Trelograms #24 — Checklists

The Check Yourself episode of Hidden Brain (one of my favorite podcasts these days) talks about checklists — a simple productivity hack 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 been a fan of checklists for a long time now. I’m particularly fond of my grocery shopping system, which i employ at home as well as on the road:

  1. Anything i remember or notice i need to buy goes first into an inbox where i collect everything else that asks for my attention, GTD-style (more on that 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 on that list;
  3. I regularly budget time to go do the groceries;
  4. When the time for it comes, doing the groceries is then best described as a mission to complete that checklist as effectively as i can;
  5. I allow myself at most one “wild card” item per shopping trip — something not on the list because i only thought about it at the store, an improvised treat to myself, or a random new item to be tried out — believe it or not, anything that comes to mind during the shopping process goes into the inbox, and won’t make it into my shopping basket until the next trip!

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 🙂

Featured photo: (un)packing upon moving in ( Fall ’19 )

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Trelograms: inspiration; cycle touring, hitchhiking, hiking; worldwide

A Minimalist Hitchhiking Kit for Self-Supported Long-Term Travel

What i might leave home with on an open ended backpacking journey.

UPDATED March 30th, 2019 — i reprocessed the photos, added some new ones, and also a brief note to female travelers — courtesy of my friend, and fellow globetrotter Jen!

I plan to continue experimenting and update this article whenever any significant changes or insights develop. 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! Send me a message, and we’ll work out the details 😀

When i first started traveling long-term, i was cycle touring — weight and volume were, therefore, not much of an issue.

That was one of my biggest challenges when i started assimilating the practice of hitchhiking a little over a year ago — how could i possibly fit all that shit into my 32-liter backpack!?

After hitchhiking over 19000km across 17 countries and given a fair amount of consideration to what to carry along each of those kilometers, i have now developed a pretty sweet minimalist setup — it does eventually fit into my 32-liter backpack without compromising on luxury and self-sufficiency, including camping gear, a kitchen, and enough food for about half a week!

It even contains my (also minimalist) tree-climbing gear 😀 I added that as a nontrivial note at the end to suggest that you may, of course, replace it with the paraphernalia for 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, balaclava;
  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, an assortment of over-the-counter medicine, wet wipes, bandages, water tablets, and eye drops);
  6. Gadgets — phone, action camera and selfie stick, DSLR camera and bag, earphones; power bank, respective chargers and cables;
  7. Hitchhiking gear — water bottle, reflective vest and straps; hat, sunglasses, hoodie, marker; souvenirs (foreign coins, Not Mad Yet postcards, whatever . . .);
  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.

A quick note to female travelers

Females traveling long-term might also want to consider taking a stand-to-pee device and a menstrual cup.

As a male, i cannot comment much further — my friend, and fellow globetrotter Jen recommends GoGirl and DivaCup. Thank you for bringing this to my awareness, Jen!

If you have any further experience or advice as a female, please comment below, and i will add them to future edits of this article 🙂

The food

The following list is more a typical example of what i might leave home with than what i would religiously seek to maintain along the way. I hope that’s implicitly understood — i will further discuss it in the remarks below, and also try to remember to snap some pictures next time i pack.

  • 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 or powder), and oil


The above is what i left home with on my last solo, freestyle hitchhiking trip — meaning, what i might have taken on an open-ended hitchhiking journey.

I often hitchhike to run errands in L’viv one city over, and occasionally on a there-and-back mission to apply for a visa in Poland, or whatever — sometimes i also travel with my partner. What i’d take on those trips would vary according to the context and duration of the stay. For example if i know i’ll reach my destination within a single day on the road and have a place to stay upon my 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 laptop to do work, gifts, orders, etc.

More about the kitchen

If you’re traveling on a larger budget that allows you to eat out, or if you just don’t mind eating canned food or bread with peanut butter every single meal, you might as well ditch 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.

. . . the food

Your circumstances, dietary needs and preferences will dictate what and how much of it to bring.

I like to carry food that is high in calories and easy to prepare — meaning, pour some boiling water over it, cover, and let it sit for a few minutes — it saves fuel!

I also like to have enough food on me for at least a couple of days without restocking — grocery shops are often a long walk from the road, 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 😉

. . . the 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 — they were a necessity in my trip to Estonia last Summer.

. . . the optional items

My point here is, you’ll have some space for things people will make fun of you for carrying :p I got the fast carbs tube and emergency warm bag as a gift from a party of Polish paramedics returning from a course they were ministering at the border and figured i might as well keep them.

. . . the paper maps

Although i do carry offline maps on my phone as well, i like paper maps because it is much easier to get the big picture from them and discuss the route with drivers.

Moreover, paper maps never run out of battery!

. . . the books

I like passing my books on and picking new ones up along my way, so the moment i might invest in an e-reader hasn’t yet come either.

Sleeping on a hammock

Naturally, you should double check that you can find trees or something to that effect where you’re going — a hammock would have been useless to me in Iceland or the Faroe Islands!

Although i felt far more exposed than i do in a tent, and i believe this will take a little while to get used to, sleeping on a hammock turned out quite alright. Most sleeping bag models have inside pockets where you can keep your phone, wallet, and passport. If you have other valuables you don’t feel comfortable leaving hanging in your backpack outside, another option is to tuck them at bottom of your sleeping bag, which comes with the added benefit of keeping your feet warmer.

I made one serious beginner mistake. Before i left, i wasn’t expecting to feel so cold on my back. Of course, the underlying thermodynamics became obvious the second i experienced it — while i was used to having a layer of insulation between my back and the ground from my inflatable mat when sleeping in a tent, i was now floating in space with wind stealing heat from all around me. Your back will be especially vulnerable to that on a hammock, as the insulation in your sleeping bag depends largely on its fluffiness, which disappears under pressure. Don’t neglect this problem!

I still don’t know how i’ll address it. Some people recommend an under quilt — i think i’ll first try the inflatable mat i already have.

If you search for hammock camping on the Internet, you’ll find a plethora of good videos and advice from seasoned hammock campers 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 $15 and weights less than 16oz, with the straps).

Tree-climbing gear

I like to climb trees — tall trees:

I also like to do it safely, which requires a fair amount of gear:

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 doing that yourself — my point here is, if the equipment needed for your quirky avocation of choice weights less than 5kg, you can probably bring it along as well.

In case you are indeed interested in the details, here it goes:

  • 25m of 11mm, semi-static rope;
  • climbing harness;
  • (2x) pear-shaped 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-shaped locking carabiner;
  • SAR insurance tracker, water bottle, (2x) small wire-gate non-locking carabiner;
  • tight ballerina shorts, tight t-shirt.

I’ve been working on a new climbing technique that should allow me to drop a fair chunk of that and also be safer — i will update this section after i test it 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 unique items you need to bring along, you probably don’t need a 32–40-liter backpack either — your day pack might do, as long as it’s comfortable and has good back support. Mine is horrible, and i would never travel with it. But just for the sake of reference, this is what it looks like with all the gear listed above packed into it, except for the food and the tree-climbing equipment:

Closing thoughts

Alright, thank you for reading this far!

Of course, i could have just told you what to pack and made this piece a lot shorter. Rather than telling you what to do, i prefer to help you think about what you need or want to do, and i hope i’ve accomplished some of that. Furthermore, this is work in progress, and a great excuse for me to reflect on what i carry on my back as well — at the end of the day, those are personal choices that will depend largely on your preferences and circumstances, and mine are bound to evolve as well.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about packing for long-term, self-supported backpacking — comment below or send me a message. If you’ve hitchhiked or backpacked long-term before, i’ll also be curious to learn what you carry — especially the non-essential essentials — what’s your metaphorical tree-climbing gear?

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

I gave a presentation earlier this year at the May edition of Ossobuco – Mais tutano pra sua vida, a local “TEDx-like” event in my hometown (BrasĂ­lia). The presentation is in Portuguese, but 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 long-term traveler. I talk, in special, about how i gradually learned to stop indiscriminately fearing strangers along my way.

Featured photo: courtesy of JataĂ­ Fotografia

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What May a Full-Time Traveler’s Vacation Look Like?

My wife and i had just returned from our honeymoon, which was implemented in the course of four months hitchhiking together across Europe and around Brazil.

After such an extended period of time so close together, we both agreed each deserved a couple of weeks on their own. I decided that hanging out with my friend Fuji at his annual midsommar getaway was the perfect opportunity for that 😀

I’d joined him and his friends in Sweden both Summers before — the first time in 2016, after a 13km walk from the nearest train station, and the second time by bicycle, during my latest cycle tour last Summer.

What would be my dramatic arrival this time?

Circumstances favored hitchhiking — they decided to rent a cabin in Estonian countryside, some 1,300km away from my current abode in L’viv, Ukraine but not requiring any ferry crossings — i didn’t have the time to cycle tour or the money (or desire) to travel by other means 🙂

Still apprehensive about leaving

The prospect of leaving was no doubt exciting, as it is always the case — i was going to visit a friend i love spending time with, and somewhere i’d never been to before and had been curious about since putting it on my map a couple of years before. I would also be traveling solo for the first time in a while, calling all the shots, and having nobody else but the crazy people inside my head to argue with about my decisions!

On the other hand, those four months hitchhiking with my wife throughout Europe and Brazil left me feeling worn down by the process. I consider myself an introvert, and the amount of socializing hitchhiking demanded from me was something i wanted some distance from — especially in contrast with the amount of alone time i get while cycle touring.

I was also apprehensive about the unknown — i felt i could deal with it much better when i was cycle touring, which gives me a little more flexibility with regards to what and how much to carry, as well as where to go in order to address my problems along the way.

Despite having a place to stay in Estonia, i’d surely have to spend at least one night on the road to cover those 1,300km plus one controlled border crossing separating me from my destination — that would still have been likely the case even if i activated one of my connections in Lublin.

It might have been easy to find hosts along my way in Poland, Lithuania or Latvia through hospitality networks such as Couchsurfing or Trustroots. But having such a goal for the day was one of the greatest sources of social stress during my honeymoon with my wife — more often than not, that required us to hitchhike nonstop to a late arrival at our host’s, followed by an early departure next day in the morning, for yet another whole day hitchhiking, thus reiterating the vicious cycle.

I don’t wanna travel like that

No — if i’m going to hitchhike to Estonia, then i’ll go cycle touring style: self-sufficient, process over product, and in real need for help only to find a place to set camp for the night — whenever and wherever i decide to call it a day!

With a little bit of creativity and not so many concessions at all, i somehow managed to fit everything i needed, including my hammock-camping gear, a stove and enough food for half a week (plus my tree-climbing gear!) into my 32-liter backpack, and off i went!

I have so much confidence in this minimalistic setup that i’m sharing the details in a forthcoming blog post — seriously, i believe it would have been sufficient for me to remain on the road indefinitely — perhaps one day i’ll try some sort of around the world in 80 days stunt, even if just for the fun of it.

The rides

Indeed, having a complete camping/cooking set, and not having a pre-determined goal for the day did make the process a lot easier to accept.

I didn’t linger, but nevertheless took my time eating my meals and snacking — i stopped to look for a place to sleep when i felt like it, and where it was most convenient, not where i had to — even the occasional 2-hour wait was handled without much despair, joyfully surrendering to music, dancing, and air guitar — the long walks were welcome breaks for introspection in between socializing with drivers, and i sometimes gladly took them even if they were avoidable.

With some drivers, the language barrier didn’t allow for the conversation to go very deep, even though i’m still impressed with how much i can already communicate not only in Ukrainian but also in Polish (a language that had always read and sounded ferociously cryptic to me) and Russian!

It seems like most drivers help for the mere pleasure and/or duty of helping, just because they can — wouldn’t you? — don’t we all? A few others thank me for the company, and seem to enjoy the stimulus from the occasional unpredictable conversation with an interesting stranger — many used to hitchhike when they were younger.

One driver picked me up because his wife saw me when she drove by and called him on the phone, “your car is empty, take him.” Another guy gave me a ride because that’s what he always does, even if it’s for just another 10 Km.

Filip, who had already traveled and explored some of the World in other ways, had always wanted to hitchhike — he has now just returned from his first hitchhiking trip, with a friend from Athens, Greece back to their homes in Lublin, Poland. I was the first hitchhiker he ever picked up — to inspire and help someone to take their last step to do something they had already wanted to is the core of what i’m pursuing with Not Mad Yet!

Special thanks to Agnieszka, Andrzej, and Marcin, who turned back to pick me up!

These three jolly paramedics were returning, full of energy, from a course they were ministering at the border — they gave me not only a ride but also about a liter of beer, traditional Polish food, an emergency blanket, and a tube of fast carbs — the last two have become part of my hitchhiking kit.

My first creep!

Pro-tip: beware rides that feel too eagerly offered — especially when you’re tired!

I’ve taken more than 200 rides across over 17,000 Km in 17 countries in this life, and i was probably pretty close to the point where it seemed like nothing bad could ever happen to me — and nothing bad has ever happened to me yet — it was just uncomfortable this time — a friendly reminder to remain alert and not to get cocky nonetheless.

After several hours trying to unsuccessfully hitchhike northward from BiaƂystok, about 5 Km of walking, and climbing over a fence with my heavy backpack, i found myself very tired somewhere, where my prospects of finding a ride seemed no better. It was close to dawn, and i was debating whether i should simply call it a day and start looking for a place to get water and set camp, thus postponing the problem of finding a ride out of there to the day after, when a car pulled over on the opposite side of the road and asked me where i was going.

I said, “to Estonia.” The driver then told me he was going to AugustĂłw, which was in my desired direction — although i thought that was a bit strange, i hopped in — maybe that was simply the first opportunity for him to take a u-turn? He did indeed turn back north towards AugustĂłw — after swinging by a gas station to fill up his tank and buy a pack of condoms!

You must now be wondering how the hell i know he’d bought condoms — i first thought that bright purple box he took out of his pocket and placed on the dashboard, clearly wanting me to witness the event, was bubble gum — i was a tad sleepy and even considered asking him for some. He then started telling me about the prostitutes along the road, and asking me if i like sex — “excuse me?” — “sex” — “wait, what, why do you want to know!?” — “you don’t like sex?” His impertinence was accompanied by suggestive gestures, which at one point included picking up the box of condoms and shaking it at me — no need for bubble gum, i’m wide awake now!

The language barrier made it difficult to parse his exact intentions, but none of the possibilities in my model stood out as better than the others — how to deal with this?

I referred to the women hitchhiking solo i’d heard and read sharing such experiences, which seem to be an unfortunate component of the process for many (if not all) of them, including my wife — not every unpleasant situation carries the immediate danger of physical harm. Keeping my calm while trying not to let it fade into weakness, i continued talking to the guy while carefully scanning and sensing the environment.

I eventually judged his advances as in fact far more naĂŻve and socially inept than ill-intentioned. While my first few indirect dismissals in broken Ukrainian/Polish/Russian didn’t seem to have a lingering effect, he did stop after i typed into the translator on my phone, “PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT. NOW!!” and showed it to him — he then switched to much less controversial topics such as the monument marking the alleged geographical center of Europe in the town of Suchowola.

Upon dropping me off at the next gas station, he noticed the car right next to us had Estonian license plates implying that’s where they might be headed, and kindly suggested that i go talk to them.

Although he told me he lives in AugustĂłw, which was another few kilometers further down the road, he pulled back towards where we’d come from — presumably looking for a prostitute to satisfy his needs, which he might be unable to negotiate otherwise?

Honestly, i feel a bit sorry for the guy.

Truck drivers are my favorite

People often ask me about them — in Brazil, we grow up exposed to a fair amount of prejudice towards truck drivers. I’d started shifting that perspective while cycle touring already, when i noticed truck drivers seemed to give me far more space when overtaking than most private car drivers — on occasion they even came to a full stop behind me if the road was too narrow. I didn’t need much more of their help other than their awareness of me while i was on the bicycle, but the friendly and hospitable encounters at rest stops and gas stations gradually added up as well.

I’ve only had to find a place to set up my hammock in two of the four nights i spent on the road on my way from L’viv to Estonia and back — the other two nights i was offered the bunk in their cabin, where i slept safely and comfortably — not to mention the food some of them treated me with!

Where else did i sleep?

So, i had a place to stay with my friends in Estonia, and i spent two of my four nights on the road in my truck driver’s cabin.

The other two nights i slept on my hammock — once wild camping in Tallinn somewhere i learned next morning seems to be a place where drug addicts hang out, and the other time on the backyard of Grzegorz and his uncle, whose name i didn’t write and now escapes me:

In particular, i was positively surprised to find out that something i’d gotten used to while cycle touring seems still quite possible while hitchhiking — skinny dips! Indeed, i had an option to bathe every single night on the road, whether it was a lake, a river, the Baltic Sea, or the shower for truckers at a rest stop.

And how was Estonia?

Oh, yeah, right — that’s where i was going! I almost forgot :p

We probably hear as much about the Baltic states growing up in Brazil as people growing up in Europe hear about the Guianas. As far as Estonia itself goes, i didn’t have many expectations about the country — a place with not many people, somewhat remote, perhaps with a few Russian sprinkles?

As i said before, i was curious about it — but without feeling much of the need to experience Estonia in any particular way other than whatever came my way. And although any trip is for me yet another opportunity to experiment with travel methods and practices, push the boundaries of my comfort zone further out, and do some budget travel research, this was vacation with friendsi didn’t look for anything special to do there, or anybody else to meet.

Walking with my friend and his dog Zelda, i got to see a bit of the Estonian countryside, where there’s more intense and reckless traffic than i would have expected, and i also got a tour of a big chunk of Tallinn, where my attention was especially drawn to how the various generations of ancient and modern coexist in the city’s architecture.

Other than that, playing it by ear was the way to go — drinking beer, cooking, watching the world cup, playing board games, sauna, sharing online videos from the quintessential to the awe-inspiring, climbing trees, busking, helping my friends with my driving skills, watching a rehearsal of my friend Fuji’s visual spa, attending a performance of Omeulmad 2 (in which his partner worked as a producer), riding a bicycle in Tallinn, hiding a geocache, taking photos, writing on my journal, recording 20+ minutes of video logs, picking up trash from my campsite in Tallinn — that was quite enough 🙂

With the exception of finishing reading a book, which took me an extra few days after coming back, i did everything i had planned to do in Estonia — plus and a lot and unexpected more.

Everybody should know what they travel for — for someone who essentially lives on the road, traveling might as well mean having a place to relax in peace 🙂

What’s next?

After what could be construed as roughly two uninterrupted years on the road since i left by bicycle from Copenhagen to Istanbul in Fall ’16, it’s time to settle a little longer before my next epic enterprise.

Three other articles of a more tutorial nature are also coming out as a result of those couple of weeks on the road to Estonia and back — one describing my minimalist hitchhiking (and tree-climbing) kit, another one sharing my approach to finding a ride, and a third one contrasting the process to cycle touring.

Going forward i plan to write and share more such how-to pieces for cycle touring and hitchhiking, as well as life in general, in addition to the more emotional accounts of my experience on the road such as this one.

There is also still a lot to be processed from my previous projects — i first wanted to say a few words about what i’ve been up to during those four or five months the blog was silent, but i plan to resume writing about the North Cape Hypothesis and All Roads Lead to Rom…ania, as well as my three months in Brazil with my wife and our journey hitchhiking across Europe, tree-climbing, and whatever else comes up!

Stay tuned!

Vacation: hitchhiking, solo travel;
Eastern Europe, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine

Trelograms #21 — Why Is Doing the Dishes so Troublesome?

Soon after moving to Ukraine, i had the opportunity to meet and eat lunch with Folknery, a couple of Ukrainian musicians cycle touring around the world with their baby, who was born on the road — “but isn’t it troublesome?” — “it’s actually much easier than being at home with one,” replied Yaryna.

I can totally believe that, as i’ve been myself telling everybody who asks that cycle touring feels less troublesome across the board — it’s much easier dealing with the dishes after a meal, or finding a place to sleep, so why wouldn’t that be the case with a baby as well?

At this point many of you will dismiss my point by saying that the cycle touring process comes with its own burdensome routine, which is so true! But if that’s where you are, then you’ve completely missed my point — we all have our own dishes to wash, there’s no doubt about it — my point is simply that our choice of metaphorical dishes is much broader than we might be first led to believe.

Featured photo: typical pile of dishes to wash after a single meal at home versus my entire minimalist hitchhiking kitchen

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Trelograms’ is a wordplay between ‘telegram’ and ‘trĂ©los’ (Greek for ‘mad’)

Trelograms: inspiration; cycle touring, hitchhiking, hiking; worldwide