I’m Off!

My trip has begun! I’m at LAX on an 11 hour layover (broken up by a dinner with Liz when she gets off work and comes to rescue me) before I continue on to Costa Rica to catch my final connection to Quito, Ecuador.

Al picked me up this morning to give me a ride to the airport at 7:30am, but we didn’t make it to the airport until around 8:45. There wasn’t traffic; we just managed to miss the exit for SeaTac Airport. Twice. The first time we just didn’t see it and got to Federal Way and realized something was wrong. So we swung around and drove back north and Al started getting off on an exit that was labeled:


So I said, “No, we don’t want terminal parking.” Al quickly got out of the exit lane and then said a second later, “Wait, wasn’t that terminal and parking?” It was. Keep in mind that this is an airport I’ve been to about 30 times and the signs are in English, so this is quite promising for my navigation skills in South America.

I’ve spent the last few days doing almost nothing but selling/giving away all my stuff, shipping my remaining possessions to my mom’s house in NY, and picking up last minute trip supplies. It was the getting rid of my stuff that finally made the trip real to me. I’d already said goodbye to almost all my Seattle friends, but in my head I was still thinking, “Yep, I’m going to South America… at some point.” When I had to let go of stuff I use every day like my computer, my bed, my cooking supplies I realized, “Whoa! I’m really going to South America! What am I doing?”

Honestly, it’s kind of scary. It’s fair to say my life in Seattle was very easy, comfortable, and familiar and it’s stressful giving up all the things that made it that way. At the same time, it’s exciting to see how long I can last living owning nothing but what I carry with me. So let’s see what that is!


Boring / self-explanatory stuff excluded:

  • Big backpack and daypack – For to carry my stuff.
  • Camelback – I packed this for some reason. I think it was mostly out of habit from hiking/climbing trips that it didn’t occur to me until later that a camelback might not be super useful.
  • Pocket Spanish-English dictionary - Already coming in handy for imaginary Spanish conversations I have in my head for practice!
  • South America on a Shoestring (Lonely Planet guide) – to tell me what to do.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace - a long as hell book that I’m hoping I’ll finally have time for on this trip.


  • eBags packing cubes – These are little zippered bags that are supposed to help organize your stuff. Long term usefulness still TBD, but it was kind of handy when reorganizing my pack to be able to pull out the little cubes of stuff instead of each individual article of clothing.
  • Speed Dial Combination Lock – This thing is pretty awesome. It’s a padlock where instead of turning a dial, you open it by entering a secret code from an NES game. The only thieves who can steal my stuff will be the ones who also remember how to get infinite lives in Super Mario.
  • Leatherman Juice CS4 – Little multi-tool. Has a knife, little corkscrew/bottle opener. Makes me feel very resourceful when I use it (even though every time I used in Seattle I had better, dedicated tools available that did the same thing).
  • Fenix LD01 flashlight – Tiny LED flashlight that’s SUPER bright. I’ve already used it to accidentally scare the crap out of Portia, so I’m looking forward to new, non-horrifying uses in South America.
  • Travel power converter – I noticed that the converter for South America is the same plug as the one for the USA, so I’m wondering if I need a converter at all in South America. Probably something that would have been clever to figure out before leaving.

IMG_4065 I tried to go pretty light on clothing. I brought:

  • 8 t-shirts
  • 2 gym shirts
  • 2 button downs
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 pair of slacks
  • 1 pair of hiking pants
  • 8 pairs of boxers
  • 9 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 1 pair of dress shoes (for da club)
  • 1 pair sandals (for da beach)

Not Pictured:

  • Laptop (Toshiba Satellite T-235D) – This is my big luxury item. It’s pretty cheap as far as laptops go, but it accounts for like 1/3 of the cost of everything I’m carrying. Motivation in taking it was so I didn’t have to use the malware ridden (read: password sniffing) computers in internet cafes and because I want to work on some programming projects while I travel. I’m hoping it doesn’t get stolen, but I’ve prepared for that as much as possible. I enabled BitLocker (a feature I worked on for Win7. Go BitLocker!) and got a Mozy subscription for file backup to the cloud.
  • Canon Powershot 800IS + 16 GB memory card - The memory card can store something like 8000 pictures with this camera, meaning I’ll only run out of space every week or so.

So that’s the trip so far. I’m scheduled to arrive in Quito tomorrow afternoon to meet up with my little sister, Rachel, who just completed a semester abroad in the Galapagos. We’ll hang out in Quito until Christmas, then she’s going to show me around the Galapagos Islands for about two weeks.

See you in South America! I promise the next pictures won’t just be stuff sitting on the floor of my empty apartment.

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4 Responses to I’m Off!

  1. Tilly Tilly says:

    Too many clothes… Otherwise you packed well!! I always take too many books and travel guides. The lonely planet one was great for peru, but we found that the maps were sometimes a bit off in chile.

    Remember, *when* you get to Peru, I can give you a tonne of recommendations!

    Again. I’m super jealous. Have fun!

  2. Sam Cook Sam Cook says:
  3. Al Al says:
    I’m glad you brought a sharp knife… you know, after what happened in 127 Hours.
  4. nicolas rotmistrovsky nicolas rotmistrovsky says:
    Hi Mike,
    have you been in Isabela the 3rd january? If yes, I made the Bahia Tour with you and Rachel. I am trying to find Rachel Lynch in facebook to see the pictures underwater but there are thousands of Rachel Lynch!!!
    Best Regards

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