Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

Lists and vows
10/02/2009, 18:46
Filed under: twitchhiker project | Tags:

19 days and counting. The whiteboard is perched on my desk, less than two feet from my nose. It’s eyeballing me. Somehow. Emblazoned across the top, in angry red scrawl, it screams in my face “TO DO (BEFORE MARCH 1ST)” and nothing more, much as it has since last Monday when I announced this trip without a second thought. Or a first, for that matter.

Attempting to juggle my day job (writer, editor and partner in a new media company) with this project is already causing a strain. I’ve lost one regular writing job and I dare say it won’t be the last. And then there’s the wife. Today is my two-week anniversary, and running away to New Zealand at this point in the marriage is seemingly considered “a bad sign”.

Those number crunchers amongst you will have figured out that less than a week after becoming a husband, I announced I was leaving home for a month. In my mind, I’d talked all of this through thoroughly with Jane and she was very happy to support me. In her mind and, most likely, in reality I’d supplied the headline and skipped over the small print, such as going travelling by myself less than five weeks after getting hitched.

Fortunately, Jane has the patience of a saint having his chest waxed. We have a complicated past that’s seen plenty of heartache and time apart, but in recent months we’ve come to appreciate what each of us brings to the other. She recognises that excitable schoolboy within me who’ll occasionally drag his daydreams into the real world, and she’ll support them without question.

Nethertheless, this latest flight of fancy is unsurprisingly creating friction between us, not unlike rubbing two lions together. The honeymoon is well and truly over.

It may put her mind at rest if there was a checklist on that whiteboard, and to be fair, I’d probably be a whole lot happier about it too. I can think of some very minor, trivial points to add; I need to back up my MacBook in case it’s lost or eaten, and I still need to figure out what combination of video, camera and mobile equipment I’m going to use to record my travels.

So this is where you come in. I’m away from home for a month. I could end up in any town or city on Earth. My new wife needs a sign that I’m not hopelessly inadequate, beyond the substantial character flaws she’s already aware of. What needs to go on that checklist? What do I need to arrange in the next 19 days? Is there anything I should have that may take time to procure?

Let me know in the comments what you think needs to go on that list, and we’ll sort through it together tomorrow.


24 Comments so far
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driving license, if someone offers you a car to get to the next destination

Comment by Jochen Quindel (getyourcar)

I have no idea if you agree with me on this one, but how about some vaccinations like Hepatitis A & B? I assume you want to travel far? Then you’ll need those! :]

Comment by Nelleke Poorthuis

Top item on your list needs to be: Buy her flowers for valentines day!

Comment by Iain Watson

May be too late for vaccinations unfortunately it took months to complete my last set. I guess passport in date and then iPhone/MacBook backed up and ready to go. Maybe look into Internet access on the travels as iPhones will cost a fortune in international roaming. In case you do have to sleep rough you’ll definately need a good sleeping bag and ground mat as well as a bivi bag rather than carrying a tent. I guess a good pair of boots and a rucksack as well which you’ve broken in so if you buy them new you need to start wearing them today. Good luck man it sounds amazing I wish inwar doing it.

Comment by Conor Roche

Malaria, tetanus etc also.
How about a fail safe plan to get home if it all goes wrong, just to reassure her.
Also a regular contact time for her and you to speak each day.
PS. She must be a saint!

Comment by Rachel Morris

* Battery backups and plans for all mobile devices.
* Including camera
* To send pictures to lovely wife!
* Also: pre-stamped postcards, see above.
* Sunblock
* Hat
* Emergency back-up socks
* Deck of cards
* Passport
* Driver’s license
* Vaccinations
* List of emergency contacts in a non-electronic format, just in case.
* Floss
* Gum
* Mints
* I’ve for some reason become entirely too focused on your dental health.
* Emergency cash
* One of those security-belt things for stashing your cash and papers in.
* Toothbrush?

Comment by Jen

Photocopy your passport and the fronts and backs of your driver’s license and credit cards. Leave them with your wife and also put the passport copies in each bag.

And procure something from Eagle Creek’s “Under Cover” line – you need to keep most of your money and your ID ON your person and out of site at all times.

Iodine tablets (for water purification) and cipro (you’ll need a prescription for it, carry it just in case you get a stomach bug)

Comment by itybtyctykty

Get your shots/jabs for goodness sake! And hurry.

Determine which of your various tech gadgets will be the most durable and reliable and take those

Remember an adapter for your electronics chargers

Get earplugs (you never know where you’ll be when you need to sleep)

Clothing-take a mix since you don’t know whether the locale will be hot or cold

Blanket vs. sleeping bag? (In case you’re roughing it)

Poncho to keep you (and everything else) dry

Ziplock or other plastic bags to keep your electronics and ID dry

Make copies of your ID to leave with Jane

Ask Jane to create a Twitter account so we can be supportive (bless her heart)

Comment by weirdsis

Hand cleansing gel, eg:

Just in case…

Comment by Cam

Love the idea of Jane creating a Twitter account so we can all support her. 🙂 Also, the postcard-home-a-day idea is fabulous, although I’m guessing some may not get there until you’re practically home. I’d say (like Rachel) that you also should go ahead and schedule in a time every day when the two of you connect by phone, just so she knows you’ll be in touch at some point during the day and so you guys can stay super-connected. And it wouldn’t hurt to arrange a surprise or two for her while you’re gone. I have ideas for that, but assume if I post them here, she’ll see them!

I think you’ve got a great list of other ideas in the comments already in terms of the travel to-dos. Having a few escape routes is an excellent idea, too.

Comment by Genie

A hacky sack – in case you get bored.

Comment by Andy Dawson

How about numbers to UK embassies in case something happens?

Comment by @HellOnHighHeels

A couple (at least) of good books.
I don’t know how good they are, but you may like to consider those solar powered chargers for all kinds of batteries.

Comment by Paul Richardson

Yes, I have a suggestion. I think you need to take a solar powered charger (that can also store and charge from electricity or car in case of grey days) for your mobile phone or other equipment you may be taking.

And you’d BEST be making this Valentine’s Day a fabulous and unforgettable one…considering you are leaving your new bride so soon! ;>D

Comment by patri1

I’d say, just look online for a checklist. In the end there’s so little that you really need.

btw: this is a good site where people can post suggestions and ideas for your trip:

Comment by Mark

I would keep it simple to start with then work on the detail around each thing.

1. Basics

Backpack – You can’t work on what your taking till you know how much you can take.
Clothing – Make sure you have warm and cold but not too much (layers)

2. Tech

2.1 – Laptop
2.2 – Phone/Camera
2.3 – Camera
Basic phone with good battery life and pre-pay sim (Nokia 6310i) – You may need a back up. (I have one for you.. give me a shout)
Battery power is going to be your biggest problem. Can you charge you phone/camera from your laptop… extra laptop battery

3. Your connection plan.

How are you going to access twitter
How do you post to blog (email to post set-up?)
How to post images (email to flickr/twitpic)
How to post video (email to youtube)

Feed on your site to auto display/post images and videos then twitter them out for you so you don’t need to.

4. Documents

You stuff your going to need to get in and out of places. What do you need and who should you talk to before you go.

This is only a basic run down but I’m sure it you sit down and spend some time on each area you will start to feel like you getting sorted. I did just that when I went backpacking some years ago. The biggest problem I had was the weight I was carrying. I took too much stuff I ended up dumping some of it. Get your bag packed 4 days before your going and walk around in the park for a while so you know how much work its going to be to carry.

Comment by SMLP

I’d start with a basic list like:
put work on autopilot
set up all communication channels

Then you’ll need a list for each of those to decide what to pack, how to put work on autopilot, what comm channels you’ll need, etc.

Comment by ateedub

* Pre-arrange with friends there to check in with and entertain your wife, depending on how she is with all that.

* Find out which countries you’ll need a visa to visit, since the short time frame will basically make them inaccessible (right?). If you post them, then we’ll know too and can tune our suggestions.

Comment by itybtyctykty

Always good to take some spare USD with you, in case you are in countries with unstable currency.

I would also take an i pod, i phone could work but don’t want to waste its power for just music. I imagine you will be traveling long distances, so music is a must.

Might want to try to get in international SIM card so you don’t have to buy one in each country and don’t destroy your home plan via roaming. I remember reading a review about at some point, but not sure if it is good.

@Mark Setting up a uservoice account for the list is a great idea. Then everyone gets to vote on the important items.

Comment by Jeremy

– Get Vaccanations
– Have a Checkup at the dentist (there is nothing worse than toothache in the middle of nowhere)
– Make Multiple Photocopy of all important documentts (Passport, etc) leave one set with your wife and store the rest in different pieces of your luggage
– Print out a huge stack of pass-photos you might need them for visas etc.

Comment by Simon Klaiber

check out ROHAN clothing – perfect for travelling in many places, adaptable, packable, secure, multifunctional, leightweight, quick drying. You might just catch the last of their stock clearance.

Comment by niksargent

Get some audio books from

Comment by SHawzWeblog

being terribly well organised about things like this, a will, life insurance, travel insurance and regular flower deliveries (or other wonderful gifts and surprises) for your wife so she knows that you love her.

And finish the DIY projects you promised to do months ago and just didn’t get around to…

Comment by foxxx

Ooh, ooh, can Jane get a blog or @twitter_account please?! It would be awesomeness to hear how you’re doing from her perspective. Pretty please persuade her to get online! 😀

Comment by alexbettylou

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