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Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

We arrived safely to La Paz at around 2:30 AM on October 31st.  We are, however, still trying to acclimate ourselves to the high altitude!  Once we’re ready to explore (& actually have something to talk about), we’ll let everyone know about our first impressions of Bolivia.

Until then, enjoy some photos from our flights . . .

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Adios!

 

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Photo blog to make up for lack of photos in the previous post . . .

Before leaving Wisconsin, Corey’s folks took us out for dinner one last time!

Norma Jean getting acclimated with her new digs

Catching up with Leader’s Club (YMCA) buddies!

Catching up with high school buddies!

Sorting our inventory (Lisa’s clothes)

Enjoying our favorite restaurants!

Relaxing in Raleigh with the Davis family

Organizing everything (again & again!)

See you in La Paz!

Thank you EVERYONE for making our last few months in Wisconsin & North Carolina so much fun!  It was nice to see you all one last time . . . after a couple of weeks of catching up with family & friends in Raleigh, we’re finally off to Bolivia!

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So, we’re down to our last month in the States.  We’ve got 2 more weeks in Wisconsin & then we’re off to North Carolina for another 2 weeks.  Our employers have been notified and the trip actually feels like it’s within reach! Here are some of the things we’ve been up to lately:

Moving:

We’ve been out of the apartment for about 2 weeks now & living with the senior Waller’s, aka Corey’s parents.  John, my father-in-law, and Jared, my brother-in-law, have made many improvements our old apartment & Corey even did a back-splash in the kitchen.

John & Jared are in the process of putting in a new floor

Corey’s back-splash in our old kitchen

Selling:

We’ve placed lots of items on Craig’s List – if you’re in the market for some furniture drop us a line.  Between that & the 3 rummage/moving sales, we’ve already made about $800.  Who knew & we’ve got 3 more days left to sell: today & next weekend.  Wish us luck!

moving sale

We’ve also made several (at least 15) trips to Good Will in the past month or so, which is where we’ll send most of the stuff we can’t sell before we leave.

Some photos from our 2nd rummage/moving sale

Need a bed or a desk set?

Buying:

I think we’re finally done with all of our trip purchases . . . Tickets to Bolivia? Check! Travel clothes & gear? Yup! Electronics? Squared away! Kindles books? Downloaded!  There are some items that need to be exchanged, but that can be taken care of in one quick trip to REI.

Skyping:

This is something that I’ve been anxious to do for a while now.  I spoke with a friend on Skype once, he was in South Korea & called me on my cell phone.  I wanted to make sure that we’d be tech-savy enough to make the call on our end.  Turns out that its super easy.  Got to talk to my parents yesterday & they could see & hear me!  Pretty cool considering that the last time we saw each other in person was almost 2 years ago!

Other Miscellaneous Trip Stuff:

We had a super fun photo shoot with our best gal pal Lisa!  She’s responsible for 3 of the 4 photos in our new blog banner and her photos are on our leave behind cards!

This is one of our favorites from the shoot!

Leave Behind Cards

The bank account we’ve been using for 5 years has been closed & we opened up an account with Charles Schwab.  After doing tons of research on banks, it became clear early on that we’d be going with Schwab.  All ATM fees will be reimbursed?  Heck Yeah!

We’ve purchased Inter-American driver’s licenses.  For just $15/license we can drive anywhere in South America.  We want to keep major cities as hubs & take day trips while we’re on the road.  Plus, it can’t hurt to have another form of ID.

Time’s flying and, for the most part, everything’s been running smoothly.  Right now we’re focusing on enjoying the time we have left with our loved ones & trying our best to get everything taken care of before we leave.  We can’t wait to hit the road & share our many mis-adventures with you . . . Happy Sunday!

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For starters, we’d like to apologize for how quite it’s been lately.  We’ve been so busy preparing for our big adventure that we’ve neglected the blog.  If I could, I’d promise that it will never happen again.  But, to be honest, things have been pretty hectic & it’ll probably happen again!  Every week night we try to do something travel related, which includes some of the following activities: read travel books & blogs, post belongings on Craig’s List, add things to our never-ending “To Do” list. 

So me big-ticket items that we can cross off the list include:

  1. Purchasing our flight to Raleigh (no longer driving due to high rental car fees)
  2. Purchasing our flight from Raleigh to La Paz, Bolivia
  3. Booking our first 2 nights in La Paz 
  4. First round of vaccinations (Hep B for Corey, Yellow Fever & Typhoid for both of us)

As you can imagine, our weekends have been pretty crazy, as well!  We’ve gone through our stuff the past 3 weekends & made several trips to Good Will.  We’ve taken photos of every possible item we can imagine that someone might want to buy & put together a list of prices that we think we’ll be able to get for them.  Only 6 of those items have actually been posted online, because our computer kinda stinks.  Which brings us to another item we’ll be researching soon: a lightweight computer for the trip.  We went to Best Buy back in June (just to look), but we’ll need to make this decision soon & I think it’ll be one of the harder choices to make.  We’ve had horrible luck with computers in the past, so any suggestions are welcome!

bonfire from earlier this summer

We had a faux camping trip last weekend & I didn’t even take pictures!  That’s right, zero photos from our pretend jaunt deep into the Waller Wilderness (not that deep & not really wild).  We had a campfire (photo above from another campfire), set up the tent & camped under the stars (photo below from 2 weekends back).  We did end up making a few trips back to the apartment, but all & all it was a good experiment.  We learned two great lessons for future trips: 1) we should always clear the area before putting up the tent & 2) we should always make sure that our heads are not facing downhill while we sleep!

shooting star from bonfire earlier this summer

It’s been a bit chilly, so we even got to test some of our warmer clothing & we’re definitely happy with our Smartwool long johns & socks! 

We really are hoping to keep you guys as up-to-date as possible on our activities, but there’s just a LOT going on right now.  Feels a bit like we’re living double-lives.  And, as crazy as things are now, it’s only going to get more hectic as the trip draws near.  Stay tuned and for now we’ll leave you with this photo of our silly cat, who apparently wants to be sold along with this lovely basket!

cat not for sale

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We’re not big on timelines & countdowns.  We are super pumped about our trip & we can’t wait to go, however, we’ve always found that countdowns make the time pass by even slower!  Similar to the effect of watching water boil.  So you can imagine our frustration with the handful of friends who keep reminding us how close our trip is.  At around the 8 month mark Corey’s co-workers started saying stuff like, “Hang in there, it’s just 6 more months” to which I responded, “No, it’s not!” 

April 15th was the official 6 month mark, but we only figured that out because someone asked back in March.  Today, July 7th, marks 100 days!  That’s 100 days left before departure, which is 85 days until we quit our jobs or 3,400 hours of work.  I don’t know about you, but that still seems like a long way to go, which is why we hate countdowns! 

As the trip has gotten closer, we have made some changes to the original plan.   From our readings of other adventurers doing a trip like this, the plan usually starts out with: I (We) want to explore the world & come back a better person (people).  I’m pretty sure that was our train of thought as well, but our main goal has always been to search for a new home overseas.  Corey brought up a touchy subject one day in April.  It went something like this:

Corey: What if we don’t go all the way around the world?

Me: Uh, what are you talking about?  I’m confused. . .

(No, that’s not Lisa, however, she felt that the photo above accurately displays her expression during the trip plan revamp convo.)

To make a long story short, we’ve always known that the final goal for us was to live somewhere else.  I’m sure from Corey’s political rants, it’s pretty obvious that we’re not very proud to be Americans.  Sorry to sound so blunt or if we’ve offended any of you, but it’s true.  All along, our biggest fear was to come home after our around the world trip and end up stuck back in America for 5, 6, 20 years.  After much conversation, we decided that, for us, it made more sense to shorten the trip in order to make it possible to move immediately.  And, after a lot of research, we feel that South America has been calling us.  The new plan is to take in as much of the continent as we can & stay in as many countries as we can for longer periods of time.  We’ll travel for about 9 months to a year to determine which place we want to settle in.  We’ll come back to the states, tie up any loose ends & embark on a road trip to our new home, wherever that may be!

We’ve decided to share our to-do list with you.  This won’t be the whole list, but some of the major things that need to be taken care of before we head out on our big adventure.  You may remember a similar post from last February, in which we covered the following subjects: subletting, vaccinations, route, gear, travel membership(s), bank/credit cards and passport/visa photos.  Anything crossed out is either done & practically finished.  We’ve decided not to sublet.  We’ll be switching to Charles Schwab later this summer.  And, thanks to the suggestion from our fellow blogging buddies at 80liters.com, we’ll get our passport photos taken care of at epassportphoto.com.

What else is on our list?  We’re glad you asked!

  1. Purchasing our tickets: our first destination is La Paz, Bolivia.  Towards the end of November we’ll be volunteering with a family we found on workaway.  In the meantime, we’ve been searching the internet for the best flights from North Carolina to Bolivia.  For anyone new to the blog, we’ll be driving from Wisconsin to North Carolina to meet up with the rest of our family before heading overseas.
  2. Learn Spanish: there’s no way we’ll be bilingual by the time we’re in South America, but we would at least like to get by.  The plan is to practice at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes & try our best not to speak English to each other while we practice.  We’ve also purchased cds to listen to while we drive to & from work.  Once we get to Bolivia we plan to do a 2 week homestay & immerse ourselves in the langauge.
  3. Prepare Norma Jean: soon we’ll be doing test drives close to home to get Norma used to car travel.  She’s pretty good in the car, however, we want to get her acclimated well in advance for our drive from WI to NC, where Lisa’s parents will be taking care of her.  We also need to look into the driving route, rental car fees & find some pet-friendly hotels along the way.
  4. Gear Tests: we’ve been doing hour-long hikes from our apartment to the park near us.  With each trip we’ve gradually added more clothes & weight to our packs.  So far, we’re both happy with our choices and for the most part, we’re just getting our bodies in shape for the longer travel days we’ll have to face while on the road.  Overall, we plan to travel pretty slowly, so chances are we may only have 10 or so days of extended pack carrying .  We just want to be prepared!
  5. Vaccinations: the nicest thing about this new plan is the money we’ll be saving on vaccinations.  We’ll still need to get a few and take malaria pills in the destinations that it’s more common, but we won’t have to get a laundry list of shots.  Yes, we have tattoos & we should be well equipped for this sort of pain, but it’s not something we’re looking forward to.  

6.   Downsizing: getting rid of the stuff we really don’t need.  At the start of August we’ll create 3 lists: things to keep, things to toss, things we’re not sure about.  We plan to utilize Craigslist and possibly eBay to get rid of most of our things.  People are really big on rummage sales up here, so (if the landlord, aka Corey’s dad, allows it) we’d also like to have a yard sale. 

7.   Pack up & leave: we’re lucky to have a lot of areas to store possessions & members of Corey’s family have graciously offered to help.  We plan to leave our car (we’re selling 1 before we leave), books, DVD’s, bed, computer desk and non-travel clothes.  We’re hoping to have everything squared away by October 12th & leave that night or October 15th at the latest.

We’ve got plenty of other things on the list, but those are the big-ticket items.  October 12th can’t get here sooner!

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*We’ve decided to dedicate Wednesdays to gear: the items we’ve bought, why we bought it, stuff we’ve returned. You get the idea.  We’d love to hear what you guys think, too – the good and the bad.  If we bought headlamps that you hated, we want to hear about it.  And, sometime (probably at the halfway mark of our trip) we’ll let you know what goodies treated us well & which ones we had to ditch along the way.

We love taking pictures & having to decide what camera to bring with us has been one of the bigger challenges of planning.  Originally, we planned on bringing a rugged point n’ shoot that was waterproof & shockproof, since we’ll be in the outdoors and because we’re a bit clumsy!  Being that we have such slippery fingers, we just weren’t sure if bringing our Nikon D40X (+ lenses) was going to be a good idea. 

So, we began to search of a Wallerproof camera.

The Olympus Stylus Tough-8000 was at the top of our list.  According to its specs, this little guy should be able to stand up to rough conditions: we could take it underwater, drop it in snow, you name it.  But, we noticed pretty quickly, that the reviews weren’t looking so hot.  If you take away one thing from this blog, know that Lisa spends a LOT of time, some may say too much time, researching before making purchases.  Too many customers had bad things to say about this camera, so the search continued.

The Pentax Optio WG-2 was the next camera that we thought about purchasing.  Another shockproof, waterproof, freezeproof camera.  It’s more lightweight than the Stylus and has more megapixels (16 compared to 14 for the Stylus).  We liked that this would be a more discreet camera & easier to use with our gorillapod (funky little tripod).  It had better reviews too, but we wanted to be 100% sure before making the final decision.

After scowering the travel message boards & reading other people’s experiences, we started thinking that bringing the nice camera wouldn’t be such a bad idea.  Lisa knows all the functions of her Nikon & while it would draw more attention, we would never be able to get images that nice out of a point n’ shoot.  Which seemed to be a big regret for a handful of travelers.  So, we started looking for a the best all-purpose lens, because our current lens had seen better days.  We had our sights on the Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.  According to other customers, it excels in low light situations, the photos are sharp with great color production, the lens is responsive & it’s a great choice for an all-purpose lens! 

So, after months of research we arrived at a new plan: get the Nikon fixed & cleaned up, purchase the Sigma lens, and buy a very cheap point n’ shoot for recreational use.  Well, that was the plan, but plans change!  In the end, we purchased the Nikon J1 (which will be used in waterless conditions) & the Fujifilm Touch (for our more adventurous days & panoramics). 

The money spent on our cameras was less than it would’ve been to buy the new lens & get our original camera fixed up.  We’re very happy with our decision to buy the Nikon J1.  The image quality surpasses that of our Nikon D40X & it’s more lightweight.  Now, we just have to get used to the camera’s interface, which can be a bit daunting if your used to a DSLR.  Wish us luck & make sure to stop by for the next gear mail where we’ll tell you about our footwear!

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Osama bin Laden interviewed for Daily Pakistan...

Osama bin Laden interviewed for Daily Pakistan in 1997 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday, May 1st marked the one year anniversary of the murder of Osama bin Laden. That’s right, I said the murder of Osama bin Laden by the hand of a Navy Seal through the direction of our fearless leader Barack Obama. I know what you are saying now, “But Corey, they had to kill him.  Didn’t you see the news??  There was a big gun battle.  The Navy Seals took heavy fire. In fact, wasn’t Osama armed?  They had no choice but to shoot him.”  Your right, that’s exactly what they told us on all the news stations for days and weeks following the US governments killing of Osama bin Laden. However, there have been other events reported in the mass media that, when the spotlight has been shinned a little brighter, have not exactly turned out to be entirely accurate.

I’m sure many of you remember the story of Jessica Lynch.  That poor girl whose convoy was attacked in the dangerous Iraqi city of Fallujah due to military incompetence.  We were told via the mass media that she had been shot, stabbed, and left for dead.  She then fired every last round from her weapon in an attempt to kill every one of those no good Iraqis who had killed her countrymen. These monsters then took her hostage and proceeded to repeatedly rape and torture her. Until nearly a week after her capture, her fellow soldiers mounted a dangerous, some would even call suicidal, rescue mission.  Despite taking heavy fire, these brave soldiers managed to save her from the death grip of the enemy. That was the story that the US government gave to the mass media and that is the story that the mass media spoon fed to the American people, however, it turned out that this tale turned out to be  a fairy tale.

: the award presentation Русский: Джессика Лин...

Jessica Lynch is awarded the Bronze Star, Prisoner of War, and Purple Heart medals

 Jessica Lynch wasn’t tortured.  She wasn’t beaten. She wasn’t raped.  She didn’t even fire her weapon. In fact, she was in little danger at all.  After Jessica Lynch’s broken body was captured by Iraqis, she was taken to the best hospital in Fallujah and given the best care they could possibly give her.  Better than most Iraqis would have gotten.  It came out months after this whole incident had fallen out of the news cycle that after a few days of care at the previously mentioned Fallujah hospital, Lynch’s Iraqi doctors actually tried to turn her over to the nearest American military base.   This extremely gracious move was thwarted by the American guards of this base who found it necessary to open fire on the approaching ambulance that carried Ms. Lynch and her innocent Iraqi medical team forcing the ambulance to retreat back to the Fallujah hospital.  This was a practice most Iraqis grew accustomed to, get too close and Americans will shoot at you.  

After nearly a week in Iraqi possession, the American military finally decided it was worth while to save poor Jessica Lynch, so they planned a daring rescue mission.  They were so worried about Ms. Lynch that the top military brass deemed it necessary to delay the mission a couple of days in order to wait for a military camera crew to tag along and record to whole thing, for obvious propaganda purposes.  The raid finally went down and despite taking heavy fire and much resistance the brave Americans, risking their lives for their fellow soldier, managed to save poor Jessica.  Did I say they took heavy fire and risk their lives? I almost forgot.  That was a lie too.  Apparently there was not a single Republican Guardsman (Iraqi army) inside or outside the hospital.  The only weapons fired were American and the only injuries were innocent Iraqi doctors and nurses.  Does this sort of raid sound familiar??

The story of Pat Tillman marked another instance in which we as a nation were lied to by our government through the mass media.  I’m sure this is a story that most of you are probably familiar with so I will try to be as brief as possible in my description of the events surrounding Mr. Tillman’s untimely death. On April 22nd, 2004 Corporal Patrick Daniel Tillman was apparently killed by Taliban fighters about 25 miles southwest of Khost near the Pakistani border. We were told that Pat was a hero, leading his men to face the enemy head on. He was even awarded the Silver Star for bravery in an expedited process and posthumously promoted to Corporal. The nation mourned the death of a fallen hero while pundits on Fox News and MSNBC  tried to claim him as their own.  I don’t think I need to describe the humor involved with people arguing about the political views of a person they had never even talked to. It wasn’t until months and even years had pasted that the truth about Pat Tillman’s death began to trickle out.

Portrait of the fallen Cpl Patrick Tillman, a ...

Portrait of the fallen Cpl Patrick Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinals linebacker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on the slowness of the government to release the truth surrounding Corporal Tillman’s death, it has become apparent (at least to me) that if it were up to them, the original lie that they put forth to the Tillman family and the American people would have survived as gospel.  The government underestimated Pat’s parents, Dannie and Pat, and the alternative press, particularly Michael Ruppert and his website, FromtheWilderness.com, and their will and drive to find the truth.  Through their hard work and dedication the truth began to come out in a trickle.  When it was all said and done, we learned that although Pat was truly a great man, he was no war hero.  The facts show that there was no enemy in the supposed enemy ambush that  took Pat’s life.  It was actually the result of the overzealous and possibly criminal negligence of his fellow soldiers.  Pat’s death was eventually ruled fratricide (friendly fire).  He took 3 bullets to the forehead from a fellow soldier along with other members of his unit being wounded by gunfire from the gun barrels of fellow soldiers.  It was found out that members of the military and high-ranking government officials knew the facts surrounding Pat’s death almost immediately and made the conscious decision to lie and cover-up.  They wanted to use his death as a propaganda tool much like the capture of Jessica Lynch. As it turned out, only low-level Army personnel were punished from what happened to Pat.  The punishments, dishonorable discharges and demotions.  All high-ranking people escaped the military and congressional investigations unscathed. It’s been more than 8 years since Pat’s death and I still don’t think we are anywhere near the truth.

As I am completing the previous paragraph, I have become aware that I am already over 1000 words into this post and I still have quite a bit more I’d like to say about the death of Osama bin Laden and all things related to it.  That being said I feel I should stop here for the moment and pick this post  up again next weekend. It will give those of you who have been interested with what you’ve read so far a bit of a break  and those of you who think I’m full of it and crazy the fair warning that the post Murder Anniversary Part II probably won’t be up your alley. 

For those of you that can’t wait, I recommend a book and a documentary.  The book ,Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer, and the documentary, The Pat Tillman Story, both deal with the life and death of Pat Tillman and the government cover-up surrounding his death.  I hope you find these two sources as interesting as I did.

Cover of "Where Men Win Glory: The Odysse...

Cover via Amazon

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