Going Unplugged… Kind of.

To start out, happy Fourth of July and a long weekend to (hopefully most) of you Americans; and to the rest of the world, happy fourth and another Tuesday finished.

Technically, I’m writing this post a week early so I’m off celebrating my own Fourth not spending the evening with all you lovely people, but I hope you will forgive me. Why? you may ask and the answer is simple: with everything else that is going on, I really don’t need to spend my time on my computer.

My real reasons for wanting my computer would be to offload pictures and write this blog, but as with most things in travel planning, there are always ways around lugging heavy computers and space consuming chords. Instead, I’m writing and scheduling this blog now and am making a camera plan.

I have multiple data cards and batteries which will allow me to check pictures and keep the ones I want. If you want to offload pictures with less space you can also buy an external hard-drive that off loads from memory cards or, if you have access to someone else’s computer, you can bring your normal offloading device and a flash drive to store the pictures on.

Again, I’m only going partially unplugged – I will still have my phone which, let’s face it, basically means I will have a computer in my pocket at all times. This also means, if you want to follow my week of travel before I get to blogging about it all, feel free to check my Instagram for more up-to-the-minute updates.

But until next week,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Going Unplugged… Kind of.

To War and Home Again (SCA-Style)…

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Great Western War, Bakersfield, CA. October 2016.

I know I have written briefly about the SCA and the huge camping trips that come along with all the other crazy adventures before, but now I am back from round two – Great Western War. This camping trip was an hour and a half car ride away and we stayed from Thursday through Monday. I spent the day and a half prior double checking and gathering all our gear (including shopping for food and all my other usual chores) and about an hour packing up the car before sprinting out to camp.

What I learned this time around is that the second time is a whole lot easier.

Before our first war, my sister and I had an official camping list that I worked through to gather gear but I ended up over packing anyway. This time, I couldn’t find that list so I made my own based on the stuff I knew would work and what wouldn’t.

Currently, my sister and I sleep in a small pop-up tent inside of an easy up canopy (it’s become quite the little joke but also something cute that’s garnered just a hint of admiration: our tent within a tent set up).

We end up putting up 6 side panels to create overlapping doorways and better coverage of corners – we get dressed in the main area and aren’t looking to give anyone a show.  We steak everything down with gutter steaks and wide washers, keeping all but the front flaps down with little to trip over. I improved the set up ten-fold this time by securing the back flaps with extra steaks and creating a secure but movable front flap/door using smaller tent hooks.

As we develop our war gear, we are hoping to create canvas walls and top to put around our pop-up frame to keep the ease of set up but with a better aesthetic (with or without the small inner tent).

I was able to improve our lighting – we have 8 sets of solar powered bulbs from Orchard Hardware – by not just circling our tent but winding the lights up the center bars. One of our sets was unlit the whole time, but the central placement of the lights kept the whole tent bright enough to move around in, no matter how dark it was outside. Even with our placement near a tree, taping the solar batteries to the top of the canopy kept everything lit. I also suggest the small fake candles which can be set out on tables, in tents, or really anywhere that needs lights that you can’t actually light with a flame. You will need movable light as well (porter-potties are no joke in the dark!).

We also cut about a third of the stuff we packed last time simply by reducing clutter. I made sure we had essentials and some luxuries – I ended up being the hair person of my household so a variety of hairbands and bobby-pins in pretty glass jars were amazing to have on hand. Other necessities were the few portable chargers to keep our phones and fitbits charged enough to keep in contact and time. I still need to cut a little of the dead weigh,t but I’ve seen that we are learning what we need as we go.

I absolutely fell in love with this campsite in Bakersfield. It was absolutely beautiful with great views of the water but everything was in walking distance. I wish I had remembered to carry around my camera more – these trips are the most magical photo shoots – yet, walking around without my lens was an adventure in and of itself. However, I did take my camera to one ‘Holy Grail’ themed event which was so much fun.

What I absolutely love about these trips is being (mostly) unplugged and out of the normal world, and getting to have late night conversations around camp fires and under the stars. You get to wear strange outfits from all over the world – I ran around for two days in baggy pants and a tiny top I’d never think to throw on (since I’m usually in skinny jeans, baggy/over-sized tops and some kind of pull over/accent piece) and it was so much fun! – and just let yourself go. I’ve made amazing friends and laughed myself silly. I have volunteered my time and am slowly starting to take on more camp and court duties. I’ve lived a fantasy and I won’t lie, it has been hard to come down from this trip.

So as I recover and reminisce and (shockingly!) miss my hard, dirt packed bed:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

To War and Home Again (SCA-Style)…

What we keep (or not)…

Also known as souvenirs and travel gifts.

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 At Hampton Court Palace. East Molesey, Surrey, England. Summer 2013.

Oh the wonderful world of souvenirs; the many mementos we buy, keep and store until we’re overrun. These bits of bought up memories and conversation pieces (for better or worse) that can quickly cut into your budget and stress you out with gift lists (yes, we’ll cover this conundrum as well).

And this isn’t to say that I am anti souvenirs or travel gifts (though maybe I am a little), it’s more that it’s become a custom I do not quite understand.

Whenever a friend comes back from a trip, it’s almost inevitable that I end up with my own trinket. It’s like a custom and I don’t know when or how it happened, but it’s just a fact that when a person goes on a trip, they tend to bring back more than they left with and a good deal of it is not for themselves. I mean, I get it; it’s nice—a little something to show that your friend/family/compatriot/etcetera was thinking about you when you were apart. But let’s just be honest for a minute: most of what we all bring back is little more than clutter that is eventually going to get in the way.

I’ve been traveling through various parts of the world during school breaks for a good chunk of my life, which basically translates to collecting and gifting trinkets from said parts, also, for a good chunk of my life. Many of these vacations occurred with people related to me and I always had someone on the trip nudging me to get other people presents.

I was with my grandparents in Vatican City when I was twelve years old and my grandmother wouldn’t let us leave one of the alcove shops until we picked out something for each of our parents. Yes, my parents are religious—we all get up on Sundays for church, at least—but did they really need another rosary or portrait of Jesus? (Yes, we did get exactly that, but mostly because the picture looked so much like my dad’s old driver’s license. My grandparents weren’t amused but I thought it was clever).

A year later, I was on a student trip to Australia. When I was leaving, my mom told me she expected me to bring back gifts for relatives, especially my parents and sisters. To this day, I have boomerangs and handkerchiefs covered in kangaroos filling the drawers in my room—no one else needed them; to be quite frank, neither did/do I.

Seriously, the key chains, boomerangs, handkerchiefs, magnets, etcetera are lovely mementos of your travels—they are not, however, really relevant to anyone else who wasn’t on your trip with you (Seriously, I have no idea where the Jesus portrait ended up).

So then, what’s the point?

And the serious answer is: I really don’t have a clue.

A souvenir is great—they hold so many specific stories and memories— and are a tangible representation of the time away…. FOR THE TRAVELER!

In my opinion, when it comes to gifts for other people, the best thing any traveler can do is send a postcard (or a few; knock yourself out!). I’m dead serious. People rarely get snail mail so it’s a special note that you are thinking of them when you are away (the whole point, no?) even if you get home before the postcard. They are easy to store, share and display. And in the end, whether you send the postcard or give them to the recipients on your return, they generally cost less with a whole lot more meaning than all the key chains in the world. Unless—maybe—the recipient is a child and then really bring on the plushies.

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From the disposable. Arthur’s seat, Edinburgh, Scotland. Summer 2013.

When it comes to buying for yourself, however, you can get into a whole new conundrum. You end up having to think about and balancing significance and costs and portability and usability and likelihood of turning to clutter (and I’m sure there are longer lists for some of you out there).

So what to do?

My answer: keep it simple.

This can mean a whole list of things, but here are my suggestions to keep it simple a (mostly) inexpensive.

Send home postcards for yourself. Write down something that has happened to you wherever the postcard is from and send it. Or, better yet, wait toward the later half of your trip and start sending them out then. When you are home and back to your everyday life, how cool will it be to get a postcard reminder of your adventure? A little message is a bottle (figuratively of course) from your past self. If you can’t send it to yourself (I know, sometimes postage is more expensive than you’re willing to shell out), just keep the cards and store them. Every once in a while, you’ll be sure to stumble into them and reading about your adventure from the perspective of when it was happening and when you didn’t know what was going to happen next will be a whole new kind of adventure book.

Buy a disposable camera and start shooting. I know, I know, now-a-days you can get photos from your digital camera printed off and get your pre-chosen “perfect shots.” I love this fact, but it’s also one more layer of artifice. You’ve messed with the settings, zoomed in, upped contrast, taken 5 different shots of the same thing to make it perfect. With a disposable, you get one shot; one chance to get what you’re looking for—if you trip, it’s blurry and you can try again but you’ll be wasting film. You can’t see what you’ll get until you get back the physical pictures (and/or the digital copies) back. Then, just like the postcards, you’re reliving the experiences you had while snapping these candids. I know it feels old school, but I like that there is a real genuine feel to the results. Just remember, if you have someone else taking your picture with it, tell them how many you want taken, no matter the quality or you’ll run out of space quick!

Buy something substantial or/and usable. Whether this means something big and/or expensive or something with extreme sentimentality depends on you and your own tastes, but this is usually contained to a single purchase that encompasses your trip. For my last vacation, my sister and I each bought a skirt. There was nothing marking where we were when we bought them—not a city or country—and there was noting really extraordinary about them. Mine is a simple leather skirt (brownish purple in hue with pockets) that falls a little above the knee. But I bought it on Prince Street in Edinburgh. I wore it on a slightly overcast and drizzling day in Cardiff at the BBC. I wore it while exploring London with my parents and tripping up the stairs out of the tube (to a few supportive cheers of “keep going!” from strangers or the escalator). And every time I wear this skirt or see it hanging in my closet, I remember. And that is what makes a great souvenir.

Anyway, those are my suggestions for you and for others. You telling or sending stories are worth a hundred plastic key chains so keep those memories exciting and that’s all you really need.

So, sorry if I got a bit rantie and let me know below what you do for souvenirs (for yourself or others), your take of travel gifting, or anything else you feel like sharing.

Look forward to hearing from you,

I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

What we keep (or not)…