Five Important Things to Bring When You Go Camping

Ever since I was a little boy my family and I went camping. It’s not that I have a big family. It’s camping gearmy parents and me.

Every year we would drive south to find our so-called “place under the sun”. And we always found it. In a way you can say that camping is sort of in my blood. I like going to five star hotels (which I do and have done a lot for the work I do), but going minimal on a campground cannot be beat by any five star hotel (do take this statement with a grain of salt though).

Then What are the five most important things to take along when you go camping?

The obvious things I won’t mention, like a tent and an air matrass. These things are standard. Here’s my list:

  • A lighter
  • A good knife
  • Nylon rope
  • Pegs
  • Plastic Bags

A Lighter

You might think that lighter only make sense for people who smoke. But even when you don’t smoke, taking a lighter along when you go camping makes good sense. Not that I want you to start smoking. It is just that there will be situation where you definitely will benefit if you have one. Here are some examples.

  • Light a fire. Not even a wood fire (although that would work as well), but possibly more a gas stove that you brought.
  • Melt the ends of a nylon wire that you’ve just cut.
  • To actually have some light when your torch fails.

A Good Knife

In a way it doesn’t really matter what kind of knife you bring, although picking a good one will make your benefits a lot bigger. You could opt for a good quality pocket knife, but for me that would be my bear minimum.

Personally I would go for something that is called a “Tactical Knife”. These knives are very sturdy and multifunctional in their use.

Nylon Rope

Yet another one of these things that make good sense to bring along. Bring at least 30 feet in length, and ¼ to ½ of an inch in diameter.

Nylon rope is very handy to hang stuff that you cannot leave on the ground (think of bears if you’re camping in an area that has bears).

Pegs

Pegs are handy to close bags of any kind. I would say, bring about 10 extra. You will thank me later! Usually wood is better than plastic, because plastic might break.

Plastic Bags

My suggestion is to bring at least 3 sizes of plastic bags. They are very handy to keep food that you have left over, or for keeping things dry in case you’re struck by lots of rain. Big advantage is that they don’t weigh much, so carry three variations will not be difficult.

No doubt there are more essentials to bring. But with these I have always managed to safe the day in times of trouble.

If you have any other suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’ll be happy to add them to this article.

A big Thank you!

image by Ross Harmes

I Don’t Know What to Give Her

I’m a guy. I’m an ordinary guy that this things like any other guy. What I mean with this is that I amazon logonormally would never buy flowers for my girlfriend. Why not you might ask? To be frank, I think it’s a waste of money. I see it as spending ten dollars on something that you keep for a couple of days and then throw away. How silly is that. Might as well take your ten dollars and throw them away straight away.

Now, I’m also a good guy, so I do buy my girlfriend flowers, despite what I just said. I have trained myself to buy flowers. And I’ve become pretty good at it as well. About 80% of the time there are flowers in our house. Not bad for a guy that wouldn’t buy flowers.

Now it’s Different

The flowers I have under control. But now her birthday is coming up. And with that I’m really bad. Bad at coming up with a nice idea for a present or a surprise or something. But I’ve found a solution to this, and I would like to share it with you.

The solution is Amazon. Boy, have I grown to love this company. If you can box it then Amazon will probably sell it. It is such a great place to browse around and shop around.

Here’s what I do. I go around our house and write down a couple of things that she recently bought:

  • A leather jacket (I would never buy her clothing or anything that she could wear)
  • A new kitchen knife (even though I do most of the cooking)
  • Two new cutting boards (that was a good buy, we really needed two new one’s)
  • A USB splitter (yes my girlfriend is pretty technical)

What I then do is go to my computer, go to Amazon.com and enter the above items into the Amazon search bar. Now, I’m not going to buy another cutting board or kitchen knife, because she already did this.

But the nice thing that Amazon does is give you suggestions about what other people “also bought”. This then can be a great inspiration on finding some original present. You can even enter one of the suggested items again back in to the search bar and see what comes out.

There, have I solved your search for an original present?

This time I’m going to buy her a gadget for her iPhone. My girlfriend has something with iPhone cases. She has tried so many it’s amazing. Well, it’s not really trying, it is just that she sees a nice looking iPhone case and she buys it. Because it looks nice, the color is great, the feel is fantastic, etc.

So this year I’m going to buy here a so called waterproof case for her iPhone. It’s one of those things where you put your iPhone in and you can then take it underwater. I’ve done my research and there are some very good and affordable waterproof cases available. All from my good friends of Amazon.

Meet My Cousin

It’s a long time back. To exact, it was 1976 when he was born. I’m talking about my cousin Jason. I can remember him arriving for the first time with his mother. At that time we were living upstate New York, and his mom (obviously also family) came over to visit us, and being a single mom she took her only son with her.oakland CA

They stayed for a couple of days, and my mom being very fond of Jason’s mom went out shopping and enjoying each others company. Occasionally Jason would be left with us (my dad and I).

I have never heard a baby cry as much as this one. Many years later when my kids were born, I still had to think about Jason crying as much as he did when he was a baby. My kids cried a lot less. I’m sure something seriously must have bothered him at the time. Poor kid.

But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to share with you and the world that we, after years and years not having seen each other finally got a chance to meet up again.

Jason had grown up and was actually still going to school with a scholarship he got for doing 3 tours of duty in Iraq. In the end, for him, going in the army was a smart step. For a long time he didn’t know what to do with his life. Eventually after doing a couple of hundred jobs (ok, I’m exaggerating, but still), he decided to join the army. Much against the will of his mom, which I can fully understand.

We met in Oakland, close to San Francisco and it was a beautiful day. The sky was blue, there was no fog and the temperature was a pleasant 77F. What more could you wish for?

The first sight of him shocked me a bit. And although he is quite a bit younger than I am, he was looking like a teenager. And not like the war veteran that I was expecting to see.

He was wearing baggy trousers, an oversized shirt, baseball cap, and funny, but nice looking shoes. The shoes actually drew most of my attention, because they were very colorful looking sneakers, with patterns of Brussels waffles.

We sat down in a Starbucks café, close to the hotel I was staying, and we started talking. It took us some time to get started, which I’m sure you will understand happens when you haven’t seen someone for such a long time.

Basically we told each other our life’s story, and most of the time was taken by Jason telling about his experience in Iraq.

We ended our “meeting” with him telling what he wanted to do with his studies. He was considering starting a university education in computer science. All of a sudden I understood is hip hop kind of look. Did this little crying baby grew up eventually being the next big thing in Silicon valley.

That would be really cool! Way to go Jason!

Living on Two (!) Shoestrings

Let me first explain the title of this article a bit. What I mean with living on two (rather shoestringsthan a or one shoestring) is that if you only live on one shoestring you are really living on a budget and things can be really tight. But… if you do a bit of planning in advance. If you do a bit of simple “strategic” thinking, you can let your money last a lot longer. In this article I’d like to share some personal examples of how I made living on two shoestrings actually quite enjoyable.

Decorating My Place

If your budget is limited then doing up the place you live can be difficult. Of course you can decide to sit on the floor and “dine” from a soap box, but that wasn’t my cup of tea. So I decided to do something different. Since I had ample time available, I decided to go for second hand stuff. Luckily so called Vintage decoration was starting to get noticed by many other people so my second hand style of decorating turned out to be pretty fashionable in the end. Here are a couple of things I bought for literally sometimes a couple of bucks:

    • Lights. Both standing lights and hanging lights
    • My bed frame (I did buy a new mattress of course)
    • Bedside tables. I even managed to buy two matching for $45 only
    • Dining table and dining chairs. I figured I’d go a bit eclectic and buy 4 non-matching chairs. Since all 4 didn’t match everyone thought it was intentional.

I also bought my washing machine second hand. The thing looked as good as new but cost me the fraction of what a new one would have cost me. I even got 6 months warranty on it.

Living With Kids

Living on a budget is always difficult when you’re living (partly) with kids. The advantage in a way, is that they also learn the value of money quite early on. The specific example I want to share with you had to do with a birthday present. She wanted a pet. Preferably a Cat, but I didn’t want that. So she opted for a Hamster ;) Hamsters are not that expensive, but they also need a cage that gives them some living space. Buying a cage from the local pet store would have cost me easily $50 with the necessary keep-the-hamster-busy-equipment. So I decided to make this a joint effort with my daughter to see if we could find the best second hand cage for her new buddy. Sure enough we found what we were looking for online. For $15 we found our new friend a castle to live in.

Eating Healthy Despite

Eating healthy in general is not that difficult: you just need to stay away from the sweets and the junk food. Maybe this is an oversimplification, but in general I think this can be true. A budget friendly way of eating healthy is eating more vegetables and eating more Tofu instead of meat or fish. In addition you are supporting an eco-friendly environment. And with the kinds of tofu available you sometimes don’t even know you’re not eating meat! Most of my breakfasts are smoothies now a days and my dinners are vegetarian. By choice really. I think the variety that you can make in smoothies using a decent blender is enormous.

Wrapping it up

It wasn’t my intention to be complete here when it comes to smart educated budget living. I simply wanted to share with you a couple of my personal examples on how I made ends meet when things were tough. If you’ve got a bit of time available and do a bit of smart planning you can make your dollars stretch quite a bit longer.

image by Howard Lake

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

I know that this blog is about food and travel and stuff like that.

But only last week I realized there was more to life than just the fun stuff.

What Had Happened?funeral

Well, what happened is that my best friend called me on my cell phone. We’re not in touch that often, and mostly when we “communicate” we use What’s App. But this time he called, and I immediately knew something was wrong.

His mother had passed away.

Not That Shocked

He was actually pretty much OK with the whole situation it seemed. I asked him what happened and he told me the story of her declining health. I knew this was happening, but still…

I realized that his mother passing away was actually the “first one to go”. If that makes any sense. Both my parents are still alive, but one day will come and I will have to go through the same “experience” of losing either my Mom or my Dad.

Bringing Back Memories

At moments like this, in a way life stops a bit. For me it meant that a number of memories came back about when we were young and I stayed over at my friends place having dinner at his family.

I can remember his mom being very dexterous when it came to doing her own interior decorating. She had arranged the apartment they lived in such a way that it always felt like coming home.

They had a big big couch, all covered with pillows. The smell was always nice. She had this thing with flowers in her house as well. I always felt very welcome there.

But Life Goes On

And that’s what it does: life goes on. Even today my friend send me the usual What’s App message telling me he had found something that made us both remember a period that now feels like really long ago.

What Do I Get Out of This?

In a way it’s easier said then done. What I get out of this, is to make sure that I enjoy life as much as I can. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but I guess that’s what makes it a cliche: it’s actually true.

And then life creeps back in. You’ve got to pay the bills, make dinner, clean the house, do the groceries and before you know it another day is gone where maybe I (or you?) could have spent more time with nature, parents, kids?

So my reminder is to stop writing this article, publish it, go down stairs and make homework with my daughter. After which I will cook a nice dinner that the whole family can enjoy.

I hope you agree!

image by Tony Alter

Walking Up the Mountain!

One of my best trips ever was walking up Mount Kenya, in (you mount kenyaguessed it) Kenia, Africa. Let me give you an impression.

Preparing and Being Sick Beforehand

Undertaking a trip like this is not the same as driving to the beach for a day. This may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. What I’m trying to say is that it takes quite a bit of planning knowing that you will be pretty much out of touch with the world as you know it for four to five days. We had to get our gear ready. Our shoes were really important and our clothes as well. Because at the top of this magnificent mountain there is still snow. While at the bottom it would easily be 95 degrees.

Then we had to bring our own food for that same time period. We ate noodles, peanut butter and vacuum packed burgers. Water was available but had to be purified before drinking.

And then the worst thing happened to me. I fell sick. A simple straight forward fever. I felt lousy, lousy and lousy. For one I felt lousy because I was sick. The other part that frustrated me tremendously is that it was happening right at that moment when we were about to leave.

I can remember walking in the plane popping one aspirin after the other. Once we were in the air I managed to eat a little and drank about one half bottle of cognac. I’m not sure if it was that much, but I slept until we were about to land hours later. Totally covered in sweat. But feelling almost totally cured from my fever. Guess the cognac did the job.

Walking, Not Climbing

Once we arrived in Nairobi (the capital of Kenya) we took a small bus that took us to the base station of the mountain. We stayed there for one night. The next day a big four by four truck took up to the next station which was at 11.500 feet.

We then started walking. Out of the jungle forest up and up. Higher and higher. Pretty steep too. Mount Kenya is not a mountain that you need to climb, but rather walk up. With inclinations sometimes as steep as a normal staircase.

After two days of walking and one night sleeping in a small little hut with no light and no heating we went on to reach the highest station which was about 1.800 feet under the summit.

The next day I got up at 4.30 in the morning to do the final 1800 feet. We reached the top right before sun rise. It was amazing!

Taking a Hot Shower

What took us 3 days on the way up, took us 2 days on the way down. With the truck back to the first village. And believe you me, after 5 days that first shower with hot water, shampoo and soap was very very rememberable.

And that first hot meal we ate was also so wonderful after eating so much peanut butter the last couple of days.

All in all a trip worth remembering.