Island hopping near Ao Nang, Thailand

Our second stop in Thailand was the Krabi region. It’s an area known for it’s beaches and breathtaking islands off the coast, so of course it was on our list to visit. We opted to stay in Ao Nang as we had read it was a great launching point for visiting many islands in the Andaman Sea and it also had the best selection of hostels and food.wp-1490444663701.jpg

This stop also included going back to dorm life which was a fairly easy adjustment. Lately we had been spoiled with hotel rooms or private rooms, so we took it easy and booked a 4 bed mixed dorm at a cute hostel called iDeal Beds. Reviews told us that it was close to the beach yet away from the party area and quite peaceful.

We took a ferry from Phuket to Ao Nang and hopped in a tuk tuk to take us to our home for the next few days. The scenery took our breath away and we hadn’t even gotten to the best parts yet!

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Phuket, Thailand and the first Thai spa visit

We arrived in Thailand and started our visit with a trip to Phuket. After booking a hotel online and not really knowing much about the region, we opted to stay in Patong. Turns out this was a pretty huge party area and we aren’t big partiers… but we still took the time to explore and make the most of it.

Here’s a recap of what we did while in Patong:

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Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen – Java, Indonesia

Part of our Indonesia trip was spent on the island of Java. We were attracted to two volcanoes on the island: Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen. Each had an appeal to them and great reviews of the sights, so we spent some time finding the perfect guide to take us there. This was going to be an epic trip so we needed an epic guide to show us the ropes!

After some research/Facebook stalking/review reading, we settled on Pierrick Bigot as our guide for this trip. We found out about him from another travel blog when we were looking into trips in Java. Pierrick works with a company named IndoTravelTeam and takes groups on trips from Bali to Java to see these volcanoes. We opted for a 3 day, 2 night trip with Pierrick and some other folks who were out to see the same sights.

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Gili Islands, Indonesia

After learning about the Gili Islands from our handy Lonely Planet guidebook, we knew we had to take a trip there. It was just a short (fast) boat ride away from Bali and sounded like it was well worth the visit. Turns out it was so impressive, we extended our stay!

Since arriving in Indonesia, we have learned to “fly by the seat of our pants” and not plan out every future stop in advance. We arrived in Bali with a hotel booked until March 8th and that was it. We knew we wanted to go to Gili Islands after that, so we spent some time researching fast boats to take us that direction. The day before leaving Bali, we booked our round trip (aka return) tickets with Gili Getaways. They would take us to Gili Trawangan, or more widely known as Gili T  (the largest of the Gili Islands, and also the furthest west) and drop us there. We just had to find a place to stay.

We opted to stay at Le Pirate, a cute hotel on the northwest coast of Gili T. The photos and Tripadvisor reviews won us over. We would have our own little “beach box” on the property, complete with outdoor bathroom. We decided to stay 4 nights and see what this island was all about.

Researching Gili T in more detail taught us that the island had great snorkeling, amazing beaches, a big party scene and fantastic food… all at a very reasonable rate. While we are not (late night) party people, the rest certainly appealed to us. Luckily, Le Pirate was on the quiet side of the island and would be an ideal fit for our early-ish bedtimes.

Gili Getaways provided us with a fantastic trip between Bali and Gili T (with a few small sunburns on Kerry) and safely dropped us off a the main part of the island. We grabbed lunch, some cash and also snorkels. We already owned masks for scuba diving, but decided to invest in our own snorkels so we could swim out from the shore anytime we wanted. Little did we know, this was a great investment and they would come in very handy.

Crashing Jenny’s nap

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We flagged down a cidomo (aka horse and cart) and hopped on for a ride to our hotel. It was a bumpy, friendly experience where we laughed, waved to locals, wondered if our bags would get horse poop on them and also held on tight. It was quite the experience and yet probably one of the safest transportation methods that we would see for a while, knowing where all we are headed to in the coming months!

Cidomo selfie gone wrong

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The staff at Le Pirate greeted us with smiling faces and showed us to our room, complete with AC and an oscillating fan. Jackpot! We settled in, snapped some photos of the adorable room and then started to scope out the property. The grounds of this place are super cute and brightly colored, with a great restaurant on site and even better beach. We were so beat from the long boat ride in the heat that we took a long nap before dinner, then made big plans for the next morning!

Outside our Beach Box

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Sweaty Jenny after one of our morning workouts

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Small room but we didn’t need much!

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Outdoor bathroom

The next few days were spent with the following routine:

  • Sleep in (until around 7am)
  • Work out (thanks to a quick routine we downloaded a couple of years ago)
  • Free breakfast
  • Sunscreen application
  • 2-3 hour self-guided (aka FREE) snorkeling trip
  • More sunscreen
  • Beach time
  • Lunch on the beach
  • Nap/quiet/research time
  • Bintangs & sunset
  • Dinner
  • Shower
  • Bed!

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It didn’t take us long to realize we needed to extend our stay. Gili Getaways easily changed our return trip to Bali and Le Pirate happily moved us to another room so we could stay longer. A 4 night stay on Gili T was successfully extended to 6 nights! We would like to give a huge shout out to Le Pirate Beach Club for being an incredible home for us on this adorable island. We may be partial, but we think the location, staff, accommodation and proximity to incredible free snorkeling (a quick 100 meter swim out to the reef), makes this place a no-brainer when deciding where to stay on Gili Trawangan.

Jenny waiting for the sunset and enjoying a Bintang

Our evening routine on Gili T

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We have to take a moment to try to explain how incredible the snorkeling is on Gili T. We originally hoped to snorkel (because we had researched that it was great here and we knew we could do it for free right near our hotel), but also had thought about scuba diving here if the snorkeling wasn’t allowing us to see incredible sea life.

Our very first snorkel outing had us pinching ourselves and coming up out of the water every few minutes with sheer excitement on our faces and talking to each other about how this was without a doubt the coolest snorkeling either of us had ever done! We would then stick our heads back in the water and see more amazing sights. We have seen more fish than we even thought possible, and every single kind imaginable. Every color of fish under the sun, small fish, GIGANTIC fish (like, we seriously saw the largest fish that we had ever seen…easily larger than one of us for sure!!), long skinny fish with beaks, Nemo fish, clownfish, the list goes on and on.

We were also blessed to be able to see lots of sea turtles! We had heard that the spot just north of the Le Pirate beach was good for seeing turtles, and it did NOT disappoint. We saw a turtle or 2 or 3 pretty much every time we went out. They also seemed to (for the most part) like the attention we were giving them. If we spotted them on the bottom of the sea floor (sometimes 10-15 meters depth), we would just follow along in the direction they were swimming and they would eventually come up and surface right near us. We were able to get some incredible shots with the GoPro when this happened. We coined the term #turtlestalking after our first turtle and never turned back. We apparently are great at stalking because nearly every snorkeling trip was successful!

On our second day, we were even blessed enough to get a glimpse of a shark!! It was a day with less visibility in the water and when we spotted the shark, it was about 30 meters away from us (or so) and we immediately squealed above the surface out of excitement! By the time we put our heads back down into the water to get another view, we had only a few more seconds to see it, as the shark had decided that it was time to get away from us crazy humans, and swam off into the depths of the ocean floor and faded out of view.

Another time, we were swimming along near a large group of snorkelers (that had paid for their outing) and noticed a turtle coming up from the bottom right after the slew of people. We had a laugh that the other snorkelers had no idea, as none of them were looking around as they swam, they just had their heads down and were following in a line. We swam along with the turtle for a while, when low and behold, the turtle led us right to a HUGE moray eel!! We saw a similar eel while scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, but only the top half of that one was visible since it was in some coral. This one was swimming around on the bottom of the sea and it was gigantic and it was awesome!! We are totally grossed out by eels, yet SO excited and intrigued every time we luck into seeing one. And of course we like to compare them to Ursala’s eels from The Little Mermaid…one of our favorite Disney films of all time.

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Dinner company

We have had such a great time on this beautiful island. We have enjoyed spectacular sunsets, scenic snorkeling sessions, worked on our tans, and discovered some scrumptious food during our stay here on Gili T. We are sad to move on from here, but REALLY excited for this coming week…epic adventures await us!

~Kerry & Jenny

Bali, Indonesia 

We were so excited to finally reach our first destination in Southeast Asia! We flew into Bali and were greeted by humidity and heat, 2 things that we will need to get used to pronto, because there will be no relief from hot temps for a few months at least.

Awaiting our arrival at the airport was Michael, or Pak Jessi (he goes by both names). We had pre-arranged for him to be our driver because Jenny’s friends Ashley and Joe had met him while on vacation in Bali about 5 years ago and said he was fun and a great tour guide and personal driver. Jenny had messaged him on Facebook a couple of days before our arrival to hammer out the details of our flight into Denpasar. He even printed out a sign with our names on it so we could find him easily in the sea of drivers standing outside the airport terminal. We spotted him nearly immediately and were quickly on our way to an ATM to get cash in the local currency, Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), then onward to our hotel in Seminyak. We opted for a hotel here over a hostel because, well, they are pretty cheap. And we heard from multiple people in Perth (Australia) that the safer bet for Bali was a hotel….We trusted them because Bali is a very popular holiday location for people living in Perth due to the close location and easy 3 hour flight. We have deduced that Bali is to  Western Australians what Cancun is to Texans, an easy and fun party getaway town!

Enjoying some Bintangs with Michael

Here is a breakdown of what we did while in Bali:

Barong Dance
We were able to take in a traditional Balinese Barong Dance, which is essentially a play with 5 acts and live music. We learned that the Barong Play represents the eternal fight between good and evil spirits. The Barong (a mythological animal) is the good spirit and the Rangda (a mythological monster) is the evil one.


Uluwatu Temple
We heard that there were a few monkey temples in Bali to go to and Michael had suggested Uluwatu, which is a Balinese Temple on the coast with stunning views and lots of monkeys. He warned us not to wear our sunglasses inside and to clutch tightly to our belongings in the temple area, because while the monkeys are adorable, they are incredible thieves! We indeed watched people lose glasses, caps and even flip flops to the monkeys!! It was an extremely hot day, and we were required to wear satin sarongs to cover our legs which added to the sweltering heat. There were several sets of stairs leading to the temples (that tourists are not allowed in) and lookout points with views of the water crashing against the rock cliff…made it worth the heat!


Potato Head Beach Club
We had gotten a few recommendations from Aussies to hit up Potato Head for a day of relaxating by the pool and beach. We spent the day after Kerry’s birthday here as a birthday treat and it was quite luxurious and well worth the small splurge (mind you it was still much cheaper than any day at a beach club in the US would cost)! The service was impeccable and we got a bed right in front of the pool with the best views. We knew that we wanted to stay through sunset, as we heard that the views were killer from right on the beach, and to say it did not disappoint is an understatement. We took in one of the most gorgeous sunsets we have ever seen! We also had some great food and tried a new Balinese beer as well. We did not want to leave at the end of the day!


Last but certainly not least, we celebrated Kerry’s 33rd birthday here in beautiful Bali. It was a day (or two if we consider that we also celebrated her U.S. birthday) full of authentic Balinese experiences and some tasty food and beverages. We sat at dinner the night of Kerry’s birthday and had some great conversations about friends and family over Bingtang beers and some pretty darn good “Mexican” food. Our waitress and the other servers even sang Happy Birthday and Kerry blew out some candles on her birthday ice cream dessert. It was an unforgettable birthday. It is certainly not lost on us how lucky we are to get to spend this time enriching our lives and gaining life experiences that can only come from travel.

All in all, we have had an incredible time in Bali. We enjoyed many authentic Indonesian meals and have added a couple of new beers to the growing list of delicious local brews we’ve tried on our journey. We’re at a stage now that we are rarely planning and trying to just go with the flow instead. It’s making our trip much more flexible and adding to our laid back approach.

Cheers!
~Jenny & Kerry

Backpack Breakdown – Kerry’s Packing List

When we initially left for this trip we intended to put together packing lists. That never happened. Now that we are getting more settled and into a routine we are making it happen. This list isn’t as detailed as I originally intended, mostly because it’s a pain to unpack every tiny bit of my entire life, but you get the idea. Since we had some down time in Perth, I snapped photos of the majority of my gear to share. This is after a few shopping sprees in Auckland and Fiji… and also some down sizing when in Honolulu and Perth.

Bags and Locks
I packed a big bag full of smaller bags. This was hard for me as I’m an organization freak. I wanted everything contained in bags, but that adds more weight on my back. So I tried to cut back to what I felt I needed. You’ll see more bags through the next few sections, but these are my main bags that I used daily.

  1. Gregory day pack. This is actually part of my hiking backpack, but it rolls up tiny and serves its purpose for day hikes and beach trips.
  2. Locks for my backpack. Both are TSA approved. Links are here and here.
  3. Shoe bags (from Amazon, of course). I use one for shoes and the other for dirty laundry.
  4. Travelon cross body bag. I wanted a purse for this trip that wasn’t hideous and also had some safety features. So far I’ve been really happy with it. It’s funny since I rarely carried a purse back home, but now this is a staple in my life.
  5. Osprey Porter 46 from REI. I love this bag. It’s comfortable, the straps tuck away when we check our bags, there are compression straps on the outside to make it a wee bit smaller, there are pockets inside for organization and it’s made by an extremely reliable company. Oh, and there is a laptop sleeve and some organization pockets (that I rarely use) on the outside pocket.

Toiletries
This is my problem area. I over pack on toiletries all of the time. I constantly worry I might need something or won’t have enough of something. I use way too much conditioner so I always have tons of it. So far 4 different toiletries have exploded on me, leaving me with a mess to clean up. I also got exceptionally lazy taking photos here and didn’t care to unpack all of my toiletries.

  1. Sunscreen. We use tons of this. Typically there are 2-5 bottles of this in my backpack.
  2. Sea to Summit large toiletry bag filled with goodies. Some of the things that are currently crammed in there include: toothbrush, toothpaste, razors, qtips, extra contact case, nail clippers, tweezers, comb, tea tree oil, a wide variety of travel sized toiletries, a very messy shampoo bar in a container (I really need to ditch this), girly things you don’t want to know about but if you really want to know I will tell you, contact solution, loofah and probably more things that are lost in the bottom of the bag.
  3. Nerd glasses. Because I’m blind and sometimes I have to take my contacts out.
  4. Face wash and skincare products. I’m terrible about taking care of my skin, but now that I’m getting old I feel the need to spend too much money on things that say they will help and then randomly remember to actually use them. I use whatever face wash we can find, but then also use these products: Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye Treatment, Kiehl’s Super Multi-Corrective Cream, Benefit It’s Potent Eye Cream, Lucas Paw Paw Ointment (thanks to the girls we roomed with in Cairns or introducing me to this!) and good ole Vaseline.
  5. Stuff in baggies. I got so lazy here. Things such as face sunscreen, bug repellent, antibacterial hand gel, etc. These are in bags to reduce mess from explosions. Also in a bag is my makeup. I brought this for who knows what reason, as I hate makeup most of the time. Currently there is a Bare Minerals powder that is too white for my tan face, a free eye shadow (thanks, Sephora!) and a mascara. I whine any time I put any of them on.
  6. Toiletry bags! I told you there would be more. The blue one is a Sea to Summit dopp kit. Inside there are my extra prescriptions, first aid supplies, a few random medications like Dramamine, my extra contacts and random other toiletries I rarely use. The clear bag is for when we carry on and I shove my liquids in a TSA approved bag.

Electronics
This is another weakness of mine in the packing realm. I’ve gotten better though. I just love electronics. I started with a lot more than this and have cut back quite a bit. I think these items will be just right for the remainder of the year. 

  1. Samsung Chromebook with cover. I opted to buy a cheap, small, lightweight laptop for this trip. It is not the best when it comes to memory or doing things quickly, nor does it run on either Windows or iOS operating systems, but it serves its purpose. It lets us research, blog, watch YouTube videos and if it ends up in the bottom of an ocean or in the possession of someone I do not know I won’t be heartbroken.
  2. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp from REI. I have yet to use this… but it looks pretty. It spends all of it’s time stuffed inside the Toms I never wear. I like to think that they are becoming good friends. Maybe one of these days I will use it in a hostel instead of tripping over things in the middle of the night. Also pictured: jump drive. I haven’t used this either.
  3. GoPro and associated gear. I have a GoPro Hero+ I purchased a few years ago, so of course that came on the trip with us. I may upgrade soon to something fancier since we are spending so much time in the water. In addition, I have a magnetic Joby GorillaPod and a waterproof floating grip. Then of course the basics like extra memory cards and another mount for the tripod (for my phone).
  4. Seagate Portable Hard Drive and associated cable. So I can back up all of my photos from the GoPro and also files from my slow laptop. Just in case things get crazy.
  5. Kindle. I go through phases where I read like crazy and I didn’t want to carry a lot of books. I also purchased some travel guide ebooks so this makes it a lot easier and lighter.
  6. Cords and wall plugs and other fun things. There’s a wall adapter (over to the right of the laptop), a charging cable and wall plug specifically for my phone, a generic USB wall plug, a longer USB charging cable for my phone/kindle/backup battery, charging cable for my iPod, my tiny iPod, 2 sets of headphones and a small backup battery.
  7. Not pictured: Nexus 5X. Because I needed to take these photos somehow. This phone is contanstly with me and also ends up being how most of my photos are taken on this trip

Clothing
This is constantly changing. Originally I had a pretty limited wardrobe, but thanks to a few shopping trips I have more options and can also look somewhat presentable when I need to. Any time I buy something new, I try to donate/ditch something else to make space. That doesn’t always happen. Honestly, I have too much clothes right now. 

  1. Tank tops. I have two Under Armour tanks that are getting put to very good use. They are lightweight, pack up small, hide sweat and dry super fast. I also have a Gap Body tank top that makes me feel like it’s slowly suffocating me whenever I wear it and get hot. It’s likely this will not make it far into SE Asia. Also shown below the tanks are 4 pairs of socks (1 hiking, 3 running) and 3 sports bras.
  2. Workout/casual bottoms. There’s a pair of Lululemon capri leggings that I LOVE (aka naked pants), 2 pairs of Nike running shorts and 1 pair of Lululemon running shorts.
  3. Beach attire/sleepwear. When my bag was lost for a bit in Fiji I bought some shorts and a tank to get my through. Not shown: the PJs I was wearing when taking these photos.
  4. Fancy pants. For when I want to dress up. A pair of J. Crew jeans and a pair of H&M black shorts.
  5. Rain Jacket. I bought a Columbia rain jacket with a hood for this trip and forgot to wear it every time we have been rained on so far. It also serves as a fairly decent jacket for warmth.
  6. Shirts. Ranging from Target brand to Gap to H&M. Some of these will be finding a new home soon since SE Asia is too hot for sleeves and thicker shirts like these.
  7. Fancy clothes! From left to right we have my muu muu dress from some random store in Auckland, H&M romper that requires me to fully undress to go to the bathroom and H&M floral tank that is really the only one of these three that I wear often. I recently added another tank from a random store in Bali.
  8. Unmentionables. But I’m mentioning them. Casual bra, underwear (I LOVE these so much) and a normal bra for when I get really, really fancy.

Swimwear
If you have ever met me, you know I have a major bikini problem. It’s an addiction. I started this trip with just 2 (wtf was I thinking?!) and now it has grown to this. It’s likely this will grow even more and I’ll sacrifice clothes for bikinis. I cannot help it.

  1. Victoria’s Secret bikinis. I keep a variety of patterns to mix and match. I’m loyal to one style of their bottoms, but swap out top styles to keep the tan lines hidden around my neck.
  2. Rip Curl bikinis. These were acquired in Fiji when my bag was temporarily lost. They are growing on me. Jenny laughed when I panicked and wondered if they sold bikinis as small as I like in Fiji. Turns out they do.

Shoes
I tried to keep it simple here (read: black). The goal was to be able to run, hike, walk, look fairly cute sometimes, to have shoes that work with all my clothes and are also durable. Here’s what I’m living with right now.

  1. Ipanema sandals. I originally bought these on a Rio visit and love them. They work for showers, beaches, wandering the city, boat trips, etc. They are super comfortable and seem to be holding up nicely.
  2. Black Toms. I haven’t used these too much; maybe in Europe (if they make it until then). Usually if I’m not in my tennis shoes, I’m in sandals.
  3. Nike Free TR5 training shoes. I had these shoes before this trip, in a few different patterns. They have always been reliable and comfortable, and also have worked for both running and training. They are getting a lot of mileage on them and have survived several hikes so far.

Accessories
Because I like to look fashionable. Or look like a dork. 

  1. Sunglasses straps. I have never once used these. I bet I will say I should use them once my sunglasses end up at the bottom of the ocean.
  2. Casio watch. I wear it running and on travel days. Then any other time I constantly ask Jenny what time it is because I forgot to wear my watch.
  3. Hat. Another find when my bag was lost in Fiji and I panicked. It comes in handy and makes me look really trendy.
  4. Sunglasses. Don’t be fooled, those aren’t Ray-Ban sunglasses in there. They are Oakleys. They protect my eyes, hide how tired I am, have a really cool reflective lens and also hide wrinkles. Essentially they are miracle workers.

Scuba/Snorkel Gear
We got talked into buying some personal gear to carry along for diving trips, so here it is. Since this photo was taken I also added in my own snorkel so we can go snorkeling anytime we want without having to rent gear.

  1. Mask. I have no idea what brand this is. All I know is I bought it from Scuba Toys in Carrollton, TX and they were awesome and helped me find one that fits just right, doesn’t leak and actually goes over my ginormous head.
  2. Diving socks. Oh man these make me look so cool. And they keep my feet warm when we dive and keep fins from tearing up my heels or any other part of my foot.
  3. Dive computer. I didn’t want to carry a dive log or anything else, so this logs and stores everything for me. I don’t know much more about it other than it is useful and beeps at me a lot if I start breaking underwater rules.
  4. Dry bag. I take this on any outing that includes water. We can drop our cell phones and wallets in it and call them safe. Mostly for peace of mind.

Towels & More
Really exciting stuff here. These are things I use to protect or dry my body. 

  1. Sarong. A big thanks goes out to the beautiful girls I worked with in Rio who bought me this. This functions as a cover up, a towel, a beach blanket… whatever I want it to be. It dries quickly and comes in handy on a daily basis.
  2. Sleep Sheet. I think I’ve used this twice so far when the bedding on hostel bunks were questionable. I hear it helps if we encounter bed bugs, too.
  3. Microfiber towel set. One full size and one hand towel. These are used on a daily basis as well. They dry me off quickly and sometimes dry quickly themselves, when they want to.

Random other crap
This could also be called “List of things I sometimes, but rarely, use”. They didn’t fit nicely into any other category, or I forgot to include them in the appropriate photo shoot, so here they are.

  1. FlipBelt running belt. I use it when we go run and I don’t have shorts with pockets. I could potentially use it as a money belt if I ever want to look really silly/fumble around in my waistband awkwardly/lose my purse/over pack my purse/etc.
  2. Eagle Creek packing cube. Love this thing. I shove all my clean clothes in here and then compress it down (if I can). This was part of a set, but I sent home the smaller cube as I really only needed this one.
  3. Collapsible hangers. These are part of a larger set and also make me look like a giant dweeb. But they come in handy when drip drying clothes or bikinis, particularly in dorm rooms when I hang them from my bunk. I’ve even hung clothes from them on my bunk to make a screen near my head so I don’t have to make awkward eye contact with a guy with a man bun.
  4. Wallets. I have two. The larger one has my passport and is a bit bulky, the other has just some cash and cards and is much smaller. Both include RFID blocking.
  5. Trtl neck pillow. Jenny had one of these before our trip and once I was done laughing hysterically, I caved and bought one. I cannot sleep on planes (or any other form of transportation) so I figured I would give it a shot. It’s helped me doze off a few times, but currently it’s the victim of an in-bag body wash explosion and it might not survive.
  6. LifeStraw water bottle. I haven’t necessarily needed this at all yet, but I use it a lot. And sometimes I’m dumb and put it in an overhead compartment on an airplane with my laptop and it leaks all over my laptop.

In the words of Porky Pig… “That’s all, folks!” It’s likely I forgot a thing or two, but this is my life in a bag. I plan to update this list later in our trip and again when we get back home! Send any questions my way.

Cheers!
~Kerry