Jerome and Nadine are a European couple who stopped by my home in Hanover, NH on their way north to Canada to WWOOF and generally explore Canada and northern New England. They each have had a lot of experience backpacking around the world, so it turned out to be a completely fortuitous opportunity to have some “pros” check out what I’m taking and give me some advice about country-hopping across the world.
Their best advice was getting a sleeping sheet to replace or complement my sleeping bag. Just about everywhere I’m going is too hot for my 18degree bag. Next, they explained the superiority of wool vs. cotton socks: no blisters and no stink! They told me that only I will really know what I need to take and ultimately they encouraged me to live simply, that less is more.
Jerome and Nadine told me about some of the most common pick-pocket tricks the local kids use on tourists:
Mustard Mayhem: When you have your backpack on your back and your daypack on your front walking through a city, someone will spill a substance like mustard or soda on you. As you take your day bag off and place it on the ground while you clean up the spill, someone will be half way across the city with what you just put down before you even notice. They said just try to ignore anybody’s attempt to distract you in a crowded area.
I’m lucky I don’t have the added burden of worrying about sexual harassment. Im sure its a concern that many young women deal with when traveling alone. In the circumstance that someone does try to come onto me, I hear it’s best to pretend you’re married or a fiancé back home…any takers?
In return for their advice and words of wisdom, I showed them around Hanover. I took them for a swim in the Connecticut River and to the farmer’s market on the Dartmouth Green. We picked up some fresh vegetables to grill alongside good old fashioned American hamburgers (which I learned actually originated in Hamburg, Germany–where Nadine went to school– a place I plan on visiting this fall).
I went off to the store to pick up some greek yogurt for the tzatziki that Jerome was planning on making and to pick up some good local beer to disprove their conception that Americans only drink bud-light. I’m not a frequent purchaser of greek yogurt so I accidentally grabbed the honey flavor off the shelf…the tzatziki had a honey-sweet taste when you first tried it but then after four seconds would smack you across the face with the strong wave of garlic. It was like the chewing gum that changes flavor on you as you go! It was an incredible mistake if I say so myself, a mistake that forever redefined the taste potential of tzatziki.
As I got talking to Nadine, it turned out she had done a lot of work with environmental and climate issues back in Germany. She left me with plenty of websites to search through and a few people to try to contact all related to my project. It was re-assuring to meet awesome people who have spent a considerable amount of time traveling.
Five days until I depart.
I find packing tough. I always take too much or forget something crucial, like underwear.
What do you pack for a year away in eight different countries? It’s hard to know. I will probably spend the next week working it out. Two shirts are certainly coming along; they have been around for almost 4 years now, acquired during my days at Milton Academy.
The first shirt features Captain Planet, the superhero from an early 90s TV show Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The group defends planet earth from disasters and educates humanity about these catastrophes along the way. The shirt was given to members of the Lorax Board, Milton’s student environmental group. Captain planet uses his strength, power, and dashing good looks to protect Earth. I will feel his influence when he’s on my back. Remember, the power is yours!
The second shirt was given to me as a graduation gift from Mr. Bingham, my Advanced Environmental Science teacher at Milton.
My best memory of that class is from senior dog day–yes, the day all the seniors bring their dogs to school. My 1 year old golden retriever, Ollie acted the opposite of the ideal canine student. While all the other dogs sat attentively and listened to Mr. Bingham discuss thermohaline circulation, Ollie decided he’d have more fun mindlessly running around the Harkness table in circles, knocking over water bottles, breaking beakers, and spilling chocolate milk on some poor girl’s white pants. He consequently lost the respect of all other dogs in the class and all members of the Milton community. To this day, my friends think he’s the worst dog ever. But I still love him, always will.
Throughout the year, I worked just a little harder than Ollie did that day.
The shirts Mr. Bingham gave us show the planet in pieces, it’s screws are loose. Idling next to Earth is a screwdriver. In class Mr. Bingham introduced us to the planet’s natural systems and informed us that anthropogenic forces are knocking the planet out of equilibrium.
On graduation day he gave the class these shirts with the shattered planet and encouraged us to go out and fix it.