a card that has a chip.

French Credit Card In Europe, the debit and credit card system works very differently. There are basically two cards: ATM cards and credit cards. An ATM card can only take cash out of an ATM and can’t make purchases. A credit card can charge credit as well as take cash out of the ATM; it’s like a combination of a debit and credit card.

 

Advice for opening an account in Europe:

  • Schedule an appointment with an English-speaking banker. Sit down with him or her and talk about your options, and make sure to read the fine print regarding online banking, monthly charges, etc.
  • Even if you speak the local language fluently, bring along a local because you may not understand all the banking terms or contract differences between your own country.
  • Bring along your passport, your proof of residence (like a utility bill or rental agreement, or  bring your host’s proof of residence if you’re staying with a family) and any kind of paperwork that proves you are working or studying in Europe.
  • Open the bank account once you get to Europe; it will be easier than opening it from your home country.
  • Make sure that your bank charges a flat fee as opposed to a percentage when transferring funds to a non-Euro bank account, so that when you leave the country for good the bank charges you around 20 euros to transfer your money into your bank account back home, as opposed to taking a percentage. Imagine losing 3% of all of your money!
  • Choose a bank that’s close to your house or apartment because in Europe you have to go into the bank more often than in the U.S.
  • Study abroad students can also open bank accounts in Europe, they just need to bring proof that they are in fact studying abroad.

 

What I learned about French banking, and especially CIC, the bank I chose:

I decided to open a bank account with French bank CIC simply because it’s close to my house and because the lady I work for banks there. Luckily the bank’s policies are quite fair (besides the absurd charge to access my bank account online) so I think I made a good choice.

  • At all banks in France you are assigned a pin code for your ATM or credit card, and can’t choose one like in the United States.
  • In France I have found that the best way to transfer my money into and out of the country is by using the Xendpay money transfer service. It’s so easy!
  • CIC charges no ATM withdrawal fees anywhere within the Eurozone (any country that uses the Euro). Even if you withdrawal at a non-CIC ATM there will be no charges. If you are paying or taking money out of an ATM outside of the Eurozone, the bank will charge you a fee (i.e. if you were in the U.K., United States, etc.)
  • CIC charges for online access to your bank account, but if you pay 2.50 euros a month you get unlimited access so that’s what I chose to do.
  • At CIC sends you your PIN code in the mail, but you have to come into the bank to pick up your new card.
  • At CIC you can’t overdraft your account (the card will be denied once it has no money left).
  • CIC charges about 20 euros to transfer funds to a non-Euro account.

 

Am I missing any important points? If you have opened a bank account abroad what was your experience like?