I have spent the past eight months back in Columbia, SC working at the same place I worked last year. Although I often felt like I had no life because I worked opposite hours of family and friends, it was an opportunity that I am very thankful for and allowed me to save faster than I could have hoped. I lived with my sister, witnessed the birth of my beautiful nephew, and spent the first eight months of his life watching him grow. That is also an opportunity that I think is very rare, and I am so thankful that it worked out that way. While Columbia (Cola) is a great city, I feel too young and single to stay. And I have dreams waiting for me that aren’t currently to be found here. (more…)
Archive for Pre-Trip
It’s 5:30am on Monday morning. After 2 hours of sleep (it’s impossible to finish packing at a decent time) I crawled out of bed for what was to be my last hot shower at home and my last good hair day. At 6:30 we were headed for Louisville’s SDF airport.
I arrived at the airport with what I thought was the perfect amount of luggage. All of my must-haves plus all of the practical stuff. As you will soon read/see, I was lacking a bit in the warm clothing department, but my pack was not too heavy this time. After having a few mishaps on recent trips at the airport I made sure to arrive over 2 hours early. I went to check in and walked right up to the counter. So much for worrying about long lines.
My name is Laura and I have a packing problem. Hi Laura.
I am unofficially the world’s worst packer. Admitting is the first step to recovery, right? If there were a self-help group for packing-challenged peeps like me, I’d be the first to sign up. Normally, I have an urge to be overly prepared, and on top of that, I’m extremely indecisive- a dangerous combination. After several frustrating times packing for past trips, I thought that putting it off until the last minute would cut down on the amount of time I spent packing. It also meant, though, that I inevitably ended up forgetting something (did I mention I’ve forgotten to pack underwear before? And I didn’t learn my lesson the first time so I had to, of course, forget a second time). What separates a good packer from a bad packer?
Blame it on the Girl Scouts
Oh yes my friends, I was a Girl Scout in my tender years. And we all know that scouts teach you to be prepared. While in theory, this is a good thing, it’s bad news for me. I am extremely cold-natured, so I fret over having enough warm clothes should temperatures change. I always say the weather forecasters are never right, but we all know that if truth be told, the weather is unpredictable. What if it gets hot? What if it gets cold? What if it rains? Or even worse, what if it snows? If it’s the middle of summer in SC, chances are I can plan on hot and humid. But some destinations and times of year are too unpredictable. Aside from clothing, I always overplan in terms of ‘things to do’. For most weekend trips to Charleston this past year, I brought my computer, camera, sketchbook, and a book. Now ask me how many times I actually used all of those things. But I get paranoid that the one thing I want to do is the thing I won’t be prepared for.
Red or blue? Studs or dangles?
Indecisiveness. I swear it’s a disease. I’m not sure how you catch it but there should be a cure. If battling preparedness weren’t enough, there’s this whole other element involving choosing the specifics. So let’s say I decide that I need one nice outfit for a trip. I stumble into my closet (contrary to popular belief, I actually do have an organized closet, color-coded and all) and find the nicer clothes section. Oh lord, it doesn’t matter how many clothes I’ve purged lately, 3 would still be too many to choose from! This is how the thought process goes- Do I go for the cute pink number? Oooh, or how about that blue dress I haven’t worn in a while. And if I choose the blue dress, what shoes will I pack? Jewelry, did someone mention accessories? And now you get a glimpse into how my brain works. It’s a struggle!
Packing for a weekend trip vs. packing for the world
So you know how painful it is for me to pack for a standard domestic trip, let’s take a look at backpacking. Surprisingly, I almost find backpacking for an 8 month rtw trip to be less stressful. Vanity and dignity go completely out the window. No hairdryer, curlers, makeup, jewelry…. they’re nonexistent. And when it comes to choices of clothing, it’s limiting. Since I can take very little clothing with me, it all needs to be lightweight material so it will dry quickly and not weigh down my pack. I love bright colors, but usually when it comes to this type of clothing, your choices are beige or black. I think I can handle that. I take small amounts of toiletries because you can buy more on the road.
After my last backpacking trip abroad, I vowed never to carry such a heavy load again. I borrowed a Kelty backpack that was roughly 70 Liters from a friend, and as much I appreciated the loan (thanks Megan!) it didn’t fit me properly and was too big. The bigger the bag, the more likely you are to fill it. And I crammed stuff into every nook and cranny. To make matters worse, I even shoved 3 more pieces of clothing into it as I was heading out the door for the airport. Too much stuff combined with an ill fit made for some rough walks. I’m pretty sure I cursed myself the entire 2km walk to Kendwa in Zanzibar and swore I would never lug that much stuff again. Of course, as if the lesson weren’t engrained into my brain already, I was able to scold myself again on the 2km uphill walk back from Kendwa when it was time to leave. So, I started off the purchases for this trip by getting a smaller, properly fitted backpack. It’s a MUST! My goal is to only fill it about 80%.
Oh but it does get complicated
Packing can never be ‘just that easy’. Although I’ve figured out where I went wrong on my trip in ’08, I have some new elements thrown into the mix of this trip.
1. I’m running marathons and training on my trip. Essentially, I will be wearing two outfits a day and need specific running clothing. I also have to pack an additional pair of running shoes since I wear my shoes down in about 4 months when consistently training. Had I not been running on this trip, I would not pack two pairs of this type of shoe. They’re not that heavy, but bulky.
2. I’m a flashpacker in the making. I’m still staying in cheap accommodation, but I will be taking a lot more technology this time around. This fancy schmancy blog doesn’t write itself, and I will need my computer with me to maintain it. I also splurged on a gadget (or two) at the last minute… the image of my swelling backpack is coming to me as I write. Did I mention something about 80%? Umm, maybe I meant 90.
So, now we’ve come to the real question: What is in Laura’s backpack? Check back soon as I tally it all up and share with you what items made the final cut!
Yes, I’ve quit my job just to move in with my parents in Kentucky. But the good news is- it’s temporary! I’m spending a few weeks at home and taking a few weeks to visit some of my favorite people spread across the U.S, before heading out on my trip. Over the next month, I’ll be spending time in Portland, San Francisco, and a couple of other little towns along the way. I’m excited to catch up with friends and family and start seriously preparing for my trip. However, even with all of these adventures in the works, I have to admit- I’m a little sad about leaving Columbia. It’s not exactly an up-and-coming hip place to be (no offense), but it definitely has its perks. So in honor of my move, here are some random things I will miss most:
1. Weekend trips to Charleston. The city has always fascinated me. Its rich history and old southern charm can be experienced through the architecture, the graveyard tours, the City Market (once the former slave market), and the food. Charleston has wonderful beaches, including Isle of Palms, and we’ve spent many weekends hanging out here.
2. Gourmet Shop Chicken Salad. Southerners love barbecue, chicken salad, fried okra, and sweet tea. If it’s fatty, sugary, or fried (or a combination of them all), we like it. I could do without most of these, but for the next 9 months I think I might spend some nights dreaming about the chicken salad from The Gourmet Shop. It’s soooo good!
3. Jenn and Adam (My sister and brother-in-law). You’re probably surprised that they made the list, and frankly, I am too! But keep in mind they did let me live with them for 17 months, and they didn’t kick me out! Sure, they threatened on multiple occasions to make me go sleep in the mini-house (i.e. the shed in the backyard), but luckily these threats were never followed through. I had a warm bed, was spoiled with homemade dinner most nights, and was even allowed to tag along on many occasions. Of course I had to put up with Adam dissing on my ‘hood car’… (Editor’s note: This was originally point #4, however Jenn was offended to be below donk cars, so I had to rearrange)
4. Donk Cars. Apparently this is the name for those pimped-out cars you see driving around town. Just do a google search and you’ll see how they’re gaining in popularity. It’s always entertaining to have one roll up beside you at a stoplight. I’ve spotted several cars around Columbia painted with cereals, Strawberry Shortcake, and even Cheetos.
5. Football Season. Although not unique to Columbia (pictured is Citadel Homecoming), football season is always a good time. Being in a college town, you can always find an excuse to tailgate. Good food and good company! And then of course there’s the football game.
6. And finally: Beckett. Perhaps the cutest Boston Terrier ever, (although his cousin Brigid rivals him) he’s a little troublemaker that loves visitors, any type of food except pretzels, destroying stuffed animals, and trying to get the last drops out of a beer bottle.
What’s your favorite thing about Columbia?
Sole Purpose is an umbrella for charities and ideas that I am most passionate about. It is the fundraising sector of A Wandering Sole and plays a huge role in motivating me to run. Through Sole Purpose, I raise money for Education, Microlending, & Short-Term Needs, and distribute it in the countries that I visit.
The idea came to me in 2008, while spending 6 weeks volunteering for an orphanage in Kenya. I took a 5-day leave from the orphanage to visit a few of Kenya’s National Parks. Upon my return, I discovered that one of the children sponsored by the orphanage had not been to school for 3 days. Why you ask? Because his shoes were stolen, and in Kenya, No shoes= No entry into school. The resolution was a matter of my walking 30 minutes to the next village, tracking down the shoemaker and commissioning a $5 pair of dress shoes to be made. That’s all it took to get him back into school. In his case, the situation was out of his control. His 8’ x 8’ mud hut was broken into, and his shoes were stolen. I consider this money to be some of the best $5 I have ever spent, as I can’t imagine a child being denied education over a $5 pair of shoes. There is a bounty of worthwhile causes that only require $5. Yet even when something requires a bit more money, say $100 for a microloan, then all it takes is 20 people contributing $5. It’s simply the idea that by pooling resources, change is inevitable.
I am firmly grounded in the belief that small donations can drive a grassroots effort to make a significant impact, which is why Sole Purpose is founded on the premise of giving just $5. I have heard too many times (and I’m a member of the guilty party) how someone didn’t donate to a cause because they couldn’t give much money- not because they didn’t believe that the cause wasn’t worth supporting. A large donation is not a precursor to playing a meaningful role in improving someone’s life.
You can make a contribution at www.giveforward.org/solepurpose and follow the fundraiser on the Sole Supporters page. Be sure to check out my Running Log to see the crazy places I’m sure to discover on foot!
Welcome to Awanderingsole.com- a site geared towards travel, running, volunteering, and free-spirited adventure.
My name is Laura Walker, and I am headed off for an 8 month Round-the-World (RTW) trip in March. Unlike most RTW travel blogs, I can’t really claim to have ‘dropped out of the rat race’. Yes, I quit my job(s) 2 days ago after being gainfully employed for 14 months, but I just got my feet wet in the ‘real world’. Although my About page offers you all of the details, here’s a brief synopsis of what brought me to where I am now.
1. Graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.S. in Interior Design and a Minor in Art History, May 2008.
2. Traveled and volunteered in Africa, June-August 2008.
3. Came home with only $200 and to a bad economy, August 2008.
4. Moved in with my sister in Columbia, SC to avoid living at home, September, 2008.
5. Got a job as a designer for a tile showroom as well as a side gig at a stationery shop, November 2008.
6. Obsessed over traveling again.
7. Ran the Chicago Marathon and got serious about planning my trip, October 2009.
8. Bought plane tickets & had the official discussion with my dad on Christmas night, including answering questions such as “What will you eat?” “How will you get clean clothes?” “How are you getting from Kenya to Rwanda?” Avoided heated questions at all costs, December, 2009.
9. Quit job(s), January, 2010.
So that’s where I’m at now. I have a rough plan- Italy, Jordan, east and southern Africa, southeast Asia, and Nepal. I know that I will be heading back to the orphanage that I volunteered with previously, Watoto Wa Baraka, and I have paid for a slot in the Rome Marathon, but that’s about the extent of firm plans. I have decided to run races along my route, not only for the joy of the experience but also to raise money for things that I care about. Check out my Sole Purpose page for more details. I will be posting my training runs along the way.
A Wandering Sole will primarily include my experiences from this trip, however I hope to include information from previous travels. Prior trips include: Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sweden, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Hawaii. Yes, I know, Hawaii is not a country but there’s plenty of great information on it that I hope to share. I often get asked if I’m going to be traveling with a tour group or at least a companion? The answer is No. I want the ability to go where the bus takes me on any given day. I want to be flexible in my plans. And, if you’ve ever tried to find someone to uproot themselves to go around the world for 8 months, it’s not an easy task. Of course I’d love to see some of the major monuments, museums, and touristy things in the places I visit, but I really love to go off the beaten path and truly experience the culture of a place and the everyday way of life. I also get asked, point blank, “Why?” My answer to that is, if you have the travel and adventure bug, you just have to. It’s an overwhelming driving force, that can’t be avoided. Travel for me is like an adrenaline rush most days. Then I get asked, “How?” No, I’m not a trust-fund baby, and I don’t have some rich great-uncle funding this trip. It’s coming purely out of my savings, and it wasn’t easy! I could have put a down payment on a house by now or bought a new car, but frankly, those things don’t interest me right now. I believe this trip will be worth every penny, as my previous trips have been. I’m also looking into other ways to finance my travel habits… hopefully there will be more to come on that subject.
So, my answer to the question is “YES, THIS IS FOR REAL!”