Tuesday, March 28, 2017

One Backpack Travel :: What Fits in the Peak Design Everyday 20L Backpack?

     Many years ago, on a day trip to Catalina Island, I snapped a photo of two backpackers that were out on the pier, looking out onto the ocean.  In that brief moment, a desire to travel with just a backpack all over Europe manifested itself in me, and I've not been able to shake it off since.  Countless hours of pinning ideas and tips on backpacking Europe later, I still haven't fulfilled this dream.  One of the most obvious factors standing in the way right now is my physical ability inability to carry such a backpack that would hold everything I'd need for a trip that could span several weeks to maybe a little over a month.  

     Since I knew I only needed to survive a few days in San Francisco, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to 1) test my ability to survive with only things that would fit into a backpack, and 2) be able to carry said backpack for long periods of time.  Yes, I know it's not the same thing as carrying a large pack meant for backpacking/camping, but hey...baby steps here. :)

     I managed to fit everything into my Peak Design Everyday backpack in the 20 liter size.  I was quite impressed with myself, and honestly was shocked by what I was able to fit into this bag!  Here it is, empty. 

Here is what I was able to fit into the backpack.  

Camera gear (I was able to fit all this gear in the two bottom compartments of the backpack.  Those of you familiar with the Everyday backpack know the original configurations of the dividers, and I did not change the configuration upon receiving the backpack.

In the top compartment I was able to fit the striped make-up and toiletry bag and beanie.  The key to fitting all my clothes into the backpack was definitely using my medium sized Eagle Creek packing cube.  I love using packing cubes!  

I was able to fit the following in my packing cube:
  • two long sleeve shirts
  • two pairs of black leggings (these are the key to packing light!)
  • two tank tops
  • one dressy blouse
  • three pairs of underwear
  • two pairs of socks

I wore jeans, a tank top, a sweater, and comfortable walking shoes to the airport.

In addition to these items, I also slipped a reusable shopping bag and packable Tumi tote into the laptop compartment of the backpack.  I love packable totes, and this one by Tumi has really saved me when I end up purchasing more than I have room for in my luggage.  I only brought this one along in the event I really wanted to buy something.  Luckily, I didn't end up using it at all!

     To keep my wallet and essential items easily accessible, I brought a small handbag with me that I could carry crossbody.  I ended up bringing my Proenza Schoulder PS1 in the tiny size.  It was the perfect bag to allow me to comfortably carry my backpack, and easily get to my wallet when I needed to without having to take my backpack off and rummage to find things.  I also carried my essential make-up items in a small make-up pouch inside my purse.  When doing this, I find it useful to only pack essential items that I know I'll use, and I will pack trial or single use items if possible.

     So how did all this fare? Well, I survived.  It kinda sucked to carry all this around on the first day I arrived.  I basically hauled it all over the city, and within a few hours, I felt like I needed a break.  The backpack itself was not the problem.  The issue was more that my feet needed a rest.  Perhaps next time I'll try this with actual sneakers or shoes designed for walking.  I liked that the Everyday backpack had an external carry option that allowed me to attach my jacket when I wasn't using it.  In lieu of an umbrella, I ended up using my long Columbia jacket all weekend, and it was perfect. 

Here is the backpack fully packed, with my jacket attached externally.

     Would I do this again? Absolutely!  I loved being able to get off the plane, and just GO.  That was probably the best part of doing this.  Doing this really made me think of what I actually needed, as opposed to just what I wanted with me.  I realized that I normally tend to over pack and bring things I never end up using anyway.  If you can relate to this, I highly recommend giving this a try, even if you start small with a weekend trip like I did.  Hopefully with each subsequent attempt at one backpack travel, I will be able to hone in on what is really essential, and by the time that backpacking all over Europe trip rolls around, I should be ready! *crossing fingers* :) 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

San Francisco Photography :: A Weekend of Surprises!

     If you may recall, the last time I had a short stint in the Bay Area, things did not go well towards the end of my 24 hours.  When a mutual friend asked me to surprise my bestie in San Francisco, at first I was a little hesitant, fearing that history would repeat itself.  I quickly swept any doubts I had about doing this under the rug, and decided that it would be fine as long as I spent the whole weekend there, instead of trying to cram everything into one day.  Everyone else was making a weekend of it, and through careful planning via texts and Facebook messages, I think we managed to surprise the birthday girl in a big way for her 40th!

*All photos taking with my Canon 5d Mark III or G7x.

Take off from LAX.

I even got the whole row to myself - it was AWESOME. 

I will have a blog post later on how I managed to do the weekend in San Francisco with just ONE BACKPACK and my small purse.  I knew my choice of backpack was hands down going to be my Peak Design Everyday Backpack.  For my small purse, I decided to bring my Proenza Schouler PS1 Tiny.  I loved using this bag for this trip.  It was big enough to hold everything I needed cross body so that I could be hands free, but small and obscure enough to go unnoticed.   

I spent the entire plane ride, writing out my card and filling in gaps in a little scrapbook I made for the birthday girl.  Yes, I know.  I am the best card picker-outter. :) 

I had never flown into SFO before.  I have only heard horror stories about this airport.  However, I had a beautiful landing, and was optimistic.  I was mostly excited to use the BART and other public transportation that San Francisco had to offer. All my previous trips here had been road trips or I had a rental car.  This would be the first time I was wandering the city without a car, and I was quite excited about it.   

My first impression was that the BART trains are really old.  They reminded me of the subway trains they have at Universal Studios when they simulate the flash flood and earthquake.   

It was a smooth and costly ride into the city.  FYI, it is $8.95 one way into the city from SFO.  I decided to get off at the Embarcadero station, and photowalk from the Ferry Building to the Wharf. 

Okay, so about halfway between the Ferry Building and the Wharf, I was starting to tap out.  It was a combination of sleeping only two hours the night before, and also carrying my backpack the entire time.  I saw my dreams of backpacking through Europe slowly start to slip away from me.  Surely, I would get used to carrying this backpack?  And for the record, the everyday backpack is waaaaay smaller than the pack I chose for backpacking through Europe LOL.  What did I get myself into? 

I decided that I needed (and deserved) some ice cream, so I pushed through the pain that was beginning to develop in my feet and marched my way up the hill to Ghirardelli Square.   

Butter pecan ice cream in a waffle cone cures all.

I sat for a bit to let my feet recover, as I contemplated what I was going to do next.  This would be a perfect time for me to use Uber or Lyft for the first time, I thought.  After a few failed attempts trying to use the app for Lyft, I decided to see what my other options were.  Luckily there was a cable car stop nearby that would take me up to Union Square.  It has been ages since I last used the cable cars in San Francisco.  When I hopped on and asked how much it was, I was so tired that I didn't even balk at the $7 price tag. 

This was my view as I bid a big peace OUT to walking up hills.

I made it to Union Square, and then decided I was done.  Everyone has that moment where they just kind of give up and decide no photos are worth the foot pain.  A big shout out to my friends that have had this moment - you know who you are! ;) 

I decided checking into the hotel, and relaxing was a good idea.  It definitely was.  You're only seeing a glimpse of the junk food I ate.  It was going to be cheat day all weekend from here on out!

After almost giving the birthday girl a heart attack after surprising her by jumping out at her from a dark corner, we decided to get some dinner.  Luckily, everyone else drove in, so we had a nice cushy SUV to take us to dinner.

One of my favorite places to eat in San Francisco - King of Thai!  A word of advice - don't read the Yelp reviews.  I've always had pretty decent service here, but for the price, I really love the food.   

My favorite dish to get at any Thai place - pad see ew!

Someone brought an interesting Cards Against Humanity-esque card game to play.  It is just as vulgar as CAH if you're wondering LOL.  For the record, I did not win this game. 

The next morning, we got up bright and early and took the Bart back into the city.  Disturbingly enough, we got off at Embarcadero again, and we basically did the same walk that I had done the day before!  However, this time the clouds and light were amazing so I didn't mind. 

Farmer's market at the Ferry Building. 

A quick stop for drinks. 

It started raining, but that didn't deter us one bit.

The birthday girl and Mike.


There were some gorgeous flower beds by Pier 39!

A quick stop for drinks and a snack. 

A strange photobooth that prompted us to make weird poses. Clearly, we obliged.

We ended up taking a bus from Pier 39 to Chinatown.  After a failed attempt at finding dim sum, we decided to head over to Union Square.  We had another friend who had flown in for the surprise waiting for us there.

Once everyone had made it into town, it was such a relief.  I could finally not be constantly texting someone to make sure we achieved the surprise.  We stopped for lunch at the Daily Grill.

I love this photo of Jen. She whipped out her phone to read to everyone the screen shot of the itinerary I sent her.  She said we have to do these things because it's on Soupy's itinerary! :D

This is the skirt steak salad.  Get this if you're ever at the Daily Grill.  This thing was DELICIOUS!

For dinner, we ate at this seafood place.  It was raining, and getting there was a little cumbersome.  By the time we got there, and after a long wait for our food, we were all just ready to eat. 

The birthday girl's choice for what she wanted to do.  

I'm really glad that anyone who has video of any of the karaoke that went on knows that I have photos and video of them from this trip.  Let's just say photos or video of me singing this song (or the failed attempt at Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun") shall never surface because people KNOW what I have on my camera(s). :)

The next day, I took off on my own to hunt down some photos I wanted.  I went back to the Ferry Building in search of Cupid's Span - a giant bow and arrow sculpture I had seen in photos.

I was thrilled to find this!  It is situated between the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge.  I really wished I had a couple to shoot in front of this!

I found myself a jelly-filled donut for a whopping $2.50.  I needed money for the bus. 

I discovered that I really enjoyed taking the bus in San Francisco.  It was nowhere near as shady as I had imagined it was going to be! So far, the shadiest bus rides I had ever been on were in Los Angeles and Seattle.

One of the items on my to do list was the Cable Car Museum.  It was small and to the point.  You can easily do this in an hour.

Afterwards, I decided to walk to Union Square again. It was a long walk...and I hate hills.

I was going to check out this restaurant I wanted to try, but after finding it and looking at the menu, I really wasn't excited to eat the food there. 

I'll give you one guess as to where I ended up eating.  Hahahahaha... hey, if it ain't broke... :)

This time I had a Thai tea to go with my pad see ew.  This made me so happy.

I decided to wrap it up and head to the airport early and just relax there.  I spent the ride to the airport thinking about how much I loved San Francisco despite all the walking.  I was raving about the Bart and the bus system the whole weekend. I laughed to myself about my first experience driving an SUV as a designated driver with a car full of tipsy people back to the hotel.  This happiness didn't last long.

 Remember when I said it would be fine since I made a weekend of it all?  Well, I arrived at the airport around 3pm for my 6pm flight.  I found out after getting there that my flight had been cancelled.  They rebooked me on a 7pm flight, and gave me priority boarding and a meal voucher.  At first, I thought this was no big deal, and plus I enjoy being at the airport anyway.  

Fast forward another hour, and I found out the plane for the 7pm flight is delayed.  It wouldn't get to SFO until 8pm.   Then it wouldn't get to SFO until 9pm.  This frozen yogurt was the last thing that made me happy at the airport.  Six hours at SFO was enough to turn me off to airports.  I just wanted to go home, and vowed never to fly into SFO again. EVER.

It took me about a week to fully recover from the experience of this weekend.  Maybe there is something to taking a vacation where you just chillax at the beach and do nothing.  That's not really my idea of a good time, but after this particular weekend, it started to sound more and more appealing. Or maybe I'm just getting old - 40 next year! Waaaaahhh! :'(