"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."

"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."- Sir Thomas More's Utopia

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's in the bag?

Almost a year on the road. Camping in the great American Wilderness. Torrential downpours in Singapore. Eating only God knows what in Macau.  Mosquito swarms in Indonesia. Cave-diving in the Philippines. Poutine in Canada.

And that was just a partial list of the crazy shit I've been subjecting my soft and easily bruised body to. So, how am I still alive and not curled up in a ball somewhere in a rainforest, trying to ward off leptospirosis with vinegar and cranberry juice? I am not entirely sure, to be perfectly honest.

I can tell you, however, of the awesome gadgets and knick-knacks I've been using that make life as a poor nomad totally doable on this episode of WHAT'S IN THE BAG? **in best Alex Trebek impersonation **

1. Timbuk2 Messenger Bag - Seems natural to start with the actual bag in this game of What's in the Bag? Right? Timbuk2 is a great company that makes uber durable bags out of waterproof material. The reason I prefer this to the regular backpacker bag is because I am not a hardcore backpacker so I don't need all that bag for my portable stove and machete, or whatever it is you crazy adventurists pack. Also, I do not like sticking out as an obvious traveler. Call me paranoid, but I'd rather not be an easy target for tourist scams, pickpockets, kidnappings, or torture-and-murder-for-fun-a-la-Hostel-the-movie. Sorry, but I'm just not into that stuff. Also, Timbuk2 is a San Francisco based company, so you know that not only will your bag last forever, it's also full of happy feelings and good vibes.

2. Katadyn Water Filtration bottle - I have had explosive diarrhea a handful of times during this newly acquired traveler lifestyle. Usually because I was retarded and drank local, unfiltered water  in the form of ice (which brings me to a good travel advisory, even if you drink only bottled water when traveling, a lot of the time ice isn't filtered so don't go pouring your bottled water into a glass full of dirty ice - kind of defeats the purpose). Without this bottle, I'd probably have huge tapeworms in my belly, or something equally, if not more, disgusting and terrifying. Hell, people in Newark, NJ should probably invest in these as well.

3. Headlamp with Lantern Attachment - I cannot express how awesome this thing is. It comes in handy whenever there's no light, obviously. This whole electricity going out without warning thing (AKA, blackouts) actually happens pretty often in the developing world. It's annoying when all the lights suddenly go out. Not to mention, a little creepy as you start to hear all the noises of the night slowly getting louder. Screw candles because who wants to light a fire in the middle of a jungle? It's already fucking hot and sticky as the devil's sphincter, no need to add to the misery. So, pull out your trusty headlamp! The reason I love this particular Mammut headlamp is it comes with a nifty lantern attachment. The attachment turns the directional lighting of the headlamp into a softer dispersed lighting, just like a lantern. How neat is that?? Definitely great when you're in a dark house and not a mine shaft. Also, great for reading at night. 

4. Teva Sandals - These things are literally indestructible. I've waded through bum-high flood waters,  hiked on stony caveman-esque trails, and even walked through Chicago's South Side in these puppies and not only am I still alive, my feet feel amazing! They're like walking on clouds and they haven't deteriorated one bit. Okay, they have a little, but only because someone's dog got a hold of one of them and made violent, animalistic love to it. I wanted to stop him but I was kind of entranced by the whole event. Also, I didn't want to catch its rabies.

5. The North Face Trail Running Shoes - These shoes are great. Durable and lightweight. My Teva sandals weigh more than these shoes, which kind of boggles my mind. They are made mostly of this mesh material that let your feet breathe and water can get in and out pretty easily. I have run 10K on paved roads and I've gone spelunking in these shoes. Comfortable and very versatile. When I'm feeling fancy, I wear them with argyle socks. 

6. Electric Shaver - Just because you're a nomad doesn't mean you have to look like a stinky hermit. Personal hygiene is very important. There is merit in shaving every now and then so you don't look like a crazy person. I don't use razors because they are too abrasive and cause rashes on my sensitive and supple skin. I use this electric shaver because it has its own cleaning system. The cleaning cartridges last a long time. I haven't had to change the cartridge in months. But then again, that might just be because I'm Asian and not Irish. Yeah, that's right, some stereotypes are true.

7. Acer Netbook in sexy, sexy Sapphire Blue - This is how I stay sane. This is my connection to civilization. It's tiny and lightweight but it has WiFi and a camera and all the basic programs I need. I can keep in touch with loved ones via video chat, I can make a little money writing freelance, and what's most importantly of all, I can blog. Oh yeah, I just figured out how to install Angry Birds onto my netbook. Pretty stoked about that.

8. Nikon D90 DSLR Camera - My camera kit is by far the biggest, most important thing in my bag. All the clothes I pack? Yeah, they're just there to cushion my badass buddy, my recording device and best friend. I've abused this little sucker like a trailer park baby mama and yet it still gives me amazing shots. In all my romping around, it's still holding up and refuses to leave my side. 

9. On the Road by Jack Kerouac - This, in my humble opinion, is a must read for anyone in search of that something else which is hard to name, for anyone wanting to fill themselves to the brim with possibilities and get drunk on pure exhilaration. I must admit that this is a half-lie because before leaving the great US of A,  I gave my copy of On the Road to one of my most beloved peeps in the world. But I do have a copy of the Dharma Bums in my bag. Not as good as On the Road, though, so I am pretending it's still in my bag. Just play along.

10. Notebooks - No, not NETbooks. NOTEbooks. Yeah, you know, as in writing with an actual pen across real paper. Novel idea, I know, but I'm somewhat of a writer (pun intended). I love small Moleskines because I am an artsy fartsy hipster who puts notebooks in his back pocket. I particularly like brightly colored ones like the one pictured here because they are attention grabbers. They stand out and scream, YES, I HAVE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS AND I LIKE TO WRITE THEM DOWN! ALSO, I MIGHT DOODLE EVERY NOW AND THEN!

11. Aviators - Nothing says swagger like a nice pair of aviators. Also, on a more practical note, prolonged exposure to UV rays can kill your eyes. Whenever looking at eye wear, make sure they provide 100% UV protection and that they are polarized so that they reduce glare. Glare is lame. These aviators are all of the above. And I swear, these Ray Bans are indestructible. I have stepped on them, slept in them, dropped them into places I'd rather not name, and still they live. I've had my pair for three years now and all they have to show from my abuse is a few scratches.

12. A Lighter - Now, I don't know about you but I am no Boy Scout. I never had to do any nature stuff in exchange for rad pins. Consequently, I never learned how to make fire, which it turns out is pretty damn difficult. Traveling, I always have the need for fire for some reason or another. Since coming face to face with my total and crippling ineptitude at starting a fire from scratch in Yellowstone, of all places, I have saved myself a lot of grief and invested in lighters. I normally use those really cheap lighters you pick up at the checkout counters right next to the gum and tabloid magazines, but for display purposes, here's a fancy Zippo lighter with a pretty sweet zipper design on it. I know, right? How clever!

Well, that about does it for the contents of my bag. A good, strong, dirty dozen. I mean, obviously, I have other things like my passport, a toothbrush, clean underwear, etc. But they don't really count as "essentials for a traveler." I can do without underwear, but I will not live without my camera. 

And no, this is not just shameless product endorsement because I've become a sellout. I really do use all of this stuff... It just so happens that you can get them all on Amazon.com. And if you do order said items via the links I've provided, I get paid a commission at no cost to you. How convenient is that? Next thing you know, you'll be ordering all of this stuff and joining me on my crazy adventure. See you soon? And oh, if you do come, please bring tacos. I especially enjoy buche and lengua. Gracias!

Besos y abrazos,


  1. Number 6 and 10 are my favorites. Also, ewww lengua. Never did like the texture.

  2. Because you're a hipster with soft, supple skin, as well? Yeah, I know.

  3. Hahaha. Yes, exactly.