Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Four other Mistakes I made while Living Out of a Backpack for 5 weeks

My Other Four Mistakes While Living out of a Backpack for 5 weeks

    Apologies on the shoe tirade. I actually meant to write a post just on the 5 mistakes. Somehow it grew into a monster on the folly of shoes. Ever will I strive to redeem myself in a shorter article on my other four mistakes. There were admittedly a few more “inconveniences”, things I would do differently if say I was to live out of a backpack indefinitely. Since that is not currently in my life plan I won’t bother with boring details.

Apologies for the poor quality, but these are the H&M striped shoes that saved me!


    Yes, everyone, every blog, even french youtubers themselves warned of the lack of washcloths in Europe. Having traveled before this was dismissed as bearable and not too important, a minimalist detail one could survive without. Survive? Yes. Thrive? No. After 2 weeks it was annoying not being able to scrub my skin and difficult to shave. After 4 weeks, I gave up on shaving and embraced the layer of sunscreen/sweat that became my eau de toilette. After 5 weeks, I dreamed of my loofah and was happy for the extra layer of body hair to keep me warm in Denmark. Most happily, did I take the longest shower ever, once I got home. Lesson learned. REI’s mini multi towel is on my list for next time I travel anywhere that is not in a hotel or anywhere in Europe or the Middle East.

Facial Moisturizer

    Doesn’t seem like a big deal does it? I know I didn’t treat it as such. I did pack some in a small tube, maybe about 1 ounce worth. I sincerely thought it would last for whole trip. Nope, gave out 2 weeks and 2 days in. Again, I didn’t see it as such a big deal, I was wearing sunscreen every day anyways. Well, facial moisturizer and sunscreen work very differently on your face. I started to break out and my skin seemed like it was always dry. I think I have fixed this problem pretty easily in both my regular life and for future travel. I bought a nice neutrogena facial moisturizer with spf 35. 2-1, multipurpose, the minimalist way. Next time the entire 3 ounce bottle goes with me.



    I may have briefly mentioned in my post Backpack vs. Messenger Bag, that even though I did all kinds of research and bought a travelon backpack as my daypack, I ended up using a Eddie Bauer packable tote for most of my daypack needs. I mostly used the backpack when I was in Denmark/Germany/Sweden. I used it one day in Paris and like 2 times in Israel. The biggest disappointment in using it is when it was packed away in my Osprey Porter 30 on travel days, it fully took up ⅓ of the available space. It made the bag fuller, heavier and seemed like I had brought more than was in there. The bag itself was thick, cumbersome, had all these clever zippers for keeping out pickpockets which I did not need, but made it difficult for me to get things out. Lastly, I felt like tourist using it. It was a waste of space and money. Selling it on poshmark was the first thing I did once I got home (after that long shower).

The Pink Shirt/A Third Shirt

At the last minute I added a 3rd shirt to my travel bag, it was a polyester blend thing from Kohls, a store which I never shop at and never will again. It did not match my color scheme and it was “untested”. Untested is a term I like to use when something hasn’t been worn or used before. For the record I NEVER take untested items with me traveling, for some reason I took this anyway. I don’t know if it was while I was panicking the night before or worrying the next morning, but it was there. I wore it twice. It had no flexibility or give, the color was not great on me and after washing it it looked like it had been stored for 20 years in a ball. I air dried it, washed it in cold, but it came out all misshapen (I did follow the tag’s laundry instructions). I sent it home with the bf after my first 2 weeks and brought it back to kohl’s when I came back. I will say this for kohl’s I explained everything that had happened, I still had the receipt and tags and they took it back no problem.

Taking a third shirt is a must. After wearing the pink one twice I had only my black a gray one to switch back and forth with, it worked out fine, just wore them every other day. After 2 and a half weeks, my brother’s girlfriend took me to a store for a pair of shorts (we were swimming in the dead sea and doing some hiking, rolled jeans were just not great for that, and I used them to sleep in instead of my yoga pants after I got them). While we were there (shorts were $4) they had shelf of just basic v-neck tees. Deciding to pick up 2, since I was sweating a lot in Israel and doing laundry every night was annoying, I grabbed a purple and olive tee. These were colors that would match every else I had with me. When I woke up the next morning and realized there were 4 shirts to choose from I practically wept with joy. Ironically, when I got back to the US I got rid of the gray and black tee, but I still have the purple and olive, they just got incorporated with my 4 shirts at home into the regular rotation. At $3 a pop, totally worth it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First of five mistakes living out of a backpack in Europe for 5 weeks

The first of five mistakes I made living out of a backpack in Europe for 5 weeks


Even after researching for this trip for close to a year I will be the first to admit, mistakes were made. Firstly, I am stubborn, therefore hard-headed, no one can give me advice, I like to learn the really hard way. Between vlogs, blogs and whole websites devoted to long travel I still did not heed what was excellent advice. If you are like me, then you won’t either. But if you are like me, than you never make the same mistake twice. That hard won lesson sticks like nothing else, because you went thru it, you have the sight, smell, sound and touch of a palpable life mistake.

Shoes. Oh yeah, shoes. Elementary my darling, that one should take well worn, broken in shoes. No my friends, I got caught up in the whole “Paris is high fashion, if you look like a tourist, you will be a target of scammers, beggars and pick-pocketers”. Not to mention the “Paris is high fashion, no one wears tennis shoes, only heels, ballet flats and boots”. Well you know what? They do wear tennis shoes, not athletic ones but like the vans, toms and converse we have. And even if they didn’t, who the f%$# cares? Comfort is king! This was a lesson really, really hard learned (literally and figuratively).

Let me tell you about my shoe conundrum. I packed athletic shoes (we were running a half marathon first weekend of the trip) and I planned to wear boots for the airplane and once we got to Paris proper. I live on the gulf coast and it was hot, like 84 degrees the morning we were leaving so at the last minute I decided to pack the boots and wear flip flops to airport. I was going to Israel after France and I knew I could use them there since the temperature is similar to the gulf coast. I put a thick pair of smartwool socks in my bag for the plane since I get cold easily and was wearing the flip flops. That actually worked out great.

After we landed in Paris I take the socks off and stick them into my bag, sporting the flip flops off the plane. Woh, it’s like 34 degrees in Paris at 6am. My feet froze! We went right to our hotel in Disneyland Paris, I figured I could tough it out until we got there and then put on my boots. We get checked in, I change to thick socks and boots and we head to the park. It warms up. And gets warmer. And gets warmer. It’s now 70 degrees. I am sweating my bum off in boots and thick socks. I tough it out the entire day, exhausted, hot, sweaty and happy all at once. When we back to the hotel I decide to wear my running shoes in the park after the 5k and half marathon. Not a great decision, you should keep your running shoes separate from your everyday wear, but frankly I had little choice. I needed the support of a shoe and boots and flip flops just weren’t going to work. There was no main stream shopping in the parks.

After 3 days of running and spending 8+ hours in the parks on our last day, I beg my boyfriend to go get dinner outside the park somewhere where I can pick up a pair of shoes. We navigate our way thru the subway system and find we only have to go one stop over for a mall. After getting some fantastic food (even cafeteria style is delicious) I find an H&M and pick up a pair of tennis shoes and half socks. I debated between a black and beige striped Toms looking ones and a heavier pair of white van looking ones. BF suggests the striped ones, I pig-headed as I am figure a heavier shoe would be better, NOPE!!!

Since I am so confident in my new shoes, I get rid of the running shoes (had always planned on ditching them after the races), then in an effort to lighten my pack I decide that the boots really aren’t needed either, tho it may be cold the white tennies would keep me warm and no snow or rain is planned for our time in Paris (completely did not think about the fact I would be in Copenhagen in 4 weeks). I had bought to thick warm half socks to go with the tennies, they were partly wool. With that I left the hotel confidently. On the train I thought, “man, my feet hurt like hell, stupid half marathon”. Then once we got to our airbnb apartment in Paris, I told my boyfriend I needed to rest for the rest of the day (It was Sunday most everything is closed). He agreed. Next morning I took ibuprofen and we hit up the louvre.

2 days is all I make it in the heavy white ones. Then we are back at H&M buying the striped ones which saved my bacon. The trip got so much better after I procured the better shoes.

It does not stop there, no my friends, I still had more to go. In Israel I broke out the flip flops, wore them around everywhere. I went hiking a few times, in these cheap H&M striped shoes, the glue separated the insert from the shoe so that it would makes its way around during the day. I couldn’t take it out, the shoes hurt without that insert. They got disgusting dusty and worn, unlike the TOMS we have there is no elastic triangle at the top of the shoe for maneuverability, it got so the tops of my feet were always achy.

Next leg of the trip, Copenhagen. It is cold, really cold, and wet, and rains off and on. Now my feet are damp, muddy, cold and achy. We pop into a second hand store and I buy the first pair of boots that fit. Luckily they were only $8 US. I wear them the rest of the trip and ditch them in Hotel on the last day (no boots needed at home). They were cute brown short boots and were very warm and comfortable, eternally grateful to whomever donated those babies. And thanks to my always being cold on the plane I already had a pair of smartwool crew socks with me. When I came home to the US I had just the flip flops.

In all I spent, $20 on the white tennies, $15 on the socks, $8 on the striped canvas and $8 on the boots. Money extremely well spent, I don’t regret it all. In the end besides transportation and  food, that’s all the money I spent, exceptions being, $25 on a coat in Denmark (resold it when I got home), $20 on hat and gloves (resold them when I got home), a few postcards and the stamps to mail them, €0.30 on a keychain, and a $3 Bremen Germany tote.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Daily Essentials, My List, Definitely More than 15!!!

  I wrote out what I think would be the most essential things I would need in my life, Keep in mind this is for everyday, go to a job and live in one place list. If I were traveling it would be a bit different. I am extremely interested to match it to my items used over 30 days at the end of the month. (see my precious post on my 30 day "items used" challenge. Keep in mind I have combined some things together, like toothbrush and toothpaste and my shampoo is a shampoo conditioner 2-in-1. I did the final count and it came to exactly 50! (*clothes are not included, I am working on that list now).

neutrogena cover-up
powder compact
washcloth/hand towel (2-in-1)
memory stick
bluetooth keyboard
selfie stick
micro sd card adapter
Tom Bihn sidekick (purse)
Tom Bihn wallet
nail clipper
band aids
sarong clip
coloring pencils/sharpener
utility knife
Tom Bihn Synapse 25
campchair pad (REI trail chair)
pack cube
tech pack cube
merino travel sheet
sea-to-summit ultra-sil backpack
sea-to-summit ultra-sil tote

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day 3 Update on Item Usage

Day 3 Update
 Today is Thursday February 16th and I am on day 3 of recording everything I use. It has been interesting, sometimes I record things as I use them, sometimes I get some down time and recount what I have used since last recording. I have tried to be completely transparent, but I am including some exceptions. Over the last 3 days some issues became blatantly obvious that of course I did not think of at the start.
 Exception number one, not listing the foods I eat. Food comsumption is irrelevant to my item usage and way too much to record. If I were doing a healthy lifestyle issue it would be perfect. Frankly y’all don’t care what I eat. I will be listing the items I use to eat with like, plates, utensils and such.
 Not listing the things I use at work. I am a teacher, there, done. Y’all can imagine the things I use. These are sometimes provided by the state sometimes I have purchased them , but they are for work only. If I was not a teacher I wouldn’t have them. If I ever get a new job I would be leaving them. When I moved from Alabama to Mississippi I left all my teaching supplies at my old school. If I am doing something personal at school like eating or making coffee then I will list it.
 Instead of making a tally mark next to each item I use and then adding new things to an ever expanding list I decided to just do a new list every day.  Then running an analysis at the end of 30 days to observe the amount of usage.. I believe it will be more fascinating to look back at weekend use versus weekday and such.
 My last exception is that I will record if I use something down only one time. If I use my bathroom hand towel 6 times, it just gets written once not 6 times. It was too much to keep track of every time I use germx or hand soap etc.
 Just looking back on the 3 days I am already noticing a trend. I am a creature of habit and so far on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I pretty much use the same items. On a side note, so far only a few were on my 15 items list…
 One more thing I want to leave you with today is a list of the most basic things I think I need. The number is definitely more than 15. I was just thinking this morning and thought it would be way more fun to analyze my usage against my “minimalist basics list”. *Update, my most basics to live list will be in it's own blog.
 On my next blog I am going to count everything I own and list a majority of it to you. (Curious to know what the actual number is?).

Monday, February 13, 2017

My 30 day "items used"challenge

My 30 day "items used" challenge

 My next little mental/active exercise is to record everything I use over the next 30 days. I am curious as to what I think I use and then to measure that against what I actually use. This will include any kind of activity, if I happen to go away for the weekend or dress up for a Mardi Gras parade (its that time down here) it will all be jotted down. I will also put a check mark against it every time I use it to measure the extent of its everyday use/occasional use/very limited use.

 My predictions:

It will mostly be the same 50 or so items

I use less clothes than I think

There will be at least 10 things I use regularly that I would never have thought of

Only 3 pairs of shoes

After 30 days, i will have a lot of surprises

This will help me learn more about myself

Rules: (for myself, do what feels right to you)

I will write down everything I use, this includes furniture, transportation, all little accessories

I will carry a notebook around with me at all times to record

I will not leave anything out, no matter how insignificant it may seem

I will start tomorrow morning when I wake up (2/14/17, 6am)

I will end it on 3/14/17 when I go to bed

If I miss a day, I will fully disclose that information

I imagine the list will initially be quite long as I record that I am using a remote, a spoon, the refrigerator etc. It will be absolutely fascinating to see what exactly one uses in a first world economy. What are your predictions?

15 items or less, extreme minimalism?

If I could only have 15 things

 Last year I read a blog where the author only owned 15 items. That seems an insanely small amount. I don’t have a lot of items, but I sure have way more than that, in fact if I had to guess I would say at least 10 times that much. It got me thinking, what if I followed suite and parred down to 15 items? What would they be? As a mental exercise I decided to write down what I thought my 15 items would be. I love these kinds of thought provoking mental exercises. I actually was writing the list while I was at work one day, (last school year in the spring semester while the kids were having snack) and while I was writing two fellow teachers asked what I was doing. I told them all about the author’s blog and the were so interested that we had a long discussion throughout the day, off and on, about minimalism.

 I wrote my list, here it is.


    hairbrush/hair ties

    shampoo/conditioner/bodywash (it is an all in one)


    Face moisturizer/sunscreen (it is an all in one)

    Nail clippers










 Yes, I took the liberty of pairing a few things (the author had as well). I am still missing so much! 15 just seems impossible unless two of you are doing it and you can share some of the items. Also, where would you sleep? If you are staying at a hotel or airbnb that it is a bit of a cheat. If you are camping then you need sleeping bag and such. It just blows my mind that some people are tha zen. Me, I need deodorant and floss and that had to sacrificed for the list :-)

 What are your 15 items?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Backpack vs. Messenger bag

Backpack vs. Messenger bag

 Ahh, the age old conundrum, a backpack or a messenger bag? I suppose it mostly depends on the user’s preference. Nonetheless I thought it would be fun to break out a pro/con list. Feel free to weigh in below, in the comments section.

 A backpack always feels like the most ideal. It frees up your hands for maneuverability. An even amount of weight is equally distributed, with the load being divided between your two shoulders. It has lots of room. The size variances can go from a tiny purse backpack to a full 65 liter pack. The double strap provides more comfort to your shoulders, also you can usually get a backpack with a waist and sternum strap for more weight support. As a petite woman I try to always purchase backpacks with a waist strap, I usually like to carry the weight in my hips. It is one of the reasons why I initially got the osprey porter 30 instead of the Tom Bihn synapse 25. Tom Bihn has since come out with a padded waist belt for the synapse and I made the switch a few months ago, yeah!  

 The pitfalls also depend on the user but these are the ones I feel are universal. There is no quick access, you have to take the bag off and often put it on the ground to get things out/put things away. They are not as secure as one cannot see what is happening behind them, theft and damage can occur without awareness especially in certain cities and during high traffic times. You look like a “traveler/tourist”! Not many working professionals use a backpack, it can be more obvious you don't belong (there are exceptions of course) And last, but not least, a sweaty back! Not all bags are ventilated, most certainly not the ones that aren't hiking packs.

 Messenger bags have been apart of my “edc” (every day carry) for a long time. In high school I had an Adidas messenger that I used for school.


 In college I did switch back to a backpack since the University of Massachusetts has such a large campus, but my purse has almost always been a crossbody/messenger style. I have tried a few purses with regular grab handles and tote style, inevitably I always go back to the crossbody. I don’t know what it is about it. It is just the style of purse for me.

 The big benefit to the messenger is it frees your hands up. It is easy to access anything you may need. Putting away items is a snap. There is security in being able to have the bag hang in front where you can be wary of thievery, damage and not getting caught on things (short person problem, I am forever getting caught on doorknobs!). By not having your load carried by your back there is no back sweat, no damp shirt, no embarrassing watermark.

 Generally speaking you have less choices in size, anything bigger than 19 liters is going to be too big to carry messenger style. Having all the weight rest on one shoulder can be painful, there is the option of switching it to the other shoulder, that can get tedious. Finally a messenger bag is a more noticeable weight, at the end of the day you will feel the pressure more distinctly.

 When it comes time to pick out an EDC or a travel day bag it is the user's preference and it is not always the same bag every time. I use an llbean boat n’ tote for work, a Tom Bihn sidekick for my purse, and I have used different bags for a travel day pack. In the past I have used an 18l llbean hike backpack, a travelon 15l backpack, an Eddie Bauer messenger, a harajuku crossbody and nothing at all! (For Disney I hate carrying anything). What is your go-to?