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Some last minute purchases and changes

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 @ 10:17 am from United States United States
After my "test packing" post I started to think a little bit more about what I had packed. I really like my Nikon D50 but the sad truth is the camera is 8 years old and the lens already has some focusing issues and the whole thing takes up a lot of room. I did some research into some compact point and shoots and ended up purchasing the Canon Powershot G15. The G15 is basically a DSLR crammed into a point and shoot body. There are full manual controls for setting the fstop and shutter speeds plus it has full 1080p movie shooting modes. It feels very sturdy when holding it and the rear LCD is amazingly clear. I'm going to be much more inclined to carry this around than lugging around my giant D50.

I also went to REI and purchased a couple more pairs of quick drying boxers. That should be everything I need to change up for now. 8 days to go!

TIL: The Schengen Zone

Monday, June 10, 2013 @ 07:27 pm from United States United States
In preparation for my trip abroad I created a spreadsheet where I made a list of all the cities / countries I wanted to visit and then estimated how much time I might want to spend there. Then today I learned about the Schengen Zone. This is a group of 26 European countries that have opened their borders to each other to make it easier to travel around. Travelers from the USA can show up and stay in the Schengen zone for up to 90 days in a span of 180 days (3 months within a 6 month period). Looking at my spreadsheet I currently have 98 days estimated within the Schengen zone. That means I have to re-evaluate some of my plans but that shouldn't be too big of a deal.

Ireland and the UK are all outside the Schengen Zone so at least the start of my trip will be in the clear. Morocco is also outside the zone so that's in the clear too. I just have roughly an additional 50 days to burn outside the zone so if anyone finds any cheap flights to SE Asia or South Africa, let me know!

Anyway, glad I figured this all out now before getting into trouble by overstaying the 90 day period there. If anyone else is planning on visiting Europe for a long period of time, it's something to keep in mind before planning everything out!

All my gear has been bought (and test packed)!

Monday, June 10, 2013 @ 09:53 am from United States United States
It's only 16 days before I jump on a jet for Dublin, Ireland so I decided it was time to lay all my gear out and take some photos. This was the first time I laid everything out to see what I'm taking and then to try and pack it all into my backpack. 40 liters sounds like quite a bit of room until you start laying everything out and then look at how much stuff you have. The stuff that takes up the most room by far is my clothes. My DSLR is a little awkward to fit just because of the shape.

You can see a full list of everything I packed by visiting the Preparation link at the top of the page. The last photo also has everything identified with numbers.

I'm getting really excited now. These last couple weeks are going to blow by!
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Everything unpacked
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Starting to consolidate
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Everything in the pack
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Detailed list of what I\'m bringing

5 Nights at the College Street Times Hostel in Dublin are Booked!

Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 09:49 am from United States United States
I reserved a bed in a 6 bed suite at the Times Hostel - College Street in Dublin for my first 5 nights in Europe. I'll be staying there the night of June 27 through July 2nd. After reading reviews and looking at all the sights I want to see in Dublin, it looks like it's in a pretty prime location. It's next to Trinity College and is within easy walking distance to several big sights.

The hostel is also on a main bus line from the Dublin airport and will only cost a little over 3 USD to hop on board. After spending 5 days in Dublin I'll probably head west toward Galway, but who knows at this point!

Grand Canyon & Flagstaff, AZ - Pre-Europe Travels

Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 07:59 am from United States United States
I've been living in Albuquerque, NM for seven and a half years and hadn't been out to see the Grand Canyon yet. Two of my friends, Luiz and Orville, tried to go last year but ended up being in Flagstaff during the local college's homecoming festivities and ended up partying instead of seeing the canyon.

We decided that before I took off for Europe I should at least see some of the sights closer to home so we planned a trip to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. We packed up my car on Friday afternoon with plenty of beer and some lunch food and started the drive. With the time change, we made it to Flagstaff around 9:30pm, checked into Hotel Monte Vista, had a beer in the room and then went out to get some beers at the local places.

The first bars we hit were the ones in the hotel. They were a little crowded so we had our beers and moved on. We ended up making it to Flagstaff Brewing Company to have our final beer of the night. It seemed that on Friday night, FBC was a little more geared toward a different type of crowd than we were expecting for a local brewery. We went back to the room around midnight and went to sleep.

Tyler ended up waking up at about 5:30am so he got the rest of us up at 6. We had a morning beer in the room and decided we might as well get breakfast and head out to the Grand Canyon to get an early start for the day. We ate breakfast at a place called Mix. The food was all really tasty and a great way to get the day started.

The drive up to the Grand Canyon is pretty scenic and goes by quickly. When we got to the Grand Canyon we got stuck in the slow line to pay our $25 entry fee, but once we got past that we headed to the Mather Point Rim Trail to get our first glimpses of the canyon. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It wasn't too windy, there were no clouds, it wasn't overly hot or cold and the haze was at a minimum. We walked the rim trail and took a bunch of photos and then decided we'd drive East a little bit and find a more secluded spot to have some beers and eat lunch.

After a 10 minute drive along the rim we came to a really nice and empty overlook area that had some unofficial trails along the side. We grabbed our cooler and found an absolutely spectacular area to chill and have our Grand Canyon beer. The beer we decided on was the Oskar Blues Dale's Deviant Ale. It was a really good beer and tasted even better with the awesome views we had. The wind started to pick up a little bit so we enjoyed the view and finished our beer then headed back to the car to eat lunch.

Tyler packed about 5 different kinds of lunch meats and a few different kinds of cheese. We had some delicious sandwiches and opened a bomber of Laughing Dog's Rocket Dog Rye IPA. I had higher hopes for it but none of us were really digging the flavor. It could have been that the strong Dale's was messing with our taste buds though.

After eating we got back in the car and headed back to Flagstaff. Once we got back into town we started hunting for some Coconut water to help re-balance our systems a bit before starting the real drinking activities. We finally found a Safeway and got to use the restrooms (we all had to go really really bad) and got our coconut water and then went back to the hotel.

After another couple of beers in the room we started our adventures around Flagstaff. The first place we hit was the Madrid Tapas y Sangria bar where we each got a beer and split some tapas. Next we went over to Mother Road Brewing Company for another round when we decided we needed a pick-me-up. The bike shop next to Mother Road was selling espressos and coffee. We ended up trying some of the cold-drip coffee and it definitely did the trick. After that we headed over to Lumberyard Brewery where we had another round and something resembling poutine to snack on.

It was starting to cool down a bit so at this point we went back to the hotel to get our jackets. We got there and finished off the last of the four bombers we brought (a nice oatmeal stout) and then headed over to Uptown Billiards where we played some pool and had two more rounds. We were all in the snacking mood again so we took off and ended up coming across a sign for $9.99 one-pound buckets of shrimp at San Felipe's Cantina so we stopped and got a couple of those and another beer.

We were all feeling pretty good so we asked the waitress where we should go and she mentioned Hops on Birch being a chill place, so that's where we set off to. They had a pretty good beer selection so we got another round there and hung out for a bit. By now we were starting to fade a little bit so we thought we needed some more food before another rally. We tried to get into a Thai place but they were closed so we found another one and ordered some appetizers and waters.

That helped a bit so we went to the hotel bar for another round. Luiz and I ended up hitting our walls and couldn't even finish our beers so we headed up to the room to pass out. Orville and Tyler stayed down for another 15 minutes or so before heading back up. It was a long day but we did and saw a lot.

On Sunday morning we woke up, started packing everything up and then got some breakfast at Criollo Latin Kitchen. I had a really good breakfast burrito and everyone else liked their food. After having some food in our stomachs we got in the car and headed home. We were hoping to hit a liquor store on the way out of town to pick up some Dogfish head beers but we couldn't find one that had it. The drive home was pretty uneventful. When we got back, Luiz and I swung by a new Vietnamese place and got some Pho to go.

It was a really quick weekend but everyone had a lot of fun. Flagstaff is definitely a cool place to go if you want to see some cool sights and hang out in a really chill town.
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Grand Canyon South Rim
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Grand Canyon South Rim
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Luiz, Tyler, me and Orville
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Enjoying a Dale's Deviant Ale

Andrews FCU GlobeTrek Visa card

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 @ 04:43 pm from United States United States
After doing a little bit more research and hearing some horror stories, I decided I needed to get a Chip and PIN card for my time in Europe. Unfortunately the pickings are pretty slim right now in the US for a true Chip and PIN card, but I came across the Andrews Federal Credit Union GlobeTrek Visa card.

This card has a true Chip and PIN (AND a Chip and Signature) capabilities. I just applied for the card today so hopefully I'll be getting it in the mail within a few weeks. The card has no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees which make it the best choice in available Chip and PIN cards in the US.

Some of the horror stories I read about people that only had their magnetic swipe credit cards (like pretty much every card in the US) included not being able to get tickets in train stations, not being able to pay for gas, not being able to pay for groceries and more. Rather than deal with that frustration I decided to do the smart thing and get the Chip and PIN card.

Once I'm over in Europe I'll keep everyone posted about how it works.

Getting things ready for the trip

Sunday, March 24, 2013 @ 11:10 am from United States United States
I've been slowly buying things I'll need for my trip and collecting them in the corner of my office. So far I've got my big backpack (the REI Vagabond Tour 40), day bag (REI Flash 18), water bottle, flip flops, sleep sack and more ready to go.

I decided to go with the REI Vagabond Tour 40 after reading several reviews online and trying it on in the store. It's large enough that it should be able to hold everything I need for my 6 month trip but it's small enough to still act as a carry-on for most flights.

I'll use the smaller day bag for walking around cities or for day-hikes when I'm in the Alps. It has an integrated pouch for my Platypus water bottle and can be turned inside out and used as a stuff sack when I'm not using it during the day.

The sleep sack is used in hostels as a barrier between me and the bed/sheets. It packs up extremely small and doesn't take up too much room.

You can check out my entire packing list by clicking on the Preparation link at the top of the page.
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What I\'m taking so far

One way to Dublin, please!

Thursday, February 14, 2013 @ 10:28 pm from United States United States
Well, no turning back now. I just purchased my one-way ticket to Dublin to depart the US on June 26, 2013. I'll be arriving in Dublin around 9:30 am local time which is great. One thing I learned from the trip to London a few years ago is by taking an overnight flight and arriving in Europe in the morning/afternoon you can basically pretend it's a normal day and trick your body out of jet lag. The hard part is trying to sleep on a plane filled with a cacophony of babies crying, people coughing, conversations, flight attendants and bathroom doors slamming.

Flight Details:
Flight: Aer Lingus 124
Depart: ORD @ 8:00 pm on June 26
Arrive: DUB @ 9:25 am on June 27

Next up I need to figure out where I'm going to stay once I get to Dublin. It looks like there's a €6 bus from the Dublin airport to pretty much anywhere in the city.

Gotta start somewhere...

Thursday, February 14, 2013 @ 10:31 am from United States United States
Well, this is something I've wanted to do for a long time now and I'm finally making the decision that it's going to happen. Starting on June 26th I'll be heading to Dublin, Ireland where I'll start my journey of exploring the world. I'm not going to restrict myself by setting a return date either. I'm going to simply travel around until I feel like coming back home.

The plan is to get to Dublin and to spend a few days there exploring the city. After that, I'm not going to have a real itinerary but simply go where things take me. I'll be staying at hostels and talking to fellow travelers to get insight and ideas on where to go next.

I feel like my adventures from the last couple of years have helped me get ready for this endeavor. A 2 week European vacation through Switzerland, France, Germany and Italy was my first time overseas. After that, a friend Eric and I spent a week in London and the surrounding area. It was nice to spend a lot of time in one place and really get to see and explore the city. The last major trip I did was with my buddy Ryan which was a 17 day, 5,700+ mile motorcycle tour through the western US and Canada in July 2012. We only spent 2 nights in hotels while the rest of the nights were spent camping.

I've built this site in an effort to keep a journal of all my travels while on this trip. I'll be keeping it updated with all the countries I visit as well as links to photo galleries from all the cool places I'll see. You can check out my Preparation page to see a list of what all I'm planning on bringing. The Map page will also be updated whenever I visit a new country.

What's making this trip possible? Well, I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. As long as I have a wifi signal every couple of days I'll be fine. Also, thanks to my parents for watching my dog, Canyon, while I'm gone!

What's my next step? Booking the actual ticket to Dublin is next. I'll be doing that over the next couple of days. I also need to buy a new backpack and a few other new items for the trip.

Stay tuned!
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Tower Bridge, London (2011)
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Dover, England (2011)
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Road side re-fueling (2012)
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Redwoods National Forest (2012)
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Inverness Castle
What i made for dinner tonight. Red pepper ravioli, asparagus, garlic, lemon, butter, and olive oil. Soooo gooood. #europetrip2013 #dinner
St Andrews Old Course. #europetrip2013
Entry into the Medina (and the street my hotel is on). #morocco #tangier #europetrip2013
Old and new. #birmingham #europetrip2013
Last dinner in Paris. Mussels with tomato and garlic and frites with a skirt steak, salad and more frites. Sooooo good. #paris #moules #europetrip2013
Conwy Castle. #europetrip2013
Goats. #llandudno #europetrip2013
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. #berlin #europetrip2013
Cheaters way to the top via train. #snowdonia #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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