Treasures, Lint, Blisters, Kids, Beaches, Cayenne and Notebooks


Every time I travel, I bring along a box of ‘hand me down treasures.’ This box includes a collection of small items that may not be worth much in monetary terms but have some sentimental value. Whenever I make new friends, especially children, I give them something from the box. Whether it’s a pin I kept from camp, stamps I collected as a kid, silly stickers too cute to be thrown away, comic books I’ve read too many times, old sports cards or that odd piece of jewellery, it’s all about sharing a piece of myself with people. In many of the places I’ve travelled, the people I met have never seen a comic book before. Seeing the awestruck look on their faces and letting them keep that memento is what life is all about.


Dryer lint can be a real problem if you don’t clean it out often enough, sometimes causing a fire. Here’s an idea: move the fire from your dryer to your campsite! All you need to make a fire starter is a cardboard egg carton, a load of lint (save it up well in advance, or ask your friends), and some liquid paraffin. Cut the egg carton so that all the little cups are separated from each other and pack each one with lint. Then, pour paraffin over the lint, thoroughly soaking it, almost to the point of dripping wet. Package your creations individually in baggies or together in a container that won’t leak. These little torches will burn for roughly ten minutes and are a great help in getting a good fire going, especially when you’re pooped from a day on the go, or in an emergency.


As a hiker (and a letter carrier for 17 years) I have gone through a few pairs of shoes. Often the first part of a shoe to blow is where the heel rubs against the interior lining. Pack a couple of thin shoulder pads from a sewing store as an emergency liner and blister pad. Vibram soles are worth every penny and last easily twice as long as other materials. If you are hiking in conditions in which you could wake up to snow, a good pair of gaiters will instantly convert your shoes into boots, with minimal extra weight.


Start them early because walking or hiking is a learned skill. Have your kids carry their own pack, this way they get used to it and as they get older can carry more of their own gear. Bring lots of small snacks and stop regularly to let the kids eat them. This keeps interest and energy levels up, and need only take five minutes. Keep them hydrated with frequent, small sips of water. Also, carry polypro top and bottom underwear and a toque with gloves no matter what the weather—they are life and comfort savers. Teach as you go. Point out animal tracks, flowers, geology, etc. Kids like to learn and the information is valuable. Don’t be afraid to stop short of your destination. There is always a next time, so be flexible in your planning. 


Tanzania is best known for its national parks and Mount Kilimanjaro. But my recent trip made me realize it also offers some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen, and I am not talking about the ones on Zanzibar. Next time you are in Dar es Salaam, take the eight-minute ferry ride from Kivukoni bay across to Kigamboni. Upon arrival on the south coast, you can drive (if you already have a car) or take a daladala (the local bus) about 10 kms south to Kipepeo beach. For more majestic getaways, try either Bongoyo or Mbudya Island which are off the north coast of Dar. If you really want paradise, go to Ras Kutani, a 34-km drive south of Dar.


People who trek long distances often suffer from cold toes, no matter what type of foot gear or socks they’re wearing. It’s the reality of being on your feet eight and a half hours a day, doing what you love doing in sub-zero temperatures. What I find helpful is to take some cayenne pepper and sprinkle it between your toes when you start to feel the cold setting into your feet. I can say that this actually increased the circulation in my feet. Apart from warming your toes, cayenne pepper can also spice up boring packaged soup.


For each extended trip, I keep a small (4x6) notebook. I prepare this notebook before my trip and add to it as I go. The fi rst page is usually a simple currency conversion chart. At the top I put the exchange rate and then I list about a dozen conversion amounts between the local currency and the Canadian dollar. Next is my helpful phrases page. You should always learn the basic phrases in any country you visit, such as how to say hello, thank you, how much and one. I usually get someone local to teach me a few more sayings, which I record in my book (phonetically). Before I go, I research my trip and record the information. I might even photocopy or print out maps and paste them in there as well. Where to stay, where to catch trains and buses, border crossing info—basically anything I glean from guidebooks, the internet and other travellers, goes into it. This saves carrying heavy guidebooks. And of course I also use the book as a travel journal, to keep track of contact information of travellers I meet and, as a photographer, to keep track of my images. I also note down names of places I visit, places I eat or stay at and I try to keep a log of my expenses: purchases, accommodations, travel and food.

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