Before arriving in Mauritius, the US Embassy passed along the email of an American woman with a Fulbright Scholarship working on community based research and mapping around climate change for one year. Her immediate and enthusiastic response to my message was part of the equation that got me onto that plane. She was already working with a boys school supporting efforts to develop a green roof and opportunities for green learning. I threw out my idea for a MapGirlz workshop and she began putting the wheels in motion. We met a few days after I arrived and we hit it off immediately; perhaps it was because I still had the American 'do it now' attitude that she had missed all those months in Mauritius.
Thus, through her connections my new colleague was able to establish 2 days of workshops with a local girls secondary school. I rented a car and drove north to pick up my colleague, and we traveled together across the island to Roche Noir. It is a small island (approx. 787 square miles), but it was quite a trek! Dogs, trucks, pedestrians, bikes, buses... defensive driving might be the way to go here! We made it to the east, and luckily Simadree State Secondary School was difficult to miss – it is a big pink building on the outskirst of town. With time for lunch, we stopped at Le Pride Snack for some noodles - a great find!
After too many noodles, we approached the pink school to young girls in uniform smiling and waving from the plaza and balconies. We were greeted by the school Principal and shown to the classroom. The students were already seated, but the first two rows were completely empty. I gave the girls a big smile and urged them to move up. After a moments consideration, they obliged. It was the first of two 80-minute sessions where I would be introducing the girls to the world of maps and GIS; no small feat.
There were 23 girls and they happened to be learning about geography and maps in another class, so that set the stage. We had the girl come up and mark their home towns and favorite places in Mauritius on a paper map we hung on the wall. The Principal found this exercise very useful, as he pointed out that many of the girls likely hadn't made it to the southern part of Mauritius. We followed the exercise with an overview of mapping and different applications of GIS, and then introduced Field Papers; a tool that would allow the girls to map offline and in the field. I had asked for a list of each student's home village, and pre-printed the atlas pages them to fill in. We then discussed the importance of the legend and talked a bit about scale. The students were given the mission of mapping 5 different things in their villages and creating their own detailed legends, and we sent them on their way!
One week later we returned for a second lecture and to see what the girls had produced. A few were frantically drawing as I walked in – I guess there are procrastinators in every group! After a short lecture about OpenStreetMap and other open source mapping applications, we broke into two smaller groups to share the maps. I was blown away by the level of detail on some of the maps. One girl quietly approached me, apologizing for not having brought her map because it was "too big". She had done a map of her entire village, but was embarrassed to drag it on the bus to school. We are still tracking down this map - I cannot wait to see it! The session went quickly, and the girls were eager and excited to do more mapping, particularly with OpenStreetMap and GPS units.
Feedback was positive, and the girls discovered some new things about their communities as they looked around with a new perspective. There will now be additional data on the map where nothing existed previously. The teachers present were also excited about the topic, and I hope that we can hold more workshops for Mauritian students in the future. The Field Papers will be uploaded to OpenStreetMap and traced so that the data collected will be visible by everyone in the world. The MapGirlz dream became a brief reality in Mauritius, and I hope it spreads to all corners of the globe!
For many people that travel, regular checkups and health appointments can be difficult to figure out, and very often staying on top of your health means finding emergency care should something go awry. As an American without health insurance, I try to inquire about medical care options wherever I'm traveling. It had been more than a year since I had seen a dentist, so I asked around. I don't know many people who like the dentist, and usually visits in any country are accompanied by tales of terror.... This I was trying to avoid!
There happened to be a dentist 5 minutes down the road, where the manager of the Chez Jacques had gone the previous week without incident. I decided to investigate. I found the small office tucked in the nearby shopping strip, and the receptionist happened to be outside smoking with a neighboring shop owner. She was able to take me for a cleaning the next day. I walked in Tuesday afternoon 10 minutes early with a book, expecting to wait. I was greeted by the dentist and receptionist, and brought directly back. No forms, no fuss, and everything looked clean. After 5 basic questions, I was reclined into the purple chair and the games commenced.
My cleaning began with a metal instrument that sounded like a couple of sharks attempting to chew through a metal roof... The sound was so excruciatingly piercing I thought there might be a pack of dogs waiting outside the office. I guess my teeth needed a cleaning, and he was thorough. After a few minutes I began to feel like a an old Dodge pickup with someone tinkering under the hood. I closed my eyes and thought those happy thoughts...
When that glorious symphony had finished, the sand blasting began! I believe he used baking soda, but it could also have been lemon Ajax. The safety glasses were crucial - the pressure was so high my entire face was covered in powder and droplets of blood by the end. After some major rinsing, the dentist assured me that we weren't quite finished... Reclining slowly back into the antiseptic comfort of that purple chair, he began searching for the English words for what was to come... "You know the volcano rock that floats?" Ahh, let me think ... Pumice? Yes, he was going to polish my teeth with pumice. Hey, why not?
I have to admit, this I kind of enjoyed. It was gritty, but didn't taste too awful - and by the end my teeth felt incredibly clean. I gave it a few more rinses and when he said we were finished, I exited ejector-seat style. I paid my 1800 rupees, we discussed why an American was seeing a dentist in Tamarin, and I was out the door. My teeth were clean, I had been talked through each step with no major harm done, and I saved about $100. The reason to come to Mauritius? Probably not, but I do recommend that every traveler be proactive when it comes to their health and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Ask around for recommendations, check out the office in advance, and make sure you can understand the procedure.
The delay in Paris was due to cyclones in Mauritius but we left around midnight and headed south on our 11 hour journey. Air Mauritius is not in the top 5 for entertainment options, but I did have the opportunity to daydream every time the reel of beautiful Mauritius scenery appeared on screen.
We arrived a few hours later than expected to a gray, rainy day - but it was 50 degrees warmer than Philadelphia... I was not complaining! I was met by a taxi and whisked across the island to my Mauritian home-away-from-home, Guest House Chez Jacques. I noticed some changes along the hour-long journey including a new gas station and a few new developments - buildings grow quickly in Mauritius! I received a warm welcome by Italians #2, 3 &4, and Snow (the dog). It was surreal to be back after one year, but I was excited for the new adventure. It was amazing how many of the locals remembered me from the previous year, and I fell right back into my old routines (which included morning beach visits, mine or roti for lunch, and Mana's or Jacques for dinner!).
Within my first week I managed to set up 2 meetings and reunions with 3 friends I had met the previous year. This may not sound like a lot to busy people, but for Mauritius it was a big deal. These meetings led to bookings to do a presentation at the Rajiv Gandhi Science Center for approximately 200 people and some mapping workshops with high schools on the island - all to happen in the coming weeks! I was also making maps for some clients and preparing for a presentation at the Baltimore Social Innovation Journal Pitch Day, so I spent a great deal of time at my Chez Jacques 'office'. The weather helped my concentration - during the first 10 days we had torrential downpours, and during the next 5 the ocean and river were so brown that swimming was not really an option!
I befriended Italian #3, a kite surfer, so on those rare sunny days I joined her at Le Morne peninsula, a popular kite destination and a World Heritage Site at the southwestern tip of the island. It is a gorgeous spot with a dark history. The peninsula was notorious in the early 19th century as a refuge for runaway slaves. After the abolition of slavery in Mauritius, on 1 February 1835 a police expedition traveled there to inform the slaves that they had been freed. However, the purpose of the expedition was misunderstood and the slaves jumped to their deaths from the rock. Since then the date is celebrated by Mauritian creoles as the Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery.
We also enjoyed Cavadee during this time. Thaipoosam cavadee is a festival celebrated by Mauritians whose ancestors originated from Tamil Nadu, India. Devotees to the cult of Muruga, accompanied by relatives and friends, will gather near river banks for the ablution rituals. Dressed in fuchsia cloth, they will join the officiating priest in prayers and mantra-chanting. Fruits, incense sticks, rose water, milk and clarified butter are offered as oblations around sacrificial fires for self-purification and sanctifying the kavadis. Kavadis are arched bamboo structures supported by wooden rods and richly decorated with fragrant flowers, coconut tree leaves, lime and peacock feathers, and are carried or dragged by each devotee to the temple. Many people offer their flesh to the 'vels' (sharp needles) or pikes that pierce through their cheeks, forehead, or tongue and commits them to silence and honors Lord Muruga.
This year Italian #3 and I joined 2 Hindu neighbors for the event, so we entered temple and also received the warm milk offering which is poured into your hands and consumed. Afterwards we shared in the festivities and were given rice and veggies on palm leaves along with a delicious fruit beverage. Everyone was welcome to the festival and we could have enjoyed the full day, but I had a presentation to prepare for... MapGirlz Mauritius was to debut the following day!
After a wonderful send off at EWR I was on my way. The trip to Mauritius was going to be a much longer one than my previous visit, which was only 4 hours from South Africa. First I would fly 7.5 hours to Paris CDG, then a 12 hour layover until my 11.5 hour flight down to MRU. Here we go!
The first leg was fairly painless despite my lack of sleep. Even after a glass of wine and a bad movie, I was still playing the contortionist passenger game and flipping myself every which way to find a suitable sleeping posture. I arrived bleary-eyed in Paris at 7am and confirmed my flight to Mauritius would depart at 7pm that night. With plenty of time, I decided to leave the airport and explore the city. With the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo a few days prior I was a bit nervous to reenter Paris security with my drone and all of my other equipment, so I stashed everything in a locker and went out to cure my cabin fever & satisfy my craving for authentic Camembert.
The city was just waking up as I popped out of the Metro at Chatelet on the Seine. Having toured Paris previously, I decided to skip the Eiffel Tower and try my hand at the Louvre. It was freezing rain and I hadn't packed for winter, so indoor activities were crucial to this outing! After sourcing a consignment shop for a warm hat and an extra layer, I was ready to brave the Parisian winter. To my dismay, it seemed as if most of Paris' tourists also wanted to visit Ms. Lisa that day... it was a mad house. The bitter cold and wind abusing the square motivated me to make Plan B - the Picasso Museum. It was quite a long walk, so a stop for espresso and croissant were integral to completion of the mission. Revived and thawed, I wandered the quaint streets and eventually found the museum where I spent a nice afternoon with one of my favorite artists. It is a beautiful museum, with delicate architecture, a fluid layout, and of course, plenty of art to keep me entranced for hours. By the time I emerged it was nearing sunset, so my quest for cheese was accelerated. I got very lucky and caught the vendor of a small shop just prior to closing time. I procured quite a few delicacies to share with my Mauritian friends, and was off to CDG via St. Michel and the giant Christmas tree.
Security was light, which in the past has meant (for me at least) a bit more scrutiny. The drone drew no questions, but I was stripped of my Camembert treasure. No soft cheeses allowed?! The disappointment must have been obvious, because the sympathetic agent allowed me to at least try a chunk of that delectable cheese on my still-warm baguette before moving on. Ahh, protocol... As it turned out, I should have hung out much longer at security and finished that wheel, as my flight was delayed until 11pm. Instead, I curled up on my bag for a little nap. Boarding time eventually came, and I was off once again in the direction of summer...
Portland has been on my must visit list for quite a while, so I was delighted to learn that coordinators were 'putting a bird on it' and holding this year's FOSS4G in PDX! Last year's FOSS4GNA in Minneapolis was a great experience, so I applied for a scholarship and hoped I could make it happen. The scholarship didn't pan out, but I was generously given a place on the team of conference volunteers, and a friend offered his place to me for the week. I also found RT airfare for under $300 ... Rose City here I come! I flew out early to meet my cheerful host & attend a Timbers soccer match with fellow conference goers. I was blown away by the number of fans and the infectious enthusiasm of the Timber Army - such fun! Each time the Timbers scored a goal, the lumberjack would saw a piece of the Timber log. It was the first time I have seen a chainsaw at a soccer match! The chant sheets brought it to the next level! It was a fun crew, and we enjoyed a long day of Timber magic, local beers, and dinner at Deschutes Brewery.
The conference was preceded by two days of workshops (at $150 a session), so instead I rented a Brompton fold-up bike and explored the City. It's a bike-friendly place, particularly the trails along the Wilamette River. Tuesday was the JS.Geo conference, so I biked over to Portland State to check it out. On the way, I got my bike tire caught in the trolley tracks and had an ugly spill - I showed up in torn pants, covered in blood... Highlights of the day were the fun, witty crowd, the future of Leaflet, and mapping in 3D with Cesium. And not spilling the contents of my skull onto the streets of Portland...
The next 3 days was the annaul FOSS4G - “the world’s premier open source geospatial conference” - at the Convention Center. It was an easy bike ride over one of the many bridges from the Pearl neighborhood. Over the past year I have become more comfortable as an amateur developer, met a few more people in the geo community, and moved forward with Boomerang, so I was excited to find new challenges and meet more of the community. Keynote Mike Bostock was an inspiration to the 900 attendees, and set a high bar for the rest of the week. It was an international group, with approximately 13% women. There were 8 simultaneous tracks, and I had a difficult time choosing!
I began my first day as a volunteer, which was a wonderful way to meet people and get the lay of the land. The conference was very well run, and each talk was recorded so you could feel free to linger in conversation or try something new. I leaned towards the education-related talks, and drew inspiration from quite a few people. Talks on drones/UAVs, offline mapping, and vector tiling seemed to draw large crowds, and projection jokes were en vogue. I heard fewer "simples" than last year and took away quite a to-do list. Despite a few instances of gender bias, I felt like I am definitely becoming a part of the global geo-community.
There was no shortage of things to do outside of the conference as well. With field trips, a code sprint, a welcome party, maptime party, and a gala to attend there were sufficient opportunities to make connections and discuss all things geo. Or, you could just relax and sample the many great beers and delectable treats Portland has to offer! The food truck pods certainly won me over, as did the live music, friendly people, and delightful 80 degree weather!
Saturday I enjoyed a hike in Forest Park (which I'd highly recommend) and dinner in the City with a new friend from the conference. Sunday included a drive to the Columbia River Gorge to hike and have brunch with a friend who flew in from Seattle. I even snuck in a drive to the coast and dinner with relatives down in Salem. It's a gorgeous area, and Portland was a difficult place to leave. It has moved up on my list of livable places!
Couldn't make it? Watch the sessions here. Other blogs about the conference include Mapbrief & Boundlessgeo. Want to go next year? FOSS4G 2015 will be in Seoul, South Korea!
Despite a desire to continue my travels, I convinced myself that Antarctica & South America would still be around in a year or so and decided to head back to the US from Europe to grow my business, see friends and family, and catch my breath. Inspiration propelled me during my entire journey, and my entrepreneurial drive was in full gear. After a successful 2013 session, Parks and People hired me back for the month of July to teach their students GIS so I headed back to Baltimore to pick up where I left off. I was graciously given a room in Hampden and it was a great new perspective of the City. For the previous 5 years I lived in Federal Hill, and welcomed the differences I found in this northern neighborhood: forested running paths along Gwenns Falls, quirky shops, hipsters, and delicious food choices on the Avenue. The neighborhood felt more isolated than my previous residence, but I was lucky that the current client was located withing walking distance. Plus, with a bike and the bus line you could be right back downtown. It almost felt as if I had never left.
During my few weeks back in Baltimore, I attended a wedding at the Museum of Industry (a very cool space), I caught the Mike Dillon Band show at the 8x10 (scared that date away!), attended Baltimore Data Day (many smart people in this City!), enjoyed the Believe in Music Festival in Oregon Ridge Park (amazing music, great cause), rode a borrowed bike in the epic Baltimore Bike Party (bike party!), caught up with friends, and enjoyed great training sessions with 22 of Baltimore's youth. Baltimore had so much going on in both the social and entrepreneurial scene that I never had a free moment. I was even invited to sit in on a great new Hack Baltimore radio show called All The Pieces Matter. A great month for sure, and probably the best I could ask for to start to transition back to this lifestyle.
Many people have asked - "What's it like being back?". I have to admit, it has been quite a transition... I was used to showing up in a place - unsure of language, culture & location of a warm bed - and just figuring it out a day at a time. I went from living out of a backpack, putting on my 'go-to' dress and going, to opening a dresser and thinking "what do I want to wear today?" I went from not knowing where I would find breakfast to walking into a grocery store and being baffled by all of my options - I could put food in a refrigerator and it'd be there in 2 days! Drinking water was safe, yet there was still a filtrated pitcher of clean, cool water in the fridge should I chose to partake. There was an air conditioning unit in my bedroom, a door that closed, a double bed that did not deflate. I was not afraid of bed bugs or scorpions. There were no elephants, no roadside noodle stands, no high speed trains, and no smooth talking Mauritian musicians. I set an alarm on my teaching days, showered in the morning, and wore clean clothes every day. I felt spoiled and lucky. My sense of place and person was so upside down that jumping back on the road seemed like a great option.
There was little mystery to it all, yet everything seemed slightly different. Cars drove on the right side of the road. I did not fall asleep worried about the history of the guy in the room next to mine, and whether I should barrier the door. There was a dog in the house, but she did not have rabies... Weirdest of all? People knew who I was - no more incognito. I walked into the restaurant of a friend, and it was all hugs and catching up. I ran into former colleagues at coffee shops and on the street. I saw old friends at music shows. I didn't say "Where are you from?" to anyone for an entire week! It was incredible, and after missing this for nearly a year it made me realize how very special community can be. My levels of gratitude for life and notably the people I came back to are flying high, and my biggest hope is that I can maintain a predominate attitude of appreciation in my life. Charm City, thank you for a warm welcome! It was a great July, and I have a feeling our relationship is not quite over. Next stop? The City of Brotherly Love... there's a room in Philadelphia calling my name!
The drive from Utrecht to Paris was scenic, with green fields and plenty of cows. Lunch in Belgium seemed appropriate, and we found a great place in Ghent to enjoy a classic Belgian meal of mussels and fries. Dutch #1 and I were trying to make the 6pm France vs Nigeria match in Paris. Nearly there, we made it 2km from our hotel and hit a wall of rush hour Paris traffic. A wrong turn as we were getting close put us back on the highway going in the opposite direction. Aaargh! We deduced that we'd have to get back in the traffic on the other side. The game was already 35 minutes in, and traffic was not something I wanted to exchange for the 8th and final game on my World Cup tour. On an impulse, we pulled off the highway into a Paris suburb, parked the car, and found a pub screening the match. Within minutes we had a pint and were cheering along with the French. It was a slow start, and at half time it was still nil/nil. The room was tense, which made for good people watching. We were sitting outside looking in, and it was fun to see locals stopping by to pop their heads in and check the score. Pogba put one in for France in the 79th minute, and high fives went around the room. It was a quick celebration though, and the room was seated again very shortly after the goal as you can see in the video. Two minutes into injury time Yobo made it 2-0, and the room visibly relaxed. France was going on to the next round, and we once again on the road to our Paris hotel... sans traffic and mission accomplished! The 8 games: 1. Spain vs Netherlands (Irun, Spain) 2. France vs. Honduras (Bidart, France) 3. Belgium vs. Algeria (Brussels, Belgium) 4. Netherlands vs. Australia (Maastricht, Netherlands) 5. Germany vs. Ghana (Berlin, Germany) 6. Germany vs. USA (Muenster, Germany) 7. Netherlands vs. Mexico (Utrecht, Netherlands) 8. France vs. Nigeria (Paris, France)
We only had one day before I had to fly back to Ireland, and we were lucky that Paris has a great subway system they call the Metropolitan. The hotel was in the 19th arr., but the Porte des Lilas Metro Station was a short walk and within a few stops we were downtown. First stop? Coffees & chocolatines at the nearby bakery, which you could smell before you could see! Ooooh la la :) A great way to start a day out. Second stop? Eiffel tower. Dutch #1 had never been to Paris, so we had a nice walking tour and hit a few of the iconic tourist attractions - Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs de Elysse... the Metro allowed for a wider net as well. My last visit was 7 years ago, and it was great to revisit with a new friend. It was a gorgeous day, and the city was bustling. There's just something about Paris, and I vowed to return again in at least 7 years!
My flight was out of the Paris/Beauvois airport on Ryan Air, which meant an hour drive out of the city. Again, a word of caution when booking that budget flight on Ryan Air - most airports are not in the city center and you will have to arrange additional transport. A simple search will help, and there are always others in the same situation! I flew into a quiet Shannon, Ireland airport around midnight and settled in to await my 9am flight back to the US. Time to return to Baltimore, at least for July!
It was time to leave Berlin, and I found a ride through Mitfahrgelegenheit the 480km to Munster to see some extended family and watch match #6. I arrive to very gracious hosts who welcomed me with both US and Germany flags at the ready for the pending match. We rode bikes through the beautiful city to a beer garden near the university - a great setting for a game. It was the first time I had to cheer against my host country, and I was the only American standing during the National Anthem. The daggers in my back from the army of German fans behind me were many, but I stood and waved my flag as bravely as possible! I have to admit, it was a bit frustrating to have my German friends 100% confident that they would trump the US, but I still had high hopes for a win (or tie!). It was an international group, with Dutch #1 who came over from Holland, two Germans, and me, the lonely American. The pilsner was plenty, and the brezeln weren't too bad either. Tension was apparent at the end of halftime however, when the score was still 0-0. It was only 1-0 at the end of the game, but the Germans weren't surprised at the victory and seemed to easily forget that intense first half. I was patted on the back, and consoled at the fact that the US team was still advancing to the next round. I felt like a child being told - "it's ok honey, we'll get you an ice cream cone on the way home to make it all better." Ah well - if you can't beat em, join em! We witnessed the celebrations in the square, as one brave sole climbed to the top of a light post to hang the German flag and others led games and chants. Amusing and fun to be there despite the loss!
The next day it was off to Utrecht, Netherlands with Dutch #1 in his grandmother's very old Opel Astra. I met Dutch #1 in Dingle, Ireland 3 weeks before while traveling with my father and his soccer team. He invited me to a tour of the Netherlands, and after some consideration I decided to reunite with Dutch #1 and check out more of his wonderful country. We had a great dinner on a pedestrian street downtown, followed by a funk show at Muziekcafé 't Oude Pothuys - a very cool basement venue with great beer on tap and a fun crowd. Egg shaking was very popular with the Dutch, and I quickly made some dance partners. I tried practicing my Dutch language skills, but for some reason it still makes me giggle to hear it spoken. The next day it was Netherlands vs. Mexico, but we also fit in a great bike tour. Utrecht is a lovely city of about 300,000 people. We hit two markets, explored the canals, and ended up at a lake outside the city within a short bike ride. Gorgeous.The number of bikes still blew my mind, but I had learned a thing or 2 in Maastricht and only a few people rang their bells at me!
That evening was Mexico vs. Netherlands, and it seemed like the entire town was out. Standing room only, and all of the bike parking was full. Tension was high during the 0-0 first half, and even worse after Mexico made it 1-0 in the 48th minute. There were many long faces, and the bars profits likely soared until Netherlands finally put one in at the 88th minute. Big celebrations ensued, and it almost felt like they had won! But, a tie would not do for the Dutch team and in the final moments of injury time they made it 2-1 to knock Mexico out of the tournament. Orange festivities were fun, and I had a great 2nd game with the Dutch! But it was off to Paris early the next day to catch the final match of my World Cup tour - #8 - France vs. Nigeria!
My arrival to Berlin was timed perfectly for both the Christopher Street Day Parade and the Germany/Ghana match. I took the Meinfernbus for 20 Euro; it took 7 hours but was pretty comfortable - and much cheaper than the train. The bus has only recently become an option in Germany, and many people also choose to use the rideshare website Mitfahrgelegenheit. I was staying with some friends I had met while in Mauritius in Weissensee (NE part of the city). They were super excited for Saturday, and we headed out early for a sehr lange Tag! We arrived first to the parade, where all of the wonderful Berliners were out celebrating and demonstrating to support the rights of LGBT people and promote acceptance and inclusion. It was colorful and raucous, and great people watching. We had our flag, and marched part of the way as part of the parade as well. The word of the day was Erdbeer bowle, and boy were they delicious!
We heard rumors that the Fan Mile wouldn't let people in if it got to packed, so we set out early to claim a spot. Germany is crazed for soccer, and Berlin is no acception. Their fanmeil is one of the largest public viewings in the world and runs between Brandenburg Gate and the Siegessäule. There are tv screens, pilsner stands, snacks, and German fans everywhere you look. I got the feeling that the Germans were not expecting much from the Ghana team – particularly after the US defeated them last week. But, Ghana brought their game and the Germans were taken offguard. Germany had the first goal and the crowd was charged up. But when Ghana answered with a goal, the only people cheering were the 5 Ghanaian fans in front of me. Ghana's 2nd goal brought even more silence and confusion – and longer beer lines. I was almost relieved when Germany scored that tying goal – it would've been tough to get through all of those very depressed, and inebriated Germany fans! I was decked out this time but on Thursday the chameleon will change her colors to red, white and blue! Go USA!!
The rest of the week in Berlin was spent exploring Prenzlauer Berg, improving my German, and checking out some local startup events. I hit up Betahaus for an event for location independent entrepreneurs - digital nomads - and it was great to meet like-minded people from all over the world. Inspiring and motivating! Berlin is a great city, and very livable. I would've stayed longer, but I had a date in Munster for the US/Germany match!
I had a realization in the Kuala Lumpur airport that I chose the right backpack for this trip. The Osprey Kyte 46 liter pack has been on my back for the past 10 months and it has been a great home for my worldly possessions. During transport I put my backpack into a duffle bag that I can lock – this saves me anxiety on receiving my entire pack at the other end of the trip and also protects the backpack from handling damage. For this I use an REI basic, packable duffle that folds up into its own pouch for transport.
I chose the 46 over the roomier 60 Liters, and am very happy with my decision. Here are a few reasons why...
5. It doesn't hurt my back after sprinting down a train platform or carrying it for more than 10 minutes.
4. It's not taller than my head, which enables me to sneak it onto an Air Asia flight and past the 7 kilogram / 1 bag scrutiny of security, saving $20 and lots of time.
3. The people on the public bus don't stare in wonder at the monstrosity on my back, and don't have to get up to let me by at my stop.
2. I don't NEED a luggage cart, but I appreciate them.
And finally, one reason I would highly suggest choosing a pack that allows you to move freely and not slip a disk...
1. You can use a squat toilet on your way to the Kuala Lumpur airport with it on your back while holding your other carry on and not falling down into the 2 inches of water around your feet!
See if your friendly neighborhood backpack salesman will let you try this out prior to purchase. Did you stay on your feet? Go for it! Happy squatting!
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference & a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born.
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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