Excess Baggage

Now that my husband and I have made firm plans on a trip to Spain (we leave in under a week!), I am debating what to travel with on our 9 week trek to Europe. I’m trying to travel as light as possible, which is quite challenging when trying to factor in such electronics as a laptop, tablet & phone (not to include all the plethora of accessories + chargers). On top of that, I’m uncertain on which camera to take — do I go with my Nikon SLR with the standard 28-50mm lens or choose instead my efficiently portable Nikon point & shoot camera. Forget about the 70-300 zoom lens for the SLR. I’ve got too much as it is. And trying to narrow down to the basic ‘necessities’ is proving to be difficult when it comes to hauling around expensive toys across the big pond. I’m even considering bringing the GoPro. But now, am I going overboard? I have video capabilities on both my cameras and phone. Too many gadgets weighs me down in my travels. I have too much experience living that truth …. I want this trip to be hugely different from my travel days of 15+ years ago when I lugged around a HUGE 75 litre Lowe Alpine backpack plus a day bag. At the time, I wasn’t just on week or month-long trips. I was trekking for YEARS. And carrying all that excess baggage really was a literal pain in the butt. It limited my options, at times, of spontaneity and freedom. I even took my skydiving rig with me on an overload tour of Africa. But it was functional and well-used during that trip. So it made perfect sense. And this was well before the days of expensive electronic gadgets and stuff. Nowadays, I’m of the mind that the less I have, the better.

I remember sharing a bunkhouse with an amazing nomadic world-travelling goddess in India, 7 years ago. She travelled scrupulously lean with little to her name except for her explicit desire for her music library by her side. Megan hauled around a ridiculous amount of CDs for her cd-playing Walkman. But she couldn’t live without her music. An iPod was not an obvious option for her at the time (she had never actually heard of an iPod 7 years back, even though this amazing Apple life-changing invention had been released in 2001). That memory of Megan’s music devotion reinforces the concept that many people tend to travel with excess baggage that they deem important and are unwilling to relinquish. Myself included! I’m having a hard time considering 2 months away without my laptop. Dang.

MAC electronics

I’ve toyed with the idea of only travelling with a tablet. But after spending a few days out and about trying to navigate my working habits, I quickly saw the limits of said device. Editing photos and websites are tedious at best, even with several different blogging and photography apps. For me, nothing can beat a traditional computing experience where hardy software and an accessible hard drive provide for all my digital needs. Having a keyboard is key. I’ve yet to see a usb keyboard that would serve the functionality and ease of my laptop for the iPad. I’m open to recommendations and suggestions! So back to my plan A. Laptop goes with me to Europe. In reality, no one really needs a tablet to accomplish all their digital needs. But once had, tablets are certainly hard to give up! The reading experience is pleasurable compared to trying to surf on a phone. The screen size of my iPhone 4S is not meant for reading large amounts of material online or in book form. Hence the iPad. I’m a MAC girl at heart, and having the whole payload of Apple’s toys at hand is hugely gratifying and appealing. Worth toting around the European Continent??? Something yet to be determined. I’ll keep you in the loop!

To what lengths have you travelled the world with your toys and life possessions on your back? How much is too much when it comes to baggage? And what have you given up in the process?

Fashionista, I Am Not

Funny thing happened in our temporary transition from Airstream life to apartment nomads …. I forgot a few significant props so necessary for participating in the plethora of Christmas parties available to us this season. I neglected to bring along dress shoes for the lovely skirts and pants outfits I diligently transported at the beginning of November. What’s worse is that I’ve been back to the trailer several times, and didn’t take stock of what I had in the clothing department. I remembered EVERYTHING else, go figure. But our lovely friend Jill offered to lend me her size 9 stillettos for the evening (tres chic this Mamacita!). With a wee bit of experience with platform slinky shoes, I had the crazy notion that my sized 9.5 foot (with size 10 pinky toes) would be like fitting Cinderella’s stepsisters in to the beloved glass slipper of choice. And in the end, I ended up setting a new fashion trend with my new rocker shoes this evening. At least they had a nice 2 inch platform to elevate me ;).

My lesson learned? Never forget the importance of slinky shoes in my life. 🙂 NOT! I refuse to go out and buy something just for the sake of saving face, when I already own several pairs of shoes with heels that I rarely wear. Now is not the time to keep hourding and expanding in my wardrobe! I may make a pit stop at Value Village just in case, and donate any acquisition right back on Monday 😉

RV Dehumidifiers

With Ontario summer comes hot humid weather (or so it is at the moment!). Humidity and trailers don’t go together so well. Alas, comes the issue of humid closets and clothing. With moisture in freshly washed clothes comes a not-so-fresh smell several days later. So in order to tackle this, we needed some sort of dehumidifier.

Alternative #1

Without wanting to generate even more heat through an electric dehumidifier, I found an incredible product on the market that has served us from the beginning of our RV adventures. When I first initially did some research, I stumbled across an economical alternative at our local Co-op store in Teeswater. It’s called ‘High & Dry’ from Prairie West Industrial Ltd. and is made in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). In our travels, I’ve looked for this product everywhere, but so far have only seen it at the one Co-op store close to my Father’s Canadian farm.

The 3.1 kg bag is dubbed as a moisture remover for basements, cabins, flooded areas, sheds, garages, tents, boats, or anywhere that high moisture is a problem. It’s basically Calcium Chloride in a burlap bag. Since my discovery of this product almost 2 years ago, we have gone through 4 to 5 bags. At around $15 per bag, it’s a very affordable and convenient option. Dependant on the season and destination, the bag lasts us on average for about 3 months and works impeccably well. The diagram on the front of the packaging shows the 7 lb bag secured by a hook over a pail. At first, I thought perhaps I could hang the bag from the affixed shower head but realized that such a heavy item would ultimately pull the faucet from the wall at some point. This called for an alternative resolution. With such a smart creative husband, he came up with the perfect solution. slaDE macgyvered a makeshift collection bin by securing porch screen material loosely over a 5 gallon pail with his work tie-wire. We set the bucket in the shower and it wicks away moisture from throughout the Airstream fabulously!

 

Alternative #2

Another dehumidier option that we’ve invested in is the product called ‘Damp Rid‘. I bought 2 small containers, one to keep in the closet and the other in my electronics drawer. These containers are topped up at the end of my ‘High & Dry’ contents life end (small remnants of calcium chloride replenish these containers every 3 months … therefore renewable and more eco-friendly than just pitching after 1 use).

 

Alternative #3

It was only a few months ago that we stumbled across the product ‘Eva-Dry‘:

Safe, non-toxic, natural defense against moisture and mildew. Renewable Eva-Dry dehumidifiers are filled with silica gel, a very thirsty substance. Odorless silica beads absorb many times their weight in moisture and lock it in so water can’t leak or spill out.

When the Eva-Dry is “full” you renew the silica inside by plugging the unit into any power outlet. Heat gently releases water vapor in a few hours. When the indicator is blue again, Eva-Dry is renewed and ready to go back to work. You can repeat the process for up to 10 years!

I actually saw this product advertised a few months before purchasing and was somewhat leery about it’s proclaimed capabilities. However, I was happily surprised!

Here’s a testimonial: we’ve used the Eva-Dry 500 now for the past 3 months, and I must admit, it has worked extremely well in our closet. In fact, I hope to buy another one to use for the rest of the RV (to replace the Calcium Chloride — if it works as well as the ‘High & Dry’ now, Eva-Dry will pay for itself after 9 months – 1 year comparatively). We’ve plugged it in twice over the past 90 days and I LOVE the fact that this is ‘rechargeable’. There is no need for batteries, chemicals or a purchase every few months. When plugged in, we need an outside power source to ‘recharge’ the silica pellets. So far so good! I like the colourant in the pellets which tell me when the unit needs to be replenished (when they turn bright pink, it’s time to plug the somewhat heavy device in for approximately 12-14 hours — we use a power bar to have it sitting upright during the discharge. The website recommends that “the best place to renew the Eva-Dry is in any well ventilated area or in a bathroom with the exhaust fan on”).

So far, all the alternatives have been great effective options. Economically, Eva-Dry seems to outweigh them all. The ‘High & Dry’ has been the most visibly effective humidity deterrent (to give Eva-Dry a fair chance, we need to buy one for the whole trailer). I’m happy with them all and use all three at the moment for removing moisture in the trailer. I recommend them all!

PS I’ve just discovered online that you can go to a pool store and purchase Calcium Chloride. Not sure if it would be cheaper than the ‘High & Dry’, or packaged as conveniently, but it’s an option for y’all!

Pelted On

The last week has featured such brilliant sunny weather, apart from a brief thunderstorm on our last evening of Alumapalooza, that the flood of darkness that quickly encompassed us with hail the size of a dime took me by surprise. Ohio is known for its extreme fluctuations in weather which could change in a heartbeat. Yet that didn’t make me feel any easier knowing that slaDE was on the road with the Airstream, limping it to a nearby town for a complete tire change (he left with the sun shining). The onslaught of rain was torrential. Driving the trailer with the tires in the condition that they are was dangerous enough. Add flooding rain and pelting hail: my nerves were on edge, to say the least. So to keep my mind off the fate of slaDE and Airabella, I went with Lou and Loren to run some errands plus get my eyebrows threaded.

I have always had bushy eyebrows, and if I don’t keep on top of their curvature, I look rather scary (IMO). Advice for the wary, if you’ve never experienced the art of Indian eyebrow threading, wait to have it done at the hands of a well-practised ‘artist’ from an Indian culture. I’ve always had luck with their expertise. The mall where we went had a brow specific salon (name already forgotten). Unfortunately, the young girl who groomed my brows had only learned about a month prior. As a result, to say that the experience was tortuous is an understatement. Plus, her consistency in matching my brows was skillfully inept. I came away feeling rather lopsided and discontent, but in this scenario, I wasn’t willing to have her keep whittling away at the shape only to leave me with pencil lines for brows. They would grow back soon enough and I could pluck to my heart’s content. 🙂

slaDE and Larry arrived back at the house later in the afternoon with new tires and a warranty exchange of sorts. It wasn’t a complete warranty replacement with the tire dealership, but we would follow up on that at a later date to see what we could do.

Fantastic Fans

We spent a good portion of the morning trying to figure out whether our Carlisle tires were covered under the 2 year warranty, and then sourced out a dealer that could adjust our current tires under said warranty with new tires (still undetermined until our chosen dealership, North Gateway Tire, looks at the tires). I was relieved that this task was relatively painless and easy, considering the possibilities of what could have happened. With favourable weather on our side, slaDE began the laborious task of retrofitting a Fantastic Fan in the rear portion of the trailer. Two Fantastic Fans, one in the front and the rear, will allow for the venting and circulation of any stale or hot air (necessary when we don’t have access to our air conditioner — i.e. little or no power). With the Fantastic Fan, when a vent opens up more than an inch, the fan kicks on by itself and offers two ways of ventilation (in/out), controlled either by the thermostatic control or a rocker switch. I’m still in debate over whether we should have bought the fans with the rain sensor feature (this automatically closes the vent at the first signs of moisture for an extra $100 per fan). We purchased 2 of these fans at Camping World over 5 months ago and we were waiting for an opportune time to install them. Visiting the Woodruff’s seemed like as good an opportunity as ever (especially after the incredibly hot week we just had at Alumapalooza)!

While I ran some errands with Lou and Lauren, the men worked on the fans (with slaDE hunkering down and putting in major efforts to ‘McGyver’ where he needed). slaDE worked late into the evening and although he came close to finishing the install, the forecast of sketchy weather for the week ahead had me questioning whether both fans would actually be completed on this trip. The Classic Rides youTube video that I had found online in searching for installation tips made the addition of a ventilation system look quite easy on their 1970 Airstream Overlander Land Yacht Restoration. Two hours in total for an install was their estimation. Funny how Professionals in their field make everything look seamlessly easy and fast (I understand this totally, having been a Professional Parachute Packer for many years :)). But I was proud of my hubby for taking on the task and skillfully placing the new ventilation system with great success.

Here’s a synopsis as described by the website usedairstream.com featuring the above youTube video positioning a Fantastic Fan:

  • To replace the ventilation in the living area, Kevin removes the screws, taking out the old ventilator from the bottom side first. He removes the wire nuts and disconnects the wires. Next he puts the wire nuts back into the source wire.
  • He moves on to the top of the trailer to remove the ventilator, using a scissor lift to get up. He points out the rivets which show where the braces are. According to Kevin, you have to be careful when getting on top of the trailer, making sure that you do not put too much weight on the areas not covered by the braces as these are very weak.
  • He starts by drilling out the rivets that hold the cover to the vent bracket. Now he can remove the cover. Then he uses a hammer to center punch and strike each rivet head. Then he goes back to drill each rivet out. He loosens the vent gasket seal using a putty knife.
  • The new vent is slightly larger than the original, so he uses the gasket as a template. He traces the corners that he needs to cut out. He says it is surprisingly easy to cut out the aluminum with metal shears.
  • He cleans the gasket surface area. Using Vulken 636 Polyeurethane as a sealant, he fills the rivet holes and lines the area to seal it. Vulken 636 Polyeurethane sealant is highly recommended by Airstream according to Kevin.
  • He sets the center gasket into place and runs another nice, even bead of Vulken around the perimeter. He sets the vent in place. And voila! It sits right at home. Using a drill, he drills through the roof panel. He squeezes the panel with a gun. Going back inside the trailer to work on the bottom flange now, he strips the wires as necessary. He attaches the wires and secures the connections using electrical tape.

 

After dinner, slaDE and I were whisked away for a glamourous ride in Al’s antique 1948 Chev mint green convertible. This vintage was before the days of seatbelts, and riding with the wind blowing through our hair with no belt restraints felt completely foreign but unencumbered. Us ladies in the house ended the evening dancing up a storm with a Wii-Fit session of Just Dance 2 and Zumba. What a blast!

Healthy Living on the Road: Alumapalooza Workshop Notes 2011

As promised,  here are the notes from our Healthy Living seminar at Alumapalooza 2011. We had such a great time at the seminar,   offering tidbits on healthy lifestyle choices one can make (which we personally try to live by in our daily lives). I truly hope that you find some useful information here (Airstreamers,   non-Airstreamers and non-Alumapalooza attendees)! Copyright in force please and thank you :).

 

The Accumulation of Stuff

All I can say now is: wish me luck! Our time for the cubby restructuring is slowly nearing completion. Yet although the end of my monumental organizational task appears in sight, it is still a distant stretch from the completion of all my belongings being sorted, packed away and returned to the cubby storage space. This time around: out of sight is not necessarily out of mind! Now I know exactly what I have and where it’s at. I’m keeping focussed during this process and my days are growing longer as we get closer to our departure date for Ohio. To be honest, I never thought this possible within the time constraints of two weeks. But here I am, two weeks later, and I am almost finished! Many thanks to my committed husband, who has supported, helped and stood by me though the entirety of my process. Without his amazing strength and passion, I don’t think that I could have done this as effortlessly or with as little pain as I have done thus far. And with this task behind me, I will have more time for my hubby when at the farm (if I need something from the cubby, I’ll know what and where it is). It’s about the connecting with people that truly is our most precious resource.

As has been my ‘rule’ in the Airstream, when something comes in (apart from food and necessary household items), something must leave, making space for the new. It’s about being more selective about the things we buy and taking care of those items. Quality over quantity. And honestly, I think I outfit myself from our current Airstream closet for the rest of my life without running out of combinations or styles. Do I really need 5 jackets, 5 sweater, 15 t-shirts, 8 pairs of shoes? I suppose this all depends on whether I choose a different path outside of airstream living where I might need to work a ‘typical’ office job, for financial reasons (???!!) Check out this TED video for inspiration on Jessi Arrington’s lifestyle choices with her clothes. It’s amazing! If people chose to be thrifty in their lives as she does and reduced / reused / recycled / donated their wardrobes instead of buying new clothes (i.e. yesterday I went to the Mall and all the new, often poor quality, clothing was overwhelming), what a difference we could all make, both environmentally and on a deeper more meaningly level of humanitarian kindness based on love, not lust for material things.

Next step, organizing my digital life (and that includes redesigning our yogaFLIGHT website).

And now, I ask, please, whatever you do, don’t give / send me any gifts. If I need it, I’ll buy it. And if I don’t need it, you can almost guarantee that I probably already have it :). This will help me tremendously in the path of simplicity that I’m looking to follow. Wish me luck!

Hard-hitting Alternatives Needed

After opening up the truck doors to my Father’s Chevy farm vehicle, the suppressing and triumphant chemical + dog smells exuding through the orifices of its openings almost knocked me over for dead. After a night of eco-friendly odour blockers, the smell of Febreze remained stubbornly intermingled with the sickly smell of wet dog. Time for more plotting with further research. I’ve been reading about the powers of diatomaceous earth (herein known as DE) + clay as being huge odour sponges. I’m particularly fascinated by the multi-purpose function of DE, in both animal and human existence. Way to get sidetracked from a smelly job at hand. After several hours of much scrutiny over DE’s benefits and claims, I returned to the task of vacuuming up the previous night’s baking soda ash cover from the cushion covers. A very time-consuming task indeed. Because of this, I was hesitant to spread kitty litter / baking soda / borax mixture anew on the cushions, but for now, it was the next best option. Surprisingly, I had a small quantity of DE tucked away for other purposes (it remains poised for eliminating ants, bed begs or other hard-shelled pests) for those ‘just in case’ moments. Now would be an ideal time to test out DE. So without following any real recipe, I threw together a handful of the cat litter and borax, several boxes of baking soda with a couple of heaping tablespoons of DE. When using DE, it’s vital that only Food-grade diatomaceous earth aka fossil shell flour be used. Even with wearing a dust mask and safety glasses — protecting myself from inhaling the fine dust residue and particulates — I could still taste the soda and borax ash mixture. Luckily I wore gloves (I’m not wanting to mess with a potentially caustic recipe: borax can do that) when spreading the mixture on all seated surfaces. The doors were left open all day in an attempt to air things out. Let’s hope that these tricks help to eliminate some of the odour. I’d be foolish to think it could annihilate the horrific stench. Next up: finding a quality charcoal odour absorber, using an enzyme cleaner with a steam cleaning bath to follow (if the current concoction doesn’t fumigate or at least ‘sweeten’ the air ).

Do you sweet reader have any ideas or suggestions for me? Any experience and/or success with eliminating stubborn odours that you’d care to share? Any enzyme cleaner recommendations? Any bad experiences worthy of contributing?

Say NO to Febreze!!!!!! 

A Foul Wind Bloweth

Living on the farm at Dad’s is always a pleasure and a true treat to the senses. Connecting with nature and the beauty that exists within the countryside is surreal and amazingly grounding. Earth Mother at her finest. But I must admit, the tranquility and calm that is normally associated with country living is not a given standard when we return home. A tornado of activity begins aflurry from the moment we step foot outside of the Airstream. We hit the ground running you could say! Dad is perpetually busy … as busy as a Queen Bee. If you’ve ever spent time on a farm, you’ll understand. And with the son-in-law home and his daughter to help, a long list of tasks awaits us. slaDE however is the front-runner in all things handy, and he goes from morning to night, all willing and able to help out wherever needed. He’s such a good husband! Me, I like to problem-solve. And boy, do I ever have an eco-dilemma on my hands!

Dad recently purchased an old farm truck. It runs considerably well, but an overpowering problem exists that has Dad wary. His truck has an overwhelming smell of dog. It’s firmly entrenched in the seats, especially in the back foam cushions. Unfortunately, Dad tackled the issue himself: after having it detailed (they removed a thick mat of white dog hair), washed, waxed and made to look and smell ‘pretty’ (albeit for a few days only), the smell returned, with a vengeance. You see, Dad thought that if he sprayed a WHOLE can of Febreze into the seats, the problem might be solved. Ack! Horror of all horrors, evils of all evils, I am aghast at the magnitude of this problem. Febreze is purely a gnarly chemical cocktail which masks odours whilst also wreaking havoc on a person’s nervous system, even when used in small quantities. Imagine what an entire can could do in the small confines of a 4×4 vehicle. I can’t even bear sitting in the truck with the doors closed. It’s time to pull out the eco-friendly big guns and any tricks that I can muster. I first want to look to nature for a healthier solution for both body and planet. This is my goal each and every day!

After a considerable amount of time researching the eradication of pet odours in one’s home and vehicles, I’m falling back to my trusty old hard-working favourites (which have yet to fail me): vinegar and baking soda. For good measure, I’m amalgamating a concoction of baking soda with borax and kitty litter, with side dishes of vinegar to hopefully help soak up some of the god-awful smells oozing through the vehicle’s pores. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Project Laundry

There’s something about hanging out my clothing on the line, a beautiful day shining love and the natural bleaching goodness of the sun down upon my deepest of secret pleasures. Who could imagine being overjoyed at the thought of hanging laundry? I for one. Something about using Nature’s element to its fullest potential gives me great gratification. And when I lay down at night with the smell and feel of clean reverberating next to my body, a sense of calm and enviro-friendly justice in its finest form overcomes me.

There are so many benefits to eliminating or reducing automatic dryer usage in one’s life, with little extra work and numerous benefits associated with the practice:

Air-drying is better for your clothes. Laundry machines toss clothes around, causing wear on the seams and sometimes snagging things with zippers. If you use a washer and dryer, you subject your clothes to twice as much tumbling as you would if you used only a washer. The heat of the dryer causes elastic to break down and T-shirt lettering to peel. It can also distort the shapes of knit garments.

Air-drying reduces wrinkles. If you remove clothing from a dryer immediately and hang or fold it, most items are relatively unwrinkled; however, this requires careful timing. How much time does your dryer save if you have to hang around waiting for the cycle to end or face a session of tedious ironing? Clothes which have been properly hung for air-drying will dry in the right shape, virtually wrinkle-free, and will be waiting when youÕre ready to get them.

Air-drying completely eliminates static cling. Electric dryers produce static electricity by rubbing clothes over each other repeatedly. Avoid this process, and you’ll avoid the static! You’ll also save money on fabric softener. True, air-dried clothes feel a bit stiff at first. Just remind yourself that the stiffness means clothes are freshly washed, and soon you’ll find that those “nice soft clothes” feel dirty!

Air-drying is good for the environment. In many areas, electricity is produced by coal-powered plants. Reduce your electricity consumption, and you’ll reduce the burning of irreplaceable fossil fuels.

Best of all, air-drying is free! If you use coin-operated laundry machines, you know that dryers account for at least half the expense. If you own a dryer, you’re paying for extra electricity and repairs. Just read these tips, set up your own air-drying system, and you’ll never pay another cent to dry your clothes.

Here’s a few stats for you. Did you know that:

  • electric clothes dryers use 6 % of residential electricity in the United States (Project Laundry List)
  • the US Department of Energy rates dryers as the second biggest muncher of household energy (refrigerators rate right up there as first — CNet News)
  • a washer and dryer are found in 9 of 10 single-family American homes (I wonder how many clotheslines / horses are found in the same homes?)
  • clothes dryers are blamed for 15,000 household fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries counted each year by the Consumer Safety Product Commission

 

Wiki-How offers some tips on how to dry your clothes outside. Have fun and experiment with what works for you.

How often do you naturally dry your clothing? Join in on the fun and throw any tips or advice this way :).