Europe 2017 – Summary, Part Two

August 24 – November 15

Logistically, this trip was easy and yet a bit more complicated than others we’ve taken due to the dual nature of our quest, that is for about half of it we’d be in tourist mode and during the other half we’d be pilgrims walking the Camino.  As mentioned in an earlier post, with a trip length spanning nearly three months and two different seasons (summer and fall) and distinct types of activities (tourist and rigorous outdoor adventure) we’d needed to include outfits that ran from shorts to winter jackets.

Luggage

For this trip for luggage we used two bags apiece:

1) Eagle Creek Load Warrior 26” (we needed this size to accommodate our hiking poles)

2) Eagle Creek 22” Carry-on with zip off daypack (An older model no longer in production)

3) Osprey Kestrel 32-liter Pack for me (This is the 100th anniversary National Park/REI version I bought in 2016)

kestrel32_side_junglegreen

Osprey Kestrel 32

4) Osprey Kyte 46-liter Pack for Joanna.

kyte46_side_greyorchid

Osprey Kyte 46

We would be using the two Osprey packs on the Camino and in an ideal world, that is if we packed much, much lighter, they would be all we should need.  But our plane doesn’t fly to that world.  In the future, in our alternate ideal universe, as tourists we’ll try to put 3 months’ worth of travel belongings in one 26” Load Warrior apiece.

26" Eagle Creek Load Warrior

26″ Eagle Creek Load Warrior

One challenge for aging tourists like us (let’s be honest, it’s me) face is the need to have a stock of the voluminous amounts of supplements our doctors insist we take.  Like many folks, I have a couple of conditions that require a number of different prescription and homeopathic remedies, some of which require multiple doses per day.  For three months’ worth the bulk and weight alone takes up an impressive amount of space in a bag.  Then again, as you deplete them it frees up room for the inevitable number of souvenirs you’ll return home with.

Clothing

As for clothing, we tend to stick with tried and true favorites that over time we have found work well for us.  These brands include Patagonia, North Face, Ex-Officio, Smart Wool, Mountain Hardware and Marmot.  A partial listing of what I took would be:

Walking Shorts: North Face
Swimsuit: Patagonia Baggie 7-Inch
Pants: Levi’s and

North Face Paramount Trail Convertible

Socks: Smartwool Light Hikers
Jackets Patagonia Nano-Puff (An incredible jacket) and

Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic™ (lightweight rain)

Underwear: Ex-Officio Give-N-Go Flyless Brief
T-Shirts: My current favorite Poly/Cotton Blend, usually from some brewery

One liberating aspect of traveling for a long period of time is that with the limited amount of clothing you bring along, it frees you from having to make a daily decision about what to wear.  Although boring, getting to the point where a shirt is just a shirt and not a fashion statement eliminates a choice you have to make, and the fewer choices we make each day the simpler our lives become.

As you can see from the list above though, your clothing needs to be durable and versatile, able to handle shifts in temperature and other weather conditions and make it more than a day or two in between washes.

Tech Gear

Cameras – I was at a presentation recently where the bulk of the photography was done with an iPhone.  The picture quality was spectacular and has caused me to rethink my camera choices for future travel.  In the meantime, for this trip we brought our trusty Nikon D40X Digital SLR and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 we bought to replace the pocket-sized Canon that was stolen when our car was broken into in 2016.

Nikon

Nikon D40x

Both do a very good job of representing the places and conditions we encounter when we travel and would produce even better output if I studied up on them a bit more, but for now they work just fine for our purposes.  One problem we did run into is part way through Greece, the Panasonic somehow got switched to its lowest resolution mode, a factor we didn’t figure out for almost two months.  So, unfortunately, all of the pictures I took with it aren’t good for much but posting to the blog.

Lumix

Panasonic Lumix

Computers/Tablets – We took our 13” MacBook Pro, an iPad Mini4 for me and one for Joanna along with our iPhones.  For the Camino portion of the trip when we had to reduce the amount of stuff we took with us, the iPad coupled with a Apple Bluetooth Keyboard to create and post the blog.  All things considered this set up worked well but I still much prefer doing editing and posting work on a regular laptop.

Phones – This can be an area of confusion for travelers to Europe.  For longer trips, the common solution is to buy a burner (cheap) phone and a sim card for each country one visits (Each country as a specific carrier or carriers country wide). This has its advantages and can be cost effective.  The downside is that your phone number changes each time you change countries, folks from home can’t reach you at your personal cell number, and you have to buy a sim card and minutes for each country, which have to be loaded via the phone and often, the operator doesn’t speak English.

Another option is take your personal phone and use one of the plans your carrier at home offers.  Some, like T-Mobile, offer pretty good universal coverage worldwide.  Other options abound.  We have Verizon and they have four plans”

  • Travel Pass – $10/day, $0.00/minute, Unlimited sent messages, Unlimited incoming messages, $0.00 data allowance (you get to use the limits on your current domestic plan).
  • International Travel 100 Talk, Text and Data – $40/Month, 100 minutes, 100 sent messages, Unlimited incoming messages, 100 MB data allowance. (Overages: $25.00 per 100 MB, $0.25 per minute, $0.25 per message sent)
  • International Travel Data 100MB – $25/Month, $1.79/minute, $0.50/sent messages, $0.05/incoming messages, $0.25/MMS message sent, $0.25/MMS message received, 100 MB data allowance.  (Overages: $25.00 per 100 MB)
  • International Pay As You Go – $1.79/minute, $0.50/message sent, $0.05/message received, $0.25/MMS message sent, $0.25/MMS message received, $0.002 per KB or $2.05 per MB
  • We opted for two different plans.  I chose the Travel Pass which meant I used Wi-Fi whenever possible and if needed, turned on the data and spent $10 that day.  Joanna used the International Travel 100 Talk, Text and Data plan at $40/month.  The average cost of a starter sim card is around $15 euros and minutes upgrades can run up to $25, so for roughly the same amount we both got to use our own phones and would generally make all of our calls and Joanna’s.

The strategy worked out pretty well for us, offering the right balance of phone and text minutes and the ability to go full data if we wanted, which occurred 10-15 times on the trip.  The one drawback of the Travel Pass plan is that even though your coverage limits are those at home, where we have a 16gb plan, once you’ve turned on the data in country you only get a small gb level of 4G coverage before it throttles you back to 3G.

That’s about it for our gear and clothing.  In the next post I’ll cover our observations on each country visited and eventually bring this saga to a close.  And remember, if you have any questions about elements of travel or these posts you can always leave a comment at the site.

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