The Seven P’s

My time spent back in Texas was dominated by trying to replace my electronic arsenal, piece by piece. This was even more frustrating considering that when it comes to electronics, the old adage “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to” seems to ring true in every case. The new laptop has a less optimal screen and cheaper plastic. The new iphones are gigantic, weighting down my pants pocket. And the ipod, once a phenomenal music storage workhorse designed to fit in the tiniest of places now exists primarily as a full phone-sized gaming device. One by one, I tried to replace my tried and true tools, only to learn “new and improved” is in the eyes of the beholder. Why can’t they leave well enough alone? Well, one reason is because we live in a disposable culture brainwashed by marketing.

But slowly but surely, as I watched daily for the big brown truck coming down the driveway, I got assimilated back into a life driven by technology. As I replaced my items, I did so with the plan for more travel in mind. A smaller, lighter weight, less expensive laptop. An unlocked iphone that is GSM ready. And I had to take to ebay for a used model of the smaller ipod.

I also took this opportunity to revamp my current travel kit. My old duffle bag on wheels was starting to split. My oversized laptop bag was heavy and bulky. And I needed some way to keep my valuables at hand without having to wear my backpack backwards.

I am returning to my backpacking roots. While the current trend seems to be leaning more toward hard sided, four wheeled, upright rolling luggage (i.e. the “Away” brand,) for me, a backpack is more practical. I tend to stay in less expensive guest houses or pensions without an elevator. I use public transportation almost exclusively, which typically involves multiple levels of stairs. And I tend to go places with less than ideal sidewalks. But also, since I travel solo, I feel more secure with my bags as close as possible. I have only two hands, so the back and shoulders need to help with the load. Besides, it’s not really any different than going to the Main Street Gym and leg pressing a hundred lbs. 😉

My chosen pack, an Osprey Fairview 40, as recommended by my friend Maureen. She even altered me of the REI sale! She also helped me find my iphone replacement. Maureen is my personal shopper. 😉

I also replaced the old bulky, three level backpack bag with a more streamlined, slimmer model with a built-in padded laptop sleeve. And added a cross-body bag just big enough to hold my walk-about essentials, money, keys, camera, phone, and a small bottle of water. It goes across the shoulder, keeping valuables in front. Not only is this version more secure, but many museums now require the bag to be worn in front, so this is more comfortable.

Crossbody bag keeps items like money, Metro ticket, and camera close at hand.

I am also going 100% packing cubes this trip. To show that bad situations can have a positive outcome, last fall during my “No Zen in Sedona” stay, I met youtubers Tim and Fin while boondocked in the cul de sac. They fund their travels through their TRIPPED Amazon store. They gifted me a set of compression cubes; two large, two small, a shoe bag, and a laundry bag. I tried a hybrid solution when I went to Ecuador, and it seemed to work well, so this next trip, I’m going all cubed. I like having everything compartmentalized and color coordinated so I know which cube to reach for when I need a certain item. They also double as good pillows for additional support when those in the guesthouse or hostel are lacking. I managed to compress six short sleeved shirts, two long sleeved shirts, two pair of pants, two pair of shorts, nine pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, a swimsuit, sarong, a pair of Chacos, flipflops, two bandanas, a hat, and toiletries into a 40cu carry-on. Not bad.

My TRIPPED packing compression cubes. What a nice gift! Thanks, Tim and Allison!

And they all fit!

While I said I was not going to keep talking about the theft that happened to me in Quito, fact is, there is rarely a day that some aspect of that traumatic event doesn’t cross my mind. So my plan in replacing my gear and planning my next trip has been to do everything I can think of to be prepared….then forget about it. The hope is that securing my items and being more cautious will become a habit of “good hygiene,” rather than fear-based thinking. I will follow what’s known in the military as “The Seven P’s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

Here is the laptop cable I purchased. I like this one because it doesn’t “dead end” into the laptop. The butterfly clasp in the upper right corner inserts into the laptop Kensington lock slot. Then, you can use the cable as a loop to secure other items as well. (Orange combination lock is for backpack. It only has to be as strong as the zipper. Again, a deterrent, not Fort Knox.)

Here are my “Seven P’s of Travel Planning”

1.) Placement — Place “emergency cash” in several diversified locations. A Ziploc baggie ducttaped beneath the suitcase lining is one I have used in the past. Or beneath the inner soles of my shoes. Or inside a pair of socks. The key is not to have too much in one location. Spread it around!
2.) Photocopy, Produce PDF, and Print – Photocopy your passport and credit cards, front and back. It’s not enough to keep on your hard drive, as the laptop can be the victim. Scan and leave a copy with loved ones. (Also helpful to have the non-toll free number listed on the back of credit cards to phone collect in case of loss or theft.) Keep a printed copy of your passport as ID inside your luggage.
3.) Phone – Call your bank and your credit card companies to place a “Travel Alert” on your ATM card and accounts with destination country and dates of travel.
4.) Padlock – Add one or two padlocks to your gear bag. Yes, I know it would take mere seconds to cut through these small locks. Best one can hope for is to slow them down. Most criminals are opportunistic, so the idea here is to make your own valuables less of an opportunity than the next target.
5.) Password Protect – Place passcode and add tracking tools to cell phones. Yes, I know these can be hacked, but again, the idea is to slow them down until you can change the passwords on your accounts.
6.) Purge vs Preserve – Remove all emails from your inbox that could potentially lead to secure information, or location of accounts, stored passwords, etc. Make sure you back up all documents, music, photos, etc. onto an external hard drive before you leave. (While I thought I had done a full back up of files, I lost a lot of documents I had saved to the desktop.)
7.) And my final “P” is for Portugal! Next stop, Lisbon!

Here’s my pack load. Carry-on. 😉

It’s a Bloody Mary Morning in the DFW Airport.

28 thoughts on “The Seven P’s

    • Judie! Long time, no see. How are you and Gary doing? Hope it’s starting off to be a good summer for you both.

      My personal shopper Maureen turned me on to the Scotte vest, or as I like to call it, my “spy vest.” And in Quito after the theft, it felt like a thunder vest to a nervous dog on the Fourth of July. I didn’t list it here, because this was only the items packed, and did not include items I was wearing on the plane. But I find once the temps go above 65 degrees, it starts to feel like a nylon sweater, and I can’t take the heat. Maureen and I agree, they need to design a nice tropical linen model!

  1. How do you carry 2 backpack style carry-ons thru the airports?? And where did you find those comfy chairs at DFW? I still have flashbacks to spending 14 hours there when they cancelled all the flights and shut the place down when I was there a month ago…not a bloody mary to be found! Thanks for this post…I’m making a note of your 7 P’s!

    • Hi, Kat, The perspective is off in the photo, as the bag in front is considerably smaller. Of course, the only time I am carrying both is while in transit from town to town, so I just carry it on the front, leaving my hands free for train tickets, money, and Google Maps on the phone.

      The comfy chairs were in the United Lounge. Last July when I was on a UA flight, they passed out an application for the United Explorer Card with 60,000 free UA miles, no foreign transaction fees, and annual fee waived for the first year. It also included two passes to the lounge. They were set to expire in July, so I was delighted to be able to use them in DFW and Newark on my way to Lisbon.

  2. Portugal! Looks like you’re following in Colin & Contessa’s footsteps, at least for Porto
    The compression sacks look great; more flexible than the standard Eagle Creek cubes. What’s the make & model of the crossbody bag? I need to replace mine.
    Buen viaje!

  3. As always, enjoying your blog. Made a visit to the Tripped website you mentioned and am interested in your opinion of using the compression cubes for kayaking? Thanks! Wishing you happy and safe travels.

    • Hi, Kathy. Thanks for the comment. I would not use them for kayaking, as they have no waterproofing. They are really only for packing inside luggage. Instead, I would use dry sacks with compression straps. REI, Sierra Trading Post, and Amazon all have a good selection. Much more effective in keeping your stuff compact and dry!

  4. Congratulations on heading out for the continent. I am looking forward to seeing what you see. And thanks for the packing tips, as a habitual over packer, I am in awe of how little you’ve got in the backpack.

    • Allison, if I can say one positive thing about having half my clothes stolen in Quito, it’s that it really helped me see that I didn’t really need so many clothes! This is probably the least I’ve traveled with, and it feels good!

      Enjoy playing on the Reef! I am enjoying your photos…

  5. Wow, Impressive! Looking forward to your next adventure! It’s like having my own personal National Geographic report. Safe travels!

  6. Portugal is fun when you’re not in a rush. When you visit Sintra and maybe Pena Palace make sure you spend time and wander the gardens planted by King Ferdinand II. Look for Cruz Alta, Gruta do Monge and the beautiful ponds with swans in them. Get lost before you decide to leave!

    • Thanks, Andre. Unfortunately, the blog is lagging behind. I made the mistake of going to Sintra on the weekend. It was the only place I have been in Portugal so far that felt uncomfortably crowded. I managed to tour the palace and the grounds, but I bugged out early because of the crowds. Lesson learned, don’t go on the weekend!

      I did get lost, though! I was up by the chapel when I saw a tiny spiral staircase. Decided to follow it down and see where it took me. I ended up on some “pilgrimage trail” that took me all the way back down into the village. But at least it was far from the madding crowd! Thanks for stopping by…

  7. Lisbon must be the hot spot these days; I have 2 sets of friends who have traveled there w/in the past 3-4 months. Looks beautimous – have a great trip, cuz!
    FYI: When, oh when are you going to Iceland? 330,00 people in the entire country…..just sayin’…… 😉 And don’t forget, I can be your guide – I’m ready to go back any time!

    • Hi, Cuz! Iceland is still on the radar. I was starting to do some research just about the time WOW, the low cost carrier filed for bankruptcy leaving all those travelers stranded! Flights went from a few hundred to a thousand overnight! Did you see Iceland had to close a canyon because Justin Bieber made a video there, and it was overrun by badly behaving fans?? No place is sacred, it seems. 😉

      • Yes I saw all of that, but haven’t looked into airfares. I look at the Iceland news every day. Every. Day. #obsessed #IloveIceland #wannagoback

  8. Hola Suzanne,
    Because of your Perspicacious Planning your travel style is not Ponderous. Your attitude is Positive and most certainly not Pusillanimous. In fact your Prodigious adventures are cause for celebration. One must be to some degree Persnickety…. I think your Portuguese travels will be Pleasingly Pleasant if not Poetic. Happy travels, Amiga!

  9. Thanks for the Seven Ps. Good advice!
    That is a nice looking backpack. I’m impressed by how little you are carrying. So I guess on the plane you wear your hiking shoes? And a jacket of some type? With so many years of fulltime RVing we can’t begin to think of packing everything we need into a small backpack!

    • Hey, Gayle. I am wearing a pair of Merrell low hikers, both on the plane as well as the trail. No need for a jacket. When it’s cool in the evening, I just wear a long sleeve shirt over my tee shirt. You might be surprised at how little you really “need” when it comes to carrying it versus driving it around. 😉

  10. I so appreciated this post, mostly because of your fresh start. I’m excited for you and anxious to hear about your next adventures!!

  11. All good travel ideas, most of which we employ while traveling abroad. And if you haven’t already guessed, I am green with envy about your travels to Portugal. Looking forward to the updates.

  12. Yay! Another adventure awaits! And a bon voyage cocktail in the airport looks just as mouth watering as one in front of a sunset! I’ve furiously taken notes with this post and I’m *almost* beginning to think like a true traveler! Thanks for all the wonderful tips! 🙂

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