Sunday, December 28, 2014


Hello! Now, I know that I have not gone on the trip yet, but in the past when I write on packing lists, it seemed to be very popular, so I thought I'd share my packing list for Semester at Sea, for a semester-long (112 days) voyage. But first, a friendly reminder of my personal commandments of packing:
  1. Thou shalt not pack clothes you never wear.
  2. Thou shalt not pack more than you can carry.
  3. Thou shalt not pack high heels.
  4. Thou shalt not pack a fanny pack.
  5. Thou shalt not pack in a suitcase if a backpack will do.
Then, without further to do...

Clothes: As much as possible, things are synthetic fabrics to dry quickly, as everything needs to be drip-dried in the bathroom. Also - this is not a minimalist list. While I love backpacking, Semester at Sea is not a backpacking trip. I have a room on the boat, and don't have to carry all of this whilst I'm travelling in-port. There is no need to wear the same two shirts over and over like I would normally do on a backpacking trip.
  1. Yoga pants (2) - just for the ship
  2. Hiking/"travel" pants (2) - they fold into nothing, weigh nothing, and dry quickly
  3. Shorts (4) - just for the ship
  4. Long skirts (5) - lately I just like skirts more than pants
  5. Leggings (1) - also folds into nothing, yay for layers!
  6. T-Shirts (7) - necessity
  7. Tank Tops (7) - they're tiny, which makes packing them nice
  8. Underwear (12) - running out sucks
  9. Bras (6) - not sure what to say...
  10. Hiking socks (1) - quick dry, keep away nasty feet
  11. Other socks (2) - I usually wear flip-flops
  12. Flip-flops/ncops (3) - one dollar each from Swaziland Shoprite :)
  13. Dress sandals (1) - can't always wear ncops
  14. Active/hiking/gym shoes (1) - mountains in ncops? maybe not...
  15. Formal dress (1) - short dress, small to pack
  16. Suit (1) - there is a chance of a university interview along the way in-port
  17. Scarves (8) - to cover butts, shoulders, hair, and anything else that happens to be haraam
  18. Jersey (sweatshirt, my dear Americans) (1) - it gets cold, bros
  19. Long sleeved shirt (5) - layers, man
  20. Rain jacket (1) - Christmas present :)
  21. Bandanas (8) - most of the time I wrap my hair in either these or a scarf
  22. Swazi outfit (1) - I'm technically registered as an international student from Swaziland, so I figured I should :)
  23. Beanie (1) - my head gets cold
Electronics: I usually go much more minimal here, but I do have to survive a semester of university, so this is what I'm bringing (plus chargers and outlet adapters)
  1. Netbook (my trusty computer, duct-taped together but still clicking along)
  2. Nice camera (somewhere between DSLR and point and shoot)
  3. Waterproof/shockproof camera
  4. iPod (my mom found one of the old models used for $50 - will be great for checking internet in ports, seeing as how there's no internet on the boat, and I don't want to bring my laptop into ports)
  5. Extra memory cards + flash drive 
  6. Ear buds (I've had a pair for years that has been through hell and high water and the washing machine and still works - I think they came free from some promotion... who knows?)
  7. Phone: (the basic Nokia brick - for me, it's essentially an alarm clock)
School supplies: I mean, it's a semester at sea, not four months of nothing at sea.
  1. Textbooks (9) - required, I had to buy eight and print out one from a PDF a professor sent
  2. Binder/filler paper/dividers (1) - I have one two-ring binder from Swaziland that I just filled with the paper I had left over from IB. It'll be plenty for four months of school.
  3. Full pencil case (1) - some pens, some pencils, a highlighter, a Sharpie. Nothing fancy.
  4. Empty expandable folder (1) - I'm assuming I'm going to get some papers at some point.
Room stuff: The cabin is supposedly small, but I have a feeling after Waterford QB's, it'll be massive.
  1. Magnets (a massive amount): The walls are metal, and we're not allowed to use tape, so magnets are needed for decorating. I bought a roll for magnetic tape at Walmart for two dollars and spent some time making my own.
  2. Air freshener (2): Small room, no windows, bathroom in the room, going to have to drip-dry clothes in such a room... just trying to avoid a disaster
  3. Pictures for the walls (lots): because white walls are my worst enemy
Travel necessities: Seriously, though. In my book, these are almost always necessities.
  1. Sleeping bag and liner: I have a small-ish one that's warm almost all the time. It makes risky hostels a lot less disgusting. I use a liner just to keep the bag clean, as the liner is much easier to wash. Also, camping.
  2. Passport: Duh.
  3. Credit card and debit card: As much as I budget travel, some money is going to be spent. Withdrawing from ATMs in foreign ports is so much easier than trying to find a currency conversion place.
  4. Travel towels: I know this is random, but seriously, don't bring a normal towel. I use a konga and a microfiber towel, and have a microfiber facecloth as well. Not only do these not take up space, but they dry amazingly fast, which is the important part.
Bags: Because I'm not going around the world with this stuff loose.
  1. Backpack: My trusty thing. I stole it from my mom's closet in 2010 and it has been attached to my back ever since.
  2. Overnight bag: Medium sized, with a shoulder strap
  3. School pack: For classes on the ship
  4. Shoulder bag + tiny purse + string tie backpack: They take up very little space, and it's nicer to have the right bag for the day, whether it's hiking a mountain or going out at night. 
Other: Because no list would be complete without the miscellaneous.
  1. Glasses
  2. Toiletries (pack for yourself, you know what you need)
  3. Journal
  4. Host family gifts
  5. Jewelry
  6. Goggles
  7. Hair ties and clips
Okay, that's it! Good luck, enjoy packing!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Swaziland, America, and a Boat?

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself that I don't live in Swaziland anymore. The most difficult part in getting that fact through my head (other than the fact that our hostel family has been scattered across the world) is that my replacement, at least until May, is to go live on a boat (and I'm not exactly sure where after that). I'm so excited about the whole boat thing, but admittedly, this whole affair has got a little bit of the "homeless" vibes to it - but, that's kind of what I signed up for with this whole wandering the world thing :)

Other than that, I have very little to announce, other than that I'm leaving in less than a month! Until then, you can find me busting my butt working long shifts at Toys R Us. I assure you, spending ten hours at a time in a store filled with colored plastic is not helping with my culture shock on being in America... but I just remind myself - one weekend there paid for my flights within India to be reunited with my other half, and that is definitely worth it :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Next Great Adventure

Now that I've been back from Swaziland for just over a week, I'm already in knee-deep in preparing for the next adventure - Semester at Sea. So, I figured I'd write a little bit about what it is that I'm going to be doing from January to May.

Semester at Sea is a semester of fully-fledged university (sponsored by the University of Virginia), where a bunch of university students live on this boat (MV Explorer) for four months, and sail around the world. It's quite expensive, but thanks to the never-ending generosity of the Davis Foundation, I haven't even seen a price tag. I'll be taing classes every day when we're on the boat, and then I'm free to roam in the ports where we will be stopping.

For classes, I will be taking Travel Writing, Gender and Society, Systems of Inequality (a sociology course), and Global Health. I'm really, really excited for these classes! it's nice to finally be able to just take classes that I'm interested in, instead of for requirements for graduation (I'm looking at you, IB). If I were in university already, the credits would transfer, but because I'm planning on university in Europe, and the ECTS system is so different from the American system, it won't transfer. For those at American universities, though, the credits do indeed count for a semester of classes! As for me, I'm just taking it for the fun of it - my grades and credits don't count for anything. Makes for a nice, relaxing semester!

Each class meets when we're at sea, so there are no classes when we're at ports. But, three of the classes do have "field labs," which are one-day programs that we have to do in a port for the class. But, I've picked my classes so that I'm excited about the field labs, which include, in my case, a visit to a market and station for travel writing, and visits to local NGOs in Vietnam and Morocco for systems of sociology and the gender course. Should be good!

Now, as for the exciting part... the PORTS! We will be stopping in the following places:
Hilo, Hawaii,
Yokohama and Kobe, Japan
Shanghai and Hong Kong, China
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Singapore, Singapore
Rangoon, Burma
Cochin, India
Port Louis, Mauritius
Cape Town, South Africa
Walvis Bay, Namibia
Casablanca, Morocco
Southampton, UK

We usually have five or six days in each port, with a few exceptions. Once we're in the ports, other than the field labs described above, it's up to me what I want to do! Right now I have a few plans and a few open pages, but I'll leave that for another post. For now, just looking at this list makes me really excited!

And that's about it! I've been hustling around trying to do all the preparations I've supposed to been doing since October in this last month, as much of it wasn't possible when I was in Swaziland (either that, or not probable, because I had southern hemisphere exams to deal with). Anyways, now, I'm just getting ready, and slowly starting to pack again! I mean, my backpack is never really empty... I submitted my Indian visa yesterday and am waiting for that back, and I've ordered my textbooks last night! Soon enough, it will be January, and I'll be on my way!

Until then, enjoy December!