Round the World Pack List

The big question… what do you bring with you on a journey lasting nine months, over four continents, through a myriad of temperatures and activities? Well, I hate to be super Swiss, but we are not as minimalist as I would like… and we brought a lot of stuff that many people leave home for a world trip. Why? Mainly, the answer is camping and diving.

We knew we wanted to trek and camp extensively in Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand, and aside from a few upgrades we decided to make, we owned all our gear. Many RTW pack lists or travel lists compiled by digital nomads say that you only need trainers, or trail runners at best, but if you try hiking in Patagonia without real boots, you’re an idiot. That’s as smart as driving a car in the Domnican Republic without a seat belt and hoping if you crash that your injuries won’t be too bad. If you plan on serious hiking, bring boots.

For diving, this was more of a question, shall we or shall we not buy gear? We plan on diving a lot this year, in the Philippines, Maldives, Indonesia, Thailand, Mauritius, Seychelles, etc… Sure, we could rent our gear each time relatively hassle-free, but that adds up in cost, plus you deal with relearning how the gear operates, rental gear is often broken or poor quality, and considering my bout with pneumonia last year, I thought it would be more prudent for me to use my own regulator if we would be spending a lot of time under water, so we decided to buy BCDs, regulators and octopuses, diving gauges, a wetsuit for me, and dive knives.

So, onto the list!

Clothing:

Katie Clothes:

  • Zip off hiking pants (double as shorts)
  • Puma black workout pants (double as “casual smart” pants)
  • thermal tights (layer under pants or dresses in cold weather, layer under both pants at once for maximum warmth)
  • Travel skirt with pockets
  • 1 Icebreaker dress
  • running shorts
  • Heart rate monitor
  • 2 athletic tanks with built-in bras
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 3/4 sleeve quick-dry travel shirt
  • Thin nightgown (doubles as a shirt on laundry days)
  • Icebreaker cardigan
  • rash guard (doubles as a long sleeve shirt in cold weather)
  • 7 undies
  • 3 hiking socks
  • 3 running socks
  • dry towel (1 big, one small)
  • sarong wrap
  • 1 bra
  • 1 sports bra
  • 2X bikini (Actually brought three because I got some Nallas, which are super thin and dry fast. Couldn’t help it…)
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Running shoes
  • Teva sandals
  • Cheap target flats that are easy to fold up
  • Gortex rain jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Big red travel scarf (my must for sleeping on planes!)
  • Buff
  • Waterproof gloves (I was devastated to lose one of these brand new, expensive gloves, less than a week into our Patagonian time…)
  • Hat (ended up bringing my running cap)
  • Sun visor

(What could I have cut out? If both my athletic tanks were supportive to run in, or if I had one athletic bra instead of a normal one as well, I could have cut out an extra bra. Technically the nightgown was not mandatory, but if you are sleeping in hostels, sometimes purposeful nightwear is helpful, especially if your only T-shirt is all sweaty. Could have cut out the third swimsuit, even if it is so small and light, or the second swimsuit as well. And I could have skipped my pair of flat shoes, which I stuck in at the end and have only worn once in Brazil so far.

Also, once we landed in NZ, I was a bad girl at the Icebreaker store and bought a second Icebreaker cardigan and another Icebreaker dress because they are styles I love, and a thin Icebreaker T-shirt to hike in because mine is mostly cotton and dries way too slow, but the tank tops chaff my shoulders raw in the pack after several hours hiking.)

Kay Clothes:

  • 2 Hiking pants zip-off
  • Chino pants
  • Icebreaker thermal tights
  • running shorts
  • HRM
  • 1 running t-shirt
  • 1 thin travel cotton t-shirt
  • 1 icebreaker t-shirt light
  • 1 icebreaker t-shirt heavy
  • 1 long sleeve travel shirt
  • 1 thermal turtleneck
  • rash guard
  • 6-10 undies
  • 4 hiking socks
  • 2 normal socks
  • Swim trunks compact and normal size (one he uses for hiking trips and under wetsuits, the other is more manly or something)
  • board shorts (double as normal shorts)
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Barefoot running shoes
  • Havaianas
  • Tevas
  • Casual dress shoes
  • Gortex rain jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Windstopper jacket (doubles as a pullover for him)
  • Gortex pants
  • Arafat Scarf
  • Buff
  • Waterproof gloves (windstopper + gortex)
  • Fingerless gloves
  • Jungle hat
  • 1 baseball cap
  • Ear muff band
  • Warm hat thick

(Oh man, Kay was hard to make pack light. Really struggled. He wanted to take like all the T-shirts on Earth, and he refused to leave his Havaianas at home and take just the Tevas for our river crossings, plus his barefoot shoes cannot double as city shoes so well, so he needed to take some normal shoes, which of course are a million times bigger and heavier than my pair of fold up flats. And his gloves were two separate pairs, one for wind/warmth and one for water, plus his fingerless gloves too… Oi.)

Toiletries:

  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • insect repellent
  • Contacts
  • Laundry washing bags
  • Laundry soap
  • Hair ties, headband
  • Comb
  • Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Aloe
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Eye cream
  • Face cream
  • Lotion
  • Shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup (small pot of foundation, brow pen, mascara, eye liner, lip stain, lipstick)
  • Extra earplugs

Carry on:

  • Canon 5DIII plus two lenses, extra battery, filters, memory cards, and chargeriPad + charger
  • Card reader
  • iPad x2
  • Phone + charger x2
  • Kindle x2
  • Passports
  • Tissues
  • Earplugs, lip balm, hand lotion
  • Wallet
  • Money belt x2
  • International plug adapters x2
  • Sunglasses, prescription and non-prescription
  • Glasses case and 1 set extra glasses
  • Bose headphones x2
  • Biotin tablets
  • Snacks
  • Gum, Ricola
  • Sleeping masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Microsoft Surface

  • Olympus Camera

  • Thermaband physical therapy band

Camping Gear:

  • Sleeping bag x2
  • Silk sack x2
  • Mammut blowup Pillow
  • Mat x2 (We upgraded our old ones to these new, thicker Exped ones. Best decision ever.)
  • Schnozzel bag to blow up the new mattresses, doubles as a waterproof bag for my sleeping bag
  • Plastic utensils
  • Folding snap-up plates, bowls, and cups
  • Headlamps
  • 1 neck lamp for Kay
  • Swiss Army knife x2
  • Water bottle x2
  • Camelbaks x2
  • Hiking Sticks (We also upgraded and bought new, extremely light and collapsible ones)
  • Rain cover for my pack, doubles as an airport transport bag
  • Dry bags a plenty
  • Tent
  • Outdoor GPS
  • MSR Cooker + repair set
  • Fuel bottle
  • Fire Starter
  • Magnesium Block
  • Water Filter
  • Aquamira
  • Water transport bag
  • Cooking pans
  • Jetboil (we bought this in NZ after a lot of debate, it made some of the hikes a lot easier)
  • Lighter x2
  • Dextrose sugar tablets
  • Some dry bag food we had at home
  • Some running gels lying around at home, which we would have had to throw out for the movers otherwise.

Medical kit: Also for camping

  • First aid kit
  • Mirror
  • Whistle
  • Chem Lights
  • Tourniquet
  • Sam Splint
  • Paracord
  • Zip lock bags
  • Duct tape
  • Rubberbands
  • Locks
  • Sewing kit
  • Coal Tabletts
  • Immodium
  • Malarone (anti malarial tablets, as we are going to some heavy malaria zones)
  • Ibuprofen/aspirin
  • Thermometer
  • Alkaline Soap
  • Fenistil (itch relief for bug bites)
  • Compeed (blister patches)

Baggage:

  • Mystery Ranch trekking backpacks x2 (My checked bag and Kay’s carryon and personal item)
  • Ortlieb watertight bag (Kay’s checked bag)
  • Exped watertight backpack (My carryon)
  • Camera bag (My personal item)
  • Pack-able day pack from Osprey
  • Pacsafes x2
  • 1 extra big light duffle bag as a temporary stash bag between hikes

Diving:

  • Mask x2
  • Snorkel x2
  • Gloves x2
  • Padi licenses x2
  • Dive computer x2
  • Dive computer connectors
  • BCDs x2
  • Sharkskin wetsuit
  • Dive case for Olympus

So, that’s it. If you aren’t going to be doing serious trekking like we planned, and you don’t dive, or will be diving minimally and happy to rent here or there, that would already cut a ton of things off your list. Even for the medical kit alone, we only brought half the stuff in there because we knew we would be in places with no phone signal, no road access, and very few thru hikers who would be able to help us in case something happened. And since writing this, we have used most of the hiking gear including the often undervalued medical kit, with both of us having cut open blisters, used compeed, taken my temperature, used pills, ointments, etc. Thankfully we did not need the tourniquet yet. 😉

If you are planning an “easy” city-style RTW trip mostly staying in hostels or hotels and not camping God knows where next to some freezing weather, this list is probably not for you. 🙂

Star Alliance Round the World Ticket

Having dreamed of and discussed a round the world trip for years, Kay and I started casually talking about doing it for real when he started his summer internship in Germany last summer. As the summer went on, we both felt more and more like the timing was right. When Kay was done with school, I would quit my job and we would take some time off together and travel before starting something new. We both needed the time to relax, unwind, and reconnect with each other.

But where to go? We talked about this all summer and into the school year as well. Kay thought about just going to Australia for 3-4 months and renting a camper and driving around the outback, but I… I wanted to see everything! (And wives always get their way in the end, don’t they?) Also, we didn’t find ot how long we should travel until Kay graduated almost, so we waited really late and bought tickets on December 22 for 9 months of travel.

Having achieved the much-sought-after gold status with Star Alliance, I was very preferential to flying Star Alliance flights. Plus, I knew that Star Alliance offers the Round the World ticket, so while I looked at other round the world ticket offers like One World and 3rd party mixed-alliance-itineraries like AirTreks, I quickly just decided to go with the one that would give me instant lounge access, extra baggage, and the possibility of upgrades. It cost a bit more, but our first flight to Sao Paulo from Zurich was actually upgraded to business somehow, so already well worth the difference in price!The Round the World ticket does have some limitations, like you have to travel in one direction around the globe; ie no backtracking across the Pacific ocean more than once, although you can zigzag up and down a bit. You also have a limit of 15 stopovers, 16 segments (flights) and 39,000 total miles, which is easy to hit if you put in as many continents as I did!

After discussing which countries to visit and when, we made a little plan and it ended up making sense to start in South America and head west. I really wanted to visit Patagonia and Kay wanted to visit New Zealand, and we wanted to do both during their southern hemisphere summers, and the main point was that I wanted to be up in Japan by cherry blossom viewing in April, so those three countries decided most of it. So for now, our itinerary includes:

  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • South East Asia (Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar)
  • Maldives
  • India
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Ethiopia (this one was unplanned!)
  • South Africa

Mostly, I was trying to max out the number of stops on the ticket to save the most money per flight, also by flying direct always. You can buy round the world tickets for less money, but the cost per flight usually goes up quite a bit and you can lose value by having connecting flights that eat away at your segment limit. Our tickets cost around $6500 a person, for about $500 a piece for each one way ticket. Considering that a one way ticket from Zurich to Buenos Aires alone was over $1100, and round trip tickets would have been even more, it made sense for us to buy it. And to put it in perspective, you can buy a round the world ticket for $5200 that only takes you to 4 stopovers, for about $1050 for each ticket.

Are there cheaper ways to travel around the world? Sure. You can try places like AirTreks that search for flights on both Star Alliance and other alliances like One World, Sky Team, etc, or you can go by the seat of your pants and go where ever you find cheap tickets whenever you find them, but Kay and I are just too Swiss and we wanted to have a loose plan for the trip and the security of knowing we paid for our flights.

So, when January rolled around, we were off! More later with our packing list. 🙂

Hello from the end of the world

2016 turned out to be quite a busy year. I took 26 (self-funded) international trips out of Switzerland, most of which were spent traveling to visit Kay while he was studying in France, Singapore, later interning in Germany, and then back in Singapore. While Kay was busy finishing his MBA at INSEAD, I was busy preparing, listing, and selling our apartment (all in German without a broker!) as well as preparing our belongings for an international move. Oh, and quitting my job. 🙂

At the end of December, I traveled to Singapore one more time for Kay’s INSEAD graduation and then we came back to Switzerland for Christmas on the 23rd of December to pack our house up before the sale and pack for travels. With work permits in limbo, the earliest Kay can start working is October 1, so we are using the time to go on a long-awaited, long-debated, and long-fantasized world trip across four continents and 15 some countries.

So here I’m writing from Ushuaia, Argentina, where we are already a little way into the trip. We bought our tickets on December 22 and actually left to visit family in Brazil first on January 11, before stopping in Buenos Aires on the way down to the most southern city in the world. While there is stress planning everything last minute, the trip is as glorious as the photo below leaves you to believe.Patagonia has been on our travel list for a very long time and since it ended up making sense to buy a round the world ticket for what we wanted to do (more on that later), we ended up here first, during Patagonian “summer”.Tomorrow we are already headed to Chile to visit Puerto Natales and head to the famed Torres del Paine. This whole trip is a bit rushed so far, especially with a rocky, stressful start finalizing the flat sale and trying to detach ourselves from Switzerland (banking, ugh!), but we are on the road and on the move!

More to come whenever I have time and internet!

Pneumonia is no fun

So, to be fair… I had a good reason for falling off the face of the earth in May.

Right around my last post, I came down with what was the beginning of an aggressive drug-resistant pneumonia just before visiting Kay in Singapore for the weekend after he switched to INSEAD’s Asian campus from France, which made the flights to and from Singapore some of the worst, most painful ones I have ever endured. After two weeks trying out three different kinds of antibiotics and suffering from 40ºC fevers daily whenever my fever meds ran out, I was finally admitted to the hospital.

I really, really, really did not want to go to the hospital with Kay in a different country. I cried a lot about it. I prayed for the antibiotics to work and for myself to stop coughing into vomiting. But the fact was, the pneumonia was beating me. I was sleeping for up to 20 hours a day, I had excruciating back pain (from the muscles around my lungs, as I later found out) that made it hard to breathe at times, and  I didn’t want almost any kind of food. It was all just… disgusting, aside from fruit, fruit juice and Sprite, and sometimes cereal. But even those would come back up again when I coughed enough, and I couldn’t control my coughing, yet it was a seemingly harmless unproductive cough. I lost a lot of weight pretty quickly, which put me down to around 123lbs, a weight I haven’t been since I was around 13.

So, feeling quite alone in the world, I packed a bag up one Sunday, dried my tears, and took a tram to the hospital to check myself in, in German, not knowing how this works with insurance. Kay, six timezones away, was traveling in Bangladesh with friends for the weekend, and was beside himself with worry when he found out that I had to be hospitalized. It was all pretty freaky. He wanted to know if he should fly home, but I told him not to miss his classes and that I would be in good hands with the doctors. I’m basically a saint. 😉

The doctors took an X-ray of my lungs and were horrified to see how large the fluid in my right lung had become. While they thought they might not have to admit me, they ended up doing more tests to confirm that I had a huge “thing” in my lungs and I needed intravenous meds ASAP. They also were concerned that there was a slight risk I could maybe have tuberculosis (that’s something fun to hear!), so they immediately put me in isolation in the emergency ward before finding me a private room to isolate me. Suddenly being masked and isolated (all auf deutsch) was kind of surreal. Kay was asleep by that point and after a visit from my FIL, I was all alone again, kind of freaking out.

When they finally found a room for me, which normally I wouldn’t qualify for on my insurance, but they needed to isolate me, the nurse settled me in for the night, and before she left, I asked her what my room number was. “17”.

Kay’s special army number. Somehow, I felt like it was my MIL acting from above, and letting me know that everything will be alright, even if Kay was so far away. It reassured me some as I spent the first night in that dark room terrified.

I ended up staying for ten days in the hospital. My case was apparently of great interest to the doctors for how extreme it was, but I started feeling better, and eventually was released to spend another week at home before going back to work after a full month away.

The meds at home were still pretty nasty and made me feel very ill and nauseous, but back at work, I slowly started getting better. I looked terribly gaunt and unwell thought. My skin was sallow, my cheekbones were hollow, and I had dark, exhausted circles under my eyes. Ain’t no makeup gonna cover up some unhealthy skin like that… I wasn’t fooling anyone!

Kay and I also had to spend almost 2 months apart, because I was too unwell to travel and visit him anymore. We didn’t see each other again until he flew home for my birthday in July before starting his summer internship in Germany. It was really hard being apart so long, but since then, we’ve managed to see each other every weekend in the summer and not longer than 2-3 weeks apart for the rest of the school year.

I’ve had several follow up appointments to check up if the pneumonia and my lungs are healing well, with almost twice the time to check for healing as with normal pneumonia cases. I was surprised how many people in the hospital have heard and discussed my case… it makes it sound like one of those Grey’s Anatomy cases where the doctors say, “Hey, look how crazy this is! Have you ever seen anything like it??” In fact, for happening in May, I still have to go for a lung panel next week to test if my lungs are working properly. But considering that I continued my training for a half marathon after the pneumonia and successfully ran it in September, I am not too worried. 🙂

As things stand now, Kay is almost done with classes, finishing up later this month. I have traveled SO much since then, and have lots to fill you up on. We have a lot of exciting plans for next year and I know I will have time to update the blog! More soon. 🙂

Gluten Free Brasilia, Brazil

I didn’t really worry about how to eat gluten free on our whole trip to Brazil. The main food we eat is churrasco, which is BBQ meat with beans, rice, veggies, and salad. Plus, Brazilians label all packaged food, even things like cachaçha, as gluten free.
For breakfast at our hotel, there was also usually pão de queijo- cheese bread- which is made out of tapioca flour.There was also always a lot of fresh fruit to enjoy, and lots of Brazilian coffee!With lots of fresh vegetables and options, I was not feeling left out of the food scene, although I did miss enjoying the subzero beer from my previous visit in 2010. They serve beer extremely cold and keep it in a thermos on your table, ensuring that each glass you have is ice cold. Plus as soon as you finish the bottle, another one was on its way. I had to be a little more careful with the caipirinhas. 🙂Some meals were not quite as amazing as others, like this mediocre salad below, but that happens when you’re eating in a mall.We also enjoyed lots of cafezinhos, little coffees.If there was one thing we got enough of on this holiday, it was MEAT. Glorious meat.Another favorite of mine is Brazilian tapioca, which are a kind of pancake made out of tapioca flour, often served with condensed cream and coconut. Although they are less common outside the north of the country, we found them in a mall and made sure to order some!Another part of churrasco’s feijoada – stewed beans and pork served over rice- is farofa, which is toasted cassava, or tapioca, that you can see in the lower left of the photo above. That was also a typical part of my Brazilian diet. 🙂

Not all the people know what gluten is, but eating gluten free in Brazil is still a pretty painless process. The most painful part was eating too much meat and not enough vegetables!