Saturday, July 26, 2008

Algonquin Park

I went camping at Algonquin Park for 5 days and 4 nights with my gf, Kristin. We covered about 50km in 4 "full" days of hiking, which probably doesn't seem like much considering you can cover that driving on a highway in ~20 min, or on a bike in 2 hrs, but it was a lot. We averaged around 2.5km/ hr when walking, and we both though we had a good "pace" considering how heavy our packs were ( I'm pretty sure mine was around 40lbs ), and how uneven/ rough the terrain was. So a typical day we would...

wake up sometime between 7 and 8 am
Get the food out of the trees ( to prevent animals from eating it), eat breakfast
Pack up our stuff and head out around 10am
Hike for 2-3 hrs with a short 10 minute break here or there to eat a cliff bar/ apple
Eat a lunch around 1pm. Taking a good hour break for lunch
Hike another 2-3 hrs and finally settle down around 4pm.
Go for a quick swim, soap up a bit, set up camp and eat dinner around 7pm.

For food we had oatmeal/ granola for breakfast, apples/cliff bars for snacks, trail mix or crackers with peanut butter for lunch, and dehydrated foods (tofu pesto/ red pepper pasta/ chicken + peas) or canned chili or rice pilaf and tuna for dinner.

The food got a little repetitive, and the dehydrated foods- although very good considering how light they were, got a bit old. I didn't mind the all water diet, as for liquids I drink mainly water, beer and the occassional grapefuit/orange juice.

But all in all it was a very good trip. We got very lucky with the weather as the forecast called for rain basically every day, but we only got hit with rain on Thursday (our 2nd to last day). We saw a moose (A MOOSE!) in the woods, plenty of bear tracks, quite a few birds, a snake (priceless sounds from Kristin upon almost stepping on it), approximiately 50 million toads and a gazillion mosquitoes.

Highlights of the trip would probably be the campsites, we had some great views, and we had the 2 best campsites on the entire set of trails available to backpackers. Going for a swim after walking the entire day was great and just relaxing after a long day of walking was great. The walking itself varied, mosqsuitoes were a pain in the ass but it gave me a lot of time to think about nothing- clear my head a bit. Its kindof funny but before the trip it occurred to me that i'd have a lot of time to think about things, but i ended up spending the whole walks just thinking about nothing.

Anyways, without further ado, here are some pictures

note: if you have a facebook account, this will bring you to your inbox. Just go to my profile and then you'll see it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pick your favorite apartment

You can include number 1, but its booked solid for the next year and a half, so it seems that we're shit outta luck on that one. Let me know what your top 3 picks are and why. Things to keep in mind: Consider all to be in our price range, although number 8 is certainly pushing it. I'd prefer you rate them entirely based on which house you'd want to live in with 2 close friends, and then to use their price as a tiebreaker.

1. 1840/mo

2. 1400/mo

3. 2300/mo

4. 1500/mo

5. 2300/mo

6. 1150/mo

7. 2000/mo

8. 3250/mo

9. 2625/mo

10. 2540/mo

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Visited a travel clinic today. Stuff's pretty expensive. I figure I'd outline everything I do/ need to do for this trip (what i bring, what i buy, where i stay/go etc), so it can double as a way for me to remember everything i did and if any of you eventually travel, maybe give you a heads up on what to look out for etc.

So, I have been perscribed...

Dukoral (some oral medication for traveler's diarrhea. lol. supposedly its only 60% effective, which makes me wonder if i should take it. But its oral, and there aren't many substitutes for it.

Diamox high altitude sickness medication. I got prescribed this, but i might pass on it. I've been to 3000m for an afternoon and didn't feel any different, so I'm not too worried- but some others (Caitlin) swear by it. I think i'll ask some of my relatives to see if they have had trouble, and if none of them ever had, i'll just figure its genetic and that i'll be fine.

JE Vac (3 stages) for Japanese Encephalitis. Thanks, Kenta. I was originally under the impression that I'd narrowly miss the main seasons of JE through my trip except for in India, but I ended up needing it. Only issue is that it comes in 3 shots, and I can only schedule to have 2 of them done in Toronto.

Lots of Insect Repellant- Dengue Fever. Evidently Dengue Fever is a pretty big deal, there is no vaccine for it so you just need to wear long clothes, insect repellent etc. Also, unlike Malaria which strikes during morning/ evenings it happens during the day.

A "Do Not Swim In Freshwater" order from my doctor. Salt water or chlorinated pools, only. Evidently there are some snails that'll migrate to your liver or bladder and produce eggs in there for like 15 years. jesus christ.

Rabies. Evidently there's a serious shortage of Rabies vaccine, so they treat it but dont give out the vaccine itself. But I had read up on it from before (FAQ listed earlier from 4HWW) and it basically said if you get bit by anything, wash up your arm as well as possible and head to a consulate of USA/ Canada/ UK/ Switzerland asap.

Malaria. I got perscribed 85 pills of Maladrone. So I guess the deal is there are $1 pills that have side effects that include high anxiety, going crazy etc. or maladrone which is $6/pill but has less side effects. Given my history of anxiety and general distaste for medications with side effects in general- I'm going with the Maladrone. I gotta take them every day, starting the day before I enter a malaria site, and for 1 week after. Also, if I get a fever within 1 year of being in a Malaria infected area, I need to see a doctor asap and tell them I have been in one.

Yellow Fever vaccine. Matt "why would you take a vaccine for that". It gives you a really weak form of the disease, which can either make you go crazy for asian girls or make you sick and in rare cases (ie. allergies to eggs (?!?) or over 65 years old etc) can be fatal. There is a relatively high risk of getting a fever, so I'm going to wait until after my camping trip.

Tick borne encephalitis. Evidently it exists in Switzerland, but I passed on this because I worked on a farm there for 1 month and never even heard of this stuff. That, and the fact that I'll probably keep things low key if/when I reach the land of chocolate and cheese.

At this point in time, the lady who was telling me this stuff was going a bit over the top. I mean, malaria, yellow fever, some japanese thing- okay lets be careful. Wash all vegetables, use bottled water for everything, even brushing teeth- okay sure, i got it. But then she starts telling me about getting food poisoning in new zealand, or try to avoiding diahrea. And now I have been perscribed 1 medication that reduces the risk of diahhrea only marginally, and then 2 other meds. for when I inevitably get it anyways. With regards to the food poisoning, give me a break - i'm travelling for a year, things happen and I don't want to think about/ worry about some bacterial toxins when i'm eating a delicious piece of swordfish 5,000 miles away from here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Digital Camera

I'll outline everything I take with me on the trip- especially the essentials like how many pairs of socks (15.5, i'm thinking) and then as I travel what things I wish I brought, or had gotten instead.

Anyways, I don't necessarily need a new camera. I have a 3 mp camera I bought from my sister (canon sd200), and while I have had no complaints with it (minus difficulties switching it into 'take picture' mode)- and I've always felt it was the perfect digital camera for university. I bought it off my sister for relatively cheap (~ $150 if i remember correctly), it took good pictures, had high storage capacity (with sd card slot), didn't come with that ridiculously slow/annoying digital camera software, and was somewhat rugged. I also felt, due to its low cost, being an older model, that if it were to somehow break, it wouldn't be the end of the world as i knew it.

But, using it now, I'm starting to think that if i'm gonna spend a ton of money traveling around, it might make more sense to invest in a camera that takes higher quality images. My current camera does not have a high "iso" which allows you to take sharp images of moving things and some other new features are 'face recognition' software, faster shot times, higher quality (3.2 - 8+ MP), etc.

So here are a few. I'm pretty impressed with the quality (or so it seems) of these cameras for their price (under $300)

the latest (?) Canon offering. I might decide to just go with another Canon. They seemed to be the first digital camera's to "get it" with respect to ease of use, small size, excellent battery life, sd card slots etc. But not sure if they're still the "best". You may wonder why I chose to show the link of the blue one, given it comes in 5 colors. I thought it looked pretty. Yes, I said it.

According to cnet (pretty good reviews of all things digital), the sd1000 is superior to the sd1100 with everything except for optical image stabilization. what that exactly is, i'm not sure. And- it doesn't come in blue, uh oh.;rb_content;contentMain;contentBody;userOpinions

Best reviewed Canon camera. No normal viewfinder- but I never used that thing anyways. Supposedly takes "great" shots. I think as of now, this is the favorite, followed by the other 2. Please let me know if you have any advice on other cameras to look at.

Panasonic. Don't know much about Panasonic products, but it got a good review, and the user opinions were very high on it (highest I could fine of any cnet reviewed camera)

I checked out the Olympus, Nikon and but none of them got great reviews. And I think Sony makes some good products- but, I hate, hate how they create their own sd drives that are incompatible with others. If Sony's removable storage devices were superior to SD, in capacity, speeds etc, okay great. But when they do it just to pad their profits, and force their customers to buy other products that only they sell- I dont want to support that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

An interesting Outlook

This is from the FAQ that I mentioned earlier ( for those too lazy to scroll down)

"I have done a LOT of travelling throughout Africa & Asia and met a lot of other travellers on the way, and would say the most important bit of advice to give someone setting off, THE golden rule, is GO ALONE! Travelling is a very individual thing -- a companion forces you to make compromises. The dynamics between yourself and your companion intrude on the travelling and diminish the experience. A companion isolates you from others -- you become a social unit that excludes others joining in. Plus you will inevitably part company sooner or later anyway -- save yourself the grief and the wasted opportunities. There are many others on the road with whom you will team up for short periods anyway. There are plenty of watering holes en-route where you can meet up with other travellers when you find yourself needing social intercourse. There will always be others with whom you can share expenses (i.e. renting a car or guide) for short (<>

I'm not sure how the trip will go. I've traveled quite extensively with Leon and Noah, they're great guys we all get along great in that we're usually good about doing our own things and what not, but this excerpt makes me think that I should figure out some independent side trips (ie when i tour S.E. Asia, China, India) that lets me explore the areas alone. I think if i want to really want to have this trip to have a lasting effect on me, I need time alone, to see how others live, to reflect/ experience things alone.

As of right now, I'm thinking that in the places we stay for significant time we can all live together, but in areas where I want to explore, I will try and have side trips, excursions alone or travel in a route opposite to theirs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Next

So now that the flight itinerary is finished, its time to take to figure out the next course of duty and go from there.

In no particular order, I need to get shots for the countries I plan on visiting, find an apartment in BsAs, get a credit card, start to look into things to do in BsAs (and elsewhere), and figure out how much gear I'll need.

On that note, I finished the 4 hour workweek, and the end of one chapter was particularly helpful in that it listed a bunch of links for those who are ready to travel. I'm basically copying it out of the book, although my summary's will be a bit shorter. A list of articles on places to go travel Lonely Planet forum, separated by region Center for Disease Control. Find out what kinds of shots I need, etc FAQ for the traveler, with some great advice. Simple, straightforward currency exchange rates Tim Ferriss strongly recommends this power converter. Its very compact, light and supposedly does a great job. List of information on types of electrical outlets supplied worldwide

I'm gonna spend the rest of today trying to figure out what types of shots I will need, where to get them, and then start looking into credit cards. It'd be really (extremely) helpful if I could get a credit card with a high limit, but I've never had one before, so I think my only option is to get my dad to co-sign one with me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Travel Itinerary

The tickets have been purchased. It feels great to know that the plan of traveling the world, which I have wanted to do for over 2 years now, and had dreamed of doing it for much longer, is finally coming to fruition. There is still a ton more planning to do, but we've finally made some serious decisions and put the (big) initial step in place. As far as I'm concerned, its all downhill from here.

Anyways, here's the itinerary.

Sept 1st New York City to Buenos Aires

I'll be here alone from Early Sept- Mid October. I plan on taking Spanish lessons daily, exploring the city, hopefully meeting an ex-pat crowd and potentially taking jujitsu. I'm currently looking for apartments in Recoleta, which is the nicest part of BsAs, and prices are pretty reasonable, so I'm pretty sure I'll book that up in the next few weeks.

In Mid October Leon and Noah will be joining me in BsAs.

We'll move into a new apartment and probably stay there for 1 month. I'll probably keep doing whatever I do for the first 6 weeks. Trips I'm interested in- Patagonia and Iguazu falls. I might do one of these alone before they come down, but we'll see.

Mid November BsAs to Lima, Peru

Gonna go to Cuzco, Peru, possibly hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and there are a few other hot spots in Peru that Leon knows a bunch about and we'll definitely hit up.

Early December back to BsAs for a connection to Sydney, Australia

Due to some scheduling with our round the world ticket, this was our 'best' option. Ideally we wanted another 2 weeks in S. America, but this ensures we'll be in Australia/ New Zealand for Christmas and New Years. I expect we'll spend around a week to 10 days in Sydney, and then

Mid December Sydney, Australia to Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand to Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand is supposed to be amazing, so I hope to spend around a month. The southern Island is more well known for its hiking, outdoorsy stuff, and I hope we can find some great hikes, to enjoy the great views etc.

Mid January Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia

You may be wondering why we're going BsAs - Sydney - Queenstown - Melbourne, but the fact of the matter is, planning those round the world tickets is not easy, or always logical. And we wanted to go to all of these cities. I've heard a ton of great things about Melbourne, so it was on my list of places that I'd like to spend > 1 month, to live there, get to know the area really well and hopefully get a surfing lesson in.

Mid - Late February Melbourne to Hong Kong

According to most people I've asked, Hong Kong is a good place to visit for a short period of time. But its also a major hub for Cathay Pacific, one of the member airlines, so we had to include this on our list.

Late February Hong Kong to Beijing

I hope to spend around 2 weeks (maybe a bit more) in Beijing, Shanghai and Harbin. I had never heard of Harbin before, but a friend (Weijia) whose originally from there told me a bunch about its Russian influences (at one point it was under Russian rule) and it sounded like there was a lot to see in the city.

Mid March Beijing to Tokyo

Japan!!! I'm excited. I'm split between wanting to spend not so much time there, and hopefully go back when Kenta is there, or just going for a significant amount of time. So I could either be here for a week or like 4, we'll see I guess. (For purposes of this itinerary we'll say I went there for 1 week)

Late March Tokyo to Bangkok

South East Asia sounds really cool, but I'm split on if I want to make it the place where I live for a month, or if I'd rather just do a tour of the area. I'm leaning towards "blitzing" around Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and then spending a week or 2 on some beautitful beach to relax. I think my two travel buddies are leaning towards spending around 5 weeks in total. Seeing Singapore would be pretty cool, as long as I stay away from vandalising anything...

Early May Bangkok to Mumbai (Bombay), India

I know very little about India. But, I'd really like to 1) See the Taj Mahal and 2) See some of those insane Temples and 3) Possible find a place on the beach that doesn't have too many tourists, and just hang out. I think on the grand list of places tourists (from N. America) go, India isn't very high up the list (those of Indian descent notwithstanding) so maybe this would be a good opportunity to get off the beaten trail. I'm going to assume 2-3 weeks here

Late May (Early June) Mumbai (Bombay), India - Helsinki Finland

We also have a flight from Helsinki to Budapest, Budapest to Zurich and Zurich to home. I'm not sure what the exact plans are in Europe, but I really wanted to see Oslo, Norway Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. I also have heard that St. Petersburg is beautiful in the summer (all these locations are supposedly great as there is sunlight like 20 hrs/ day). There will also be the opportunity to go to Budapest, and see some of Eastern Europe (Prague, Vienna). I'd like to pick one spot and spend a decent amount of time, instead of doing a tour type of thing. And I also look forward to seeing all my family in Switzerland, and possibly spending some time there in the mountains to relax before heading back home for whatever I plan on doing next.

There's a ton of stuff I'm hopefully gonna wrap up in the near future (What laptop to buy, travel insurance, credit cards, apartment in BsAs, immunization shots) and I'll post when I find out more.

If you have any advice on any of these places, or know of a great place nearby that I'm missing out on, please hit me up with either a comment, facebook message, or email. Also, if you're gonna be somewhere that looks remotely close (in time frame) to where I am going to be, let me know and I'll do whatever I can to meet up.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Time Management

I have a few goals for my trip beyond the typical see the world, have great experiences, etc.

I figure if I have a lot of time, I should invest some of it into improving things about my life that will hopefully carry over after I am done traveling. In no particular order, the main ones off the top of my head would be to eat healthy, exercise regularly and improve my productivity.

Each could use their own blog post, so I'll focus on the last one right now.

I'm not very productive. There was a brief period, earlier this year (Feb - Finals) where I did a good job. I had unc, thesis, finals, a gf, worked out regularly and I think I managed them all reasonably well. So I know I have it in me to get a lot done, while still . But already, I notice that I get less done, and am less ambitious towards doing what I need to.

On that note, I recently got recommended the book "The 4 Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss, and a lot of what he talks about is increasing productivity. He says a lot in his book, and I definitely do not agree with all of it (maybe I'll do a full summary when I complete it), but there were two things I thought were good and worth sharing.

1. Pareto's law. 80% of the results often take 20% of the effort ( On a side note, this explains my overall marks in engineering extremely well...). He uses the example that you can cut out the unneccessary stuff that is wasting 80% of your time, and significantly improve your life/ amount of free time. I think of this more in the opposite sense, in that if you really want to do something well, you're gonna need to work 5x as hard as the guy whose fine with just getting by.

2. Batching and Interruption. The idea that constant interruptions can stop you from getting things done, and to avoid them you should only check your email 2x a day (but not 1st thing in the morning because you're most productive then) and avoid reading the news on a regular basis. Batching is the idea that doing a bunch of tasks at once will save time and increase productivity versus spreading them out. (ie, checking emails every 5 minutes and responding to them when you get them versus only looking at 2 specific times per day)

So my goal for the next week (and beyond) is to check my emails very infrequently. Given I don't work a 9 to 5 there is no harm in checking my email first thing in the morning, but I'll try for noon and after dinner (~ 8 pm).

I also want to have a daily schedule (during the week). I'm going to work on this, but hopefully I can figure it out over this weekend and post it up here on Monday ( and spend 2 weeks working at it)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I need to learn spanish.

My first destination has been decided on- it'll be Buenos Aires. I'll head there in early September, and live there for around 3- 3.5 months, not including any excursions around South America. On that list (which is short now, but I'm sure will expand a ton in the near future), is Patagonia and hiking to see machu picchu. But given that I'll be alone at the start of the trip, I'm gonna need to have some familiarity with spanish to get around, etc.

I found this which is pretty interesting in its analysis of what the best way to learn a language is. I can't find part 2, which is too bad because that might've held some other good advice (if you find it- link me please). Regardless, my plan will be to use Pimsleur spanish (which I just picked up- will start tomorrow morning) and will do 1 or 2 sessions a day monday- friday and then when i get to BsAs, sign up for some spanish lessons. From there I will follow Tim Ferriss's advice, and try and get lessons on subjects that interest me and hope to gain some sort of a foothold on Spanish.

Anyways, theres a bunch of things to organize in the near future and I'll keep with the plan and give each their own seperate post.