The Beauty of Traveling Light

Two days ago was Dan and my 6-month-traveliversary. Wow. I can’t believe we have really been traveling the world for 6 months. 6 months has lead me to reflect a lot on our biggest successes of the trip. It has also made me miss home a whole lot, but that may just be because we are heading home in about 2 weeks. I can’t believe this adventure is coming to an end! Don’t worry, there is so much we didn’t have a chance to share on our lovely blog while it was happening, so the posts will continue long after we are back in our freezing cold home, New York City.

But back to our successes. This may not be an impressive or spectacular choice as our biggest success of the trip, but I am sticking with it: Our biggest success of the trip is keeping our luggage under 10 kilos. That’s under 22 pounds to our American readers.

Weighing our bags at the Auckland airport. Mine was 8kg and Dan's was 9kg. Plus that small daypack I'm holding that has our computer in it, I get to around 10kg.

Weighing our bags at the Auckland airport before dawn (and ticket-counter opening). Mine was 8kg and Dan’s was 9kg. Plus that small daypack I’m holding that has our computer in it, I get to around 10kg.

10 kilos means that we have never checked a bag on this entire trip. Big plane or small, those backpacks fit in the overhead compartment! Think of all the money in checked baggage fees we have saved! This means, for all you future travelers who want to attempt the same thing, you cannot get a 70 liter bag. It will not fit in the overhead, plus if you fill it it will definitely weigh too much. And you will fill it. It’s human nature to fill the bag to the brim! For reference, my bag is 45 liters. Dan’s is 50 liters. This seems to be a good size for keeping your bag under 10 kilos, unless you plan on carrying rocks. Then you will have a problem, no matter the size of your bag!

For the lovely cheapskate airlines that have lowered their carry on weight to 7 kilograms (and 7 kilos is the lowest we have seen), we had a plan: Wear all of your heavy clothes and stuff some heavy stuff into your pockets. We did this with much success in Malaysia when flying Air Asia. They are the biggest cheapskates of any airline we have flown. They won’t even give you water on the plane without charging! So before we went to that ticket counter, we put on our long pants (I wore my leggings underneath), short-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and our sweatshirts. I put on my scarf, too, which covered my sweatshirt pockets which I then stuffed our two liquids bags into. Dan also stuffed some things into his pants pockets. We did all of this before going to the ticket counter. When we got there, no problems! After we had our tickets, we just put the extra stuff back into the bags.

See, here’s the thing. They weigh your bag just to be able to charge you extra if it’s over their threshold, whatever that number happens to be. But they don’t weigh you! It doesn’t matter that I’m a small person, my bag can’t weigh more than X-number of kilos. It’s a money-making sceme, really, so we decided to beat it. And we have on every flight. But the key is keeping your bags near the threshold so you aren’t struggling to hide the weight on your person.

Now that we are nearing the end of our trip, I can say that traveling light is getting more difficult to stick to. For most of our trip, our only gifts to ourselves were pictures and memories, but now that we are so close to home we have been buying things here and there. Nothing crazy, but every purchase adds up to more weight! For the budget traveler, though, I highly recommend sticking with the plan of only taking pictures. They cost nothing (assuming they are digital), weight nothing, but will allow you to look back fondly on everything you have done. And my memory alone certainly isn’t good enough to do that!

So we wish you luck on packing light and saving some of your cash and sanity (no bags lost in transit!). To help you do this, Dan and I will soon be posting our packing list for a 6 month trip around the world (UPDATE! See the packing list HERE!). Be prepared, you will be wearing the same clothes over and over again!

All Hail Lord Fry!

Dan and I spent 10 days in Melbourne. That may seem like a long time to spend in Australia’s second biggest city, but it turned out to be such a pleasure. Melbourne is really fun and they have a killer vegan scene. After 3 weeks in New Zealand, cooking 90% of our own food, it was time to indulge. And we fell hard for the least healthy, but incredibly tasty, Lord of the Fries.

Thank you, Lord Fry!

Thank you, Lord Fry!

Lord of the Fries (or LotF for short) is an entirely vegetarian burger and fries fast food joint. Note that I did say vegetarian and not vegan. They can make 99% of all their options vegan, but there are cow-milk cheese and dairy and mayo-based sauces available, and used as the standard. If you don’t already know, here is why you shouldn’t eat dairy and here is why you shouldn’t eat eggs. For the animals! Everything you will see in the post below are vegan versions that we ordered when we went to LotF. Equally delicious, but 100% cruelty free!

This small qualm aside, Lord of the Fries makes amazing burgers and fries. They have 7 locations in Melbourne and one in Sydney. Dan and I ate there 5 times over our 10 day stay in Melbourne (and once more at their only location here in Sydney) as LotF was always conveniently located and obviously tasty. Here are some of the best pictures of  (some of) our eats from Lord of the Fries:

Our first LotF burger - the Parma Burger

Our first LotF burger – the Parma Burger

Parma Burger innards.

Parma Burger innards. They gave us two patties! By mistake I think. Win for us!

The Parma burger is a chick’n patty (their spelling, not mine), soy bacon, napoli sauce, cheese and onions. This was the only time we tried their chicken-style patty and I really liked it! Dan preferred the cow-style patty you will see below. But this burger, overall, was delicious. I don’t know what napoli sauce is, but it sure is tasty!

Nuggets and Rings Munch Box.

Nuggets and Rings Munch Box.

A standard purchase for us after this first time: a “munch box” is filled with LotF’s delicious twice-fried fries, onion rings, and awesome vegan chicken nuggets. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the box is really big, too. It’s a pretty good value (in addition to being delicious), as food in Australia goes.

And that’s something to mention, too. Prepared food in Australia is expensive. The burgers here (except for the breakfast burgers) all go for about US$7.50 and the munch box for about US$9.25. Australia’s minimum wage is over US$15 an hour, so purchasing goods where a human was involved in the production has to be more expensive. This is great for Australians (and is part of the reason why they can afford to travel so much!), but tough on foreigners. It didn’t bother us too much, as long as we were spending our money on really delicious food!

Then we decided one day to make it to LotF before 11 so we could try the breakfast burgers. Australians call these “brekky buns”, as you can see in the sign below.

Breakfast! Only available in Melbourne.

Breakfast! Only available in the Melbourne locations.

Dan's beloved New York breakfast burger.

Dan’s beloved New York breakfast burger.

Dan got the New York: Hash brown, LotF patty, cheese, onion, mustard, and bbq sauce. And he fell in love. He probably mentions it once a day. Too bad they don’t do breakfast here in Sydney!

The Tibet breakfast tofu-burger.

The Tibet breakfast tofu-burger.

The Tibet is just the vegan version of the Melbourne. I wish they hadn’t renamed it. It would have been cuter if Dan and I had ordered the vegan New York and the vegan Melbourne. Regardless, the Tibet is two tofu eggs, cheese, mayo and mustard. This one is good and very breakfast-y. I’m not really a burger-before-11am kind of person, so this was nice to have instead.

On our last day in Melbourne Dan demanded a return to LotF one last time so he could get his New York breakfast burger again, but he also really wanted to try the Big Mark (can you guess what burger that one is modeled after??). Do they do non-breakfast burgers during breakfast hours? We were going to find out.

Good news! They do! So Dan got both, and kindly shared them with me. For your viewing pleasure, a double Big Mark Burger: 2 LotF patties, cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce, and special sauce.

A Double Big Mark burger. The cruelty free version!

A Double Big Mark burger. The cruelty free version!

This burger was huge and tasty. Seeing as I have never had “the real thing”, I had to ask Dan how it stood up and he was not disappointed. But for Dan, nothing could hold a candle to his favorite, the New York breakfast burger:

The New York a second time.

The New York a second time.

Okay, New York vegan scene, please begin work on a version of this burger so that when we get home Dan can get one, because I imagine he’ll never stop talking about it otherwise! Maybe Terri could add it to their new breakfast menu? You can call it the Dan Special. I think he’d be okay with it!

Anyway, there you have it. Our fav food spot in Melbourne. I won’t hold it against you if you come all the way down to Australia just for Lord of the Fries, but I promise that Melbourne will be able to keep you entertained between meals as well! We really enjoyed it all!

The New Zealand Campervan Experience

Hello everyone. We hope you are having excellent holidays. We were more or less internet-less while in New Zealand, hence the lack of posting. We have left kiwi-land and are now “down unda” in Australia and we wanted to catch you up on the magic that is New Zealand.

On the recommendation of a friend (who wrote this fabulous blog about her time in NZ), we traveled around New Zealand in a minivan that had been converted into a campervan. What does that mean, you may ask. Well I will take you on a tour:

Our home for 2 weeks. Fully equipped minus a bathroom.

Our home for 2 weeks. Fully equipped minus a bathroom.

For two people (who like each other), this minivan is perfect. It fits in a regular parking spot, but contains everything you need for day-to-day living (except a bathroom).

The campervan set up for daytime.

The campervan set up for daytime.

Above you can see the campervan as it looked in the morning after we woke up and put it back to daytime mode. There are seats on either side of the van behind the front seats. Those come in handy if it is pouring outside and you need to hide out for a few hours. All of our stuff lived under the seat on the right side of this picture in the two cubbies. Under the left side seat was our pantry. All our non-perishables were in there. Our perishable items lived in the cooler in the center of the picture. We bought a 3 liter bottle of water and froze it whenever we stayed the night somewhere with a freezer. In this picture on the lower right you can see the cooktop where Dan is making oatmeal, our standard breakfast. The cooktop slides back into that white cube on the right and all of the dishes and cutlery fit underneath. On the left is the sink (that we pretty much didn’t use), and the kettle that fits into the sink.

The campervan set up for nighttime.

The campervan set up for nighttime.

In the picture above you can kinda see the bed setup. It goes from behind the front seats up to sink/cooler/stove areas. The bed magically comes into being by pulling out a wooden plank from under the right hand seat, that then fits into the middle section. Then the back cushions from both seats cover the middle plank, and the top left area is filled with a plank and cushion that was standing upright behind the passenger side seat (on the left in NZ!). Then the whole thing is covered by a sheet and duvet. It was actually quite comfortable. It sounds confusing, but after putting the bed together once it wasn’t so bad. Here you can also see all of the equipment (stove side and sink side) properly put away. I can admit to the fact that it usually wasn’t this well organized!

The biggest question we get about seeing the country in a campervan is, how do you handle not having a bathroom? New Zealand is the land of campervans, so the country is well prepared for this kind of travel. There are two kinds of places you can stay at with a campervan: Department of Conservation (DoC) sites or holiday parks. DoC sites are low tech and low cost. A night at most DoC sites is NZ$10 per person. DoC sites almost all have toilets and running water. In some places you need to boil the water before using it as it just comes from the nearby stream. Holiday parks are private businesses that are like motels for campervans. You get a spot for your van and share communal kitchens and bathrooms. Holiday parks are where we took all of our showers. Holiday parks cost in the NZ$30-45 range for 2 people in one unpowered campervan. I think Dan preferred the solitude and beauty of the simple DoC sites, but I liked the community and services of the holiday parks. Also, the holiday parks are everywhere you, as a tourist, might want to go, where the DoC sites are more remote. I think in two weeks we only stayed at 2 or 3 DoC sites. Which, on the plus side, means we took more showers!

Most importantly, how was cooking in the campervan? It was great. We only had one burner, so one-pot meals were all we made. We had ramen with veggies (Dan’s favorite), burritos (my favorite), sloppy joes, pasta with veggie-filled sauce, and veggie curry. We went grocery shopping only a few times during the trip as with some planning our food lasted a while. The trick? When staying at a holiday park, freeze a big 3 liter bottle of water overnight and then that will keep your cooler cold for a few days until your next stay at a holiday camp! Worked for us. We never had any mold issues. Here are some pictures of cooking and eating while traveling in a campervan.

Burrito night, with a great view.

Pasta night, with a great view.

Rain or shine, I will eat ramen

Rain or shine, I will eat ramen

These little guys were looking for some snacks.

These little guys were looking for some snacks.

Burrito night number 2. Our favorite meal while campervanning.

Burrito night. My favorite meal while campervanning.

The reason that campervan travel is so popular around New Zealand is because the country is so amazingly diverse, even though it is quite small. We only had one long driving day, but in two weeks we probably drove over 2000 km, seeing much of the country (but not nearly all. I guess we will have to come back!). The campervan allowed us to go places we couldn’t have gone to otherwise.

Here are some of our favorite pictures that we took over the 2 weeks traveling the country in the campervan:

Now, just one last piece of advice before you all head off to plan your campervan trip in New Zealand: Buy the extra insurance. That way when this happens:

Is that a nail in our tire? Yes, yes it is.

Is that a nail in our tire? Yes, yes it is.

Flat tire off, doughnut on. Dan springs into action.

Flat tire off, doughnut on. Dan springs into action.

Flat tires suck, but we couldn't have picked a more beautiful place to get one.

Flat tires suck, but we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to get one.

It doesn’t cost you anything more than some time and energy. Plus, you never know, a nice kiwi family may offer you their driveway to park/sleep in for the night.

Christchurch, New Zealand: Destruction and Rebirth

Hello everyone! Long time, no post. Sorry about that. Since we last posted Dan and I flew from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Christchurch, New Zealand, via Sydney, Australia. Whew! An exhausting, but totally worth it, 24 hours. I know New Zealand is very far away from pretty much everything, but I encourage everyone to come here! We spent the first two days here in Christchurch, and since then we have been traveling around the country in a campervan (a post about the campervan will be coming in the future!). It has been so much fun, but we haven’t had much in the way of internet. Hence the lack of posting. I wanted to check in really quickly and do a post of mostly pictures.

Christchurch is the second largest city in New Zealand, and the largest city on the south island. In February of 2011, Christchurch was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake which killed 185 people and was the second largest natural disaster in New Zealand’s history. The Central Business District (CBD) was hit particularly hard. Almost 3 years later Christchurch is still getting back on its feet. It is a city of juxtapositions. There is beauty everywhere, but there is also destruction. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Destruction

Destruction.

Rebirth. This is Re:START, a new retail area in CBD created out of shipping containers

Rebirth. This is Re:START, a new retail area in CBD created out of shipping containers.

Christchurch Cathedral, located in the center of CBD.

Christchurch Cathedral in ruins, located in the center of CBD.

Amazing, ancient tree in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. See me in the middle for scale.

Amazing, ancient tree in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. See me in the middle for scale.

Bridge in the city with a huge crack.

Bridge in the city with a huge crack.

Ducklings!

Ducklings!

Behind a row of buildings in CBD. You can still see into most of them, 3 years later.

Behind a row of buildings in CBD. You can still see into most of them, 3 years later.

Dan with a mushroom umbrella in Hagley Park, the second biggest inner-city park in the world. After Central Park, of course!

Dan with a mushroom umbrella in Hagley Park, the second biggest inner-city park in the world. After Central Park, of course!

Memorial to the 185 victims of the earthquake. 185 unique chairs.

Memorial to the 185 victims of the earthquake. 185 unique chairs.

Beautiful plantings like this one can be found all over the city.

Beautiful plantings like this one can be found all over the city.

We thought Christchurch was a really fascinating place, and we can only imagine what it was like before the earthquake. Christchurch now has an opportunity to remake its city center. Something no other city has the chance to do hundreds of years after its creation. We saw some plans of what they hope to do with all of the now-empty spots around town and, if realized, Christchurch could become a very “livable” city full of playgrounds and green spaces. I wish them all the best and I hope to be back someday to experience all the growth and changes.

Our Local Vegan Thai Place in Bangkok

All it took was our first bites at this place to know that we would become regulars. During our 5 days in Bangkok, we became just that. We ate at Baan Aree (also known as Banana Family Park) almost everyday.

Our first Baan Aree deliciousness.

Our first Baan Aree deliciousness.

Open at 7am, it was the perfect affordable Thai breakfast. We would stop in for a bite before heading off for our activities for the day. At 30-50 baht ($1-1.67) per plate (depending on what we got) it was a fantastic deal.

Tofu, veggies, noodles. Who could ask for anything more?

Tofu, veggies, noodles. All vegan! Who could ask for anything more?

Oh yeah, and crispy fried mushrooms! (upper left corner)

Oh yeah, and crispy fried mushrooms! (upper left corner)

If you are patient and come at the end of the day (they are technically open until 7pm, but I wouldn’t get there much after 6 if I were you), you are rewarded with the discounted leftovers of the day. 15 baht per plastic bag of food.

15 baht bags of deliciousness are perfect for long overnight bus trips.

15 baht bags of deliciousness are perfect for long overnight bus trips.

But Molly, you might be thinking, how the heck do we get to this place? Good question. It is inexplicably hard to find. A good place to start would be to review the description on their Happy Cow page. Then follow our step-by-step directions here:

Take the BTS Skytrain (the most pleasant way to get around Bangkok) to the Ari station. Take exit 1. Walk down the west side of Phahon Yothin road.

When you see this sign, turn down the alley that looks like...

When you see this sign, turn down the alley that looks like…

this! Yes it is usually this deserted.

this! Yes it is usually this deserted.

Once you are out of the alley, you will see some shops. Pass them and see on your right this big open space with seating and a glass-walled yoga studio at the back.

Once you are out of the alley, you will see some shops. Pass them and see on your right this big open space with seating and a glass-walled yoga studio at the back.

You are now almost there! Keep going! Walk to the right of the yoga studio, next to the bathrooms. Keep to the right and keep walking and you will finally see:

this glorious home of tasty food and a little health food store.

this glorious home of tasty food and a little health food store.

The health food store is the perfect place to pick up snacks or a cold drink, and the food stalls are all vegetarian. This is your chance, veggie-eaters, to get your fill of vegan versions of Thai street food. I recommend one of everything!

One tip I learned is to keep your eye out for yellow triangle-shaped flags with red writing on them. That means the food at that restaurant is “jay”. The Thai word “jay” (เจ), means a person who eats no meat, no seafood, no animal byproducts, no garlic, and even excludes a few herbs and vegetables that have too pungent of a flavor. (Definition borrowed from this article.) But I promise that does not mean tasteless! Our vegan Thai place was where local office workers came at lunchtime. This was no foreigner hangout. You, too, can find your own veggie Thai place in Thailand!

You can check out all of our Thailand posts here.