March 2011

There are two kinds of travelers: those who pack too much and those who pack too little. I am one of the former, but I’m desperately trying to change my ways. I have had far too many bad experiences with over-heavy packs that ended with me throwing away loads and loads of clothing and miscellaneous items on the road. Unfortunately, I’m still going to have massive amounts stuff at the beginning of this RTW trip because my first stops involve a great deal of outdoorsy goodness, all of which requires specialized gear that I already own and don’t want to re-purchase (I’m talking $$$).

I traded in my 2001 Osprey backpack for a slightly smaller version this week and have been trying desperately to figure out how I’m going to pack everything in. I’ve been cutting things left and right, but am still worried about space. Initially I was hoping to just have the one pack and no extra bag for my tech stuff, but it’s not looking good. This is why I’m here. I thought perhaps some of you could give me some advice and/or talk me out of bringing some of this junk. I need reasons to cut some of this stuff. Things with question marks next to them are things I’m already considering cutting and will likely end up leaving behind. Please give me any magical packing tips you can offer. PLEASE.

OK, here it is – and, yes, I’m embarrassed at the sheer amount of crap I think I need to bring. Like I said, I’m an over-packer. Remember my first stops are Australia and New Zealand in their spring, and that I will be camping, rock climbing and running three (half) marathons (haven’t decided yet if I have the nerve to train while traveling).


3 T-shirts (wear one on plane)
3 Tank tops (wear one on plane)
2 1 Technical Tank (for running/marathons)
1 Long-Sleeve Tech T
1 Long-Sleeve T
1 button-up shirt
1 Cardigan (?)
1 Fleece Jacket
1 Rain Jacket
2 1 running capris
1 sports pants (climbing/yoga)
1 jeans (wear on plane)
1 hiking pants
1 leggings
1 PJ Pants (?)
1 summer dress
1 scarf (maybe 2 because I love them so much)
1 beanie
1 running cap (?)
4 sports bras
1 bra
8 5 undies
2 hiking socks (Pack inside hiking boots when sending to Australia)
2 1 regular socks
3 2 sports socks (running – thick/climbing – thin)
1 Running Shoes
1 Flip Flops (I’m grossed out by strange showers)
1 Casual Shoes
3 pairs earrings
1 sports watch


Body Glide/Vaseline
First Aid Kit
Hand Lotion
Contact Lens Case
Contact Lens Solution
Sample-size perfume
Hairbands/Bobby Pins
Minimal makeup

Outdoor Gear

Hiking Shoes (mailing ahead of time to Australia – hopefully)
Minimalist camp stove/cookware (may send ahead to Australia)
Climbing harness/shoes
Climbing rope (?)
Belay device/caribiners/quickdraws
Camelbak Hipbelt for marathons (?)
Camp Suds (?)
Clothesline (?)
Sleeping Pad
Camp Pillow (?)
Sleeping Bag (send ahead to Australia)
nalgene bottle (?)

Tech Stuff

iPhone, headphones
iPod, Nike Running Chip
Netbook + Charger (?)
Plug Adapters
Camera + extra batteries and memory cards
Fisheye lens
Cheapo phone + charger

Documents (on thumb drive and will email to myself)

Scan of passport, driver’s license, college degrees, visas, birth certificate
Scan of passport photo for making more copies on the road
Cover Letter Sample
Eye prescription for glasses/contacts


1 Book
1 New Zealand Guidebook (I know it’s heavy, but I already have it)
1 Sarong (for use as towel/scarf/picnic blanket/any number of things)
1 Extra pair of glasses
Small Travel Journal and Pen
Travel Tripod (?)
1 small purse
Kevyn (not optional)

Not Bringing – will buy or rent as needed

Sleeping Pad
Toilet Paper
Fuel for camp stove
Insect Repellent

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I wish I had a travel partners so we could split the outdoor gear and have more space for more fun stuff. I’ve gotta keep my main bag under 40 lbs. So, advice?


As you all know, I’m currently in the midst of selling off all of my belongings, yet again. This time around I’m trying to get rid of my books too, even the signed copies I’ve been lugging around for years. Most of them I’ve been selling on Amazon, but I have a couple here that are review copies so I feel guilty selling them. Instead, I’m going to give them away. The two books I’m currently sending off to new homes are both by authors from The Nervous Breakdown:

Attention.Deficit.Disorder by Brad Listi – Describe on Amazon as such: This lurching ride begins as 20-something Wayne Fencer, a defeated day-trader and idling pizza delivery boy with a B.F.A. in avant-garde filmmaking, attends the funeral of an ex-girlfriend in San Francisco who has committed suicide. Wayne can find few words of condolence and instead strafes the reader with a fusillade of facts on suicide, death and mourning, a distancing device that Listi relies on throughout the novel. The news that Wayne’s ex aborted his child in college sends the narrative machinery sputtering to life, with Listi shuttling his hero across the country (after jaunts to Mexico and Cuba) in a neo-beatnik search for meaning. Wayne’s encounters trigger all manner of intrusive digression, from boldface definitions of key words (e.g. “pheramone,” “megalopolis,” “absinthe”) to bulky movie plot summaries that detract from the novel’s story. With this Trivial Pursuit–like tic, Listi aims to capture the fragmented worldview of a coolly detached generation, but a few wedges are missing.


Sic by Brin Friesen, which I reviewed here a couple years back. It’s a book about a mix of things, but what really stuck with me were the parts about high school bullying. It’s an interesting story and one that I quite enjoyed, although it made me a little uncomfortable just because it was so real when it came to violence and bullying. It’s a well written book, but a difficult one to get through if you’re skittish like me.




So, there you have it. If you’d like either of these books, please just leave a message below stating whether you have a preference. I’ll do a drawing and announce the winners on April 1.




Flowers on a Cracked Surface, originally uploaded by bexadler.

For months I’ve been wanting to buy a new lens for my camera, but I’m a humongous cheapskate and am trying to save money so I’ve just been trawling the interwebs with little hope of ever buying anything. That was until last week when I came across the Opteka fisheye lens attachment that works with my EOS Canon Rebel. I ordered it on Amazon for only $34.95 and it was here in just a couple of days. I didn’t get a chance to really play with it until this weekend. I’m still learning how to use it, but am definitely having fun doing something new with my camera. To check out more of my pictures from the weekend you can visit my flickr page.

Yesterday was the 7th annual Shamrock’n Half Marathon. It was my fourth half marathon so I was really hoping to get  at least a 2:15 time. Unfortunately, I started getting lazy on my training in recent weeks so I only pulled in a 2:21:52. I was still happy with that though because it was still 2 minutes better than my New Orleans time from just four weeks ago. I was with the 2:20 pace group until the last two miles where I started to really fall behind. I took mile 11 really slow and then tried to kick it in for the last mile, where I think I might have made up a little bit of that time, but not enough to get back into the 2:20 group.

Two things about running a long race without proper training: soreness and injuries. I’m definitely feeling the effects of the race this morning. My legs are pretty sore this morning, which was something I never had happen when I was training for my marathon, not even on 20-mile runs. The other thing is that I totally forgot about my sweet spots for chafing. I only remembered body glide on two of my major spots so I ended up with huge swaths of chafing across my rib cage and my waist where my sports bra and pants rubbed the whole time. Sleep last night was definitely not fun because I couldn’t find a single spot to lie on that didn’t sting. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson and will always remember those spots in the future. Other than that it was a pretty great race. I had a couple of friends do it with me and they finished with great times. So happy for all the runners who made it to the finish yesterday. Good job!


Sunflower Closeup, originally uploaded by bexadler.

Lately I’ve been trying to make positive changes, many of which come from things I hear in yoga. Whether they are because of yoga or not, I do feel better and a lot less angry than I have in years. It doesn’t really matter how cheesy and new agey the things are that my yoga instructors say during class, they often hit me in a profound way and make me feel very grounded. Last night I had one of those moments when the yogi said, “Stop wishing that things were different and start living in the world that is.”

Like I said, I realize how cliche these words can sound on paper, but somehow in that moment in yoga they really struck a chord with me. I spend far too much of my time thinking about the past and how if I’d just done this or that differently then my life might be where I’d expected it to be at age 30. But the truth of the matter is that I can never go back in the past – and, when I really think about it, I like my life just the way it is. I mean, I have a pretty awesome life (at least, if you ask me). This was just another reminder to me that I need to stay focused on the present and leave the past in the past. Oooooohm.

Brittle Bush - Desert WildflowerAs anyone would expect, the desert has a very brief spring (and you all know how much I love me some spring wildflowers), so when I heard that wildflowers were popping up around Death Valley I had to jump at my chance to get down there and see if I could catch some still in bloom. I joined a group of 6 other CouchSurfers for the long car ride down to one of the largest National Parks in the United States, and we were lucky enough to not only find some wildflowers, but to see some amazing views and some wildlife too.

While we were down there, we stayed at Emigrant Campground, which is little more than a gravelly parking lot where you can set up tents and a makeshift kitchen. Fires are not allowed, but our fearless leader brought one of those portable campfires that runs on propane (biggest win of the trip if you ask me). The camping area only had about 10 sites, all one next to the other in a rectangular formation, which made it really easy to get to know our neighbors and socialize. This is definitely not the place to camp if you’re looking for privacy though – the lack of trees being one large factor in that. But there were real flush toilets and sinks, which made me happy. By day three I was really wishing for showers too, but since we all were pretty stinky by that point I guess it wasn’t too big of a deal.

Our resident drifter, ChrisOne of my favorite characters on this trip was a drifter named Chris, who we met the first night. Chris was a 62-year-old man who was full of stories about his travels and advice about life. He would come and drink with us by our warm fire every night and regale us with stories about Kenya, Vietnam, panning for gold in Alaska, what have you. I kept telling everyone: That’s me in 32 years. Anyway, it made me smile that he was so content with his drifter lifestyle and that he wasn’t lonely because one of my biggest worries is that I’ll regret my lifestyle somewhere down the road.

As for the sights, my favorite that we visited was Badwater Basin, the famed salt flats of Death Valley and the only piece of land in the United States that rests below sea level. This was a really cool spot because the skyline had some snowy mountains in the background and it tricked your mind into thinking that what you were looking at was snow and not salt. It was also fun to walk on because the ground was a little big squishy, like clay, and made me feel like I was walking on the moon. Make sure you have sunglasses though if you ever visit it because, man, is it bright.

View from Dante's Peak

We did two hikes while in Death Valley. The first was Golden Canyon, which we did because it was only a 2-mile trek round-trip, making it manageable for all skill levels. Unfortunately, that also meant that every other tourist in the area wanted to do the trail. It wasn’t too crowded though when we got there, possibly because it was already getting into the heat of the day and there was very little shade in the canyon. I wasn’t particularly impressed by this hike, but, like I said, it is an easier, shorter hike if you just want to get out and move your legs.

Fall Canyon HikingThe second, and last, hike we attempted was Fall Canyon, which I was far more impressed by, but which was also much more difficult. The hike is about 8 miles round-trip, but the trail is incredibly gravelly so we felt like we were walking uphill through sand the entire time. Despite the difficulty of walking through the canyon, I really enjoyed the hike. The high, striped walls showed the passage of time, indicating that a river once ran through here for thousands (if not millions) of years. I would highly recommend this hike; just be sure give yourself extra time as walking through the gravel adds quite a bit of effort and time to what sounds like a shorter hike. Also, I’d recommend leaving early in the day, as some of the open areas tended to get unbearably hot.

We had hoped to also get in the Mosaic Canyon hike, but were too exhausted after Fall Canyon to manage another one. The photos in the ranger station made it seem worthwhile though. If anyone’s done it, I’d love to hear what you thought. You can check out the rest of the pictures from the trip here and for more information about Death Valley go to the National Parks website.


Coyote and Landscape, originally uploaded by bexadler.

One of my biggest disappointments as an amateur photographer is that I don’t have a zoom lens. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors so I tend to see a lot of wildlife. Most of the time said wildlife is too far away for me to get a worthwhile shot, but on my recent trip to Death Valley I got lucky. Not only did we see lots of wildlife, including a roadrunner (which I didn’t catch on film), but this beautiful coyote got within a close enough range that I was actually able to shoot some decent photos of him. This is one of my favorites from the coyote “photo shoot.”

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