A Traveler's Letter to Santa

Copyright - Connor Strandt (Digital Memories)

Dear Santa,

Ok, I have been a bad boy this year. Kind of.

After traveling around the world, I thought I would settle down and get a grown-up job again. Work 8-5 8-whenever, munch down on junk food to try and stay awake in the afternoon, celebrate every Friday as Christmas, and deal with Case of the Mondays, well, every, Monday.

Instead, Christmas came early for me this year when Cody generously bestowed his flight privileges on me while the rest of my naughty amazing friends have welcomed me in their homes all around the country and around the world. Not to mention the support of my family that let me base out of the basement spare room in the new house while taking care of my cat.

Still, I would like to think I helped a few people along the way. A number of my friends are now considering taking time of work to travel themselves. A few have asked for advice on taking a vacation to some of the amazing places I have been to. I have tortured helped my sister stretch her ticket so that instead of flying a roundtrip to Kiev, she spent a few days touring Prague Frankfurt [airport - more on that coming up], Munich, Paris and London. And I am about to launch a service to help others do the same.

Heck, I even helped a grandma or two along the way.

But enough foreplay. Here is what I want for Christmas, old man!

Travel Router

Travel Router

I absolutely love my 11" MacBook Air. It is small and light, making it an ideal traveler's laptop. However, being really thin, it has no room for an Ethernet port so it is limited to using WiFi to connect to the Internet. Strangely, I have experienced issues connecting to some WiFi networks around the world (even in business offices). Additionally, some places either only offered a wired connection or charged for Internet access per device (meaning I usually had to pay twice to connect my laptop and my phone). At first, I used an Ethernet-to-USB adapter, but then it broke and the next one I bought did not even work.

Instead, a travel routeris a tiny, light gizmo that can be plugged into a hard-wired connection to create an instant WiFi network for all your (and your friends'/coworkers') devices. While there are quite a few different ones to choose from, I settled on the Neewer 150M mini Pocket Wireless Router. It is the cheapest of them all, but seems to be the same as the pricier models from TP-Link and Trednet, just an off-name brand (hence the reason the picture I am using is the Trednet one).

For geeks out there, it can easily be switched into Router, Access Point, or Bridge mode and reviews seem to be very favorable for the batches that have been shipping in later 2012 with new firmware.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Noise Canceling Headphones

According to my FlightMemory, this year alone I have already flown 88 flights (about to get on 89th, and I still have two weeks to go). That is a lot of flying, even for me - 232 hours up there and counting. Aside of subways, airplanes are the noisiest environments and even with good noise-shielding headphones (the ones with rubber cups), it is still usually too noisy to listen to anything but music on the loudest setting.

I have been thinking about Bose and other top name brands, but could never justify spending $200 or more on a pair of headphones. Enter Kensington Noise Canceling Headphones. These made the list of the best noise canceling 'phones on LifeHacker and the Amazon reviews are pretty good. And at just over 10% of the cost of Bose's I am sure willing give them a try!

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

When I got iPhone 4, I decided to go with Verizon model because I was able to jump on the family plan with my sister, saving quite a bit of money. That was before [world] travel became my addiction. Unfortunately, the CDMA technology employed by Verizon (and Sprint) in the US is not used anywhere else in the world. Until iPhone 4S, the Verizon model did not even come with a slot for GSM sim cards, so my shiny iPhone becomes nothing more than a glorified iPod when I travel outside of  the country. And it is unlocked right out of the box!

This is really the only reason I cannot wait to upgrade. Sure, extra row of icons, speedier processor, non-glass back, LTE data network are all nice but I am just excited to finally be able to use it as a phone, no matter where I go.

 The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuffabout fearless pioneers in aviation and space programs is a classic for aviation and aerospace geeks. Being the former and having done experimental flight testing myself, I need to get on that. While I have been transitioning to ebooks for my reading, the softcover version of this book should make for a good bed-time read.

The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook

The Volunteer's Traveler Handbook

A couple of my friends and fellow travelers are behind the new series of Traveler's Handbooks that aim to be more than traditional travel guides. Each focuses on different aspects of travel - from food to luxury travel to volunteering. Recently, I have been thinking about doing a lot more of the later. After visiting some of the poorest countries on the planet, it is hard not to. It is also hard to figure out exactly what to do, especially when I want to be able to volunteer while visit some place as opposed to visiting a place to volunteer. Shannon from A Little Adrift has done a lot of volunteering in the last few years of her travels and I am excited to check out her Volunteer's Traveler Handbook (ahem, the Kindle version).

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