We're on the countdown now. My diary has the number of days until we leave. I'm excited. Amy's excited. We're beginning to do all the last minute – well, the last 3 week – things that need to be done. I'm making lists. I get to do the Geeky Stuff List.
There are all sorts of bits and pieces that you think about when you're going to be away for a few months. A few weeks – easy. You can wing it and make do on a lot of things. But two months leaves me reluctant to just make do. Especially when you're traveling around as much as we are, and have big chunks of time on our itinerary labeled 'we'll spend time in this state' with not much else - like somewhere to stay – planned for it.
Most mobile phone networks work on the 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies – but in the US they use the 850 and 1900 MHz frequencies. So if we have a quad band phone – one that works on all four GSM frequencies - we can use the US network. And with a quad band phone we can use any other network in the world as well. With a US prepaid sim card, we get a US phone number and pay local call rates for calls in the US. We could have used my phone - but that gets expensive and inconvenient. It means we make international calls every time we want to make a local call in the US, because my phone will come back to it's network in Australia, and then call the US. So even if we're calling the pizza place down the street in NYC, it'll be an international call. Or I could get a US sim card and put it in my phone – but that's a nuisance because there are folks that have that number for contacting us in the US – like the marriage ceremony folks in Canada.
I found this neat website that sells US prepaid sim cards and quad band phones that'll work in the US. I've ordered a quad band phone and prepaid sim card for T-mobile, and all being well, it should arrive in the next day or two. That gives us a US cell phone number. (see – I'm getting in the swing of things – Australians have mobile phones, but Americans have cell phones).
Then there are the travel books and guides. I've got a pile of them on the bedside table at home. Big, with pretty pictures and lots of detail. Most of it’s really useful detail. And as heavy as.......well, really very heavy. I could use up all of my luggage allocation on travel guides and pay excess costs to bring a spare pair of knickers and a clean t-shirt. I thought about scanning and then transferring to my laptop, but that seemed like an awful lot of work. And then I visited the Lonely Planet website. And there it all is – all ready to download a chapter at a time. So I burned through some bandwidth and now I've got the lot on a USB stick.
We'll take tons of photos – but I've heard too many horror stories of stolen cameras, and SD cards that fail to rest easily with that. Problem solved – 160 GB portable hard drive. And some spare USB sticks just to be sure.
None of this is any use without a computer to run it through. So, I’ve got a tiny Asus EeePC. Weighs less than 1kg, has flash memory – so it it’s a bit sturdier than one with a hard drive, even though it doesn’t have a lot of memory. A 7inch screen is fine, and the webcam and internet connectivity do their respective jobs beautifully.
Then we need something to put it all in. I'm a big believer in the just the right piece of luggage idea. This works along the lines of don't make do – get the bit of luggage that will do the job right. And have as few pieces of luggage as reasonably possible. This means that Amy and I've been having long discussions about camera bags. Well in fairness to Amy, I've been having long discussions and she's been listening. I reckon that if we're going to be on and off all sorts of planes and trains and automobiles and doing a lot of walking and wandering around – then we wants something that's easy to carry, and won't drop and droop all over the place. And I wanted it to keep all our stuff safe – Amy's Nikon SLR, my little waterproof, droproof, indestructible Olympus, the video camera. And all the assorted cards and drives and stuff that go with them. And there's also the tiny laptop. And the portable hard drive for backups. We've looked at things on eBay. We've looked at things in hiking shops. We wound up at the camera shop and got a nifty backpack. It's got a part for the cameras, with little bits for all the storage cards. It's got another padded bit just for laptops, that'll make it easy to get it out at the x-ray things for security at airports. And there's another bit that's normal backpack, so we can out bits and pieces in that as well. It looks like an ordinary back pack, so I'm hoping that it won't be a target for theft. Just The Right Thing.
In the end I couldn't help myself and decided that I wanted a new Crumpler bag as well. Yeah – I could take the grey Crumpler that I bought in Singapore. Or I could take the grey and brown Valaguzza laptop bag that I took to Harvard. But I wanted a bag that was 'the bag I got for our big US trip'. And heck – new bags, new camera bag. New Crumpler bag too.
So the geeky things are sorted. Yeah - we'll pack some clothes and stuff. I'm lucky that Amy's great at sorting all that, and she's having conversations about shorts, and jeans and t-shirts. But the important things are all sorted.