What the heck is a SPOT?

The Power of Asking Questions When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

As I contemplate our next Boots and Coffee post about gear, I have stalled because I am not sure how to describe the unbelievable amount of research that seems necessary to decide on the proper gear for our journey. Choice of gear involves many decisions and a lot of exhausting thinking:  it’s not just what gear do I need because decision-making involves consideration of how MUCH gear can be taken and how costly will that gear be if we opt for it.  So, what to do first?  Make a “wish list’ of desirable gear and then research the best choices within these items, followed by an accounting of the cost?  Or do we decide on “essential” gear, figure what that will cost (if we need to add purchases to our supply), and then figure out if we have the space?  It often feels like it is a sort of a chicken-and-egg thing – and I’m sometimes immobilized by how to approach these questions.

There are many bloggers on the road who have considered these questions and I would be remiss if I didn’t, once again, acknowledge the hefty assistance of resources such as Life Remotely, which blog contains a gear section with 3 subsections: choosing gear, packing advice and packing lists.  Similar lists exist on many other blogs and Overland websites.  They are wonderful starting points but one soon realizes, as one reads through these sites, that there is clearly no “one size fits all.”  First, space is a real limitation for us since we are not traveling in a RV with oodles of storage.  Obviously, finances are another real limitation.  And you can fill in the blanks about the other criteria that you might consider if you were in our boots.

One of the more formidable tasks for us is in knowing the right questions to ask about gear.  Here’s an example:  Roque and I have traveled outside the country on a number of occasions and struggled with the issue of cell phone and data connectivity.  There are scores of words written on this subject and, sadly, every country seems to present it’s own challenges.  When in Canada this summer, having done a hefty amount of research before we crossed the border, we spent a couple of hours on our first full day in Nova Scotia, hunting down prepaid sim cards to insert in our (then) unlocked iPhones.  (I won’t bore you with the details of why this took hours rather than minutes).  Sim card in hand and iPhones with data in our lap, we navigated beautifully to the spots where we wanted to go. It all worked swimmingly until 2 days later when we found ourselves in the middle of Prince Edward Island with no data connection and no cell service to help us navigate through the problem solving.  We sought out a place with WiFi and made a series of calls only to find out that 1) we had already blown through $100 worth of data and 2) we could have added a Canadian plan to our Sprint plan at a very inexpensive rate that would have been tons easier than our sim card purchase and time spent in cell phone stores and in trouble shooting through the data dilemma.

Clearly, my research was not thorough enough. Continue reading “What the heck is a SPOT?”

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Getting ready – Part I

This is How We Will Roll

Having decided that we would embark on this road trip en route to Panama, and having rejected the idea of taking one of our Audis, we began to consider what kind of vehicle we wanted to drive.  Studying postings by Overlanders revealed a stunning array of exotic vehicles selected for this massive road trip.  There are Overlanders on bicycle and motorcycle, in motor homes and in antique cars, in modified ancient VW (and similar vans), in trucks, in SUVs and in contraptions referred to as “Global Expedition vehicles,” which are like motor-homes on steroids.  Much as Roque, like many men, might secretly pine away for the testosterone-charged Earth Cruiser or something similar, I waited for his fiscal prudence and common sense to kick in (since expedition vehicles start at a whopping $175,000+) so that we could talk about something a tad more affordable and, for me, easier to climb into.

Overlanders use all kinds of vehicles (ambulance conversion anyone?) and many seem to favor older-model Toyota Highlanders (ca. 1980’s) apparently due to the early generation Hilux truck body on which the Highlander was built.  As you can see, I read enough to sound like I know what I am talking about but frankly, this is all way beyond me and I was NOT enticed to start looking on Craig’s List for 30 year old trucks with which to take this trip. Continue reading “Getting ready – Part I”

Getting to Panama -The Road Trip

The Road to Panama

While visiting with expats in Panama, one frequently-asked question focused on whether to move with all, part or none of our belongings.  The temptation was strong, at least initially, for us to sell or give away everything we owned, pack a couple of suitcases of essentials, and start anew.  New life, new things.  No baggage with no baggage.

We learned that expats take all approaches. Our friends Holly and Scott packed and shipped a HUGE shipping container of items, including loads of tools and equipment that Scott knew he would need and want for the construction of their casita, home and to use daily in his workshop in Boquete. Others started virtually from scratch.  Still others suggested a middle ground approach of leaving much and taking some things, particularly those of sentimental value. The things that would make us feel at home in our new home.

The middle ground approach appealed to us as we thought about our new start.  We knew that some things are inexpensive in Panama and worth replacing; other things were going to be harder or more expensive to replace. So we met with an international mover (recommended by others in Panama), got estimates and proceeded with the plan to pack much of our house for shipping to Panama once we settled. Continue reading “Getting to Panama -The Road Trip”