Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Packing Riddle

The Riddle: What is an object that you can add things to, but it doesn't gain weight?

(keep in mind that I thought this up in the shower today, so it's a little rough around the edges...)

Answer: A computer!!

I'm a list maker. I like the organizational factor and I like the fact that I can see what I need to do or what I haven't done or what I want to do. Hence I have accrued multiple pieces of paper with lists on them for my upcoming trip. Different lists like: What to pack, Places to go, Things to try, People to buy gifts for, etc. But traveling with a stack of mismatched papers is both ungainly and unorganized.

That's where the riddle comes in to play. Why not type out all of these lists and save them as word documents. Not only are they easily accessible, but they also don't add any more lbs (and useless paper waste) to my luggage. And this rule of thumb applies to much more than lists.
Check out a few other things you can add to your computer and save poundage in the process:
  • Music Collection: Download CDs onto you laptop. Programs like iTunes or Windows Media Player are free and keep a large collection organized. This way, all your music is easily accessible even if you don't have an mp3 player.
  • Address/Phone Book: Friends and family will appreciate a quick handwritten note or postcard once in a while.
  • Study Notes: Bring your computer along to the library and take notes directly into a word doc. You'll save some trees and the trouble of toting tons of random papers with you.
  • Recipes: Cookbooks are pretty darn heavy, but you may want to make your mom's famous Chicken Marsala with Braised Vegetable for your new friends (or maybe that's just something I would want to do...)

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I'm excited to flex my foodie muscles in a different country, but I will miss In-N-Out burgers. It's safe to say I've eaten there at least 3 times a week this summer... Cheeseburger with no tomatoes and whole grilled onions, diet coke, and well-done fries (if i'm feeling particularly hungry) - doesn't get much better than that!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wallpaper City Guides

I won't claim that Wallpaper City Guides are the most comprehensive guide books around but I like them for three reasons:

1. They are so darn cute. Actually, this isn't a purely superficial reason. Size matters in a genre that tends to be more tome than tidbit. Each guide condenses the most important info into a 4" x 6" booklet weighing less than a pound or two. You get all the particulars without the superfluous jabber.

2. Cool features that are easily navigated. The front and back covers are foldable maps, one satellite version, the other a street map color coordinated by district. Labeled tabs indicate different chapters dedicated to shopping, architecture, landmarks, etc. for easy flipping. One of my favorite features is the 24 Hours chapter in each guide: Sometimes you don't have much time in one place. The 24 hours section gives the lowdown on how to see the best of the city in just one day!

3. An unbeatable price. At $8.95 a piece, you can afford to start a collection. Even if you don't make it to a certain city, they are fun to peruse. They also make great gifts.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Unique Travel Guides

I love to read and I love to travel. Thus springs my small obsession with guide books. What could be better than books about different locales around the world - other than actually traveling there yourself. Even then, I might go as far as to say that some places are better visited through a guide book while sitting on your couch than actually going there.

Knowing a little about the history and culture of a certain place enhances the experience when you, say, take a tour of that cathedral or talk with locals about their political views. And then there's the good insider's tips you glean from someone who has already been wherever it is you're reading about. But with people like Steve's and Frommer's dominating the mass guide-book market, it can be hard to get a fresh perspective on where to go and what to see.

In the next day or so, I'll be highlighting the guidebooks I'm especially enamored with.

"A Rambling Fancy in the footsteps of Jane Austen" by Caroline Sanderson

For all lovers of Jane Austen and her novels, Sanderson hearkens back to an time characterized by balls, fancy frocks, and drawing rooms in this guide to Jane Austen's England. Sanderson visits nine places, including Bath, Lyme Regis, and Kent that provided a backdrop to Austen's novels as well as her life. A chapter is devoted to each location where Sanderson indulges in musings about how that place influenced Austen's life and writings.
In her introduction, Sanderson says, "What I planned to do with this book was quite different. I wanted to follow my nose and, like Fanny Price [main character of Mansfield Park], get into a 'wondering strain' while sitting in pews or on stiles or in teashops, standing in fields or museums or churchyards." Although she purposed to stray from common tourist attractions, all of the places she highlights can be visited by anyone with an interest to do so.
Since my minor tutorial is on Jane Austen, I plan to take my own rambling fancy following the footsteps Sanderson so artfully layed out in her book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

International Student ID Card

I wasn't going to get an International Student Exchange card (I can't remember the reason now, profound though I'm sure it was), but on the recommendation of a few study abroad veterans I made the purchase. Unlike the passport application process, obtaining an ISE card was incredibly hassle free. In my ignorance, I had settled on buying my card at Distant Lands, a fantastic travel bookstore and outfitters in Pasadena, CA.

In searching ISE's website, I discovered a glorious and time saving thing: You can buy an ISE card online! Free shipping. Free 1st class mail. It took me less than five minutes to order (Monday) and I received it today in the mail (Wednesday). Be prepared to fax proof that you are a student. I scanned my student ID card and emailed it to ISE.

Why should you spend $25 on ID when you already have a passport?

Here is what Angie Huddleston, former student of
New College, Oxford had to say:

  • Most people don't carry their passport around in Oxford, so and ISE card provides proof that you are a student.
  • With proof that you are a student and not just a tourist, you can get the "student rate."
  • And discounts on touristy attractions as well as bus fare, air fare, mobile phones, and calling cards.
  • A student ID will give you access to many of the University only facilities like libraries and grounds.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Traveling Companions

Yes, this picture may be staged, but 19 days from now, I'll be maneuvering through Gloucester Green instead of my backyard with these three in tow.
I wanted to give you an idea of the amount/type of luggage I'm taking. Virgin Atlantic allows 2 checked bags, 50 lbs each, and 1 carry-on, max 13 lbs. And believe me, I need these limits.
Here's the run-down, clockwise from top:
Jansport Backpack - I don't even remember why my step-dad bought this, but it served my brother, Tim, very well when he spent a semester in Oxford. However, it was one of his main bags. For me, this will serve as a carry-on. Since my other two bags are on the large side, I'll be able to use the backpack for weekend trips. It has a main compartment and a mini backpack that can stay attached or zip off for running errands or shorts hikes and what not.
Bagzilla - A birthday gift from my grandma, this suitcase has served me well over the years. At 30" x 21" x 10", you can guess the name's origin. It also has a zip-out expander that adds about 4" to the depth. With a bag this big, I do have to be cautious; it's easier to exceed the weight limit (and I have paid my fair share of $25 fines for having an overweight bag).
Ruby - My 99 cent store gem! An incredibly light weight bag 26" x 18" x 8" with 3" zip-out expander. The actual suitcase probably weighs less than 4 pounds.
Now the trick is to fit everything I want to bring into those three bags...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Packing: Clothes

· Stick to two or three flattering complementary colors that are easy to mix and match.
- Pack a few fun accessories that will liven up your wardrobe so you don’t feel bland.
· Plan on buying clothes in your host country. You’ll look and feel less like a foreigner.
· Dark colors, especially in outerwear, won’t show as much dirt. Laundry facilities aren’t always readily available.
· When you plan your wardrobe, consider these two things:
1. Weather during fall or spring in your host country. Go to to find out.
2. Activities and travel you plan to do. Bring hiking boots if you are the outdoors type or a couple fancy frocks if you like fine arts.

Don’t Forget
· Shower shoes—you won’t always be using the cleanest most sanitary facilities. Plastic flip-flops are light and slim.
- Crocs are a versatile choice. They are light, water proof, and odor resistant. Plus, Crocs are comfortable walking shoes and can transition from warm to cold temperatures with a pair of wool socks.
- Visit to pick a style. My favorite—Prima, a ballet inspired silhouette. It’s slim fitting and fashionable. Comes in 8 fun colors.

· Some things are best to buy overseas instead of cramming in your luggage.

Basic medications like Tylenol
Bedding if not provided
Clothes line
Small flashlight
Tiny lock for your suitcases

· Leave expensive jewelry behind.

**FLEXIBILITY—don’t leave your house without it! It’s free, weightless, and doesn’t take up space. Traveling is always full of surprises. Expect that things might not go as planned.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Will This All Fit?

I like to excel. Unfortunately there are a great many things that I am not good at. I have come to grips with most of my unskilled qualities; however, one skill which I have yet to develop never ceases to perturb my perfectionist, okay, sometimes OCD personality—packing.

As much as I wish I could be the savvy traveler who packs one carry-on for a jaunt around the world and 1. looks irritatingly chic donning the pittance of clothing that fits in such a small container and 2. doesn’t forget anything, I fail miserably at the task. I am making progress though. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery (or packing prowess in my case), right?. However, with my track record, I knew I needed to start planning early for my semester abroad. Here are some things I have learned over the years (not many unfortunately), gleaned from others, and discovered on the Internet.

First things first
· Make a list—it helps you visualize everything you need so you don’t forget something or over pack.

· Backpacks make for easy, hands free traveling and when properly fitted can be quite comfortable.

§ Jansport makes several large models with detachable daypacks for shorter excursions.

· Take only what you’ll be able to carry. You’ll have to manage all your luggage in airports, railways, and busy streets. Can you lift it over your head?

§ Consider how much space you’ll have at your lodging and if your luggage can stay there when you travel.

A friend of mine spent a month in Italy after he graduated from high school. He is now in Spain on a similar trip. Here is what he has to say about packing:

"The biggest thing by far, however, is to pack as light as possible! I learned that the hard way. I did SO much walking, and I could've done without half the stuff I brought easily. It is very impractical to lug around so much weight and bulkiness...not to mention hard on your back. So this time I am going to lay out everything I think I will need, and then remove half of matter how modest it may seem. You can acquire things like toiletries, or whatever over there. plus I want to have more room to take stuff home with me this time. I felt less efficient, and definitely less mobile, then I could've been had I been more frugal with my packing."

Check out 99 cent stores for inexpensive luggage. Floor models and customer returns are sold at deeply discounted prices. I just bought a lightweight, mid-size suitcase with no defects for $24.99.

Always double check your airlines weight and size restrictions before you start packing!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Snapshot 4: Scholastically Speaking

The most frequently asked question I get from people has changed over the past two years. Instead of how tall are you? or do you play basketball? the question is: Why are you going to school in Missouri? People from both CA and MO don't understand why I would forsake one seemingly glorious place for another, more modest area. Well, let me enlighten you.

Missouri itself wasn't what prompted me to leave Pacific Ocean and In-N-Out behind. Two factors added together made MO appear after the equal sign in my life after high school equation: family and William Jewell College. I knew for awhile I wanted to go to a private Christian college, the complete opposite of my education thus far. A CA school like my mom's alma mater, Point Loma Nazarene, or Westmont were options - close enough for a weekend at home once in awhile. But none of the CA options jumped out as I prayed for God's guidance.

Since CA wasn't working out, I took another tactic. My mom's younger brother and his family lived in MO, they happened to be like second parents to me, and William Jewell College (which fit the small, private, Christian college bill) was a 40 min drive from their condo. Over the last two years, I've often wondered if I heard God correctly when He lead me to Jewell. I did.

I'm majoring in English with a writing emphasis because Jewell doesn't offer coursework in organization (an odd passion of mine). I love to write about people, places, and things, especially food. Given free reign (like in this blog), I have a hard time being concise.

In Oxford, I'll be studying two influential British authors: C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen.