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Trelograms #24 — Checklists

The Check Yourself episode of Hidden Brain (one of my favorite podcasts these days) talks about checklists — the simple device that hurts the egos of some and saves the lives of many.

Unlike pilots and surgeons, i can’t be sure my checklists have saved a life — they have no doubt saved me a fair amount of time and spared me a fair amount of stress though — even (perhaps especially) after hundreds of nights outdoors, i don’t know how i’d manage to pack for a five-day hike, in the middle of unpacking from having just moved into a new place, without a checklist.

I’ve always been a big fan of checklists — i’m particularly fond of my grocery shopping system, which i employ at home as well as on the road:

  1. Anything i need to buy goes first into an ‘inbox’ where i collect everything else that asks for my attention, GTD-style (more on this some other time!);
  2. I regularly process this inbox, adding the “grocery store stuff” to the “grocery shopping list” — tomatoes, toothpaste, if i can get it at the supermarket or from the grannies across the street from it, then it goes in that list;
  3. Doing the groceries is then best described as a mission to complete that checklist as effectively as i can — with the notable exception of at most one “wild card” item i grant myself in every shopping trip, whether it’s an improvised treat to myself or something i forgot to add to the list, i’m not allowed to get anything else not already on the list — believe it or not, any item that comes to mind during the process goes into the inbox!

I acknowledge this rigidity might have caused some psychological pain to the occasional shopping companion unfamiliar with my process. It has nevertheless saved me a fair amount of time and energy — then available to be spent in situations where i don’t mind inefficiency at all, for instance, long-distance hiking 😉


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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Trelograms is a series of short inspirational and/or inquisitive reads written in counterpoint to my chronicles and concrete travel advice on cycle touring, hitchhiking or in general. The series title is a word play between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’). Follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates


Not Edited Yet #8 — Math Is Bananas!

Pencil and paper mathematicians’ days are numbered — this is the future — breaking down Euler’s identity on a banana!

I can’t seem to find the original — this was shot by my friend Anca, from Bucharest, and i believe she used her phone — thank you for registering this important moment on the interface between my mathematical and cycle touring careers!!


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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You may find more videos from the Not Edited Yet series and many others directly on my YouTube channel — subscribe to be notified when new videos go live!

Trelograms #23 — I’m Not Special

I’ve heard it many times and rather frequently — and not just from my mother! — that i’m special.

If you think i’m special because i’m willing to relocate, leaving behind family, close friends, career prospects and large fractions of my belongings to follow yet another exciting opportunity, whether it takes me to Scandinavian utopia or post-Soviet disrepair, then you probably don’t follow enough travel blogs.

If you think i’m special because i’ve pledged to donate 10% of my gross income to the best poverty-relief charity that i’m currently aware of — and kept up with that pledge through my self-unemployment — then you should check out the effective altruism folks who have been dedicating 100% of their resources to that and other, potentially more relevant causes.

If you think i’m special because i’m able to travel on a $5–10/day budget for five months, then you must not have met my friend Bogdan, who has done that for two years on less than $1/day — not to mention that his tour took place largely in Western Europe, including countries especially notorious for their prohibitive costs such as Denmark — there are many others like him you’ll bump into on the road whom you haven’t heard about just because they don’t have blogs or facetwittergrams+.

If you think i’m special because i’ve been hospitable (and courageous) to welcome “strangers” from hospitality networks into my home, then you might not have met or heard about the hundreds of literal strangers along my way who have invited me into their own homes (and cars) having nothing on me besides their gut reaction from first looking at me.

By the day, it seems to me that there exist essentially two kinds of people — those who know they’re amazing, and those who haven’t yet found out — we’re all fabulous in varied ways and degrees, and that makes none of us special.


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

read more

Trelograms is a series of short inspirational and/or inquisitive reads written in counterpoint to my chronicles and concrete travel advice on cycle touring, hitchhiking or in general. The series title is a word play between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’). Follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates


Not Edited Yet #7 — More Cycling in Bucharest!

Seriously, cycling in Bucharest is lots of fun! This is a bit of what it looks like from my kitchen pannier‘s perspective.

This was shot while i was moving between hosts within the city, and my bike was fully loaded — the guy who talked to me at the traffic light probably didn’t mean, “where are you going right now?” — the conversation might have turned out a lot more interesting had i answered, “to Norway!”

Oh, well …


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You may find more videos from the Not Edited Yet series and many others directly on my YouTube channel — subscribe to be notified when new videos go live!

Not Edited Yet #6 — Bucharest Cycle March ’17

Although just cycling in Bucharest is already fun, period, doing that at a Critical Mass event with my friends Lulu and Ioana on closed streets with hundreds (maybe thousands) other cyclists was even better!


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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You may find more videos from the Not Edited Yet series and many others directly on my YouTube channel — subscribe to be notified when new videos go live!

Mad Already #4 — A Minimalist Hitchhiking (and Tree-Climbing!) Kit

(Last updated on August 28th, 2018.)

When i began traveling long-term, i was cycle touring — weight/volume was, therefore, not much of an issue. So, one of the biggest challenges when i started assimilating the practice of hitchhiking about a year ago was that i couldn’t possibly fit all that shit into my 32-liter backpack!

my cycle touring rig on April 2nd, 2017, the first day of my 154-day long journey across Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, and my 32-liter backpack (which you might be able to see constituting a tiny fraction of the rig!)

Having now hitchhiked over 17000 Km in 17 countries and given a fair amount of consideration to what to carry along each of those kilometers, i have developed a pretty sweet minimalist setup. It does fit into my 32-liter backpack without compromising on luxury and self-sufficiency — indeed, it includes camping gear, with a kitchen and enough food for half a week, and still leaves room for my (also minimalist) tree-climbing gear 😀 (You may, of course, replace that with your idiosyncratic hobby of choice.)

the kit – basics

  1. papers — passport, residence permit, vaccination card; wallet, house keys
  2. on me — pair of pants, long sleeves, underwear, pair of socks, sandals
  3. “bedroom” — 0°C-rated sleeping bag, sleeping mat, hammock, tarp-poncho (plus 4 lengths of accessory cord and 4 pegs); earplugs
  4. thermal comfort — wool pants and long sleeves, wool gloves and socks, baclava
  5. “washroom” — toothbrush, toothpaste, travel towel, soap, nail clippers, moisturizer; toilet paper, shovel, trash bags; first aid kit (tick removal tool, Vietnamese star, sports tape and plasters, assortment of over-the-counter medicine, wet wipes, bandages, water tablets, eye drops)
  6. gadgets — phone, action camera and selfie stick, DSLR camera and bag, earphones; power bank, respective cables and chargers
  7. hitchhiking gear — water bottle, reflective vest, reflective straps; hat, sunglasses, hoodie, marker; souvenirs (foreign coins, Not Mad Yet postcards, business cards)
  8. extra — long sleeves, pair of socks, 2 pieces of underwear
  9. “kitchen” — stove, fuel, lighter; spork, knife, mug, pot; headlamp, sponge, tissues; food (detailed below)
  10. optional — paper maps, book, fast carbs tube, emergency warm bag
Comments

This is what i left home with on my latest solo, “freestyle” hitchhiking trip — meaning, what i might have taken on an open-ended hitchhiking journey. I sometimes hitchhike to visit my brother-in-law one town over, and i occasionally go on a “there-and-back mission” to apply for a visa in Poland, or whatever — what i’d take on such a trip would depend on the context and duration of the stay — for instance, if i know i’ll reach my destination within a single day on the road and have a place to stay upon arrival, i might replace some of my “autonomy” items such as the kitchen or the hammock by “comfort and etiquette” ones such as extra clothes, a netbook to do some work, gifts, “orders,” etc.

The kitchen. If you’re traveling on a larger budget that allows for you to eat your meals out, or if you just don’t mind eating canned food or bread with peanut butter every day, you might as well drop the kitchen — besides the fact that i just enjoy a hot meal at the end of the day and the underlying ritual in the morning, it’s just a lot cheaper to cook my own food and make my own coffee.

Thermal comfort. If you know where you’re going will definitely be warm enough, you might also do fine with a lighter sleeping bag or without the thermal layers — for me, they were a necessity in my latest trip to Estonia.

Optional items. My point here is, you’ll have some space for things people will make fun of you for carrying 😉 I got the fast carbs tube and emergency warm bag from a party of Polish paramedics returning from a course they were ministering at the border, and figured i might as well just keep them. Although i do carry offline maps on my phone as well, i personally like paper maps because it seems easier to get the big picture from them and discuss the route with drivers. I personally like passing my books on and picking new ones up along my way, so the moment i might invest on an e-reader hasn’t yet come either.

my pocket map of Poland, with an overlay of the offline map on my phone adjusted to its scale

food

  • 300g of cornmeal
  • 200g of dehydrated soy
  • 300g of oatmeal
  • 150g of powdered milk
  • 500g of trail mix
  • 350g of peanut butter
  • loaf of bread
  • instant coffee
  • salt, pepper, broth (tablets), and oil
Comments

Again, this is just what i took on my latest solo trip — your circumstances, dietary needs and preferences will dictate what and how much of it to bring. I like to carry food that is high on calories and easy to prepare — meaning, pour some boiling water over it and let it sit for a few minutes — it saves fuel! I also like to have enough food on me for at least three days without restocking — grocery shops are often a long walk from the road, and/or i might want to go hiking for a couple of days without an opportunity to visit one of them.

In practice, you’ll likely be offered food from some of your drivers and other folks along the way, and your supplies will last longer than you planned them to. Some drivers will also be gladly willing to swing by the groceries or anywhere else you might need — just ask!

sleeping on a haMmock

i was confident it wasn’t going to rain that night, so i didn’t bother setting the tarp

I’m working on a short video describing my experience traveling with and sleeping on a hammock, where i’ll show how i’ve been using it and share my impressions, as well as some of the beginner mistakes i made, and which you will hopefully avoid! I’ll update this post with the video as soon as it’s out.

Comments

Meanwhile, if you search “hammock camping” on YouTube, you’ll find a plethora of good videos on the topic such as this one or this other one (skip the first 6 minutes, and don’t pay too much attention to what he says about the costs — my hammock cost USD 15 and weights less than “16oz”, with the straps).

It goes without saying that you should double check that you can actually find trees where you’re going — a hammock would have been useless in Iceland or the Faroe Islands, or even in many places in the Carpathian mountains, near where i live 😉

tree-climbing gear

Speaking of trees …

… given how often people find it so strange that an adult is recreationally climbing trees, i want to clarify that i’m not sharing this assuming that you will be specifically interested in that yourself! My point is, if the equipment needed for your quirky hobby of choice weights less than 5 Kg, you can probably fit it in as well — indeed, my tree-climbing gear alone takes about half of the space in my 32-liter backpack.

my current traveling tree-climbing kit
  • 25m of 11mm, semi-static rope
  • harness
  • (2x) pear-shape locking carabiners, tubular belay/rappel device, length of 6mm accessory cord
  • (2x) daisy chains, (2x) D-shape locking carabiners, (2x) bent-gate non-locking carabiners, (2x) lengths of 6mm accessory cord; 120cm sling, small, wire-gate non-locking carabiner
  • (2x) 60cm slings, (2x) 120cm slings, (1x) 180cm sling, (4x) small wire-gate non-locking carabiners, (1x) pear-shape locking carabiner
  • SAR insurance tracker, water bottle, (2x) small wire-gate non-locking carabiner
  • tight “ballerina” shorts, tight t-shirt
Comments

Once again, this is what i took in my latest hitchhiking trip in which i also climbed trees. I’ve been working on a new climbing technique that should not only allow for me to drop a fair chunk of that but also be much safer — i will update this section when it’s been tested in the field 😉

TREEfool, perhaps my favorite tree-climber on the Internet, has extensively experimented with minimalist tree-climbing gear for traveling/tree-camping, and i’ve gotten many good ideas from his videos. Many online shops for tree-climbing gear have minimalist kits for recreational climbers as well, and the Tree Buzz forums are a great place to ask questions about the topic.

If you rock-climb instead, you may probably replace the semi-static rope and some of the other items by a longer length of thinner dynamic rope plus a handful of quick-draws for the sport routes along your way, while remaining at about the same weight and volume.

If you don’t even metaphorically climb trees and don’t have any distinctive items you need to bring along, you probably don’t need a 32–40-liter backpack either — your day pack would likely do, as long as it’s comfortable and has good back support — mine doesn’t, so i wouldn’t travel with it, but this is what it looks like with all the gear listed above packed into it, except for the food and the tree-climbing equipment:

something i wouldn’t quite do!

closing thoughts

Thank you for reading this far, and i hope this detailed breakdown of what i carry on my hitchhiking trips will be helpful to you. This is, of course, work in progress — i will continue experimenting with what to bring on future hitchhiking trips, and update this article whenever any significant changes or insights have developed. (Sign up for the mailing list if you’d like to be notified when that happens!)

If you’d like to send me any gear to play with and review, i’d be gratefully delighted — just send me a message, and we’ll work out the details 😀 You may also help me fund future overland travel experiments with hitchhiking or otherwise by donating an item from my wish list or “buying” a Not Mad Yet postcard.

How about you? What do you take when you’re hitchhiking? What’s your metaphorical tree-climbing gear? — i’m always curious to hear what other traveler’s “non-essential essentials” are, so please share yours in the comments below 😉


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

read more

Mad Already is a series of articles with concrete, tested travel advice written in counterpoint to my more “literary” chronicles and short reads. As such, it has been roughly divided into cycle touring, hitchhiking and general advice — follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates!


Not Edited Yet #5 — Semi-Wild Camping in Romania

A panoramic description (at sunset) of one of my campsites in Romania, on top of a hill along the Danube River, between Drobeta-Turnu Severin and Craiova.

This video was taken in April ’17 during my latest cycle touring project, the North Cape Hypothesis.


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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You may find more videos from the Not Edited Yet series and many others directly on my YouTube channel — subscribe to be notified when new videos go live!

Out of My Head and into The World! — My Ossobuco May ’18 Presentation

I gave a presentation in Portuguese earlier this year in my hometown Brasília at the May edition of Ossobuco – Mais tutano pra sua vida, a local “TEDx-like” event. I’ve now added English subtitles to the video, so more of you may enjoy it!

In the presentation i talk about my journey from growing up protected by my grandparents, to a nomadic career in academia, and the eventual transition into my current lifestyle as a full-time adventure traveler. I talk, in special, about how i gradually learned to stop indiscriminately fearing strangers along my way.

Featured photo courtesy of Jataí Fotografia.


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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Not Edited Yet #4 — Opening a Fucking Beer like a Lady!

At first i was just curious about this beer opening method my hosts Anna and Ela in Gdynia, Poland were using — in particular, how that would work for the second bottle — but then there was not a third bottle, but a spoon!

If you’re not impressed with the methods themselves, i’ll draw your attention to the elegance — and i’m not being sarcastic 😉


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

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You may find more videos from the Not Edited Yet series and many others directly on my YouTube channel — subscribe to be notified when new videos go live!

Trelograms #22 — Why Travel?

My first source of inspiration to leave on a long-term cycle tour was easily Dave Conroy, whom i hosted in 2011 when i was still attending graduate school at Rutgers University. Dave was the fist long-term cycle traveler i ever met, and might have also been my first source of intimidation though — he had essentially checked out of his “previous life,” and been cycling for a couple of years already, something i couldn’t even remotely imagine myself doing at that time.

Fortunately, he was not the only cycle traveler i got to meet back then — in the course of the following couple of Summers i got to host many more, and was positively struck by how different their motivations were — for Steve and Taylor, cycle touring was part of their gap year adventures, while Greg had used his bike as a tool to connect with people and places around his country, and i understood it to be part of a mourning practice for Odin. Although it took me another four years to finally get on the road myself, i eventually felt duly validated to ride on account of the underlying process and technical challenge — in other words, whatever it was about it that interested me the most at the moment.

Along my way over the past two or three years, there came yet another big surprise — while space for self-discovery and adventure were what first put me on the road, i gradually discovered and assimilated other dimensions into my process — most notably, i could have never anticipated how inspiring, energizing and fruitful my encounters with people along my path would have been!

So, you already have a reason to travel also — but you might not find out what it is until you surrender to the journey 😉


All the content i create is made available to all, and for free. If you find value in it, then please consider becoming a recurring donor — it is the best way to help me continue doing it! You may also find alternate ways to contribute on the support tab.

read more

Trelograms is a series of short inspirational and/or inquisitive reads written in counterpoint to my chronicles and concrete travel advice on cycle touring, hitchhiking or in general. The series title is a word play between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’). Follow the links to read more, and sign up for the Not Mad Yet mailing list to be notified when new articles go live and get other updates