Archives for November 2010


How I Replaced my Laptop with an iPod to Travel Lighter

Are you lugging a laptop around the world to upload your digital photos and send email?


Even the lightest laptop is eating deeply into your carry-on baggage allowance and for us that means we may have to check a bag, a situation we prefer to avoid. But we kept on carrying our laptop because we needed it to save our photos, surf the Internet, send email, watch movies and–and do all the same things we do at home. Boring!

Our Data Requirements

Let’s analyse the requirements more closely, we need:

  1. a way store all our photographs;
  2. our itinerary and booking information;
  3. to be able to contact family and friends;
  4. access to self-guided walking tour information; and
  5. some entertainment for those rare dull moments on the road.

Travelling with an iPod

An iPod or similar device is the obvious solution for our walking tours unless you want an upper body workout by carrying the laptop. We can also access our itinerary on Tripit (See my review here.) using their iPod application, check email and entertain myself with an iPod but we cannot upload photos. This is the biggest weakness of Apple’s iPod, one I hope they resolve soon. The iPad has a camera connection kit that provides a USB port or SD card reader, if only it worked with the iPod Touch. How about it Apple?

Fortunately, memory card prices have reduced significantly and we managed to buy two 8Gb cards for less than $100. So, we decided to head off to Italy without the laptop.

The combination of an iPod and memory cards met most of our digital needs although the lack of free WiFi in Europe limited email access. However, easy access to Internet cafes, and text messaging from our Italian phone (more on phones next week), kept us in contact with loved ones.

On the up side, we carried our data with us everywhere and could easily check itinerary details on the move. We also had maps and directions to key locations saved as PDF files that helped us find our way quickly to scheduled events or our hotels. Best of all, it reduced my bag’s weight by over 1.5kg (3.3lbs) that would have forced us to check at least one bag.

Add an iGo folding keyboard to the mix and you can even easily write your blog entries or capture your travel journal without wearing out your thumbs. Rolf Potts demonstrated tested the iGo folding keyboard during his recent No Baggage Tour, and it is on my wish list for the next trip.

We did not miss the laptop in Italy, and I have used the iPod exclusively on business trips this year without ever wishing I had a laptop with me. So, goodbye to the laptop and another couple of pounds of weight to carry, I do love to travel light.


Five Advertising Slogans to inspire your Travel Dreams.

Vernazza Fishing Fleet

Vernazza Fishing Fleet

Advertisers strive to make slogans a part of our lives but as we strive for minimalist lifestyle I am increasingly immune to advertising and their tricks to get us to buy products we neither need or use. Instead I use their slogans to inspire my travel dreams by twisting their meaning to suit my own purposes. Here are five of my favourites:

Just do it. (Nike)

Stop procrastinating, pick a destination and go. I spent years planning a trip to Europe, my Grand Tour started as a motorcycle trek across through the Germany, Austria and Switzerland then morphed into a vagabond journey with my young wife before going on hold while we raised the kids and paid off the mortgage. It took us 20 years finally see Europe, and I always regret not doing the motorcycle tour. Now we pick a destination and just do it by setting a goal, prioritising our budget and realising our travel dreams.

Think different. (Apple)

Travellers flock to the major sights, like the Colosseum in Rome, the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza, and if your travel dreams take you to those destinations they will be prominent in your itinerary. Heed the Apple’s wisdom and think different, and find an experience that bring a unique twist to your adventure. My son and I ride motorcycles, and enjoy watching MotoGP racing so we added the Assen TT MotoGP event to our visit to the Netherlands. It remains a highlight of that trip because we thought differently to the average traveller.

Can’t beat the feeling. (Coca Cola)

Travel is an adventure, no matter where, you can’t beat the feeling of exploring a new destination or rediscovering the wonders of an old favourite. The bustle, and to some chaos, of Rome welcomes Colleen and I back again and again. The feelings of familiarity and impeding discovery combine to exhilarate our senses every time. Embrace your feelings and discover travel adventure down the road or across the globe.

The happiest place on Earth. (Disneyland)

No matter where I wake up, I let the energy of the place run through me and embrace the local culture, and that makes it the happiest place on Earth for me that day. Speak the language, try a local delicacy or stroll with locals away from the tourist spots and you will find the happiest place right there.

Live unboring – Ikea

Life filled with travel is never boring, whether you are researching your next destination, trekking through a foreign land or gathering your journal entries and images into a permanent memory there is always something to excite you. Embrace travel, and live unboring.

Do these slogans inspire you to travel? What slogan would inspire your travel? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.


Friday Travel Photograph – Souq Waqif Doha Qatar

Every Friday we select a photograph from our archives, this week we travel to the Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar.

Souq Waqif Doha, Qatar

Souq Waqif Doha, Qatar


How to Avoid being the next Schapelle Corby.

Schapelle Corby will spend most of her productive years in an Indonesian prison, and as a convicted drug smuggler is unlikely to ever travel outside of Australia again once released and deported. Although a high profile case in Australia, it is unfortunately not a unique story. There are many other foreigners languishing in prisons across the world for drug offences, some awaiting death sentences, and many could have avoided their troubles by following some simple rules.

Rules to avoid trouble with illegal drugs overseas

Follow these simple rules to minimise your chances of getting into trouble with drugs overseas:

  1. Obey the law; don’t purchase, take or travel with illegal drugs. I recommend abstaining even in countries with liberal drug policies to avoid any mistakes like forgetting the bag of pot you put in your jacket pocket.
  2. Do not leave your bags unattended in public areas  or in the care of a stranger. This includes the lovely lady you met last night or your local drinking buddy.
  3. Never carry anything into or out of another country for someone else. When I lived in Malaysia, the Government clearly stated that claiming no knowledge of the package contents would not necessarily save you from the gallows.
  4. Ensure your medicines are not considered illegal drugs overseas by checking their Government website or contacting their local embassy. Many over-the-counter medications are banned or strictly controlled in other countries, particularly in the Middle East.
  5. Lock your checked luggage to prevent tampering or theft. Better still, travel light enough to carry-on your luggage and avoid the check-in hassles and the baggage carousel shuffle as well. The United States has specific requirements regarding locks used on airline baggage. See the US Department of Homeland Security’s website for further details.

What happens if I get caught with drugs overseas?

In the event that you are arrested on drug charges overseas, be aware that:

  1. as soon as you arrived you became subject to that country’s laws, and your Government cannot intervene to free you;
  2. ignorance of local laws is not a valid defence;
  3. small quantities of so-called ‘soft drugs’ can lead to lengthy prison sentences or heavy fines; and
  4. countries like Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam impose tough penalties including the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Can your Government help you if someone is arrested on drug charges overseas?

Unfortunately, each year too many families discover a loved one has been arrested on drug charges overseas. If it happens to you then immediately contact your country’s consular officials who can help with general information about the local legal system and provide a list of English-speaking lawyers. They can also help ensure your relative receives fair and appropriate treatment whilst in custody, and help you provide assistance to them during their trial and imprisonment.

However, they do not provide legal advice, organise release from prison, investigate the crime or obtain better treatment than provided to the country’s own citizens. If found guilty, they will face the full force of local law.

One notable exception is for military personnel on active duty who are usually subject to a government agreement with the foreign nation that allows them to be tried under their own military legal system. However, military personnel on personal travel will remain subject to local law.

Remember, ignorance of the law is not a defence, do your research before you travel not while you sit in a foreign cell preparing for trial.

I have no personal position on the guilt or innocence of Schapelle Corby but I hope this article helps prevent others suffering similar fates.


Where is the Rest of your Luggage?

You’ll never meet a traveller who, after five trips, brags: “Every year I pack heavier.”

Rick Steves – Travel Writer

Walking out to the van with my carry-on bag, I caught sight of a colleague accompanying me on this five day business trip. He struggled towards the van with a medium size suitcase, over-stuffed suit carrier and a larger carry-on bag, looked at me quizzically and said, ‘Have you already loaded your bags?’

‘No, this is all I am taking.’

Even more perplexed, he stopped and asked, ‘You are only taking that one little bag, how did you fit everything in that?’

‘We are only going for five days, how many wardrobe changes are you planning to make each day?’

He did not offer a response and I tossed my bag in the van, and took a seat while he wrestled his steamer trunk into the back.

Rick Steves’ words echo in my head every time I pack for trip, whether business or pleasure, reducing the amount of stuff I carry always makes for a more enjoyable time. Packing light is easier than you think, and anyone can reduce their luggage to a manageable size with some planning and preparation.

My wife and I are committed to only carrying a Rick Steves’ Convertible Carry On bag weighing no more than 7 Kilos (15 lbs) plus a smaller bag for personal items like a camera. We use a convertible backpack/suitcase with zip-away shoulder straps that is lighter than your average roller bag, and easy to tote across town to the hotel. How do we do it?
Well, my bag contains the following items:

In my Crumpler Shoulder Photo Bag:

I used to carry a laptop but an iPod touch or iPhone provides me all the computing power I need for most travel.

The main advantage of this small uncluttered travel bag is mobility. Arriving home from a recent vacation, we cleared Customs before the first bag from our flight dropped on to the carousel. We can easily change planes, trains or buses when a delay occurs because everything is with us. Sure we have to do some washing along the way but it is often no more expensive to use a fluff and fold service than to do the laundry yourself. We also use lightweight wash and wear clothes that can be washed in a sink if necessary, and air dried over night.

Nothing in our bag is there because we might need it, we use every item continuously throughout our travels and when those one-off occasions arise we just buy what we need at that time. Plan for the best and be prepared to spend a little money if needed, why ruin a vacation lugging a huge bag of stuff you never use to save a few dollars. Travelling light is an awakening that can open your eyes to how little you need in your life, try it on your next vacation.