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Moleskine weekly notebook

Moleskine weekly notebook

Since we’ll be in the road for a year choosing our travel accessories is important. To make it into our suitcase the top gadgets have to be light, functional and add to the enjoyment of the trip. Here are some tips for our top travel gear:

1) Unlocked smartphone –  Michael no longer has a cell phone and is loving it. No voicemail to check! Larissa ended her contract and unlocked her phone.  She can buy a prepaid SIM card in each country and make local calls cheaply. Plus she can still access all the music stored on it so she didn’t bring an MP3 player.

2) JBL portable speaker – We love listening to music but there are times when ear buds don’t quite cut it, particularly for sharing. About the size of a cupcake, it packs a powerful sound and has an MP3 slot.

3) Amazon Kindle – Michael the Luddite resisted this one mightily but now he’s glad he joined the 21st century. Instead of carrying reams of books he just brings the lightweight Kindle. With 3G access he can download books practically anywhere and even check e-mail.

4) Moleskine Weekly Notebook – Okay, in this area Michael is still a Luddite. He’s never figured out how to keep a calendar on any type of electronic device and places his trust in plain old paper and pen. It’s also fun to put stickers on it from each country. Just like our six-year old niece does.

5) SONY 14.1 megapixel Cyber-shot camera – 99% of the pictures and video on this web site have been taken with this handy pocket cam. It’s small and reliable. We considered getting a separate video camera but opted to carry less. We’re glad we did.

6) Apple MacBook Air – We are a mixed marriage, Larissa is Mac and Michael is PC, but we somehow manage to make it work. Larissa loves this nifty little device and it is incredibly light. She also brings a Cisco USB/Ethernet adaptor since the MacBook Air doesn’t have an Ethernet port.  In some countries where there is no Wi-FI it is handy to be able to plug in.

For those who care about such things, Michael uses a Toshiba Portege which is also sort of light. It’s just not as cool. (But it does have an Ethernet port and DVD player to watch movies.)

7) Klipsch earbuds with microphone attachment – Excellent sound quality for music and the mic enables it for phone use too.  It comes in handy for Skype calls that are in a somewhat public place.

8) International electrical converter/adaptor – The key here is that it is a converter AND an adaptor. Don’t get a device that just does one.  It needs to convert the voltage (the converter part) as well as enable you to plug your home devices into any type of outlet (the adaptor part).  Otherwise you run the risk of frying your equipment.  Ours is compact, lightweight (about 6 oz.) and has a nifty design that switches plug styles for any country in the world.  We purchased it at the local AAA office.

9) Timex Expedition watch – Michael purchased this watch over ten years ago for about $22.  He’s worn it just about every day since then and it’s never failed. There are dual time zones, a chronograph and an alarm. Apparently it’s also water-resistant for 100 meters but he wouldn’t know, he’s never swam that far. But he can keep it on for washing dishes.

10) Theraband exercise straps – Those multi-colored straps that are familiar to anyone who has undergone physical therapy. Incredibly light and functional as a portable gym. They might even get used before the year is out.

11) Charmin To Go – Emergency mini-roll of toilet paper. You know how you carry an umbrella to guarantee it doesn’t rain? Same thing with this item. It’s still unused and we’d like to keep it that way.

Little Rocky with new friends in Sydney

12) Miniature Rocky Statue –  Dual purpose tool that is not only a great icebreaker in crowds it is also a most excellent backscratcher. Don’t leave home without it.

What gadgets do you bring on trips?

You may also want to read Larissa’s perspective on packing for a year.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

I had one concern about what to pack for a trip that would be a year long, (no, not getting along with Michael), I was worried about having enough stuff.  I wasn’t too concerned about clothing—that could be washed and used again.  But what about make-up?  And hair goop?  I couldn’t pack a year’s worth of moisturizer and mascara, etc.  All those little bottles add up.  And what was I going to do somewhere in the middle of nowhere when I needed more deodorant?

During our trip planning I read lots of information about restricting what toiletries you take along.  Most of them were tips any traveler has already figured out, like pack little bottles of shampoo. Or better yet, pack none and count on the hotel to provide them.  This is fine for a week or two, but what about a year?

The rest of the tips I found focused on travel that involved mostly camping, trekking, and general wilderness-type experiences.  This didn’t really apply to our journey, which meant the book I read that stated “you won’t need makeup” definitely did not apply.  (This tip was written by a guy, by the way—no doubt one who does not wear makeup.)

It turns out I needn’t have worried.  I’ve managed quite well, and even picked up a few tips along the way. . .

1. You can buy almost anything, anywhere.  It’s a global world we live in, folks.  I’ve found consumer goods I’m familiar with everywhere.  Companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble sell their products worldwide.  I even found Secret Solid Antiperspirant (Powder Fresh fragrance, my favorite) in a little street kiosk in a tiny village in rural Vietnam.  Dental floss?  No problem at a Cambodian supermarket.   From time to time I’ve made small compromises on brands or varieties, but it’s been pretty easy to get what I need.

2. Airport Duty Free shops are a great source.  Virtually every major world airport provides plenty of opportunities to spend a little more money before leaving their country.  In addition to the usual vices—liquor, cigarettes and chocolate—duty-free shops boast cosmetics counters that rival most department stores.  The prices are reasonable and all the major brands are available.  Particularly fun, and practical, are the “travel kit” versions of many well-known products that can only be found at these airport locations.

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3. Buy local.  Some countries, such as Australia, have heavy import taxes on offshore products.  The Earth Therapeutics moisturizer I use at home cost three times as much there.  Scanning the shelves I found products by Sukin, an Aussie company that had a similar philosophy of using organic, plant-based ingredients.  Their prices were more in line with what I expected to pay, and I found that I was very happy with their moisturizer.  In Israel, where Ahava is based,  a much more complete array of their products is available than anywhere else.  Their creams that feature Dead Sea mud are really kind to your skin.  (As a corollary to this I have discovered that largely Muslim countries do not have a large choice of hair care products, since most women wear veils.  They do, however, have a great makeup selection.)

4. Find products that multi-task.   I’ll admit it:  I’m of a certain age and I like my variety of moisturizers: daytime, nighttime, eye cream, body lotion for the shower.  It turns out they are mostly the same, and vary only in concentration.  Now I only have one that I use for everything and dilute or apply more as necessary.  It makes packing much easier.  The trick is to find something you like for your face (no mineral oil or paraffin products), and you can use it everywhere else.

5. Sometimes less really IS more.  I discovered in the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia that makeup just melts off your face.  (And that is not attractive at all.)  I found a good light moisturizer with sunscreen and wore a little waterproof mascara and dusting of face powder.  I still felt human, but after a day traipsing around temples I didn’t look like a day-old ice cream sundae.  In the desert in the Middle East, the dry climate had my skin clamoring for moisture.  Beef up the face cream, forget the powder and drink lots of water.

What other tips have you discovered in your travels?

Click the link on tips for what to pack for a trip

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

The Best Men’s Travel Shoes

Larissa has written about the best travel shoes for women, but now it’s my turn to talk about the best mens travel shoes.

I have only two pairs of shoes with me, both by Ecco. I’ve worn Eccos almost exclusively for about 20 years. They are cut slightly wider in the toe box so they accommodate my size E foot (somewhere between wide and regular).

The pair that I wear almost daily is the Track 5 plain toe low. It’s a brown nubuck style that’s generic enough to go with anything. They were already several years old before the trip started so I thought about getting a new pair. But I figured they’d just get beat up anyway so I decided to wear them as long as they’d hold up. So far they’ve held up great.

best mens travel shoes

The Eccos were great for a steep hike up to the Tasman Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand.

They started their journey in August, 2011 at the top of the Rocky Steps in our hometown of Philadelphia. Some of their adventures so far have included: hiking along the Great Wall of China, climbing to the top of the ancient ruins at Angkor Wat, spending the night in a cave at a Bedouin camp and yet still looking stylish enough to wear on the streets of Paris.  They even survived being left outside during a torrential downpour in Bali where the next morning they were as full as bathtubs. They dried out by evening and were ready to wear to dinner.

For warmer weather I wear their Cerro yak leather sandals. I bought them at The Walking Company store in Philadelphia. The salesman explained that yak leather is soft but highly durable. The Ecco web site sounds like it is describing the latest in fighter plane gizmos with these shoes: full length Receptor Technology and side stabilizer frames. I wondered where the ripcord was. Ecco does not recommend them for water use but they’ve gotten soaked and lived to talk about it.

If you’re looking for durable, comfortable shoes that aren’t so bulky they look like you forgot to take them out of the box, I highly recommend Ecco shoes.

Please note: These shoes were my own purchases and I am not paid to endorse Ecco. (Oh how I wish.)

UPDATE: February, 2017. After a decade I am still wearing the Ecco Track 5 Plain Toe but I’ve been wearing them so long the model is now called Track 6.  The pair I’ve been wearing were made in Europe. I notice that some Ecco shoes are now made in China, so check first on the model you’re interested in. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t pay a premium price for Chinese made shoes.

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28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.