Wifi Scavengers

So one of the challenges has been figuring out what to do about our phone plans (without spending a fortune on data roaming).

We’ve been in Europe less than 24 hours and we’ve already turned into wifi scavengers… We actually hung out for an 30 extra minutes in Heathrow baggage claim just to use their free wifi.

I really wanted to be reachable on a consistent phone number (at least until we go to Africa in August) so I’ve kept my AT&T contract and added their cheapest int’l plan. This only gives me 120MB of roaming data per month (and is still
costing $80), so I’m trying to be extra-conservative and just use it for things like maps, etc. In other words, I’ll be on Facebook a whole lot less.

Stefan is going to buy SIM cards everywhere we go. You can get a lot more data for less money that way, but his number will change every time, and he will need to buy a new one in every country. (And they are only good for 30 days). So in cases like now, where we are in London for only 24 hours, he has no service at all.

All of this adds up to us becoming ridiculously excited about wifi at cafes, airports, hotels, etc (or especially angry if a hotel’s wifi isn’t decent). You’d think it was on the same level as clean drinking water – that’s how worked up we get. It’s certainly an adjustment coming from our unlimited international data plans that were paid for by work.

I promise not to make fun of the people standing outside of Apple Stores at all hours to use the free, speedy wifi ever again. 🙂

Thoughts on Travel

Some random thoughts on travel since we hit the road:

Packing Remorse:
• Why did I bring 8 bottles of wine but no corkscrew?
• I need to ditch at least half the makeup I’m carrying… who was I kidding when I packed all that stuff?

Packing Genius:
• As previously mentioned, 8 bottles of wine!
• The German brought a HDMI cable and a connector for the iPad so I can still watch Game of Thrones on a big screen. ❤

I seriously think Trip Advisor needs to add a way that you can sort hotels by wifi speed. I would take a crappy hotel with good wifi over a good hotel with crappy wifi.

Why are most ice buckets half the size of a bottle of wine? I’d like to chill the entire bottle, not just the bottom half.

I’m way more dependant on a data connection than I realized. While I’m fine going all day without checking email or reading Facebook, I’ve hit long stretches of dead zones on the drive and I have no map in the car and no general idea of where I’m going. It made me realize that I’m relying too much on my phone and not enough on my brain. I’ll have to work on this.

Since we started traveling, I have left my credit card at 2 different restauants. Thankfully, I was able to recover it both times, but this is totally out of character for me. As in, the only 2 times I have ever done this in my life. What is wrong with me?

Recommendations & Reviews

People regularly ask me for hotel, restaurant or activity recommendations. Here’s where you can find them:

I’ve used Trip Advisor for years for hotel reviews and any particularly great tourist activities.

For restaurants, bars, and random other services like nail salons, I use Yelp.

My go-to travel agent for animal-related vacations (like safaris) is Natural World Safaris. I can’t say enough great things about these folks – they are eco-friendly animal experts who always support the local economy.

While I haven’t actually used this service yet, Trusted Housesitters looks very promising – it connects people who need pet sitters with people who need a place to stay (worldwide).

Dear SF

Dear SF,

We’ve been together almost 20 years now… We’ve had some really incredible times, but I think its time for me to see other cities.

I do still love that every day you see someone in a costume, that it’s hard to find a bad meal here, and pretty much every restaurant has multiple options for vegetarians. I still think you can be a gorgeous city with your brightly coloured Victorians, beautiful bridges, and the fog nestled at the base of Sutro Tower. And I will certainly miss all of my amazing friends and the passionate community of weirdos that live here.

Though there are many things that I still love about you, I’m no longer in love with you… I’m tired of being labelled the evil techie who is “ruining the city” again (once during the dot com boom, and now). I’m tired of the 3-4 hour daily commute – anyone who says those buses are a luxury obviously hasn’t ridden on them day after day. (You really have to want to live in SF badly in order to do that commute five times a week.) I hate seeing the homeless problem growing, not knowing how to help, and feeling like the city just doesn’t care. And I’m saddened that the Castro is turning into a dirty strip of empty storefronts and broken car windows, while my already ridiculously expensive rent continues to increase every year.

I’d like to fall back in love with you, SF, so I think we need some time apart. And I hope that when I return I’ll have the energy to enjoy all the wacky events, tiny street fairs, museums, and shows that are always happening. But for now, it’s time for me to hit the road…

Love,
Rachel

Sell All The Things!

After talking to several people who had their stuff damaged while in storage, I’ve decided to get rid of as much as possible. I’m leaving a few things with friends, have converted old photos and videos to digital, and am otherwise selling or donating as much as possible.

I’ve been working on this since February… If you’re planning something similar, I recommend starting early so it doesn’t turn into an overwhelming panic at the end.

Here’s what worked best:

Facebook: There are a ton of specialty groups on Facebook these days. It was fastest and easiest to make an album of photos of stuff for sale with prices and descriptions and cross-post to various groups. This worked out especially well for bellydance costuming, Fluevog shoes, and jewelry. And my friends wound up buying a lot of stuff, too.

eBay: While this gets you the largest audience, shipping is tough to estimate and both eBay and PayPal will be taking a percentage of what you earn. This worked best for vinyl and some random designer stuff like eyeglasses, purses, etc. You earn more than used clothing stores, but it takes a lot more work (especially the shipping part).

Crossroads Trading: The good news is you can now drop your stuff off and come back 24 hours later to see the results. This means you don’t have to watch the staff make insulting faces as they go through your clothes. 🙂 You only get 35% cash value, but I live next door to one so it was the most convenient way to get rid of a large volume of clothing.

SF Provident: will buy fine jewelry. This was a great tip from a friend – its an incredibly classy & secure place in downtown SF where they evaluate the stones and metal and offer you cash for it.

Next Door: This is a smaller community, so you’re not as likely to be successful but its a lot less crazy and you know the people live closeby. I used this for furniture and computers.

Craig’s List: If you like haggling & scammers, this is the place for you! You can sell things quickly, but people are constantly flaking out, trying to negotiate you down to nothing, or in the case of electronics, attempting all sorts of crazy scams. This is pretty much my last resort – its effective, but can drive you crazy.

Goodwill: And when all else fails, I drop stuff at Goodwill and take the receipt for tax deductions. The drop-off point at Mission & Van Ness is particularly easy – just drive up and they help you unload your car. And I really like that this organization is more than just recycling stuff – they create a lot of jobs and training for people who have a tough time finding employment.

 

 

 

The Plan

Everyone keeps asking if I’m going to blog about my adventures, so I figure this is a good time to start…Here’s a rough plan of where we are headed, though I expect most of this will change:

April
:
Empty the apartment, figure out how to get a year’s worth of clothing into a bag I can carry without a fork lift, panic.

May
:
Road trip the southern US before I sell my car: Rachel & Stefan’s Epic Road Trip on Roadtrippers

June & July
:
Europe! Plans include Copenhagen, Paris, Duisburg, London.. will you be in Europe this summer? Let’s meet up!

July 28-Aug 8
:
Back to SF for a friend’s wedding (not mine, everyone, calm down) and to prep for…

August & September
:
…Africa! It starts with a gorilla trek in Rwanda, followed by Tanzania for a game safari, then we’ll figure out the rest. I’m currently thinking Zanzibar, Mozanbique, Botswana, and South Africa.

October
:
Dubai & Singapore?

November
:
Southeast Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Phillippines, Vietnam?

December
:
Australia

January
:
New Zealand

February
:
India & Sri Lanka

March
:
Japan for cherry blossoms!