trip report: Patagonia – Ruta 40 & driving the Carretera Austral, January 2019

My current struggle in life is the constant feel of needing to optimize my time. It’s the feeling that I need to be productive whenever possible, but I don’t think I am actually any more than before in the overall scheme of things. Maybe I started to feel this way because of the combination of how easy I can waste a day and just the never ending to do lists. Whatever the reason, it makes it very difficult to relax as anything nonproductive comes with a feel of regret in the end. This specific struggle carries over into the realm of traveling as well when it comes to unplanned and free form travel. It is hard not to feel the need to do something at every minute. But at the same time, unplanned free form travel is the cure as you don’t have anywhere to be but to relax and immerse yourself in the beauty out there. There is no place better for me to relearn that than the remote regions in Chile on the Carretera Austral.

19_1_ca3-1-141.jpg
carefree zone

In the spirit of free form travel, the hikes and activities we throughout the rest of our trip wasn’t really in any organizable order. This is due to a few travel restrictions and situational parameters that are explained in the post. So this part of the trip report will cover our decisions as we went, the specific route that we took, and our driving experiences on the Carretera Austral. Subsequent sections will delve into the different hikes and major activities that I will mention in this overview of our trip.

We pick up this trip report the day after our Huemul Circuit hike (see part 2 of this series). This is part 3 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below. Read More

trip report: Patagonia – getting in & Huemul Circuit return, January 2019

On my first solo extended out of the country trip, I found myself at a pub in Bruge drinking with the a bunch of new friends I didn’t know the day before. A quote that stuck with me from that night was that you travel not to experience everything, but to find all the great things about a place to return to. In the travel atmosphere that is suggestive of the bucket list and country counting attitude, I am all for the counter viewpoint of also returning to a place that once put you in a state of awe. The Huemul Circuit is currently my favorite hike in the world, so a return trip to Patagonia meant I’d head back there.

As I start to write this, I am not sure how this report will go. This is the first time I’m writing up the exact same hike on this page and it didn’t deviate much from my first trip. Secondly, my SD card crapped out during this trip leading me to lose a good portion of my data unbeknown to be until I started going through the pictures post trip. To that end, I’m approaching this write up of the Huemul Circuit as a complement to the my first report with the insight that the trail has gotten much more popular.

19_1_huemul-203

This is part 2 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below. Read More

trip report: Patagonia – planning & research, January 2019

Two of my favorite hikes in the world at the moment is in Patagonia, the O-Circuit of Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile and the Huemul Circuit of Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. I would return to either places in a heartbeat, as our two previous week long trips out there during our spring breaks left us wanting for more. But these two hikes are just a small portion of the vast region of Patagonia with plenty that I’d looked forward to exploring in the future. So when I saw a USD$400 roundtrip flight from the United States to São Paulo, Brazil in business class, that future was much closer than I originally thought. Not to take away from what we had experienced in Brazil, but it was no question we’d be heading back to Patagonia.

19_1_ca1-100.jpg

This is part 1 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below. Read More

trip report: John Muir Trail, July 2018 – part 2, getting in & Yosemite National Park warmup

Do you remember your first backpacking trip? For me, it was with Jared, Matt, Will, and Arnold in Yosemite National Park during my last Memorial Day weekend in California before graduate school. Of course, we didn’t have permits beforehand or even thought of how busy it would be that weekend nor really knew much about what was really necessary for backpacking. Through that weekend of floods, rain, infinite hot dogs, and plenty of Gentleman Jack, we emerged as Poopanauts, which is a story that will have to wait for another time. The main point is that it is hard to recall the feeling and mindset of getting into the wilderness for the first time. It was something I had to try my best to relate to as I lead my California friends Arnold, Joey, and Miguel and new friends Becky and Doris back to Yosemite National Park. For Becky and Doris, it was their first time into the backcountry. Since these guys were willing to take the time off work to drive me up to Yosemite – where I would start my John Muir Trail (JMT) hike – and spend several days in the backcountry with me, I hoped that I was able to share my enthusiasm of the outdoors with my friends again and for the first time.

18_7_jmt_2_yose-194.jpg

This is part 2 of my John Muir Trail (JMT) trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted. Read More

trip report: John Muir Trail, July 2018 – part 1, decision & planning

Sometimes you submit an application for a permit with a three day start window for one of the most popular trails in the United States Park system on a whim. And sometimes you’ll just win that golden ticket on the first try. That’s the short story of how I took a long unpaid leave in the summer of 2018 and spent it walking through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

18_7_JMT_1-1-5.jpg

This is part 1 of my John Muir Trail (JMT) trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below.

Read More

trip report: Singapore, June 2018

 

Singapore is well known in the travel blog and travel hack community, though mostly for its award winning airport. That’s how I knew Singapore having spent a couple of nights laying over there a few years back. It wasn’t a place I’d intended to visit, but work brought me there anyways. With the surprisingly popular movie Crazy Rich Asians (imdb) providing a full on commercial account of the city and the world’s longest nonstop flight between Newark and Singapore restarting (thepointsguy), I figure I’d provide my experiences there.

Read More

trip report: Wales, May 2018

The origin of our trip to Wales was open ended, so much so that we didn’t know Wales was our destination until a couple weeks out. This trip serves as an example of an unplanned road trip that’s a culmination of cheap flights across the pond, an expiring travel voucher, and no time to plan. The end result was cliffs, rocks, castles, and fish and chips.

18_5_Wales-1167

Read More

trip report: Costa Rica, December 2017

For the last 3 years, we’ve enjoyed the southwest companion pass. On multiple occasions on this blog, I’ve mentioned that it is currently the best travel hack. The companion pass has provided us the means for direct trips to fly out to Colorado for our road trip, visiting Arcadia National Park for July 4th, visiting family for the holidays, attend the many weddings, and helping us reposition for our international trips. Recently Southwest has also announced that they will be flying to Hawaii as well. One destination I’ve had my eye on when I went for it initially 3 years ago was Southwest’s international destination of Costa Rica.

cr-20

Read More

trip report: New Zealand & Maui, Dec 2016 to Jan 2017 – part 6, final impressions and budget

This is part 6, the final post about our trip around the pacific covering New Zealand and Maui adventures over the holiday break from December 2016 to January 2017. In this section, I’ll wrap up our trip by going over our expenses, our impressions, and what I’d change the next time I plan a trip like this. You can navigate to each of the other sections in this blog series in the complete index below (in my long entry fashion, the you may have to click on the link twice for the correct page anchor location since the pictures might take a bit to load).

final impressions

The sheer amount of planning I did for this trip was a bit overwhelming (as was this trip report series). Looking back, I think it might have not been the most optimal way for this trip. The 2 reasons for my initial planning was because I wanted to tramp the great walks, which typically requires prior booking. And secondly, I was worried about booking housing during the Holiday season. Really, I just didn’t have a good idea of what it would be like on the ground. But that’s part of the novelty in traveling.

16_12_NZ2-131

New Zealand and the attitude of the people are very open to changes and flexible. As Daniel, our new friend from the trip put it, new Zealand might not be as spectacular as Patagonia in terms of pure aesthetics, but it by far surpasses in the awesome feel and attitude of the people and the culture.

Unless you are trying to stay in a party central like Queenstown during New Years or the best hostel in town, you probably can still find housing somewhere. That is especially true if you have you own transportation as car camping opportunities are plenty in many of the national parks around. With the traditional campervan, you can even get away sleeping in the middle of nowhere. The freedom camping laws are pretty generous, except in certain areas and the Great Walks. Here are some tips about Freedom Camping from Go Nomad, but make sure you practice leave no trace.

16_12_NZ2-6

One issue with a car and tramping would be requiring you to find a way to shuttle your car to different trailheads. However, hiking shuttles to get to those trailheads without a car is pretty expensive anyways as you can see below. The last key benefit with a car is that you can be much more flexible and pickup on last minute Great Walk cancellations like we could have with the Milford track had be had a car. Unless you planned way ahead of time (at the exact time the reservations open up – or about 30 minutes after), chances are you’ll still be able to still do the hikes if you are flexible.

Getting back to freedom camping as an alternative for the Great Walks, including the Milford Track, you can officially freedom camp 500 meters away from the trail, but not recommended by the DOC unless you have extensive backcountry experience. Again, practice leave no trace as it’s the major worry for DOC officials and can be a big argument point for future policies. The huts and campsite outside of the Great Walk season, also including the Milford Track, switch to a first come, first serve basis.

16_12_NZ2-47

Lastly, with the weather such a factor anyways, you have the flexibility to just head to another part of the island for one of the many tramps the island has to provide. As I alluded to earlier, New Zealand isn’t the most impressive scenery we’ve seen in the world, but there are plenty of amazing hikes. So, it doesn’t hurt to just skip over to the next valley.

16_12_nz_a-72

With 2 and a half weeks, we could have went with a much more unstructured travel and saved myself much more time in organizing all the schedules and hikes. I don’t know if I would have as prepared for unstructured travel had I not had the experiences of this trip, but campervan it is the next time we visit the islands. As a Kiwi told me during my large solo trip through Europe, “you travel with the aim to return.”

return to the index

final budget

budget1

redemption

Our overall spending was a bit more than I wanted to but not too bad for 2 people ($2700 each person) for the Holiday high season. As such, we spent a lot more than I thought we would in transportation. A big part of our flight cost (~$200) was also technically transit between south and north islands. From this standpoint, $600 car rental is much more comparable than. Doubling the transport cost because of 2 people is why rentals are more worth it.

We also splurged more on housing then we wanted to, partially because of weather (on the North Island and a couple nights on the South Island) and partially because we didn’t want to be eaten alive camping in Mt. Aspiring National Park.

Of course we splurged a bit on food, but that’s expected on vacation.

16_12_NZ2-93

Overall, our monthly food budget isn’t too far off that cost sitting between $500 to $700.

A big chunk of our activity cost was paying for snorkeling costs for my family, but they also paid for housing and food during the few days we were on Maui. With Chinese families, everyone’s money is family money anyways.

Below is the detailed spending spreadsheet with blue outlining flights, green outlining activities, and red outlining things that changed or we ended up missing.

budget2

earnings

All our reward earnings are listed below, not including credit card returns. Getting that $1000 voucher was a nice bonus at the end of our trip.

earnings

return to the index

If you’ve enjoyed this trip report and found it helpful, we would always welcome any support. Thanks!

trip report: New Zealand, December 2016 – part 1, research and planning

New Zealand is among the most well-known trekking regions in the world, emphasized by The Lord of the Rings Trilogies. Among the treks, or tramps as the kiwi’s call it, are 10 great walks. However, such notoriety draws tremendous number of visitors and subsequently makes a trip to New Zealand difficult to plan and expensive to undertake. This is especially the case during a major holiday season like the time Christmas and New Years. Housing, either paid or award airline tickets, transportation, and permits for the great walks are many of the obstacles that needs to be planned, and extremely meticulous so in order to keep costs down.

Because of the length and complication of our trip, this trip report is broken up into several entries and taking me a while to write. Learning to work with Lightroom also has made the process a little longer.

Read More

trip report: Brazil, March 2016 – Chapada Diamantina, Rio, Ilha Grande, and São Paulo

There are places you go to because it’s a place you’ve always dreamed of going. There are places you go because your friend told you about their great experience. There are places you go for the pure aesthetic. There are places you go because buzzfeed made a list. But another major reason for traveling is certainly for travel’s sake. In this case, Brazil was the place we went to because we’ve never been and I wanted to get in on a mistake business class fare. The end result of that business class saga turned out to be a lot of headache and it lead to a lot of planning by the seat of our pants.

16_3_CP_d3_09

This style of traveling is much different that our typical planned out trips. Research helps to save money and time, but it also helps me to get a sense of what I need to prepare for. This is especially true when it comes to backcountry trekking where you are balancing, literally, what you need and what you don’t. During my attempt to research about trekking in brazil proved very difficult, including trying to find any trail maps online. So it was clear this trip would be without a direct plan, however this style of travel has many  of its own benefits. There is much more freedom to just go and immerse into the local culture. From that perspective, you see new things, try new things, meet new friends, and drinking a lot of caipirinhas.

16_3_Brazil_intro

Read More