Lessons from the road

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We are huge fans of road trips. Not just those little four-hour jaunts up to a cozy hotel in a nearby town. Nay. The uncharted multi-day drives in an economy rental car stocked with munchies and energy drinks, that utilize a bit of ingenuity and a few extra bed sheets to transform the rental into a three-star motel on wheels, that is our kind of road trip. Driving your accommodation around grants you more freedom and a fuller wallet. Knowing exactly where you will sleep (the back seat) but not having a commitment on where geographically you will situate that spot, leaves the doors to adventure wide open. The thought that only a few destinations along your path have been decided, makes pulling out of the rental lot feel like a grand departure on a quest to discover new land.

While on Borneo we decide to take to the road again. We have no idea if/when our life will bring us back to this multi-national jungle filled island. Therefore we could not leave the little country of Brunei unexplored during this trip. With a five-day break from our volunteer jobs in Kutching we chose to embark on a jungle filled journey to the distant dry land. Loaded up into a Nissan X-Trail provided at a bargain by ‘Hornbill Tours and Car Rentals’, we set off late one day on what was to become a sweat-laden, 1,200 mile roundtrip journey through Sarawak and Brunei.

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Our late departure brought about two of the worst ideas we had during the trip. The first of which was Sugarbun. Sugarbun, for all those fortunate enough to be ignorant, is a Malaysian founded fast food restaurant serving a lineup of Western and Asian options. Out of convenience and an overall lack of knowledge we stopped in for dinner. Ordering from the menu we picked a hearty looking spicy chicken sandwich pictured with crispy lettuce and a plump fire-engine red slice of tomato as well as a cheeseburger modeled almost as pristine. Being from the states we are not oblivious to the magic of food advertising photography. Armed with our knowledge of such wizardry, we sat and waited for what we assumed would be a far less appealing meal, though we did hold a glimmer of hope in the back of our minds that in this foreign land we could be surprised by what we were about to be served. That little glimmer was quickly extinguished. After a short wait we were presented two cardboard boxes with our dinner inside. As we cracked open the containers we were met by a fast food disappointment of epic proportions. The chicken sandwich that had been featured with lettuce and tomato was void of both. That, however, was good news as the one “tomato” that lurked inside the “cheeseburger” was the consistency of wet bread and completely without color. In fact, both sandwiches looked as if they were white washed black and white images of really sad sandwiches. Both buns were flat and pale. The chicken and hamburger alike were flat with a miserable beige hue. The crowning achievement of this parvum opus was the sauce. Both offerings were swimming in a grotesque amount of white and yellow sugar sauce. We silently whipped away as much sauce as we could manage and choked down the color absent sandwiches. Vowing to starve before allowing ourselves to be fooled into another fast food trap.

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Our second mistake brought on by late travel was picking the wrong spot to pull over for the night. Sarawak (one of the two Malaysian states on Borneo, were most of this journey took place) is undergoing a monumental highway improvement.  This means that soon, the trip we just made will be far more comfortable to transverse. However, it meant for us that roughly 700Km (435 miles) of road we were to be traveling down was under construction, SIMUTANEOUSLY. Having most of our journey be over torn up pavement and gravel with a construction zone speed of 50klh (31mph) meant we were not going to make it to the city we thought we would on the first night.

As we began to get tired we started looking for a good place to park. Sarawak, from what we could tell, is void of rest stops. After an hour or so of searching we found a construction staging site off the side of the road that seemed it would do nicely. We nestled the car into a corner of the dirt lot and arranged our sleeping quarters. Just as sleep was about to wash over us we noticed a flash of blue from the front of the car. We sat up just in time to see Malaysian police tapping on the window. The language barrier was luckily not difficult to overcome. However, trying to explain to a native Malaysian why a person would choose to sleep in the back of a car rather than a hotel was a little harder. We decided to shirk the questioning by stating that we chose to sleep in that spot out of necessity of a tired driver. After a round of questioning and a search of the car by the officers that seemed eager to find foul play yet trusting, we were allowed to continue our journey. An hour further down the road we found an overnight parking lot for truckers. We pulled between two big rigs and passed out hard. The first morning on the road we woke up sweating and starving. We rose just enough to start the car and engage the AC. We lounged until it cooled enough to function and then we were on our way.

The rest of our trip went relatively smoothly. Our drive through countless palm fields, raised for palm oil production, sped up during daylight hours. With local cars zooming by us we quickly realized the construction zone speed limit is merely a suggestion that should only be loosely held to when near law enforcement. We enjoyed hiking through a few jungles and exploring the caves of Niah National Park, home of the oldest human remains (dating back 40,000+ years!).

The moral of the story is: Don’t set out late and in the dark on semi-aimless road trips in foreign countries. This lesson may come naturally to many people. On the other hand, I fear that we will end up being reminded of it down another road in another land.

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Trader’s Cave in Niah National Park

 

 

Gal’s packing list for 8 months and 7 climates.*

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I have been obsessed with engineering the perfect pack since Jordan and I decided to embark on this journey. In my excitement, I read countless packing guides, researched fabrics, tested products & made at least 20 evolving lists. I cannot yet say that I came up with the perfect pack equation, I’ll need time to test it first. We are only 13 days into this trip though, and so far, so good.

Jordan and I choose to travel with a carry-on size backpack over a traditional travel backpack or suitcase. Months of travel means months of hauling what you bring. Once you’ve walked halfway across the city of Paris, sweating and disheveled with what feels like the equivalent of a heifer on your back, you realize that one less change of clothing is way easier to deal with. Also, when you are travelling on a budget checked bag prices can send you home quicker than you intended. Within the budget airlines we frequent, a checked bag can often cost more than the seat you occupy.

As you’ll notice, my backpack wardrobe consists of primarily of grey and black items. this allows me to mix and match nearly every piece.

Something worth noting is that this is a rotating pack. You cannot travel the whole world without traversing every climate. This trip will bring us to the hot/humid season of southeast Asia, the rainiest seasons of Japan and Brazil, the dead of winter in northern western Europe, and the still frozen summer of Antarctica. Most of the things I packed can be layered to take on the bitter cold or pared down to beat the heat. However we may have to supplement a scarf and extra sweater as we progress. It’s helpful to keep in mind that most items can be purchased frugally on the road as you need them.

*Clothing and accessory edition. further gear list to come.



Mountain Hbackpack-2-3-800x1500ardwear’s Rainshadow 26L Outdry Backpack

After checking the carry-on bag size requirements of all the airlines we were using we found that this waterproof backpack was the perfect size to maximize the strictest limitations(20 in x 11 in x 11in). It’s light weight, pretty comfortable and there’s not much wasted space. Our only wish for this pack is that it came with clips on the compression straps. The clips would make it simple to synch a jacket or other gear to the outside of the bag.

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Jinqiaoer waterproof crossbody bag

This bag is big enough to for all the things I like to keep with me on the plane & It has a comfortable wide shoulder strap. Zippers on every compartment are an essential feature for my peace of mind, combating pickpockets and my own clumsy nature.

 

 

heatzone turbodownColumbia Heatzone 1000 TurboDown  Jacket

This is the warmest jacket that Columbia has ever made, filled with water-resistant goose down & featuring Omni-heat™, a heat reflecting lining, inside. It also makes a great pillow on flights and in airports.

 

 

 

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Columbia Timber Pointe Trench 

Long 100% waterproof jacket for epic downpours, This jacket is light enough to layer over or under pretty much anything.

 

lulu zip up hoody

 

 

Lululemon Stride Jacket ll

This is my all-time favorite technical jacket. Made with moisture wicking four-way stretch fabric. It has a hoodie and neck warmer, thumbholes, and zippered pockets. It’s soft and cozy enough for a long travel day and I feel chic wearing it out in the city.

 

cn13234119 Athleta Stripe Midi Tank Dress

This dress is amazing. The strechy ruched fabric allows you to fashion it shorter or longer depending on your situation. I have also transformed it into a tank by throwing on pants. It’s sexy yet discreet due to the high neckline, so you never have to feel self-conscious in conservative places.

 

 

 

 

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Aqua Floral Print Dress

Pretty much the only piece with color in my bag, this dress is light and airy and makes me feel pretty and feminine after days of feeling bedraggled on the road. Slap on a little bit of lipstick and “boom!” you’ve got yourself a outfit worthy of date night.

 

 

 

 

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Athleta City Jogger Pant

These pants are made from recycled material that never wrinkles and dries in a snap. They are so comfortable that sometime I wear them to bed!

 

 

 

 

 

282436_31881_L2 Beyond Yoga Take Me Higher Spacedye Leggings 

I had no intention of taking yoga pants with me on this trip, however, one day while picking up some last-minute items at REI I noticed these leggings and decided to try them on. HOLY SNAPS these things are good. I mean like chinchillas wrapped in memory foam and crepes soft. I purchased them and regret NOTHING.

 

 

 

 

untitled Lyocell Denim Shorts by H&M

I got these over traditional denim shorts because they don’t cling to me and they pack down to almost nothing.

 

 

Midtown Short - Navy Athleta Midtown Short

These shorts are breathable and moisture wicking.  A polyester/spandex blend, they can be worn on a mountain hike or shaking it in a dance club.

 

 

 

 

 

tk C9 Champion Strappy Back Cami Sports Bra & 2-in-1 shorts

A gift from my cousin. Both super comfortable, I basically rotate between this sports bra and my Icebreaker one (below) every day.

 

 

 

 

icebreaker-tiki-bra-prism-fade Icebreaker Cool-Lite Tiki Bra

This beauty is a Merino wool blend and no, it’s not itchy. Merino wool is a powerhouse fabric. Moisture wicking, naturally antimicrobial, and temperature regulating, this is the perfect fabric to keep stocked in your pack. I also love the fun pattern but they come in solids as well if that’s more your style.

 

103067003_5 Icebreaker Butter Rib Henley

This 100% soft Merino Wool top is perfect for layering.

 

 

 

 

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Tops

  1. BB Dakota knit tank
  2. Maeve Llama Button Up- Found this in a consignment shop in San Diego. who doesn’t need a llama shirt?!
  3. Elie Tahari long sleeve black top
  4. J. Crew tank top- A thrift shop score!
  5. James Perse striped top
  6. Kim & Cami Muscle Tee
  7. Gap long wool Cardigan
  8. Wool top I found in a thrift shop without a tag

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Nylon/Spandex underwear (7 pairs

I really wanted to try some ExOfficio underwear for the trip as they are known throughout the travel world for being pretty amazing. After seeing how expensive they were I ended up finding other brands made of similar materials, that being primarily nylon with a little bit of spandex

 

 

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1 pair Thinx underwear

These chonies protect you on your lady days and they seriously work. The last thing I want to deal with is leakage on a 9 hour bus journey through the desert.

 

 

 

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Socks (7 pairs)

Costco seasonally carries a really affordable 4 pack (pictured left). I brought 2 long wool socks and 5 pairs    of no-show socks, 2 of which are smartwool.

 

 

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Van’s Authentic Lo Pro

A great go-anywhere shoe that also looks cute paired with a dress.

 

 

 

 

combat boots for women,combat boots for womenSteve Madden Jaax Boot

I found these at a thrift shop in Los Angeles a few years ago and they have since become my travel boot. They pack up pretty small because of the soft leather and wool top.

 

 

 

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Chaco Z/Volv 2

You may think that these are the ugliest sandals ever known and I’ll admit, I once thought that very same thing. But these sandals are now my favorite thing in my pack. These are super durable, rugged enough for long rocky hikes, equipped with grip for trecking through rivers. They are machine washable and have a cushy arched footbed. These are the MVP of my backpack.

 

Items not pictured above: 1 pair of skinny jeans, 1 bikini, 1 black undershirt, 1 scrubby t-shirt to wear for work/sleep and 1 oversized grandma sweater that was too soft to part with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things we learned visiting Beijing

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1.       The pollution struggle is real.

Our home states (Washington & Oregon) are currently being ravaged by fires. Before we left we joked about how odd it was to have worse air quality at home then where we were headed. We were wrong. I’m sure you, like us, have heard about the pollution being bad. Perhaps like us you did not grasp the extremes of that notion. The air in china is, quite literally, hard to swallow. It dulls out all the beauty of old china. It hurts your throat and makes your chest feel heavy. Spending a few hours outdoors within Beijing will make your eyes burn. Jordan spent a full night up coughing and is still, in the process of recovering.  

 2.       Crossing the road is terrifying*.

Drivers will not stop for you. The light might say it’s okay for pedestrians to cross but it is a false sense of security. Between the cars, bikes, mopeds and motorcycles, crossing the street is like playing a live version of frogger.

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3.       English text = expensive.

If you see a restaurant or café with English text on the sign or the menu the prices are sure to be outrageous. Our first night in Beijing we had a really delicious meal of noodles, soup, and beer. We had to point at a picture on the wall to order in attempt to bridge the language barrier. Our second night we dined at a restaurant with English text on the menu. We still had to point at pictures to order, though we at least knew what it was we were pointing at. At our second restaurant however, we choose to forgo the beer as a bottle of Budweiser** would have cost more than the total of our first meal. That trend held true throughout our trip.

 4.         The Great Wall is not a tourist trap!

Coming from the states we are well versed in the ratio of inflation: proximity to destination. A dive bar in a corner of Santa Ann, California will serve you a domestic beer** for $1-3. The same beer a little way away, inside the gates of Disney’s California Adventure, will cost you upwards of $12. With this knowledge, we chose to pack plenty of snacks and water with us while we scaled the mighty Mongol blockade. When we arrived to the wall we were shocked to see the cheapest price for a bottle of water we had seen yet. The food being sold was the same scenario. The snacks we packed with us were inconsequently cheaper than it would have been to purchase all the sustenance we required from venders at the wall.

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5.       “You should never go to Beijing” – Jordan

 Unless you value the history of China more than your health you should choose a different vacation destination. I am one to say, “everything is worth trying.” Though, in this case you should try everything else first. I always romanticize history. However, I don’t hold a love or interest for Chinese history more than my normal curiosity of every ancient society. That combined with bullet point #1 above made my time attempting to get closer to and to learn about China was the most unenjoyable history hunting I have ever done. Every glimmer of ancient China wore a dark cloud of smog that with every breath I took removed years from my lifespan. I know this sounds dramatic. It is dramatic. There are hotels near The Wall. Stay there. There are many small villages. Visit them. There are many ways of seeing China and much of its culture. I am simply suggesting that you take a route that does not lead your lungs through Beijing.

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*”Terrifying” is Kelsie’s way of explaining it. I (Jordan) find it to be exciting and productive. Why do we waste so much time in the States giving every pedestrian a quarter-mile buffer? During our stay in Beijing, I witnessed hundreds of cars passing pedestrians within a foot. I witnessed nobody being struck. I like those odds.
** Domestic beer was mentioned twice. I don’t think we have talked about such beer that much in the last year combined, whilst living in the micro brew capital of the US. Traveling got our pinky up brew game on the low. Lol 

Preface of adventure.

2017KelsieEngagement59Hello world! For those of you whom we have never had the pleasure of meeting, allow us  introduce ourselves. We are a couple from the Pacific Northwestern United States, Jordan & Kelsie Volker. We met in 2012 at Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington State, while Beck was on stage. Over the following three years we enjoyed a wonderful platonic friendship. Bonding over similar music tastes, style of humor, love of champagne and playful outlook on life. It was not until three years had passed and the stars aligned that we took a step towards what would be the largest adventure of our lives. In Fall 2015 we had our first proper date. Our date went so well that as we walked the streets of Portland Oregon together, multiple groups of strangers took notice of us and declared “You two are so cute together!” or inquired “Do you two have children? You would make the best children.” This was not a dying trend. It almost became a joke to us how often strangers would be struck by the energy radiating from us during our dates. It was hard to disagree with the sentiments of those around us as our conversations flowed perfectly and our laughter was abundant.

Two months later, Kelsie took a leap and moved 1300 miles south to San Diego, where Jordan was residing. Closing the geographical gap & allowing the relationship to take off. After twenty months of bliss and excitement, and while living aboard a work vessel off California’s Channel Islands,  Jordan broke a promise of never proposing to a woman prior to dating a full two years. Eagerly Kelsie accepted and we were to be wed.

The next eleven months lead up to last Friday (September 1st, 2017) when we were  married in front of friends and Family in Nehalem, Oregon. The day was truly cut out of a fairytale. Friends from all around came to help out & celebrate with us, and celebrate we did! We spent four days camping, dancing, drinking, and communing in a style that can only be described as magical.

As we write this post together we are sitting in Beijing, our first of many honeymoon destinations. Beijing is the kick off of what will be an eight month tour of the whole world. Not one continent will be missed.