The Free Range Method

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 12 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

After talking with many great people, I think I finally have a plan.

There are really two parts to this story, however I’m going to tell them in reverse order.

On Monday, I was feeling quite anxious. I’ve been feeling rather anxious all semester and I wasn’t entirely sure why. I went to More on Mondays, which is a targeted “seminar” that The Annex arranges. This past Monday was specifically for graduating seniors and they brought Cindy Smith, a woman who specializes in transition. Cindy usually deals with missionaries, expatriates, and repatriation. But being a senior is not entirely different. She provided us with a slide that shows the major steps of transition and then walked us through them:
Click image to embiggen

This was really helpful. Just realizing that transition, especially on this scale, can be stressful and chaotic. This also helped me realize another thing: transitioning from college/Colorado to mission trip to work/Seattle would be way to much for me to handle. So I pretty much have nixed the idea of doing a mission trip over the summer, and I think it’s a good call.

Second, I talked with Jessica a couple weeks ago. She spent last fall traveling for about two months in Europe, which is great because that’s basically what I want to do – although I may go farther East than she did. I also filled in some important details of my trip. For me, it will probably cost about $4k-$5k, which is a lot, but I don’t think unreasonably so. I saved at least $1000 by using airline miles to fly from the US to Europe (assuming there isn’t some insane “fee” for booking said flight). Keeping cash on hand seems the way to go, which is what I remembered from my trip to Europe a couple years ago (I paid cash for everything…still have some left over, too).

In terms of getting around, Jessica said that using RyanAir (which I’d heard of) and easyJet (which I had not heard of) were probably better than getting a Eurail pass, although I don’t have to make that call just yet. In terms of sleeping accommodations, is the site to visit. I poked around it a bit and it seems really easy to use and should fit the bill just perfectly. The Lonely Planet series of books is what Jessica used, I currently have one on reserve at the library to see if I like the format and what they cover. If not, I may just end up using Rick Steves’. Or just wing it.

The plan, thus far, looks something like this: fly into and out of Europe via Paris or Frankfurt using airline miles. Spend several days in each city until I’m ready to move on to another city. Use HostelWorld to find places to sleep and meet new people. Theoretically find some other people travel with at a hostel and join them for a little while. Rinse and repeat. I’m calling this the free range method.

I would like to list out some places that I would like to visit, although I don’t want to attach a particular time or order in which to visit them. I think this will help move my journey along.

One of the other major things that I need to resolve is what I’m bringing. I would like to bring some photography equipment, but I’m not sure what and how much. There’s also the problem about what to do with all my photographs after I take them. Since I shoot in RAW, I need some special equipment and software to do any sort of editing, I can’t just upload them to Flickr. Do I want to just bring a stack of memory cards? I’m thinking about purchasing a netbook1 to bring with me. Costco is currently selling an Acer Aspire One Netbook with 8.9″ display, Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB HDD, no optical drive, and integrated webcam for $299.99. I could load it up with the most basic of RAW viewing tools so I could delete any photos I think are absolute crap and would never keep (e.g. blurry photos) and then upload the rest to a secure storage space online. This way I wouldn’t be completely SOL if the netbook was stolen, lost, broken (not that I’m planning on any of that happening).

Also, how much stuff do I really want to be taking? I want to be nimble.

If you’ve ever traveled abroad in this sort of fashion, what did you bring?

  1. A netbook is a small and cheap computer used primarily to access the Internet 

6 thoughts on “The Free Range Method”

  1. Just be aware that although hostels are great places to meet people and expensive place to stay while traveling, the communal nature also makes it much easier for people to steal your stuff. And since many of the other people staying in hostels are poor students or otherwise unemployed transients, to them your expensive camera looks like a nice way they can extend their travels a few weeks or months.

    So if you’re bringing expensive photography equipment, I advise A) insuring it against theft before your trip, B) using a bag that you can lock both closed and to something and that cannot be slashed open with a knife (many people sew tight-weave flexible wire mesh into their bags for this), and C) removing your memory sticks regularly and storing them on or close to your body so that even if your camera is stolen you still have your pictures. (Figuring out a way to periodically back them all up to the internet from time to time on the trip would also be a good idea.)

    Don’t let that dissuade you from staying in hostels or bringing your nice camera, just be aware that theft can be a bring problem in this type of travel and take the appropriate precautions.

    1. “great places to meet people and expensive place to stay while traveling” I assume you mean inexpensive?

      But yes, your concerns about theft definitely valid and is one of my biggest concerns. I like the idea of sewing wire mesh into my bag. I’ve seen day-packs and purses in travel stores that are advertised as slash proof, but I never though about doing it myself…although now that I’m an engineering, it would really only be fitting if I did.

  2. If I were you I would avoid taking extra electronics as much as possible. As it is you will practically have your passport, money and camera on you at all times and adding more to that can get annoying. You also don’t want to be so focused on not loosing your things or getting them stolen that you don’t enjoy yourself. Have multiple memory cards for your camera and back up your photos online or buy a small external hard drive. Internet cafes are plentiful and a great place to meet fellow travelers. Simplicity is key. I would also highly recommend chacos for traveling and just for life in general.

    1. The way I see it, I have 3 options:

      1) Buy enough memory cards to hold all my photos. Pay for Internet.

      I have no idea how many pictures /videos I’ll be taking, but RAW files are 10.8MB/photo and 2MB/s for video (

      So let’s 7500 photos and 2 hours of video (just guessing here). That’s 79.1GB of photos and another 14GB for video. So, let’s say 100GB of data to be safe. 4GB SD cards run at about $10/pop (for a decent brand). 100GB/4GB = 25 SD cards @ $10/ea is $250 in SD cards.

      Plus I have to pay for internet access. In Italy, we paid €1.50/hour ( So assume I get on every other day for 1 hour (super conservative and unlikely, by the way), that’s 30 hours of internet * €1.50 = $57.75.

      The downside is that if a SD is lost/stolen/corrupt, I lose all those pictures (up to 380 pictures or 35 minutes of video). I also have to keep track of 25 memory cards now. The upside is that loosing one card doesn’t loose all my data. Another downside, what the heck am I going to do with $250 worth of SD cards when I’m done traveling? I certainly don’t need them all. I suppose I could sell them.

      Total cost = $307.75

      2) Buy a couple memory cards and an external hard drive to transfer them to. Pay for Internet.

      Same calculations as before apply. Wolverine makes 120GB Portable Storage drive for $110 (after rebate). Plus two 4GB SD cards for $20/total. And $57.75 for internet.

      Total cost = $187.75

      The downside is that all of my data is in one place. And the number one rule for data loss prevent is to never keep all your data in one place. The upside is that it’s much cheaper than the first option. And I would only have to keep track of a portable HDD and 2 memory cards.

      3) Buy a couple of memory cards and a netbook. Don’t pay for Internet (in theory).

      Netbook with 160GB hard drive is $300. Plus two 4GB SD cards for $20/total. And theoretically zero for internet.

      The downside is that this is the most expensive option. At first glance, it would appear that all of my data is in one place (on the netbook), however my super secret plan (aka, the upside) is to do a quick edit of the photos and upload them to a secure place (i.e. my website) for backup. The other upside is that also get free Internet (in theory). I can can maintain a journal/blog posts (ideally). And it’s a netbook, which is +55 for my geek cred.

      Total cost = $320

      I’m currently leaning toward #3, as I mentioned in my post. But other input would be appreciated.

      As for Cacho’s, just the brand in particular or their sandals?

  3. Hey, I just read your post about the free range. Thats pretty sweet. Its a cool place over there. Since I just got back from there I have some tips for thought.

    I don’t know if you know anyone that wants to go, but it was fun to have a friend to go with. I think just one partner is a good number to travel with. We split up for a bit too and that was fine for like a week, but we both agreed it was more fun to travel together. I duno, going solo could be fun too tho.

    Also, if you are going in summer i think you have to plan much more before you travel more than just free range. Tim and I never planned a thing we did, but we always heard it was good we didnt travel in summer, bc you always have to plan. i duno, thats what we heard. And eurail passes were the best we found. personally, i wouldnt do it any other way. if you really want freedom to go wherever whenever, eurail is the way to do it. not the limited planning eurail pass, all those ppl didnt like it. the unlimited eurail was the best for sure. travel whenever we wanted. the planes cost way much, yes even ryanair and those other ones. they also put you at airports that are like an hour outside the city and then you have to pay a taxi or a shuttle to get into the city and the cost is way high. train is the way to go in my opinion. especially if you wana meet up and travel with other ppl. most ppl will wana do that by train. much harder to travel with ppl on planes. we only did planes twice. and tim did it 3 times and it was a painin the ass for him that third time with ryanair.

    also i took my camera, but i was glad i didnt take a laptop. that would have been a huge pain and way big in the backpack. also i didnt need another thing to worry about. tim and i didnt travel with phones or computer and it was much better that way for us. just to be free of all that baggage that we are so ingrained in everyday in the US.

    what i would recomend to take is a portable cardreader hard drive thing. i have a 100 gb wolverine that works swell. thats what i took. mine is a few years old and the newer ones are even cheaper and can hold more space. wolverine. check them out.

    also, interlaken switzerland is a must. that was my fave place along with tim’s and also it is sharon lindbloms as well along with just about all the ppl we talked to in europe. that place is amazing. we did skydiving there and man it was bomb. but it was the most beautiful place ive ever been no doubt. we also got scooters and went around the mountain towns in the alps. we also stayed at this hostel in a small village that was super dope and had a wood fired hot tub. sweet. and there was a free ropes course that is super awesome. and istanbul turkey was very dope. the culture and the baths there are way different and i think better in a more interesting way than the other places we went.

    good luck with the planning tho. it feels like a big thing to take on, but you figure it out most when you are there. and thats whats nice about the unlimited 2 month eurail pass. you can do whatever you want. we did 3 months on 7 grand including free airfare with miles and 3 months unlimited rail pass. so 4-5 g’s is doable for 2 months.

    btw your website looks good. and i look forward to the book. youll have to let me know the process for making that.

    good luck with all this and i hope youre enjoying the last bit of undergrad. give me a call if you have any ques about europe. since i just got back i feel like i have some good info.

    Also Jacquelines comment on photography equipment are right on. I took my 30D and 2 lenses and a nice point and shoot as well. I insured them all. Which was helpful because when we got robbed on a beach, even though our bag was chain locked and on a leash to an immovable object, the thief just stabbed through and took the point and shoot. My insurance paid me for it so it was no problem other than the 800 pics I lost. KEEP YOUR MEMORY CARDS ON YOUR BODY!!!!!!!!! The camera can be replaced, but the photos cannot be. The photos I lost were some of my favorite I have ever taken.

    On the subject of theft at hostels, we were never robbed at hostels. Sure there are some strange people, but we always locked our valuables like electronics and left out our clothes and no one took those. Money belt was always on though, except when in the water. I even slept with that baby. I kinda miss it. But not really.

    Hostels are really the way to go though, they are like 18-25 euros a night usually which is about as good as you can get in most parts of Europe. It is the most fun and easiest way to meet people.

    Also couchsurfers was pretty sweet when we did it 3 times, but it requires planning ahead so we didn’t do it much. But its free and very cultural. The experiences we had were awesome, but it really depends on your host.

    This is the blog from my trip in Europe if interested. There’s more info there.

    1. I’m reeeeally trying to get somone to go with me. No takers yet. I’m commited to going either way though.

      I’m still debating on the air versus train thing. I probably won’t decided until I actually get to Europe.

      Interlaken is on the list now.

      And sorry to everyone for being so slow to respond to your comments.

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