Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Well hey, time to dust off this old thing and get typing

So, I've been spending my free time recently preparing for my new trip, which in less than 2 weeks now. Just a brief one, a flight out to Beijing, an excursion to Datong, some relaxing time in the south of China before I dive into Hong Kong, and then onwards to Taiwan and Japan.

The excitement has finally started to really hit me, I can't wait to sling a bag across my shoulders, board a plane to the unknown and find some incredible people, eat some amazing food and have my mind blown by... well, mindblowing things. Should be fun.

As I'm not actually travelling yet, I thought I'd use this opportunity to say the kinds of things I do before I head off travelling. I've had people ask me what I book, how I prepare, what kinds of things I take; so here it all is!

The plan

I usually am travelling because I want an adventure. I don't really believe that you can properly explore something or somewhere if you plan everything in advance. Consistently on my travels, the stories that remain affixed in my mind are not the planned ones, but the random people on the train which led to a night of partying in Rome, the couple on the night bus in Laos who told us about riding the rapids in rubber rings, the split second decision to go up Marina Bay Sands. So I book as little as I can. Still, there are a few rules I abide by:
  1. Always have a hotel/hostel booked after getting off the plane. There is no worse feeling than having nowhere to go and not enough energy to look.
  2. Always have enough spare money for a plane ticket home, insurance claims take time.
  3. A lack of planning does not equal a lack of information. Be informed about what you could do, and choose to do it when you're there.
For this trip, I had to book a surprising amount in advance in order to get the Chinese Tourist Visa, though I've tried to keep it to a minimum. Getting the visa itself is surprisingly simple, but they insist on having a lot of supporting documents, so remembering to print everything was my biggest concern.

Great websites for preparing stuff:

http://skyscanner.com -> Consistently finds the cheapest flights for me
http://www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains/ -> Very friendly service who sorted out my trains inside China from abroad at very reasonable rates
http://hostelbookers.com and http://hostelworld.com -> Great for finding places to stay with a bit of an atmosphere (hotels can be so antisocial)

The gear

For this trip, I've purchased a Minaal Carry-On bag, which can be found here; though I don't actually have it yet... I'm keeping my fingers crossed it'll arrive in time! As far as I'm concerned, it's perfect. Many pockets, carry on size, comfortable, and it looks awesome. What more could you want? Also, the guys who make it are nothing short of awesome, and have tried really hard to get it to me before I go; so, you should buy one too.

I like to put my clothes into air-tight bags which really squishes it down, and for a trip of almost any length have about the same amount of clothes with me: about enough for 4 days. Any more you can wash them (or buy them along the way!), any less and you have everything sorted.

As for key essentials, I always pack a nice shirt (never know when you'll be invited out!), my kindle, a USB stick loaded with a bootable Linux install (never trust an internet cafe), and my camera.

My camera is a Sony NEX C3, the original, not the new shiny one sadly. I love it as a travelling camera as it's very small, but has a massive sensor for getting some really lovely pictures. I have two lenses, one is an 18-55MM F/3.5-5.6 lens which is my default go-to, and for portrait and macro shots I have a fixed 50mm F1.8 lens I tout around with me. Hoping to save up and purchase a pancake lens some day, to keep the size down further, but that's in the future.

Well, thanks for reading this admittedly brief post. As mentioned, I just wanted to dust off the old keyboard and let people know I will be writing while out there, though I'm still working out the logistics of posting from a country that blocks blogger. Where there's a will there's a way! I appreciate you reading.

And I'll leave you with a quote that has really resonated with me lately:

"If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough".

Cheers,

Andy

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