Monday, September 10, 2007

What to Pack?

It’s getting closer to leaving and the question usually asked is “Are you packed?” Packing, clothes-wise, is not too bad for me. I can list easily the number of pants (3, 2 jeans, 1 pair black slacks), underwear (6, ex-officio travel), socks (6-8 smart wools), etc. Shoes are a little trickier, but still not bad. A pair of everyday shoes, a pair of hiking/cross trainers, and a pair of black dress shoes – is the minimum. If room permits, a pair of sandal-like shoes or running shoes (very *not* Italian).

The problem I have is what to pack data-wise. How many books to carry? How many maps to bring? What kind of supporting data? From past trips, I realized that we usually brought more guide books than we actually used. And, we typically used the books at night to plan for the next day. Carrying the books around during the day was typically not needed. A map or some documentation about finding a trail, yes, but not books. These usage patterns along with the fact that you can buy good guide books and maps (in English) at your destination made me feel like we were spending a lot of energy lugging this material around. On the last few trips I even started taking apart guide books and taking only the relevant sections to cut down on what we had to carry.

This trip (given the length) I’m going a step further. I’ve taken apart several guide books completely and scanned them to OneNote. (See previous post.) There are some gotchas to the approach. First, it can be time consuming depending on the size of the book and type of paper (coating and size) used which could make the automatic feeder a nightmare to use. Second, it is only on the computer so we can only access the info when we have the computer. The idea I’m going for is to get as much digital travel info as possible to maximize what is on my computer. Scanned books combined with browser pages (copy and pasted or printed to OneNote) of relevant articles can make a pretty complete off-line resource. I even found PDF of Italian bad words and dictionaries. When the scanned pages are in the computer the words are recognized so that you can search for text on all the pages quickly.

I looked around and there are no downloadable guides that are as useful as the books. I like the thought that goes into how a book is produced; I just want it digitally. So I have scanned guide books for Italy (general), Croatia, and the Greek Islands. About a 1,000 pages. Also, I scanned books about culture and language for another 500 or so pages. We’ll see how useful this is.

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