Monthly Archives: March 2009

Final packing list

The tickets were booked a while ago. My final vaccination was on Wednesday. Travel insurance and all final bills and admin sorted on Thursday morning. Final shopping done on Thursday afternoon. The last remaining thing to do was finalise the packing, and I’m very glad to say it’s all done.

Here, subject to any final changes, is what I’m taking:
1 x Jeans
1 x Hiking trousers
1 x Shorts
1 x Boardshorts
1 x Fleece
1 x Waterproof jacket
1 x Merino Midlayer
2 x Merino baselayers (one shortsleeve, one longsleeve)
7 x T-shirts
3 x Vests
1 x Long-sleeve shirt
4 x Smartwool hiking socks
2 x Smartwool normal socks
1 x pair Hiking Boots
1 x pair Converse
1 x pair Flip-Flops
7 x pairs underwear (thanks for reminding me mr BiB!)

Camera (plus underwater housing for diving)
iPod Touch plus headphones
iPod speakers
Head torch
Mobile Phone

Other travel stuff
Money belt
Travel pillow
Travel towel
1 Guide book (Mexico)
Pack of cards
Passport photos (for visas)
Wash bag including toiletries and various drugs
Swiss army knife
1 x combination padlock, 2 x padlocks with key
USB memory stick
Vaccination certificate

Bags and stuff
60 litre main pack
12+4 litre daypack
3 packing cubes of various sizes

It all fits inside the 60 litre bag, albeit rather snuggly:

A few points:
– I should actually have a little space to spare, as the bag currently contains everything, whereas at any one time I’ll be wearing at least the shorts, the flip-flops and a t-shirt. Most of the time the daypack and camera will be separate too
– With the electrical stuff carried in the daypack and wearing the boots, it comes in under the crucial 15kg mark which should save me excess baggage fees with Air Asia and some other low-cost airlines
– I think I may be a little heavy on the cold weather stuff, which is mostly there for trekking in the Andes, where it will get cold at altitude. I may take some of this out and consider hiring while there
– I may possibly have too many t-shirts and socks (although I’ve cut back considerably on these). I may lose some, although they aren’t taking up too much space
– The packing cubes are a godsend. When I first read about them I thought they were just one more ruse to part a flashpacker from his money. After my first pack resulted in a bag with things like cables, the head torch, the cards and the USB key rattling around loose. With the packing cubes, all that sort of thing is neatly tucked away for when needed. With the bag opening all the way round, it now makes packing and repacking incredibly quick.
– I think I have everything I need. Can anyone spot anything obvious I’ve forgotten? Or anything you think I should take out?

It’s such a relief to get it all out of the way so I can enjoy myself now for my final weekend before flying on Monday. The nerves appear to have final given way to full-on excitement.


This is just a little post to say hello to anyone who knows me from work and has popped in after receiving my goodbye email. Thanks for coming over, if you’re interested in seeing what I’m up to over the coming year I’ll be trying my best to make you all jealous here on this blog, you can subscribe to updates via RSS or via email via the links on the top right of this page.

Feel free to say hello in the comments box!

x Geoff

First stab at packing

So. I am now officially living out of a suitcase. Today, all my stuff went into storage. Well, I say all my stuff, but it’s actually a much reduced volume of stuff, as I decided to use the trip as an opportunity to clear out loads of the crap I’ve collected over the years. I reckon I’ve actually managed to get rid of over half of everything I owned. Some has been binned, some has gone via Freecycle, and some to charity shops. All that remains is a small bag of clothes to last me my final two weeks, and of course the bag for my trip.

Yesterday I made my first stab at packing, and remarkably I got everything in first go, and all under 15kg (quite important after I got stung by Air Asia on my last trip to Thailand, for having a 16kg bag). I still think I have too much stuff though, so despite it fitting and being a good weight, I’m planning to do a couple of repacks and see what I can try and take out – I really want to get it as light as possible, which at the moment is probably being stopped by my T-shirt addiction (I have far too many).

So – to help me with my attempts to get the weight down: anyone reading this who’s been on an extended trip – any tips? What are the things you took (based on pre-trip research or whatever) that you never used or could have done without? What did you leave behind that you could have really done with? Any other packing tips?

No broken bones

I thought using my final week’s leave from work as a chance to spend some quality time with friends I won’t see for a year would be a nice idea. In retrospect, choosing to spend it skiing was perhaps not the wisest idea I’ve ever had: I’ve spent the past few months frantically worrying that my love for adrenaline (which translates as skiing rather faster than is wise, considering my rather sloppy technique) would inevitably lead to a broken leg two weeks before my trip – which would not be the ideal start.

Complete white-out in a blizzard

Complete white-out in a blizzard

Luckily, the weather came to my rescue: our first two and a half days were one solid blizzard, meaning that every slope was covered in huge piles of fluffy, nearly waist-deep snow. Every fall was like landing in a pile of pillows (so much so that it was almost fun to do), and therefore a hell of a lot less painful than the icy conditions on my last two trips. The extra cushioning even gave me the confidence to tackle my first three black runs, which were some of the most fun I’ve ever had, despite the regular falls (and the difficulty of first retrieving a ski that’s flipped off several metres back up the mountain, and then trying to put it back on again on a forty-five degree slope with no flat surfaces).

Perfect skiing conditions: blue skies, loads of snow, empty pistes

Perfect skiing conditions: blue skies, loads of snow, empty pistes

After it finally stopped snowing, we were then treated to glorious blue skies and warm sunshine for the rest of the week – I really couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Perfect weather for paragliding on skis

Perfect weather for paragliding on skis

As always, the mountains were the other star of the holiday, they are just breathtakingly beautiful. Which makes me very excited about all the mountains I’ll be seeing over the next year (Sierra Madre in Mexico, volcanoes in Guatemala, three months in the Andes of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia & Chile, Tongariro in New Zealand, more volcanoes in Indonesia, and the lush green mountains and limestone peaks of Laos).

Best of all was the chance to spend the week with good friends I won’t see for a while. As I’ve said before, solo travel is the only way I’d want to spend a year away; despite that, it’ll be my friends I miss the most when I’m gone.

Fitness (Vanity)

Walking is something we used to do a lot as a family when I was a kid, and while I never did much after leaving home and throwing myself into London life, I think my childhood experiences were always at the back of my mind. As I’ve grown older, the urge to get out of the city and explore the mountains has grown and grown, and finally last year I made more of an effort to do so, with trips to Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District all helping to really awaken a long-dormant passion.

As a result, the part of my trip I’m probably looking forward to most is spending August & September trekking in the high central Andes of Peru & Bolivia. Now while I’ve enjoyed my time hiking the UK’s hills, and had no problems with them whatsoever, there’s quite a difference between the 1,085 metres of Snowdon, the highest peak I’ve visited over here, and the Punto Coyoc pass on the Huayhuash Circuit in Peru, which at 5,490m is more than five times as high. So I figured I should probably make a bit of an effort to get as fit as I possibly could before leaving if I want to make life a little bit easier for myself.

So since November I’ve made the effort to get into the routine of exercising three times a week, at my local boot camp. Now to most people I know, the idea of spending cold winter nights outside in the park, running around and doing press-ups in the mud and the rain (and even the snow on one occasion) while being barked at by ex-squaddies sounds both insane and painful. They’re probably right, and yet it’s actually great fun, and is the most sociable way of making fit I’ve ever engaged in. Plus (and this is the real reason I enjoy it) it really appeals to my competitive streak, as I push myself harder and harder to be the fastest in the class, and progress to the advanced group.

The upshot of all this hard work is that I’ve been feeling fitter than I have in years – and both to test that out and to give me an interim goal to work towards, I entered myself into a 10k run this past weekend, my first for a few years. Now I knew the training had been going well, and I expected to beat my previous best time of just shy of 50 minutes. What I didn’t expect was to beat that by more than five minutes, with a time of 44:57. I even enjoyed it (what’s happening to me in my old age? 18 year old me would have been horrified…), and now I’m seriously considering trying out a marathon when I get back from my trip. I’m feeling a lot more confident about the summer’s coming activities (although of course, now I’ve done the run, I’ll slip into a final month of farewell drinking, followed by doing very little exercise during the first few months of the trip, and undoing all the good work).

Of course I’d be lying if I said all this exercise was purely to get me fit for the mountains. A happy side effect is that the beer belly I’d been beginning to develop has fallen away, and I’m now back to the weight I was in my early twenties, which will certainly help me look better on the beach. (and in other vanity-related news, I’ll be more keen than previously to produce a cheesy grin for the cameras, now that today I’ve finally had the veneer fitted to replace the filling that’s been patching up my broken front tooth for around fifteen years now, and which has never looked quite right. I’m very pleased with it, although I’ll be glad when the anaesthetic wears off and I can feel my face again.)