Gear Review: The Kelty 44L Pack

Here she is. The  Kelty Redwing 44 L Backpack 2013 – Black. I’ve been traveling for a few years with this pack as my mid range option. I’ve made this beast work for numerous  month long trips to both Asia, as well as Europe. I also use this pack for my shorter 10-20 day excursions as well. From Cabo, to Bangkok the Kelty 44 Redwing gets it done. Please use the above link to purchase.

Lets take a look at the specs.

Features

Specifications

    • Dual side pockets
    • Front pocket with organization
    • Front Stash pocket with closure hook
    • Top stash pocket
    • Side compression straps
    • Water bottle pockets
    • Dual use Laptop / Hydration Sleeve
    • Hide-Away Daisy Chain and Handle
    • Ice axe/trekking pole loops
    • Key fob
    • HDPE frame sheet
    • Hex Mesh back panel, shoulder straps and waist belt
    • Padded and ventilating back panel
    • Sternum strap
    • Load lifter straps
    • Single LightBeam aluminum stay
    • Removable waist belt
    • Volume: 2700 in3 / 44 L
    • Frame Type:  Internal
    • Weight:  2 lbs 10 oz / 1.2 kg
    • Torso Fit Range:  14.5 – 18.5 in / 37 – 47 cm
    • Dimensions: 25 x 15 x 12 in / 64 x 38 x 30 cm
    Body Fabric: 
    Poly 420D Small Back StaffordReinforcement Fabric: 
    Poly 75x150D Tasser Coal

    Frame Material: 
    Aluminum + HDPE

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fresh with a crumpled Ukrainian air tag, on the floor of the Chicago L train from the airport to the loop.

IMG_6958 This bag has served as a carry on for me with numerous regional carriers, LCC’s and everything in between. I’ve never had a problem using this pack as a carry on. 2016 I logged 225k miles in the air or so, and use the Kelty as my “one bag” option.

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Here is a handy video of the features.

I have loved this pack, and its versatile features. The zipper design means I dont have to use it as a top load only, and thus smashing all of my stuff into the bottom. I have traveled with laptops, tablets, etc, and this is a superb design for the digital nomad, and mobile professional.

Kelty Redwing 44 L Backpack 2013 – Black

Please leave a comment with any questions or comments. Thank you!

Writing tips from Nomadic Matt

If  you ever venture through the world of travel writing, you will run across Nomadic Matt.  I dig his stuff.  I wanted to share a recent post on writing tips that I found super  helpful Find the site here

His site is a kind of institution, and deservedly so. He’s been in the game for quite a while, and is typically ranked as one of the busiest travel blogs on the web. I found this guide a great primer, and wanted to share with the community here.

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This post is a little inside baseball about travel writing. It’s a follow-up to my semi-ongoing series on travel blogging that started with this post, continued with this one, and will now (probably) end with this post here. To me, the crux of all online endeavors is good writing. With so many blogs out there, if you can’t write engaging stories, you’ll never get anywhere! So today, I want to introduce one of my favorite travel writers, David Farley, who is going to share 11 writing tips for fellow bloggers and writers out there! Here’s David:

I always thought that once I started writing for glossy travel magazines, I could relax a bit because I’d “made it.” Nope! Then I thought that once I began penning pieces for the New York Times, I could say I was successful. Not. At. All. OK, maybe when I had a book out, published by a major publishing house, things would get a bit easier for me. I wish!

Writers, in some way, are a sorry lot. Rarely do they ever look at something and say “perfect!” Maybe for a moment — but give a writer a day and he or she will come back to that same article and find dozens of mistakes. Writing is a craft you never perfect.

We’re always striving to be better. Creatives tend to be perfectionists. Writing requires you to keep learning and improving.

But that’s good, because that drive makes writers improve their work. And only through practice and effort do we end up with the Hemingways, Brysons, Gilberts, and Kings of the world. (Matt says: I once heard that until the day he died, Frost never loved “The Road Not Taken.” He was constantly reworking it!)

If you’re a travel blogger, you probably started off not as a writer with a journalism background but as a traveler looking to share your experience. You probably didn’t have any formal training or someone to peer over your shoulder and give you advice.

So today I wanted to share 11 tips that will help you improve your travel writing or blogging. Because the world always needs good writers — and good writing helps get your story heard more! These tips, if followed, will better your writing and make a huge difference in the reach of your writing!

11 Ways to Improve Your Travel Writing/Blogging

an ope notebook on a desk, photo by @waferboard (flickr)
1. Read. This is number one. because whenever a budding writer asks me how they can improve, it’s my first piece of advice. Read good writing. Absorb it. Let it sink into your soul. Don’t think it’s possible? When I was first starting out, I was sick one weekend, so I spent three days lying in bed reading every page of that year’s Best American Travel Writing anthology. After I finished, I opened up my laptop and started writing for the first time in days. What came out surprised me: it was the highest-quality writing I’d done to date. And it was all because I was absorbed in good writing and it filtered through me back onto the page in my own writing.

(Matt says: Here’s a list of my favorite travel books.)

2. Do it for love. Maya Angelou wrote, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.” Don’t get into travel writing for the money — after all, that would be totally unrealistic. And please don’t gravitate to the genre because you want free trips and hotel rooms. “Instead,” Ms. Angelou added, “do [it] so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Or, in other words, strive to become such a good writer that the editors of all the publications you have been dreaming to write for can’t ignore you anymore.

3. Don’t be attached to linear writing. You need not compose a piece from beginning to middle to end. Sometimes that’s not the ideal structure of the story. Sure, maybe you’ve already figured that out. But if not, it’s OK to just get a few scenes and paragraphs of exposition down “on paper.” Then you can step back and take a look at the bigger picture and rearrange what you have, figuring out the best way to tell the story.

4. Tap into your own sense of motivation and drive. The students of mine at New York University who have been most successful were not always the most talented in the class. But they were the most driven. They’d read enough quality writing and thought about it — understanding what made it so wonderful — that there was just something about writing that they got. They weren’t born with that understanding, but ambition drove them to seek out better writing and then to think about it, to analyze what made it good (or not so good). Drive also inspires future successful writers to go out on a limb, to render themselves vulnerable, by reaching out to more accomplished writers to ask for advice, or by introducing themselves to editors at events or conferences. Don’t be shy! Standing in the corner quietly won’t get you as far as putting your hand out to introduce yourself will.

5. Try to figure out what gets your mind and writing flowing. Let me explain: I can sit down at my laptop and stare at a blank Word document for hours, not sure how to start a story or what to write about. Then I’ll respond to an email from a friend who wants to know about the trip I’m trying to write about. I’ll write a long email with cool and interesting anecdotes about my experience and include some analysis about the place and culture. And then I’ll realize: I can just cut and paste this right into the empty Word doc I’ve been staring at for the last three hours! Several of my published articles have blocks of texts that were originally written as parts of emails to friends. The “email trick” might not work for everyone, but there is inevitably some trick for the rest of you — be it talking to a friend or free-associating in your journal.

6. Understand all aspects of storytelling. There are two types of travel writing: commercial and personal essay (or memoir). In commercial travel writing, you should make the various parts of the story an intrinsic aspect of your knowledge: from ways to write a lede to the nut graph, scenes, exposition, and conclusions. For memoir and personal essays, know what narrative arc means like the back of your typing hands. It helps to get an intuitive understanding of these things by paying attention to writing — to reading like a writer — as you read nonfiction (and travel) articles.

7. Don’t stress if your first draft is shit. Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” And he wasn’t kidding. I find this true when I’m writing a personal essay or travel memoir. I write and I write and I write, and I’m not exactly sure what I’m putting down on paper. What’s the point of this? I ask myself. Why am I even doing this? But here is where patience comes in: eventually, the clouds part, the proverbial sunbeam from the heavens shines down on our computer monitors, and we see the point of it all: we finally figure out what it is we’re writing and how to best tell that story. It just happens like magic sometimes. And not all at once: sometimes it’s bit by bit, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But as I mentioned, patience is key, because we never know when that divine magic is going to be activated. But sit around long enough and it will happen, I promise you. (Just be cautious when taking Hemingway’s other writing advice: “Write drunk, edit sober.”)

8. Write what you know. “Start telling the stories that only you can tell,” said writer Neil Gaiman, “because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.”

9. When you’re finished with a draft, read it out loud. Preferably, print it out and read it out loud. This will allow you to better hear how the piece sounds, and unacceptable segues and clunky sentences or turns of phrases will jump out at you in a more obvious way.

10. Always get another set of eyes on your writing. While all writers make mistakes, it’s harder to spot them without an editor. Editors are very important, but they don’t necessarily have to be someone with formal training. While hiring a copyeditor is always great, if you can just get a friend to read your blog or story, that might be good enough.

It’s even better if you have someone who doesn’t know about travel. I have a friend who doesn’t travel much; she reads all my blog posts because she helps me make sure I include the important details I might have skipped. See, when you’re an expert on something, you often fill in the blanks in your mind. You go from A to C automatically; step B becomes subconscious. And when you write, you skip step B because it seems so obvious. Getting someone who doesn’t know the steps will help ensure you include explain everything in your post and don’t leave your readers going, “Huh?”

11. Finally, learn to self-edit. This is where many people go wrong. They write, they read it over, they post. And then feel embarrassed as they say, “Oh, man, I can’t believe I missed that typo.” You don’t need to be master editor, but if you follow a few principles, it will go a long way: First, write something and let it sit for a few days before editing. After your first round of edits, repeat the process. Get another set of eyes on it. Print out a checklist of grammar rules to go through as you edit. (Note: Matt created one here for you.) As you review your work, say to yourself, “Did I do this? Did I do that?” If you follow the cheat sheet, you’ll catch most of your mistakes and end up with a much better final product!

Writing is an art form. It takes a lot of practice. When you’re a blogger out on your own, it can be harder to improve your work, because you don’t have an experienced voice giving you tips and advice and pushing you to be better. If you don’t take it upon yourself to be better, you never will be. However, even if you aren’t blessed to work under an editor, these 11 tips can help you improve your writing today and become a much better blogger, writing stories people want to read!

David Farley has been writing about travel, food, and culture for over twenty years. His work has appeared in AFAR magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, and World Hum, among other publications. In 2006 and 2013, he won the Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers for magazine articles he wrote. He has lived in Prague, Paris, and Rome and now New York City. He is the author of An Irreverent Curiosity and was a host for National Geographic. He teaches writing at Columbia University and New York University.

 

The Silver Lining/Solo Travel Pt2

p8cvVmW“I want to travel, but i’m scared to go alone”.

I was too once upon a time, and an unlikely turn of events kicked my ass right out my front door. 

 

Disaster strikes at the most inopportune times.  From my last post, here: (https://gypsyprofessor.com/2018/01/24/on-the-path-to-solo-travel/)

I was all set to book tickets to south eastern Europe, only waiting on my friend to stop by and pull the proverbial trigger on airfare.  We had waited for weeks. I was pouring over Instagram and travel forums looking at pictures of Sarajevo, Skopje, and Dubrovnik. I was obsessed with getting over the pond. It had been far too long. I missed the feeling of the unknown, the swirl of foreign languages and the assault on the senses.  We were all set.

My buddy’s excuses had put pressure on the entire process and played a bit of pinball with my level of anxiety. Almost a month delayed now, he finally  showed up, but not to book…to give me one final, and fatal fucked up excuse.

“Hey man, bad news, I don’t think I can pull it off, I cant get the time off work..etc, etc.

All of the eye roll emojis in the world could not convey my feeling at that moment.

 

I was crushed. 

 

Absolutely crushed.  I felt betrayed, frustrated and pissed. My carefully constructed plans dashed and disregarded. But there was more.

Dubrovnik

Now that I was in my doldrums, I walked away from the computer and my buddy  for the remainder of the afternoon. I went for a walk. I  attempted  to console myself with other options, a road trip maybe, or something domestic. I pondered and I plotted. Tied up in a knot of frustration,  and angst, I felt no progress near at hand.

Eventually that night, I ended up back at my place, and in a deep google routed rabbit’s hole. I ended up falling back on some trusted wisdom from some personal favorites. Bukowski, Hunter S Thompson, and Henry Miller.

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”  -HST
I peeled back a few layers of the onion and thought about why I thought I had to rely on other people for this particular dream.  I realized that nothing great comes easy. The people around me had 1,000 excuses not to pursue their dreams. I had reached a point where I refused to be one of them.
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“Fuck it”
“I’m going solo”
This was one of the most defining decisions of my life. As of this writing I have traveled to 69 countries. Some years I travel over two hundred thousand air miles. Travel becomes an obsession. Words like “tourist” no longer have any meaning for you.    The vast majority of these adventures  have been solo. Christmas in Sarajevo? Or Perhaps visiting an elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka? Few are signing up for that.  That’s perfect.
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.”
Either embrace the unknown, or get comfortable in the wet pantload of your excuses to stay stagnant.  It  was time for me to take flight. Lets grab this ticket and make the most of it!
Aw shit. Another hurdle rises in the mist.   My saved routes to Budapest, Vienna, and Zagreb had doubled since the afternoon…I’m in the zone though, I cant be stopped. Embrace uncertainty, shed the illusion of control right?
So I rolled the dice, I frantically dissected the map of Europe, I held my breath for that sheer burst of serendipity, shit, I would have been ecstatic for  divine intervention at that point as well. Into the wee hours of the morning, the siege on my ticket prices finally broke. What a 3 am Rush!   Where am I going to land?!
Ladies and gentlemen… Looks like we are headed to Lithuania!!
Wait, what? Lithuania!?
Giddddddy Up!
Baltic adventure/pt 3  coming up next!
Happy weekend!

Friday Motivation

 

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The weekend is nearly upon us! It’s time once again to momentarily shed the office shackles and wander a bit farther afield…Even if only in our imaginations.

Today’s blurb comes to us from an unlikely source.

 

Remember that there needs to be a balance, don’t kill your self for a company/job that would replace you in minutes.

Take care of yourself.

“The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being.”

– Karl Marx, 1844

 

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Now rock that weekend!

Caribbean dreamin’

It’s been damn cold here in Michigan. As friends have not hesitated to remind me, I seem to have missed the really cold days, but I’m rather frigid none the less.

As the semester is underway and the rhyme and flow of the “grind” has set in, I’ve been thinking of Haiti yet again. I’ve been thinking of the island nation on a few different levels.

The first of which is downright adversity. Our last full day on the island was dedicated to a roadtrip to the sea. We tried to go the day before, yet couldn’t find a car. After overcoming this obstacle through much time, hard currency and angst, we then could find no fuel.

What?

That’s right. Port Au Prince was seized by a petrol crises. When was the last time you couldn’t go somewhere because when pulling into your local gas station a 12 gauge wielding team of guards informed you “no gasoline”?

Makes for a frustrated road trip. But this is a common occurrence for Haiti, especially in the capital. The solution? Dollars and time. Our fixer cobbled together a gallon here, a gallon there. We were set for early nothing the next day. To the sea we will go!

A mere hour outside the city is akin to visiting another planet. This is what I had imagined when thinking of a quick week run immediately before the semester. You know, coconuts n shit. Sandy beaches. Drinks with wee umbrellas.

Taking a day to lounge along the Côte des Arcadins is majestic. Slow, easy and not butchered by gaudy resorts. This day on the sea allowed me to begin to wrap my mind around Haiti. I had gone from the context of adversity to one of calm beauty. I did drink out of a damn coconut and floated for a while. These memories are extra potent when confronting sub zero Michigan temps. My final layer/level to Haiti that comes to mind is sheer tenacity. The savage beauty of the landscape as well as the people. I think back to the Ghetto Biennale, and Andre Eugene, the resident artist and curator. I think of seeing the kids of the art collective assemble amazing pieces, and having literally nothing. Living in a tent city.

I think about the grit that it takes to create, despite living in actual realized destruction. While I listen to my students bitch about the battery life of their new iPhones wearing their pajamas to class because they can’t be bothered to find actual pants. They “can’t even” as they say.

I think about Haiti. I think about how this place caught me off guard. Destroyed my intestinal tract, proved much more expensive and difficult than originally intended, how it caused friction among friends and could prove absolutley exhausting. But all of that aside, Haiti changed my perspective. I gassed up my private automobile yesterday…without issue. I drive where I want and things around me work for the most part.

You should smile about that.

Our political situation is nutty, with the US president calling Haiti a “Shithole” and promising to deport more Haitians…and this isn’t the post to delve into colonial legacy, but it’s something that deserves far more attention than it currently gets.

I think about Haiti, and I smile. I’m thankful for seeing a vastly different world, and yet again what that human spirit is capable of.

Thank you!

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Comments and feed back always appreciated.

Weekend thoughts

5 weeks on the road. (With a few runs home mind you). Makes one think.

I wanted to share a few weekend words with you.

Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you have yet to earn.

Keep moving forward.

Happy Saturday.