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Meet the Feet: Post-trip Interview

Well, it’s hard to believe but our trip has finally come to an end. Now it’s time to take a look back and reflect on the last 7 weeks.

Trip Recap: 

Countries: 4

Flights: 9

Hostels/guesthouses: 23

Motels/hotels: 3

Homestays: 2

Minor injuries: 3

Lost items: 2

Stolen items: 0

Means of transport: 18

Favorite Airline?

Coley: Emirates. Great food and fabulous flight attendant outfits.

Kim: I really enjoyed flying on Thai Airways, but Emirates definitely had the best food. Air New Zealand and Quantas were nice too….I can’t decide.

Favorite hostel or place you stayed?

Coley:  This is the hardest question!

Favorite hostel/guesthouse: Charlies—a charming little guesthouse in Chiang Khong, Thailand with a pool, bikes for cruising around town, and homemade pancakes in the morning!

Favorite hotel: Aiyara Palace. Its modern design and amenities made for a luxurious night’s stay right in the heart of Pattaya.

Favorite home stays: Tan’s family in Thailand and the Hutchinson residence in Australia. Both families spoiled us beyond belief and showed us around their amazing cities.

Kim: Accents on the Park hostel in Nelson, New Zealand felt more like a home than a hostel. It was clean, comfortable, and the owner Royce was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They even had heated floors in the bathroom!? Talk about luxury hostel.

Favorite place you visited?

Coley: Thailand. I really just loved everything we experienced here from elephant rides to the floating market. It is just an incredible country filled with the nicest people imaginable.

Kim: I think it’s difficult to pick a favorite country because each one is so different that they’re too hard to compare. So instead, I’ll tell you my favorite place in each country: Wellington, New Zealand, Melbourne, Australia, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Luang Prabang, Laos.

Favorite adventure activity?

Coley: Ziplining in Chiang Mai—a definite thrill without the scare factor

Kim: Ziplining in Chiang Mai definitely wins, but zorbing in Rotorua, New Zealand would come in second place.

Favorite moment?

Coley: Dancing in the rain while tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

Kim Teaching a newly ex-monk how to dance for the very first time in his life in Vientiane, Laos

Favorite food you tried?

Coley: I had some rocking crab curry at a beachside restaurant in Pattaya, Thailand.

Kim: I had the most amazing chicken parcels meal in Ashburton, New Zealand. I’d also like to give honorable mentions to Fergburger in Queenstown, New Zealand, the banana chocolate roti from a random street vendor in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Pancake Manor in Brisbane, Australia, and the homemade stir fry our friend Allan made us in a hostel one night.

Least favorite food you tried?

Coley: These crazy little pork balls with beans in the middle that we had at a restaurant near Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Kim: Squid is absolutely disgusting.

Favorite drink you tried?

Coley: Most definitely Thai iced tea. Seriously, that sweet little concoction is addicting.

Kim: Thai iced tea is the bomb.

Favorite dessert you tried?

Coley: Gelato from Kaffe Eis in Wellington, New Zealand. My personal favorite was coconut in a cone. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Kim: It’s a tie between the cookies from Cookie Time in Queenstown, New Zealand and the Chai gelato from Kaffe Eis in Wellington, New Zealand.

Best purchase?

Coley: Scarves from markets in Thailand and Laos. My family and friends loved them…wish I had bought more!

Kim: I bought a prosperity cat on the street in Bangkok, Thailand and within a week of having it I won $50. Hopefully it keeps working!

Favorite quality about your travel partner?

Coley: Her ambitious nature—if there’s a way for us to see the best parts of a city in only one night, she will find way to do it.

Kim: I love that Coley just totally goes with the flow in any situation. She also doesn’t get easily annoyed or frustrated like I sometimes can.

What will you miss most about traveling?

Coley: No responsibilities except waking up to catch your bus!

Kim: I honestly just love living the backpacker lifestyle. Backpacking is really a culture of its own and you get to meet so many interesting and like-minded people. I’m also going to miss never knowing what day of the week or what time it was, and it not really mattering.

What skills did you acquire on the road?

Coley: Making PBJs with inadequate utensils, being super quiet getting ready in the morning as not to wake hostel roommates, and just going with the flow.

Kim: Distinguishing where people are from based on their accent, grocery shopping in Australia and New Zealand without spending more than $3 on any single item, using chopsticks, mixing and matching outfits to make it appear like I owned more clothes than I actually did, learning how to properly cook rice, and learning how to speak some basic Mandarin Chinese.

If you were to go back and plan your trip again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

Coley: I would want to explore more of Southeast Asia because the culture is fascinating and cost of living is ridiculously cheap.

Kim: I would visit less countries and stay for longer amounts of time. Because we tried to fit so much in in 7 weeks, we didn’t have much flexibility in our schedules. There were a few cities that we really loved and wished we could have stayed longer to explore them further. It is also quite exhausting to be traveling for a minimum of 4 hours almost every single day.

How many items did you cross off your life list on this trip?

Coley: Too many to count.

Kim: 28

What were some of the best items you packed?

Coley: Flashlight, green zip-up hoodie, and mini speakers. Best items I didn’t pack? Warm socks and green oil.

Kim: Columbia fleece jacket, padlock, and the UV filter on my camera lens (see Q&A #5).

What advice would you give to someone thinking about planning a trip like yours?

Coley: Do it! Pick where you want to go and start saving.

Kim: If traveling has always been a dream of yours, then it’s up to you to create the opportunity and make it happen. Save your money, buy a plane ticket, and go. No excuses.

Sum up 3 things that you learned on the trip?

Coley: 

  1. American backpackers are the minority among travelers. We heard from several people that we were some of the first backpackers from the U.S. they’d met so far on their trip. Let’s change that!
  2. Living out of a backpack is easier than expected. We had plenty of wardrobe choices, and having everything in one spot was nice
  3. If you need help with something, just ask. Most people are super willing to help travelers. They’ll recommend great places to eat, give directions, and genuinely hope you have a fantastic time exploring their country.

Kim: 

  1. While I loved Australia and New Zealand, you can travel much longer and much more comfortably if you pick a cheaper destination like Southeast Asia. For example, in Laos, we got an hour long full body massage, herbal sauna, bungalow suite accommodation, and three meals (including drinks and desserts), all for less than the price of one nights accommodation in New Zealand.
  2. We’re extremely lucky to grow up as native English speakers. I really admired the motivation and determination people have to learn and practice the English language.
  3. The best experiences are a) the unexpected ones b) the ones that require you to step out of your comfort zone
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Making a List & Checking It Twice

No, we’re not referring to the beloved yuletide hit “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” We’re talking about a document crucial to all travelers in the planning stages of their trip: the packing list. Sure, you can buy toothpaste or a new pair of flip-flops at your destination, but do you really want to leave home without your contacts or most comfortable walking shoes? Being blind and blistery in a foreign country doesn’t sound like the most rockin’ time imaginable. Hence, why creating a precise packing list is a must. So, where do you start?

 1: Pick your pack

What brand? What size? What color? These are all questions to take into consideration when choosing your backpack. It’s all about your personal preference and traveling style. Kim and I fancy ourselves to be “fashionable/flashpack” travelers, so after three separate trips to the REI store, hours of research, and several fittings later, we decided to go with the Women’s Gregory Jade 60.  Durable, stylish, and the perfect size for our 7 week expedition.


Step 2: Yes, No, Maybe

Once you pick out your backpack, you have to pick what goes in it. Luckily, my BFF Kim and I wear the same size clothes. This means twice the wardrobe selection on the trip (remember this perk when choosing your travel partners!). To choose what clothes to bring we went through our closets and assigned every item a “yes”, “no”, or “maybe.” It was kind of like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter…only not. Then, we compared our lists to prevent similar items on our lists from making the cut. The key to picking the right clothes are to determine if they’re low maintenance in terms of care (no dry clean only, sequins and beading, etc.) and versatility (can you wear that cardigan with at least 75% of the other clothes in the backpack?). If the answer is no, then it’s probably not worth bringing. Essentially, we just picked a lot our favorite clothes because we knew that’s what we would wear the most.

Step 3: Dry Run

Try to fit everything on your list into your backpack. More than likely, not everything will fit. This just means you’ll have to make adjustments to your packing list and remove items. Kim and I went through our packing lists several times before choosing the right amount of items. It turned out that nothing on the “maybe” list even made the final cut and only 50% of the items on the original “yes” list did either. Try putting different items into different compartments on the pack to find the best fit. Put items used most in easy-to-reach spots. Also, don’t forget to leave some room in the backpack for souvenirs and other items you’ll want to purchase on the road. Just figure out what works best for you; you’ve got this in the bag.

So I’m sure you’re curious exactly what we brought on our 7 week trip to 4 countries with vastly different temperatures? Check it out!

What’s in the Bag?

We  know everyone is probably curious just exactly what we’re able to fit in our backpacks and bring on our trip. We’ll be the first to admit, we’re flashpackers more so than backpackers. Generally, we say we’re backpacking because yes, we’re bringing everything in a backpack and traveling on a ridiculously cheap budget. However, a “real backpacker” will only bring about 3 pairs of underwear, 2 pairs of shoes, and you can forget about makeup or accessories. Wikipedia actually defines “flashpacker” as someone who travels with technology and gadgets including cameras, iPods, and laptops. Based on that definition I think almost every traveler would be considered a flashpacker these days. I mean, seriously when was the last time you saw someone travel without a camera?  So flashpacker, backpacker, tomato, tomahto.

The problem with packing for long-term travel is that there is no universal packing list because every person and trip are different. For example, if you’re camping in Madagascar your list will be vastly different than if you were staying in hostels or with friends in Europe. If you’re traveling to Canada in the winter you would probably need different items than Mexico in the summer.  So based on our specific trip and circumstances, this is what we decided will work best for us.

In a few weeks, we’ll reevaluate everything in our backpacks and let you know what was worth bringing, what we forgot, and what we should have left at home. So what’s in the bag?

Clothes and accessories:

K & C:  3 short sleeve t-shirts

K & C: 1 long sleeve t-shirt

K & C: 2 ¾ length shirts

K & C: 2 camis

K & C: 2 tank tops

K & C:  3 cardigans or sweaters

K & C: 3 dresses

K & C: 1 skirt

K: 1 pair of cargo pants

K & C: 1 pair of yoga pants

K & C: 2 pairs of shorts

K & C: 1 pair of jeans

K & C: 1 pair of jeggings

K & C: 1 pair of leggings

K & C: 1 winter coat (that we’ll ditch after NZ)

K & C: 1 zip-up hoodie

K & C: 1 Columbia fleece jacket

K & C: 1 light jacket

K & C: 1 bathing suit

K & C: 5 pairs of socks (also will ditch after NZ)

K & C: 14 pairs of underwear (this is something we just weren’t willing to go less on… but I mean let’s be honest here, they don’t take up that much room)

K & C: 2 bras

K & C: 3 scarves

K: 2 necklaces

C: 1 bracelet

K & C: 1 crossbody purse

K & C: 1 pair of tights

K & C: 1 tam hat

K & C: 1 pair of sunglasses

K & C: 1 pair of winter gloves (ditch after NZ)

Shoes:

K & C: 1 pair of  Tom’s shoes

K & C: 1 pair of flip flops/shower shoes

K & C: 1 pair of sandals

K & C: 1 pair of heels (flashpackers, I know, I know)

K & C: 1 pair of boots (will also ditch after NZ)

Technology:

K: Macbook

K: Nikon D60 SLR camera

C: Small point and shoot camera

K: Travel tripod

K: Video camera

K: Western Digital My Passport external hard drive

K: iPod and headphones

C: Small iPod speakers

K & C:  Flashdrive

K: Unlocked cell phone

K: Outlet adaptor

K & C: Extra batteries, chargers, and connecting cords

First Aid/Heath

K: Ibuprofen and Dayquil

K: 8 Cough Drops

K: 10 band-aids

K & C: 50 Multivitamins (one for each day)

C: Midol, Tums, Benadryl, Claritin, Dramamine, Cipro

K: 30 SPF sunscreen

K: Bug Spray (the deep woods stuff with deet)

K & C: Health insurance and travel insurance

Miscellaneous:

K: Small package of laundry detergent

K: Dryer sheets (to keep the backpack smelling fresh)

K: Duct tape (you never know when you’ll need duct tape)

C: 1 reusable canvas bag (for grocery shopping)

K: 15 wet wipes

K: 2 sharpies

K & C: 3 pens

K & C: 1 journal (thanks Mom)

K & C: 1 quick dry towel

K & C: 1 pillowcase (many uses)

K & C: 1 water bottle

K & C: 1 padlock

K & C: 1 drawstring bag (for dirty laundry)

K & C: 1 small umbrella

K & C: 1 mini bottle of hand sanitizer

K: 1 Tide to Go Pen (I’m always spilling stuff on my clothes)

K & C: Passport (and copies)

K & C: Driver’s license

K & C: Credit/debit cards

K & C: ISIC – International Student ID Card  (offers some student discounts)

K & C: 3 extra passport size photos (for visas and emergency)

C: Earplugs

C: 1 deck of cards

C: 1 swiss army knife

C: 1 small flashlight

C: 1 pad of post-it notes

C: Zip lock bags

Toiletries

K & C: 5 pairs of extra contacts

K & C: Contact solution and case

K & C: 1 pair of glasses

K & C: 1 toothbrush

K & C: Toothpaste

K & C: Shampoo

K & C: Conditioner

K & C: Body Wash

K & C: Deodorant

K & C: 2 disposable razors

K & C: Comb

K & C: Makeup remover

K & C: 100 Q-tips (2 for each day)

K & C: Face Wash

K & C: Moisturizer

K & C: Hair gel and spray

K & C: Tweezers

K & C: Nail clippers

C: 1 small bottle of nail polish

K & C: 3 extra hair ties

K & C: Makeup

What's in Kim's bag

What's in Coley's bag