Friday, July 30, 2010

Goodbye New York!


Saying goodbye is always strange.  How can one little word express all the emotions that are churning inside of me right now.  Instead of having one big bash blowout I have been slowly saying goodbye the last two weeks to everyone in my New York life who I will miss.  Each goodbye has been hard and I have felt very sad, but I was unprepared for the wave of sadness for my comfortable safe life that I leave behind tonight.  It was a perfect last night spent with one of my absolute best friends Kate and my sister, rhys, and of course rheana.  It was low key, just hanging around their house eating Rhy's amazing chicken meatballs.  I kept it together as my friend Kate left, we've fallen into a pattern of seeing each other about once a week so it will be very strange to not see her regularly and know what's up in her life.  I've been away from friends before though, as  I was for 4 months in Paris, but this will be different.

That realization of "this is different" hit me about an hour later as I said goodbye to my sister.  I gave Rheana lots of big hugs and tried fruitlessly to get a nice photo of us together (my best attempt is above).  How do you explain to a dog that I will miss her very much and even though she won't see me for a long time I love her and promise to come home to her?  I've been joking for months that I will have three big break downs about this trip: one saying goodbye to Liz/Rhys/Rheana, one saying goodbye to my parents, and one after I encounter a spider as big as Rheana.  But joking didn't prepare me for the overwhelming sadness that riddled my body when I had to say goodbye to the ones I love.  I know I will be back in January and get to see them again, but there is a comfort that I feel being in Elizabeth and Rhys' apartment that I will dearly miss.  It is a feeling of home and family that I really only feel at my parents home and theirs.  As much as I love my apartment and will be sad to leave the nest I have made for myself, leaving their apartment hit me hard.  When I was a freshman at college and my parents left the first thing I did was call my sister and go over to her and Rhys' place for dinner and it felt like home.  Although they have moved a few times I have always immediately felt that feeling of family in their apartment.  Will I still feel that sense of home in 5 months?

Leaving it tonight hit me like a tidal wave that sucks you under and then keeps pushing you down after each wave crashes above your head, but your under water so you don't see them coming.  The problem is (for me at least) once I let in the sadness a tiny bit all the worrisome thoughts rush in.  I have always been a traveler, but never before to third world countries where I will experience such major juxtapositions to my own pretty cushy New York City life.  I wonder who I will be when this trip is over because I know it will change me.  Travel always changes me and usually for the better.  It is exciting and terrifying to know that I am embarking on a 5-month journey that will probably chew me up and spit me out a different person than I am now.

As I walked out of my sister's beautiful West Village apartment I hopped a cab and said for the last time for a very long time my cross streets.  I was sobbing and the cab driver quite obviously thought I was a lunatic.  He started to drive the familiar route back to my apartment, which I take usually 3 or 4 times a week and as I said goodbye in my head to all my favorite stores and restaurants from the window he took a wrong turn and got us stuck in 20 minutes of traffic. (The ride if done correctly at this time of night should be an 8 minute cab drive door to door).  It's amazing how anger is the perfect antidote to sadness.  I quickly stopped crying and angrily directed the driver back to 7th Avenue.  Then I got stuck in my elevator again for the second time today.  Maybe it's time to get out of New York after all?

But New York I will miss you.  Watch over all those I love who live in you.

See you all on the other side!
xoxo
Rebecca

Cameras and Computers Packing List: Part 4 (Electronics)

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Over the past month I have shared with you all here my packing list for my trip.  For easy viewing I split it up into 4 categories: Medicines, Bug Repellents, Clothes, and Electronics.  I have waited to post electronics because I knew things would change until the last moment they were all tucked away in my bag.  My bag even changed today and I decided to bring a smaller camera bag and add a zippered tote to use on the plane.  I have decided for many reasons I won't get into here that I will post my gear list after my trip when I return.  But not to disappoint I will give a few pointers here.

Pack AA and AAA batteries in packed luggage and not carry on as they may be confiscated.  Bring at least one portable external hard drive and preferably two if you really care about your data.  I will also be uploading to carbonite, but that can be very slow so I don't know how much I will be able to do with the third world internet connections I will be dealing with.  Another tip is to have back up copies of every important document, you should have these copies printed out once (or even twice) and also back ups on your computer.  I have multiple copies of my itinerary and then have them saved on my computer and ipad so I am good to go.  I am a big fan of having everything very organized so I printed everything out in duplicates and organized it into 4 folders.  If something goes very wrong like you miss a plane or the hotel has no record of you reservation it is great to be well organized and prepared so you can just pull out the proper document and problem solve.  And my final tip is actually unrelated to electronics, but is something else I dealt with today: currency!  I'm going to so many places it's hard to keep all the money straight so a great idea is to make currency cheat sheets, which you can get from this website and then print out and stick in your wallet.

That's it for the packing list series! I will continue to update to let you know if I packed the right stuff and what I wish I had or hadn't packed!  One day till I leave!  Hope you're all as excited as I am!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens, New York

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With less than a week before I take off for Nairobi everything becomes a last.  My last Monday, my last episode of True Blood, the last time I will take Rheana to the dog park, and the last photo post on my blog.  I will post later this week the final installment of my packing guide as promised, which will encompass camera equipment and all things electronic.  But before I make that post I wanted to share an awesome New York day trip I did on Sunday (my last Sunday here)!!! It's amazing how incredibly hot it is now and when I get back in January it will be so terribly cold.  Why do I chose to live in such a crazy city with these horrible weather extremes?  Oh yeah...because it is the best city in the world. PERIOD.  Now I haven't visited every city in the world, although after the next few months I will be able to cross a lot more off my list, but there is a magic within the city of New York that is unexplainable.  People ask me all the time why I chose New York when my interest is wildlife and nature.  Well first of all my interests are so varied and as I told Rhys on our Sunday adventure I am just as happy up to my knees in goose poop trying to get a good shot as I am photographing in a studio with models and a light kit.   Second, what I love about New York is you can find great fashion in all the boutiques and stores, great culture in the amazing museums and galleries, and as I've explored over the last few years great nature right here in the parks.  But if you want a little more nature than the island of Manhattan can provide you can travel just 45 minutes out of the city to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens.

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The trip out there was inspired by the Audubon Society.  As a member I get a newsletter with information about upcoming trips and they had one listed for shorebirds in Jamaica Bay.  So Rhys, our friend Sam, and I all headed out to Queens to go see some birds.  We met up with the group, but it was quite large and many of the people weren't dressed properly for sludging through mud and poop so we broke off from them and foraged on our own.

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I love birds.  I always have.  When I was a little girl my parents took me to Big Sur and I named every bird I met along the way.  I would wake up at the crack of dawn to feed them (much to my sister's chagrin as I shared a room with her) and claimed to be able to identify them by name.  And no I do not mean species name, I mean the names I gave them (shout out to tweetie and shelly, great bird names right?).  My interest has now turned from naming and feeding them to photographing them.  I love capturing movement whether it be dancing, jumping, running or the beating of wings.  I especially love particularly fast birds where it becomes a game I play in my head trying to see how fast I can focus and keep up to get the right shot.  But once I get the right shot I get bored quickly and while I love spending time with the birds after a few hours you realize how ripe the marsh smells and how hot the sun is, so I would suggest planning for around two hours of sight seeing in the bay.  If you are a true birder as Rhys and Sam are you may want more time, but if you're like me and you enjoy them, but aren't counting or tracking I would say this is a half day activity.  We saw over 30 different species including Canadian Geese, Ibises, Terns, Sand Pipers, Egrets, Herons, Swans, and many more.

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My tips on this trip are to bring good mud boots, the higher the better because you will sink into a few holes while trudging through the mud.  If you don't have mud boots you can pick up some wellies at a fisherman's store in Queens that you will pass on the way to the bay if you are coming from Manhattan.  Rhys bought some there that you can see him modeling below.  Also wear lots of sunscreen because you will get burnt.

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If you have two camera bodies bring them so you don't have to change lenses in the mud.  When photographing a bird in the air try and focus on one at a time and follow it a little with your camera so you get the focus and frame right. 

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You can take public transport almost all the way there, but the train lets you out about a mile away from the visitor center so you have to bike or walk the rest.  If you don't have a car in the city (like me) the easiest thing to do is rent a zip car.  They aren't too expensive and it is really nice to be able to get in your own air conditioned car afterward when you smell like shit (literally) and are muddy and tired.  When we got back to the city and returned the car we went to get a taxi on 9th ave right outside of the Maritime Hotel and the Hiro Ballroom and it felt incredibly strange to be hailing a taxi when just under an hour ago we were up to our knees in mud and droppings.  We were worried we wouldn't be able to get a taxi because we smelled so bad, but we actually didn't smell any worse than the cab we got into...got to love NYC.  I sure will miss it for the next 5 months!

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Map!

Time is ticking away fast! I leave a week from today and am starting to feel that weird bubbly feeling of nerves and excitement! I spent the day packing making sure everything would fit in my bag, luckily I planned everything out a while ago so it wasn't too hard. The most important thing when packing is to be flexible, you can plan every detail, but sometimes last minute changes must happen and its important to go with the flow! I promise to post my list of electronics and camera bag really soon, but in the mean time please enjoy a map of my journey I made on the awesome website wayfairing.com.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What to Wear Packing List: Part 3 (Clothes)

I leave exactly 2 weeks from today!  In 336 hours I will be comfortably ensconced in a plane seat on my way to Nairobi!  I finally have all my clothes in for the trip and will now share with you my clothes packing list for the next 5 months!  I figure certain things like leech socks or a heavy winter coat I can pick up along the way, or have sent to a hotel from home if needed, but the basics to get me through this crazy journey are all here:

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My packing list consists of:

3 pairs of shorts
3 pants (one convertible pant to short)
1 short sleeve button up shirt
4 cotton t-shirts
2 long sleeve button up t shirts
1 long sleeve cotton shirt
1 thermal underwear
3 short leggings
2 long leggings
1 Sweatshirt
1 Fleece Jacket
1 Rain Jacket
1 skirt
1 Pajamas
1 Bathing Suit
1 big cashmere scarf
2 light weight cotton jackets (1 white, 1 black)
3 light weight sundresses (one fancy)
1 sneakers
1 hiking boots
1 sandals (flip flops)
1 nice sandals
6 pairs of socks
1 fold up towel
2 pairs of sunglasses
1 hat

And of course various undergarments which I haven't decided on amounts yet. I hope this will get me successfully through till December 18th, I think it should!  If you see anything I forgot please let me know!  I'm debating about the nice pair of shoes and thinking of adding my roll up ballet flats instead, but that is basically it!  This week I will soak all the clothes in the repellent I mentioned in the last post.

I weighed my camera bag today and with absolutely everything in it it comes to a whopping 33 pounds!  Thanks to my trainer Paola, without you I would never be able to carry that load!  I won't be carrying it around during the day that heavy, just while in transit.  I'll list its contents in the last posting of the packing list series.  Stay tuned for the last installment on camera equipment and technology to come very soon!

Almost time to say bon voyage!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Audubon Eco Cruise in NYC

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With all of the exotic places in the world to go and see wildlife it is easy to forget what beauty we can find in our own backyards.  I live in New York so technically I don't have a backyard, but the great thing about being a New Yorker is the whole city is your backyard.  On Sunday nights during the summer New York Water Taxi runs a special Audubon EcoCruise that takes you on a 90 minute journey up and down the East River.  New York Water Taxi is known for running very touristy trips full of obnoxious (sometimes drunk and always loud) non-native New Yorkers.  However this trip was extremely pleasant and relaxed.  There were about 35 people on the cruise and I would say 90% were locals.  The boat left from Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport and took us up the river, passing Randalls Island park and circling the Brother Islands.

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The trip was lead by a knowledgeable naturalist who gave some interesting facts about the birds we saw (although he was a little slow on spotting them) and also told really interesting facts and stories about the history of the city and these little islands.  I definitely love birds, and I went on the trip to see them, but I most enjoyed hearing the illicit histories of the islands that used to be jails, insane asylums, homeless shelters, small pox hospitals and just in general seedy places where (as our guide put it) "undesirables" were sent.   You also get an awesome view of all the bridges on the East River and sometimes you can even spot a Pelegrine Falcon roosting in one.
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Bird-wise the trip was great!  We saw Herons, a ton of Double-Crested Cormorants, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Black-Crowned Night Herons and a few types of seagulls.  I would suggest bringing a long lens, at least a 300mm or a 200 with a teleconverter if you want to snap good photographs of the birds as the boat can't get too close to the islands where the birds nest.
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Even if you aren't a big bird watcher the trip is very enjoyable and it is wonderful to simply cruise around and watch sunset over the city.  I dragged along my friend Kate who agreed how nice it was to be on the water and feel a cool breeze!  (Kate being a good sport and waving hi)
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This time of year the only cool places are air conditioned places and feeling a cool breeze while being outside is worth any ticket price to me!  Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for kids.  I would suggest the trip to locals who want a relaxing evening and to cool down or to tourists who want a laid back view of Manhattan from the water without feeling like a tourist.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tweet Tweet!

I have finally set up a twitter account! Be sure to follow me @RebeccaYale.  I will be tweeting exclusive content and pictures that will only be posted to my twitter so be sure to add me to your follow list!  While I am traveling I will be updating the blog whenever I have internet, but I will always have my phone and i'll update you guys with a new twitpic every few days.

I just posted a picture of the gallery being set up for my show Natural Manhattan opening on Thursday, check it out here!  I will not be posting all my twitter updates to the blog so be sure to follow both!  Click below to get to my twitter or click the permanent icon on the right side of the page.  See you all Thursday at the Gallatin Galleries!


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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Staying Healthy Packing List: Part 2 (Medicines and Bug Repellents)

As I tell people about my upcoming trip one of the questions I am almost always asked is: How do you pack for a 5-month trip to third world countries with different climates?  The answer? Not easily!  It is especially hard doing it in New York City because many of the big stores like REI, Columbia Sportswear, Magellans, and travmed don't have big retail stores in the city so most of the shopping must be done online.  The most important thing is to have good luggage.  Before you start buying everything make sure you have something good to put it all into.  I bought a 28-inch expandable black hard sided suitcase for my main suitcase, a crushable red duffel for the safari and other day trips, and of course my camera bag.  I bought a small combination lock for each bag.  I prefer those to the key kind because I am sure I would lose the key.  I am also throwing in a crushable lesportsac tote to use as a purse, it is light weight with lots of compartments making it a perfect travel bag.  I would suggest trying to find a lightweight suitcase, but I don't suggest a duffel as your main bag because it is hard to organize things and you will end up emptying your entire suitcase looking for one thing at the bottom.  I will talk more about choosing a camera bag later when I make my camera/electronic packing list post.

Before I get into details I wanted to give one tip to online shopping that I have been doing for years.  Before you buy anything go to google and type in the name of the store and coupon codes.  I'd say about 70% of the time I find a code for free shipping or a discount of some kind on websites like retailmenot.com or savings.com.  These discounts really add up and saved me around $200 for this trip.

This entry is dedicated to medicines and insect repellents.  For any trip you do to a third world country be it a 5-month journey or a 2-day stop over the most important thing is to be healthy.  Find a travel doctor in your area and speak with her about your travels and figure out what shots and medications you need.  Make sure you go to a reputable doctor that you trust and has the time to sit down and explain each medication to you.  The shots aren't as bad as they seem, many of them you only get once and the others are boosters you get in 5 or 10 year increments.  The only new shot I had to get this time was rabies, which is a series of three shots over a month (a lot better than getting the 14 shots after your bitten if you haven't been vaccinated)!

Half of my suitcase is going to be pills, I literally feel like a pharmacy on wheels.  My dad was helping me go over a check list to make sure I had everything and I pulled all the little orange bottles out and lined them up and was stricken with giggles at how funny it all looked lined up.  It reminded me of my swine flu still life from back in December and inspired a new medication still life.  Each doctor prescribes a little differently, but the most important medications to make sure you have are: Antibiotics in case you get sick (cold/flu) while abroad, Anti-naseau and Anti-diarrhea medication, Malaria Pills, and any regular medication you take.  If you are on any prescription medication you take regularly like birth control, heart medication, allergy medication you will probably not be able to find it where you are going so you will need to get you're insurance company to give a travel waiver so you can get enough for your entire trip before you leave!
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I would also suggest bringing along whatever you make take at home when sick like advil, tylenol, sudafed, cough medicine, imodium basically anything that would be hard to find where you're going (and if you're feeling sick and achy you don't want to have to hunt down sudafed).

One of my top rules for easy travel is organization.  For this trip I bought a bunch of smaller bags to put everything in inside my suitcase.  A bag for shirts, another one for pants, another for toiletries etc...(you get the idea).  Some like to buy a first aid kid already made, and there are some great out there, but I prefer to make my own.  I can buy the kind of bandaids I like and put in only the things I need.  I bought this bag and will put up a photo when i have bought everything to go inside of it.  Some of the items you may not need or you may want to add more.  A Suture/Syringe kit is a good idea if you are in any third world area, it is just a clean syringe in case you need a shot somewhere where the needles may be iffy.  Also for all the ladies out there I would suggest a urination funnel, they sound gross and not something you want to talk about, but if you're in some gross bathroom (or jungle) and a spider bites you on the tush, trust me you'll want these!  Some of the essentials I would suggest include: Bandaids, Blister Bandaids, Gauze, Ace Bandage, Hand Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, Bath Wipes, Electrolyte Replenishing Salts, Neosporin, Cortizone Cream, Sunscreen, Aloe Gel and a Suture Syringe Kit.
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One of the most common ways people in third world countries get injured or sick is insects, so one of the most important precautions to stay healthy is insect repellents.  There are some brands that sell clothes already infused with bug repellent, but personally I've found them ugly and unflattering so I decided to buy regular clothes and an insect repellent liquid treatment to use on the clothes.  For a repellent for my body I wanted to go with one that has 90% deet or more so I went with Off!  They come in little bottles so I bought a few to throw in my bag for the trip.  For itch and pain relief I bought a few sticks of AfterBite, which always seems to help a little.  Cortizone can help too and is always good to have in case you get a weird rash from something foreign (really important if hiking in jungles).  A very important thing to have is a mosquito net, they come in all shapes and sizes and some are pre-treated with repellent and some are not.  I have never used one before I so I did some research and found this mosquito net at REI that seems to be highly recommended because it comes with a spreader at the top to give some room inside the net (although be careful when I opened it up it was not smooth wood and got 3 splinters) and it keeps out even the really teeny tiny bugs.  The last thing I suggest is a Sleep Liner, which was recommended to me by my travel doctor.  It is for when you are sleeping in questionable sheets that could have bed bugs or other microscopic creepy crawlies lurking inside.  It is like a big silk sleeping bag and folds up really small.  Remember even with the mosquito net and liner to check your bed carefully before you get in it, I have heard horror stories of people sliding into their liners only to be bit by a gargantuan spider who also decided to make your liner home.
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I hope this information helps you all with your travels! Please feel free to post additions or ask questions, I love hearing from you guys and will answer them if I can. Posting on clothes and random travel needs to come next and then I will finish with a post on my camera bag and other electronics so be sure to check back soon for those!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Erasers, Endangered Species and Self Promotion

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Navigating the world of self promotion in photography can be very confusing and difficult.  Many photographers feel that they take amazing images and that should be enough, but unfortunately in this world you need to not only be a great image maker, but a great marketer of your images as well.  There is always the tried and true post card image with contact details on the back, but to avoid the dreaded toss pile many photographers are becoming more innovative, trying desperately to top each other by spending thousands of dollars (I've read of ones reaching $25,000) on simply getting an editor to take a second glance at their image.  I have taken many a business class on photography and have studied the blogosphere for advice on the delicate issue of self promotion.  What I have found you ask?  There doesn't seem to be one right answer.  There is no magic secret ingredient that makes an editor say "wow" and type your portfolio address into their web browser.  I have heard from editors who like very simple portfolios, some who like things they get to keep like a cup of noodles or a water bottle, and some who will only look at digital pieces.

When researching how to make yours I suggest checking out:
A Photo Editor's Blog , a wonderful blog written by Rob Haggart, the former Director of Photography for Men's Journal and Outside Magazine
An Interview with Ilise Benun on getting comfortable with self promotion
No Plastic Sleeves Blog, another great blog dedicated to portfolios and promotion for photographers  
PDN's Self Promo Awards, a selection of self promo's that have been selected by Photo District News as the best of the best, it includes descriptions and images.

As I am preparing for my trip, along with getting all my bug repellents, shots, and clothes, I have also prepared a promo that I will be sending out to some photographers, photo editors, gallery owners, and non profits who I would love to work with.  My promo is in preparation for the trip, encouraging people to follow this very blog you're reading and create interest in my project on endangered and threatened species.  After all, the only way my images can create change is if people see them!  With that in mind I came up with the phrase: These animals are being erased from our planet.  Soon all that will be left are the images.  I am sending out an envelope containing a postcard with an image from my arctic series on the front and the general information about the project on the back.  Inside the envelope I have also included a business card and four erasers: a panda bear, lion, orangutan, and a elephant.  (Four animals I will be working with and photographing).  The erasers all came in today and I began to put together the promos.  They all looked so adorable in a pile as I sorted them that I just had to share them with you here!
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Below is a sample of the promo being sent out soon:
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Fireworks!

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Natural Manhattan in Gallatin Galleries

A little break from travel posting- I'll be having a show of my series Natural Manhattan at the Gallatin Galleries in NYC from July 15-August 27.  The opening will be at the gallery located at 1 Washington Place (Washington Place & Broadway) from 6pm-8pm.  Hope to see you all there!

Natural Manhattan explores the idea of authenticity in nature and how composition of an image affects a spectator’s idea of nature in Manhattan. By mixing delicate details and larger landscapes the series questions the idea of what is real nature and the importance to feel it in urban environments. The project was inspired by the William Blake quote: “Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street.” There is a tranquility and beauty that can be found only in nature and is not usually found in the heart of the city. These images are meant not only to make the viewer question our use and relationship to nature in Manhattan, but also the very meaning of what nature is in the City. These images show the intersection of grey and green, man and nature, manufactured and authentic—they are Natural Manhattan.

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A book featuring the entire series can be seen and purchased at blurb.com.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Preparing for my Trip: Part 1

Today is July 1st.  I leave this month!  I have been planning this trip for so long I can't believe it is only a month away.  I actually had my first panic attack about the trip yesterday thanks to Kristin Luna over at Camels and Chocolate due to her post about an encounter with a black spitting cobra in Borneo.  It's funny, my mother is so worried about the things other people could do to me abroad, but I am not at all afraid of that.  However I am terrified of the insects and snakes.  Give me a lion any day, but a scorpion or black mamba- I'm cowering under the bed...or maybe not because that's where the bugs are!  I got in my first shipment in the mail today of items I've been ordering online for the trip including a wonderful book from Wanderlust and Chocolate about traveling solo as a woman.


I promise to share my packing with you as I go.  For convenience and easy reading for all of you I will wait till more comes in and group it into clothes, medicine + first aid, mosquito + bug repellents/clothes/nets, and camera equipment + technology.

I've updated the blog a little, making a few changes in the format for easier viewing so be sure to check out the tabs on top with information about my trip and links to my projects and other travel reviews I've written.
 
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