Category Archives: Swashbuckling Adventure Around the World

10 Things I Never Travel Without!

Angkor Wat Temples in Cambodiathe DB and I at the Angkor Wat Temples in Cambodia

Without these things I’d be a little scruffier, a little crankier and a little more unsure of my place in the World when I leave home.

As I wrote this list I realised that it’s pretty much the same for if I’m going backpacking, going on a weekend break, living it up in the lap of luxury or settling in a brand new country. Everything else you might want or need can be bought elsewhere if you’re moving, or shipped over later. If you’re backpacking anything more would weigh you down and even if you’re travelling in style everything else would probably be provided!

With this latest move we decided to travel super light…20kg of check-in luggage each and 5 kg of hand luggage. That ain’t much, my friends, to start a new life with and as hard as it might have been to detach myself from my stuff, there was no blinkin’ way I was leaving without these 10 Superheroes of the Suitcase.

This is my ‘Go-To Kit’, my ‘Survival Staples’, my stress busting, problem-solving, happy-making, art-enabling (yup, even when travelling it’s so important to me) List of Utter Essentials!

Leave home without them at your peril…

10 Superheros of the Suitcase!

1. Honey. The Bear.

Honey the BearFlying over Australia with Honey

Dearest Friend. Closest Companion since age 3. Constant Bedfellow. Tireless traveller and amazing listener (I can tell him anything!). Comes everywhere with me…unless there is a chance he might get his fur wet, so he skipped South East Asia last year and went straight back to Ireland from Australia. Once went for a spin in the washing machine in Brisbane because the DB (read: Dopey Boy) forgot he was in the bed when he stripped the sheets.

It’s good for the soul to have something from home with you, something reassuring and constant…

2. Lavender Essential Oil

The Queen of Essential oils as far as I’m concerned. Sweet smelling, gentle enough to be used neat but so powerful and protecting. This is a backpackers MUST! Lavender oil, among other things, is great for insect bites, burns, spots, headaches, swollen feet or legs, and insomnia. It’s anti-bacterial and a few drops sprinkled on a hostel bed will not just make it smell good but also deter bedbugs and other nasty biters. I pretty much trust it with anything and even its scent now is like a reassuring hug.

I’d also say bring Tea Tree (more powerful that some antibiotics, kills germs stone dead, great for cold sores and disinfecting bites, cuts, etc), Lemon (will purify water if you can’t get bottled…so will Tea Tree but doesn’t taste so good…, helps with concentration and alertness) and Geranium (lifts bad moods, great for PMS or general crankiness as it’s a hormone balancer, smells amazing when mixed with Lavender and Lemon = yum!) but if all you have, or can find, is Lavender you’re in business!

**Please make sure you purchase 100% pure essential oil, do a patch test first if you’ve never used them before and consult the many great sites or books that will show you have to use them effectively and safely. My favourite book is ‘The Fragrant Pharmacy’ by Valerie Ann Worwood…an encyclopedia of useful, practical information!**

3. Almond Oil

Use it as a moisturiser, cleanser, make-up remover, hair conditioner or styler (just a tiny drop rubbed into the ends makes your hair shine). Use it as a carrier for the essential oils you’ve brough with you that you don’t want to use neat. Heck, you can even cook with it!

**Again please make sure you buy 100% pure, best quality oil you can afford. If in doubt ask around, google it or consult an aromatherapist.**

4. A Journal

Even if you don’t have a good book to read, you can always write one…or read back over your adventures in awe and wonderment…or sketch where you are…or play hangman with a fellow traveller…or write letters home…or write a letter to yourself…

5. Your Prayer book

Or Bible or Quran or book of affirmations, poems, letters from your family, photos, whatever! Whatever your ‘chicken soup’ of choice is. Whatever your bedrock is, your foundation, through which you find your strength and joy. Bring it and use it liberally.

6. A hat

In Lapland, Finland.In Lapland, trying to keep warm.

It’s an obvious one but I always forget somehow. If it’s cold it will keep you warmer. If it’s hot, and it has a brim, it will save you from heat stroke and sunburn. You can hide your bad hair day. You can cover your eyes and sleep anywhere. They’re just plain handy.

7. A shawl

Same as above = HANDY! Use it for modesty in conservative countries, warmth, protection from the sun, a blanket, a towel, a sling, a pillow, a yoga mat, a picnic blanket…endlessly useful.

8. A camera

I always think of these lyrics, written by my friend singer-songwriter Nathan Ball, when I travel…

‘Take nothing put pictures
Kill nothing but time
Leave nothing but footprints
And She’ll be fine…’
‘Footprints’ – Nathan Ball

9. A telephone number

Make it your business to leave home with one number, email address or contact in the place you are moving to, even if it’s only a friend of a friend or the info for a great hang out spot where lots of people meet and chat. It makes things easier if you panic about not knowing anyone once you arrive.

10. FAITH!

Faith in the benevolence of the Universe. I have never travelled anywhere in the world and had an experience that hasn’t worked out just fine in the end. Just got to have a little Faith…

Train ride in ThailandAbout to embark on the train ride from HELL in Thailand…eh, but it was all OK in the end!

Some naughty extras…

…and if I have the space here are a few luxury items I like to throw in! These are pure indulgence…

The extra essential oils listed above, and maybe a few extra very special treat ones like Ylang-Ylang or Rose or Neroli.

♥ Teabags from home! Specifically Barry’s Gold Blend…heavenly!

♥ Some knitting or some other portable craft for long flights or waits or to just chill and let my brain switch off while my hands are busy. (Check out ‘Crafting & the Art of Travel’ from last summer for some ideas!)

Music. Yeah I consider music while travelling a luxury item. I like to be tuned into the sounds of my experiences, as well as the sights, so I don’t really want to be plugged into an iPod the whole time. Also it pushes me to go out and find local, live music wherever I am, and if nothing else I can always sing to myself and that is fun!

Snacks! So you can eat something you know for sure you will like…almonds, dates and those sugar-coated jelly Squirms that I am currently addicted to. Still looking for them in Canada :/

♥ Nail Polish. A completely useless thing in and of itself but it is so nice to have if you’re feeling a bit rough and need a touch of glam while schlepping through Cambodia.

» Do you have any recommendations for travel essentials? Anything you’d never hit the road without?

» What luxuries do you like love to have when you’re far from home? I’d love to hear…


Day 4 – Crafting & the Art of Travel

Hello All and thank you for your patience there. Murphy’s Law in full swing but I’m back on top of everything now. So without further ado…

Crafting & the Art of Travel

…is today’s theme…because I do believe that travelling is an art form which you get better at with practice. The first time I left home, heading for India to do volunteering for my gap year, I packed too much, bought tons and had to get kind strangers to help me lift my suitcase off the baggage carousel! My last trip to Australia and home through Asia and America was definitely a vast improvement on my first experience, but even with so much packing and backpacking experience under by belt, I still slipped up a few times.

This last trip however had an extra element that my first didn’t. By now I was a committed (addicted more like) crafter…a knitting fiend…a crocheting tornado…a yarn-consuming mad woman who, after working in a yarn store in Brisbane, had the most ridiculous stash ever and NOWHERE to put it all! It was the yarn or my clothes and I’m not ashamed to say that 9 times out of 10 the yarn won!

Now when I look at the pieces I completed while on the road, I see a story, a memory of where I was, what I was thinking, how I was feeling as those stitches were made. The DB thinks I’m nuts because I’m not big into taking tons of photos and he is but my knitting has become my ‘photos’ in hindsight and I love them all the more for it.

Another huge element of my crafting was the social side of it. In college I started a Stitch n Bitch in the cafe across from our main building. My friends, even the ones who didn’t knit/crochet, all knew where to find me on a Tuesday night and I was never there alone. It brought us together away from the pressures of our Degrees and it was fun.

When I moved to Brisbane last year the very first thing I did was look up Ravelry to see if there was a knitting group there. And there was…an amazing one, with people offering advice on public transport and areas to live and their phone numbers so we could meet for coffee when I finally arrived.  I knew noone in this city (and truthfully was going because the DB had the job opportunity he just couldn’t turn down there and I had nothing better going on at home…eck!) and these wonderful strangers took me into their community with open hearts…all because we crafted. It was through them that I got my yarn-store job and will be eternally grateful for that opportunity. They held a full-on Christmas party in JULY (Southern hemisphere’s Wintertime) because I moaned so much about having upside-down, hot Christmas in Australia! I miss them all lots now but I know what I have to thank for ever meeting them…and it is a simple, honest craft that I do everyday.

10 Days, 1 Backpack, and a Project that Fit in My Pocket

By Stephanie Bryant

In 2008, my husband and I went to Costa Rica for 10 days, and our plan was to arrive, spend 3 days enjoying the sights, then buckle down for a week-long immersion Spanish class on the beach. We knew we’d be taking the bus to Samara, our beach destination, and we’d witnessed plenty of luggage theft in Central America, so we limited our luggage to one backpack the size of a bookbag, and my one small purse. A goodly portion of our luggage space was dedicated to notebooks for school and a Spanish-English dictionary.

It was tough packing for such a limited-space trip, but it became easier when we realized that one pair of sandals would be sufficient footwear, and that Samara would be in the 90’s all week long, so we could get by with bathing suits and shorts.

But. I am a crafter, primarily a knitter. How was I going to “get by” when there was literally no space in the pack for the four balls of yarn I would certainly want– if not need— for beachfront knitting?

It was simple. I would have to do without the knitting. For 10 days.

But not, as it turned out, without crafting entirely. I had recently taken up tatting, which is a method of making lace using tiny knots in thread. Tatting is a lovely craft, and one that many think is “dying out” (it’s not, as evidenced by the thousands of tatters on the tatting groups). As a plus, a tatting project is cheap– for $7, I can buy 2 shuttles and a ball of thread, plenty to make several doilies or other projects.

I wound a good amount of thread onto two tatting shuttles and downloaded an easily-memorized pattern. I wrote the repeat onto half of a business card, and printed the whole pattern for reference. I would toss out the larger printout at the airport shortly after we landed, once I no longer needed it. The entire project fit inside a small coin purse, which I kept in my pocket wherever we went.

I started tatting on the way to the Miami airport. I’d intended the tatting to keep me sane while we endured long bus rides, but it also served as something to do when sitting on the beach, and when waiting for my classes to start. Because my class was conducted entirely in Spanish, and my teacher was intrigued by what I was doing with my hands, I even learned the Spanish words for tatting (frivolite), shuttle, and thread.

I had also brought one other arts and crafts project with me, my colored pencils and a small unlined notebook, in which I drew some of the beautiful sights around me. A camera is a lovely way to record a trip, but there’s nothing quite like sitting cross-legged on the side of the road while waiting for a replacement bus to come pick you up (the one we’d been in lost a fan belt), and sketching the cute cottage across the road while you wait.

Halfway through the trip, I had finished the doily pattern as written. Since the project was worked from the inside outward, I added another round to the doily, and kept going. I finally tied off my knots in the airport on the way home– the perfect 10-day project.

When the trip was over, I’d learned some more Spanish, I was deliriously rested and relaxed, and  my husband and I had some lovely, space-conscious mementos of our vacation.

Stephanie Bryant is a knitter, blogger, and writer. She writes and publishes Handknit Heroes, the superhero comic book for knitters ( Her Ravelry username is mortaine.

Crafting Abroad

by Gradskoolknitter

As part of my PhD program we are expected to go abroad for a semester or two to do some research. (I study Spanish literature, so you can see how it might be useful to study abroad for a bit.) So as you read this I am probably sitting in the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) of Spain…. or possibly hanging out with some knitters. Now, I might be biased, ‘cause I am one, but knitters are pretty much the nicest people you could ever meet. I learned to knit when I was young – less than 10 years old – but left it alone for a long time through high school and my undergrad career.  When I moved to the States from Canada to start my PhD I took it up again.  There was a new shop opening up near my house and a (now defunct) knitting group run by some other grad students that met twice a month (later the shop started a Saturday knit-in and I found another group of young professionals and graduate students to fill the void created by the defunct group).

I can’t tell you how many times these groups saved me from boredom, amongst other things. I have met people from all ages, politics, backgrounds, races, religions and whatever else you can possibly imagine through knitting. So when I had to move across the ocean, away from my family, my friends and my boyfriend I searched Ravelry for groups that met in Madrid.  I packed my bags (complete with a stash to last me a few months) and transversed the Ocean. As soon as I met with the ladies of MadridKnits I felt more like Spain was home. It’s funny how two groups, from two very distinct places can both bring me the same sort of comfort. Even though it is in a different language, we often talk about the same topics, laugh at the same jokes, knit the same sorts of things. A good knitting group can become a second family, and both of mine, here and across the ocean, have been some of the most supportive people I have ever known.

So, if you find yourself having to move and worried about how to meet new people, I would seriously suggest taking up a craft and googling groups in your new area. You just might find your new best friends!

As for traveling and crafting – which I strongly suggest ‘cause knitting while waiting for planes or on a long train ride really helps pass the time – I have a couple suggestions:

  1. For plane travel (especially outside of the US) make sure your needles or crochet hooks are wood. In many countries they will take your metal needles (right out of your project, no matter how much you beg or cry!) away when you go through security.
  2. Chose small projects: my fave is socks! You generally only need one or two small skeins of yarn and tiny needles which makes it easy to pack a couple different projects to work on. There are lots of free patterns available online, but I would suggest taking something easy, either a plain stockinette sock like these:
  3. Or a simple pattern that you can easily memorize. I have a few patterns that I designed and put up for download (for free!! we all like free, right?!) on ravelry:
  4. Socks on Fire: A top down lacey sock available for download here

Socks for a Winter’s Night: A toe-up, gusset heel sock with lace cuff available for download here.

If you aren’t a sock knitter there are lots of other small projects you can take along with you, like this cowl available for download here:

Of course there are lots more out there, all you have to do is a quick ravelry or google search and you will come up with lots of free / cheap patterns that will help you pass the time while you travel and when you get home you’ll have a new project!  Not to mention all the friends you will make along the way… not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about my latest project as I work away on the metro to and from the Biblioteca!

Honestly my knitting groups, here and back home, have been life-saving for me… they were both very welcoming, open communities when I was new, and both have spawned what I think will be life-long friendships.  The two I regularly attend at home have been supportive through moves, break-ups, new relationships, school drama… you name it, they have been supportive of me through it (and vice versa, of course). The yarnstore near my house in Baltimore is like my safe haven and the owner Sue is like my cool aunt/mom away from mom. There are times that I’m pretty sure if I didn’t have Sue and the group there I would have seriously considered giving up on grad school and gone home!

Happy Knitting!

If you want to know more about Gradskoolknitter’s projects and patterns you can check out her blog or find her on ravelry as gradskoolknitter !

Catching up, like friends should

My dear, lovely, sweet, loyal,often-related-to-me Readers…I am back!

Sorry about the ridiculous one month hiatus but I swear, I am really back now, primed and ready to blog. Many ideas have been brewing. Many cups of tea have been mulled over. I am back for a summer of Doing and Making and hopefully you will all read about it…or at least pretend to so that when we see each other in person you can be like,

“So, yeah…you’re blog. That’s really…written. I loved that last post about…the stuff that you…made. Great!”

Ah! Nothing like an awkward conversation to make you feel like killing yourself with your shoe. But I am getting ahead of myself. First, a brief catch-up…

When last we spoke the DB and I were still in the States, about to head to New York City and then on to Boston. Unbeknown to both our families however, we were planning to come home waaaaaaaaaay earlier that we had told them (or lied to them, as was kindly pointed out to us when we got back). The DB has a thing about surprises. He lives for them. I could often live without them.

So I was sworn to secrecy which really tied my hands in terms of what I could share with you about our Swashbuckling adventure. Too much information and it would be quite obvious we were only staying in NYC and Boston for just a few days  at a time and then coming home. Too little information and, well, you would all stop reading because that just isn’t entertaining. And that really squashed my blogging mojo.

NYC and Boston were both incredible even though we were there for way too short a time to see everyone we wanted. I got to go back to Berklee, which was more than a little weird, and see a few teachers and faculty I worked with there. Finally got to see the Red Sox play in Fenway Park – FINALLY! (Great place and I will love the Red Sox forever but MAN is baseball boring live) Hung out in Central Park in the sun and had sushi in Brooklyn. Rode around Boston on the T and got to watch the news in the back of a NY taxi…really! They have little TVs in them now. Crazy!

Seeing my friends was the highlight, better than anything else and I want to thank them all from the bottom of my heart for making time to hang out with us and giving us beds to stay in. You are ALL always welcome to come and visit Ireland or anywhere I am in the world at any time!

And so our Swashbuckling Adventure Around the World came to an end…but not before we had one last little adventure/disaster courtesy of a lovely Icelandic volcano. Flights were re-routed (not a problem), then delayed (bit annoying), then after re-scheduling our connecting flights so we wouldn’t lose our tickets, delayed even further (getting cranky), then missed entirely (blind panic), then rescheduled again…thank you Easyjet for not making us buy a new ticket every time and just putting us on the next available flight…and then finally a sleepover on Heathrow’s two most uncomfortable seats (too tired to cry) before flying home to Ireland. It took us as long to get from Boston to Dublin as it did to get from London to Sydney at the start of this trip!

We’ve been home for nearly four weeks now. Writing here suddenly makes all the travelling seem real again. It all became a hazy dream in my mind after a few days back in our familiar little village. I have been known to fall off the face of the Earth when visiting home, it has that effect on me…something to do with re-entry to life here and trying to be present in it…and after feeling unable to blog those last few weeks of our travels I seemed to shy away from putting it all out here. I’m an awful procrastinator too which doesn’t help.

I haven’t been up to a whole lot since getting back…job-hunting (not looking good) and coming up with crafty ideas for the summer (very productive) but more on them in the next few days. Oh, I went to see Ingrid Michaelson in Dublin a few days ago and she was incredible, would highly recommend seeing her live. I’ve been cooking and knitting and still have to unpack (procrastinator, I told you!).

Yes, I am definitely back and orientating myself for a new adventure. The Adventure that is Staying Sane While Living in Your Parents Home for The Summer. Or even more exciting Finally Doing All Those Important, Life-Changing Things You Were Too Scared To Do Before!

Carlingford Lough at Sunset...Home Sweet Home

Almond I Brilliant!

…as in the Northern Irish turn of phrase ‘Amn’t (am not) I brilliant!’ Grammatically speaking it should be ‘am I not’ but the Northern Irish have evolved past needing grammar to be understood and it just doesn’t sound as good out of my little sister’s mouth. Eh, maybe it’s only funny to me. But almonds are brilliant, and I don’t think I am all that bad either.

I’m in great form. Arrived in Reno yesterday after another epic day of traveling…we’re all about getting the cheapest flights possible and if that means a million lay-overs so be it…It was fabulously cold and crisp, with the mountains around Reno dusted with snow. I had an amazing, rejuvenating, mind-meltingly, glorious sleep last night and feel like a new woman. I caught up with Miss A, my soul-sister, and drank enough tea to sink a ship. I baked cookies this morning. I baked Tarte de Santiago this evening (get the recipe here). It snowed, great big blobby flakes of wet snow! I’m looking forward to a road-trip to San Jose tomorrow, with Miss A and the DB, and will get to see my cousins while I’m there. That’s especially exciting as I’ve never met the newest addition to their family, Ava (pronounces Ah-vah, rather than the common Ay-vah…beautiful, just like her).

In case you can’t tell, I’m in great form. Have I mentioned that already? :)

The rest of our time in Hawaii was short but sweet. The DB and I saw Waikiki beach and took a bus round the island to see the North Shore. It was stunning. I would definitely recommend skipping Honolulu if you can and just staying up at North Shore. Beaches galore and walls of water that locals here call ‘waves’ and enjoy tempting death by riding on with tea trays! I saw pineapples growing on the ground (I always thought they grew on trees?!) at the Dole plantation. I saw where the incredible shot from ‘Jurassic Park’ was filmed, when they’re flying in for the first time and see the dinosaurs running below them. All in all it was lovely but we were still zonked and too aware we were facing another night of travel as we headed for Nevada. We’ll definitely be back however, sooner rather than later. It is paradise, we definitely saw enough to know that!

After all our crazy travelling, it’s lovely to finally be in a place we know and that we will be staying put in for a few weeks. I am a little travel-weary. I hadn’t realized before now, but landing here I suddenly became aware of how grateful I was to be able to unpack and feel still for awhile. Arriving here also confirmed something I’ve always thought might be true but wasn’t one hundred percent sure. I want to live here. I need to live here. This is where I should be now, in the States, pursuing what makes me happy. It has its flaws (and I’ve no idea how I will get a visa to work/stay), and I will always love my beautiful home, but right now America calls to me…I’m in great form…

Goodbye Australia: Take 2!

The DB pointed out earlier that this is about as close to living ‘Groundhog Day’ as anyone could get. After much to-ing and fro-ing, we finally left sunny Australia for the last time, with no dramas thank goodness, and arrived safely and soundly in Hawaii! Our flight took off at 6pm on Monday 29th March, and 9 hours later we arrived in Hawaii, local time 7am Monday 29th March. And people say that they don’t like Mondays…try two in a row!

Needless to say, we are both suffering right now as we try and battle through the jetlag and wait to sleep until it’s actually bedtime. The fuzzies have hit hard and I am trying to write this post through the static in my brain. Must keep myself busy because if I sit still for a minute I will conk out!

We attempted an outing this afternoon to Hanauma Bay. Even with the jetlag we want to make the most of our short time here and not be deadbeat travellers that just stay in our hotel and watch bad TV. So we trooped out on public transport, taking in the beautiful views, took some pictures…and then trooped right back again. Turn around time about 2 hours and I think it has killed us. The thought of trying to find dinner now just makes us both groan! Uuuuugh!

Hanauma Bay was spectaular though. The water was ten different shades of blue and so clear you could see the coral in it. We didn’t make it into the water for a closer look, as levels of tiredness would definitely have resulted in a drowning, but the view was beautiful. I am ashamed to say however that after 15 minutes I couldn’t stand up anymore and took a power nap on a nearby bench. Very classy!

Waikiki is a pretty average, concrete American city. Lots of grey buildings and diners, sitting slap bang in the middle of incredible mountains and perfect beaches. I can’t wait to see what’s past all these boring square buildings and high-rises around us. More exploring to be done tomorrow…