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“Do you really need three surfboards?!”

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A challenging part of any trip is choosing what to pack for the journey.  When traveling with a backpack every bit of space is crucial and there is a fine line between covering the necessities and over burdening yourself.  Since we left home 3 months ago and are feeling settled into our place in Australia, we wanted to look back at the best and worst things that we carted along.

Worst

  • A 3rd surfboard– “Do you really need 3 surfboards?!” Nug snapped as we were deciding what to bring.  She may not agree but the 1st two were an absolute necessity.  It was the 3rd that caused problems.  My inability to make a decision convinced me to bring it along.  I lugged it through Rarotonga, New Zealand and Australia before placing it on consignment at a surf shop down the road from our house.  The bugger is still sitting there as I impatiently wait for it to get out of my life.
  • Nug’s Banana Bread– Nug makes amazing banana bread and had made a few loaves before we left.  They were “for the plane ride”.  Any feeble attempt by me to snip a piece beforehand was met by a swift slap on the wrist.  I could not wait to get on the metal bird and stuff my fat face.  However, even with Nug’s careful pack job the bread was smashed and ended up drying out in my backpack.  It was like dust in our hands.  I was devastated as we gave the bag to the stewardess to dispose of.
  • Mom’s Water Filter– The original seal broke on the filter and each attempt to drink from the bottle on the plane resulted in a deluge of water all over our faces and clothes.  We were stuck with a plastic jug that did not work and was taking up space.  We were on the verge of chucking it.  Luckily, Nug used a plastic bag to make a seal.  Since then water filter has become one of our most used items and that is why it appears on both lists.
  • Clothes– Even after several trips we always misjudge what we should bring.  Inevitably we bring too much or the wrong item.  The shirt that I can’t bear to leave behind is suddenly disregarded to lighten my load.  I think the lesson is to pack ½ of what you think you will need.  If worse comes to worse, you can always buy more on the road.

BEST

  • Sarong– A couple of years ago in Bali, Nug insisted that we buy a sarong or two, “because they always came in handy.”  I thought it was the dumbest idea ever and of course told her so.  As is often the case, I was dead wrong.  These things are like a utility knife.  We have used them as towels to dry off, to cover ourselves as we change, as a blanket on a plane or when we are camping, to protect from sunburn, as a beach mat, to lay out for picnics, as a pillowcase for suspect pillows in hostels, as curtains in our campervan, as a dress for Lianne, and a scarf when it is cold.  I will never travel without one of these things again…Nug, you were right…this time.
  • Journal– My mind is like a sieve.  There are so many happenings that I forget about if I do not write them down.  It is also useful to jot down quotes, recommendations from fellow travelers, phone numbers, addresses, or thoughts that come to mind on the road.  It is also interesting to read past entries and bring yourself back to the place you were when they were written.  On this trip we have an awesome Moleskin journal that was a present from Neal and Christine.
  • Pocketknife– This almost failed to make it into my bag which would have been a rookie error.  It has made numerous PB&J sandwiches, sliced fruit and cheese, cut up chicken and hot dogs (for beanie weenies) and had tons of other uses while we have been camping in the woods.
  • Mom’s Water Filter– While we had some issues with this thing at the start it has become a vital addition.  In New Zealand and Australia bottled water is about $4 for a liter bottle.  The small, portable water filter turns the most wretched water into crystal clear, great tasting H2O.  We crush water on the road and so far this baby has saved us several hundred dollars!  Thanks Mom.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Nug bags– These toiletry bags were an epic gift from Noah and Lauren at a co-ed wedding shower.  They are his and hers and have Mr. and Mrs. Nug stitched onto the front of each.  I had planned on cramming all my toiletries into a plastic bag.  This would have been a catastrophe as I have had several explosions of deodorant, sunscreen and shampoo.  The waterproof lining of the bags has spared clothes, cameras, and other valuables from absolute destruction by confining the spills.

When we hit the road again in several months hopefully we will be able to learn from this and pack smarter…though it’s doubtful.

250

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It was January 1st and I was feeling pathetic after a night of staying up late and inflicting harm on my unfortunate liver.  No one wanted to do anything and I couldn’t bear to ring in the New Year on the couch watching TV.  After begging and pleading, I was able to get Ted to go for a float with me.  The influential line was that my New Year’s resolution was to reach 250 surf sessions for the year.  I normally pass on resolutions.  My last…which at this point I was seriously reconsidering…was to avoid alcohol for the month of January.  That was several years ago and I realized how irritating drinkers are when you are not one of them.  Anyways, I threw out the 250 session resolution as a Hail Mary to get Ted to get off of his couch and it worked.  I didn’t really consider the goal feasible at first.  That day the Jacksonville water was cold and clear and the waves were small, but I was grateful to get outside.  As the year wore on, I became more determined with the 250 goal.  Did the resolution make me a better person?  No.  Did it help anyone?  No.  Was it greedy and self-serving?  Absolutely.  Numerous times I said (usually in a whiny voice), “But Nug, I’ll never accomplish my New Year’s Resolution if I don’t surf today!”  Surprisingly, this plea worked repeatedly.  On December 17th I paddled out at the Wreck in Byron Bay for my 250th session on a tiny day that resembled that 1st session of the year except for the fact that it was about 90 degrees…errr 34 Celsius outside.  After the float I skipped back to the campervan with a huge smile on my face and said, “Nug, I hit my goal.  That was session 250!”  She looked at me and said, “Thank God!  Now we can finally stop this wild goose chase for waves!”  I nervously laughed to myself and responded, “Sorry baby, the chase never ends.”  Of course I may have just thought that instead of actually saying it.

Bittersweet goodbyes

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It is hard to believe how many possessions you can accumulate in 4+ years in one home.  Yard sales, Goodwill trips, give aways, and chucking stuff out front by the road hardly seemed to make a dent.  We carted a 17 foot U-Haul full of boxes and other treasures to Gainesville and the Bickmeyer family graciously absorbed it.  The packing would have never been completed without Nug.  I always found a legitimate excuse to avoid such as surfing or hanging out with friends because “I won’t see them for a long time baby!  I have plenty of time to pack!”  In the last week I was tossing valuables that I originally would “never get rid of”.  Our last few days in Jax Beach were a revolving door of friends coming over to visit and leaving with literal armfuls or truckfuls (in James’ case) of our belongings.  At the time it was distressing to watch it all go, however the worst of all was bidding farewell to White Lightning.  I posted the following ad on Craigslist and it created an absolute feeding frenzy.

1999 Toyota Tacoma SST Model
Just under 123k miles

I have had White Lightning for 9 years and have kept up with all scheduled maintenance. She does have a lot of character (dents and scratches) and I would keep her for another 10 years but we are relocating out of the area and I will have no use for her where I am going. I have had this speed demon longer than I have known my wife and she has always been good to me (both of them for that matter). The engine starts right up and the A/C is downright freezing. This baby really is a one of a kind type of vehicle. It is with wet eyes and a heavy heart that I say goodbye. Come and steal this beauty from me before someone else does!
The price is $2500

Rednecks with Super Duty trucks from as far away as South Carolina were foaming at the mouth to pounce on the deal!  She sold within an hour and as I watched her become a speck in the distance the realization that we were leaving hit me like an uppercut.  I bought White Lightning before moving to Jax and selling her before we left represented the end of a chapter.  Over the next several days as we packed and said goodbyes, I had mixed emotions as I knew it would only get more difficult because I knew we would miss our friends and family the most.