Category Archives: travel

Winter

I have been quiet in this space lately. It’s hard to know what to say. I’d like to talk more about FYS, but I’m currently dealing with some circumstances relating to final grades that are not appropriate to talk about here, and those circumstances are coloring my experience. I don’t have more to say except to reiterate my last post on the subject: Policy is black-and-white while people are grey. Assessment is helpful except when it isn’t. What and how we choose to assess may provide more murkiness than clarity.

In the midst of the murkiness, a few huge points of light have emerged. Last Friday I gave a webinar at the SUNYLA Midwinter Conference titled “Graphic Design for Maximum Engagement.” The webinar went really well and I got some great questions. I was very happy, not only because I felt the webinar went well but also because the 20-minute webinar is the seed for some much larger happenings this spring. I am so pleased to tell you that you will find me at LibTech and LOEX presenting an expanded and enriched version of that webinar. In addition, I will be able to attend ACRL this spring through the support of my college and an Early Career Librarianship Scholarship from ACRL.

It seems it will be a spring of presentations and travel. I will be traveling not only to conferences but also back to Michigan a few times because, you guys, I’m getting married and we decided it would be a good idea to do that in less than 6 months. I’m in that excited/overwhelmed/grateful place where I’m not quite sure what I’m feeling at any given time. I imagine the feeling will continue for a while. In the mean time, it will probably be quiet around here a bit more than usual.

What are you looking forward to this spring?

Catching up before leaving again

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Paul Smith’s College, the most beautiful campus in America

Why, hello there. It’s been a full summer so far. Balancing being at work and not being at work is sometimes a challenge. For instance, I meant to talk a bit about ALA, but then I was traveling directly after, and then I was enjoying being at home and not traveling, and by the time I got back to work and sat down to write out some observations here on this blog they seemed flat. Not that ALA was flat. It was, as it always is, hit and miss. In between discussion groups in which no discussion was being had and patronizing primers on how to recognize when your audience is disengaged (while failing to notice that the audience was, in fact, disengaged) there were a number of really great presentations. Two standouts for me were a presentation on threshold concepts for information literacy and “Sticking with STEM,” which had so much incredible info that transcended STEM I wanted to kick myself for not attending more diverse programs.

In the mean time, I’ve been working on FYS and trying to get as organized as possible before the fall starts. FYS is an extra contract for me, and, given how thin the library staff has recently been spread, choosing which balls to deliberately set aside and planning ahead as much as possible is key. My FYS syllabus is basically done (and, yes, I put in the effort to make it pretty) and the course schedule is falling into place. This makes me feel good, considering that I am leaving tomorrow for two weeks of vacation and then it’s a steep climb into the semester. Maybe I’ll share the syllabus when I get back? Would that be interesting?

So. How about some links?

Travel tips: Conference and otherwise

I like to think I’ve got a few things figured out, travel-wise. I also like to think I’ve got a few things figured out, conference-wise, which, coincidentally, often involves travel. Maybe we’ve all got our own travel and conference preferences worked out, but here are my top tips:

General travel tips:

  1. I’ve learned this one the hard way on many occasions: Don’t travel hangry. You won’t be able to find food when you need food. Bring enough snacks for one or two times a day for at least a few days. I find it best to choose things that don’t need special care and taste just as good if they get a bit battered around or slightly melted. For me this means apples, nuts, Clif Builder’s Bars, trail mix, and/or homemade energy bites. I function best if there’s a substantial protein component to my snacks. These can be combined for emergency meal replacement (apple/Builder’s Bar/trail mix) or can simply fill in the gap after an inadequate meal or time zone change.
  2. Scarves and/or shawls take up almost no space in your luggage or bag but can be used in a million ways. Keep warm in cold spaces, block sun when you’re trying to sleep or avoid sunburn, cover your head and shoulders if you want privacy or you’re visiting religious spaces where modesty is required, wipe up spills, etc.
  3. Powdered laundry detergent means that you don’t have to pack a separate change of clothes for every day you’ll be gone (and you don’t have to worry about the 3oz. liquids rule). A few basics with some interesting jewelry and the aforementioned scarf will be plenty if you take a few minutes in the evening to wash what’s dirty in the bathroom sink. Word to the wise, cotton dries slowly so plan accordingly.
  4. You need less clothes than you think, especially if you’re traveling carry-on only. I like to look nice and put together every day. Looking nice and put together does not mean that you need a separate outfit for every day. I prefer dresses to separates for summer travel because I feel they take up less room in my suitcase and I just like them. Maxi dresses can be quite nice for travel days as they keep you covered but are as comfortable as pjs and look much better. A few relatively plain dresses (2-3 for 4-7 days of travel) with a couple of sweaters or cardis and some interesting jewelry will allow you plenty of mix-and-match options. And, ok, you might not want to see those two dresses for a few weeks when you get home, but so what?
  5. Honestly, I’m not much of a shoe fiend, and I get by just fine on one pair and a back-up. Both worn for years and broken in very well with a history of long walks and minimal irritation. Usually, I bring two and only wear one. It’s worth it to have the insurance in case of sore feet, since I am very prone to blisters. In the summer, I default to my Birkenstocks.
  6. The air blower on the plane might as well be called The Plague Distributor. Don’t use it unless you’re really desperate, and even then avoid directing it at your face. I tend towards motion sickness that is amplified by being too hot, and I still recommend avoiding the air blower on planes. If you manage to get blasted in the face, or you’re feeling especially vulnerable to illness (super stressed and exhausted, must be at peak performance while traveling, etc) I highly recommend Airborne before and after a flight to help ward off any possible ick. Maybe it’s just personal superstition at this point, but I’ve never gotten sick after traveling when using it, even when I was flying every weekend for super stressful auditions.
  7. You’ve probably seen those horseshoe shaped pillows they sell at the airport. Man, they’re helpful, and I say this as a person who is basically incapable of sleeping sitting up. Here’s a secret: You can get inflatable versions that do the same job and take up basically no room in your bag when not in use. You’re welcome.
  8. If you are not traveling exclusively carry-on, make sure you have anything you can’t live without for a day or two in a carry-on bag. This includes somewhat obvious things like travel documents, prescriptions, toothbrush, and a change of underwear/socks, but also anything that you might need immediately at your destination like presentation materials (or, as I learned the hard way once, reeds and music). Even if it weighs down your carry-on bag, you will be super grateful for this precaution in the event that your luggage is delayed, especially if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar place.

Conference specific (Maybe you’re going to ALA?):

  1. Everything I said above still applies to conference travel, including the shoe and clothes recommendations. Unless you’re presenting at a conference or are looking for a new job, make sure that all clothes and shoes you bring can do double duty for conferences and sightseeing. Interesting jewelry and scarves can liven up plain clothes, and no one will be the wiser that you wore that dress the day before yesterday. Carefully consider shoes, as you will no doubt be walking miles in them. I wear my Birks, but they’re classy ones, I swear! In my experience, these recommendations will put you firmly high-middle-of-the-road for conference dress, but you do you.
  2. I tend to travel tech-light. These days that means smartphone, Kindle, and iPod. I will not be bringing back-up batteries to support a phone, laptop, and iPad to ALA, no matter how many friends it might win me. There are lots of great tips out there if you lean that direction.
  3. For conferences, I infinitely prefer notebooks to other tech for note-taking. I find notebooks much easier to wrangle in conference halls that may or may not have tables, and they encourage organic note-taking for me. Since I’m no longer a student, my notes have changed significantly. I no longer care about recapping a presentation but about the ideas or quotes I can use or engage with in my work. I write down threads to follow later, and I write down lots of questions and insights as they spill from my brain. Capturing the questions and ideas that come up is one of the most valuable parts of the conference experience for me, and I do that best on paper. Example: 
  4. If you’re going to ALA or other similar conference where you might pick up far more freebies than will fit in your bag, you might want to consider taking some packing tape for boxes to ship home. ALA has an on-site pop-up post office, which is super convenient.
  5. A note on tote bags: You don’t really need to bring a special bag to a conference, trust me on this. They’ll be throwing the things at you, and it’s often nearly impossible to say no. If you have special considerations for your bags or you’ll be doing lots of job hunting, you may prefer your own, but I tend to just stick with whatever my Midwest sensibilities won’t allow me to refuse.
  6. Do take the time to do some non-conference related stuff in the area, even if it’s just one museum or tour.
  7. You will reach saturation point. Don’t feel bad if you need to skip out on a session to either go back to your hotel and rest or simply find a quiet corner to decompress.
  8. As soon as you can after the conference, like maybe even in the trip home, write down all the thoughts that are swirling around in your head, insights, confusions, frustrations, possibilities, etc. Capture everything, because you will forget in an astonishingly short period of time. Did you take notes? Go back through and highlight everything that is a thread for you to follow. Even if you found the conference to be largely an echo chamber (it happens), you probably came away with at least one new way of seeing. Don’t lose it.

You can see more travel trips for foreign lands here.

 

Essential travel packing – Monsoon edition

I’m not sure if this really falls into the purview of this blog. It’s not really about libraries, but it’s sort of about information. Or lack of information. When I was getting ready to travel to Bangladesh and Nepal, I spent lots of time thinking about what I needed to pack to survive in a Muslim country in June during monsoon. I found some general guidelines online about what not to do, which I could have guessed at anyway, don’t show too much skin, etc. I knew I was going to stand out no matter what I wore (in Bangladesh, simply being white is enough to stop traffic, sometimes literally) but I wanted to make sure that I was comfortable and that I wasn’t causing undo discomfort to the locals. I took three bags: a backpack for the plane, a carry-on suitcase, and a large suitcase, which was entirely filled with things for Emily on the way there and entirely filled with gifts and souvenirs on the way back. All of my personal items fit in a small backpack and a rolling carry-on bag for three weeks worth of travel. This meant that all of my essentials were with me at all times and were not lost in transit. The large bag was checked luggage, and was left in Dhaka while we jetted around. Basically, it didn’t go many places, but was useful for accumulating stuff. It was also lost in transit for a week on the way back to the US. Because of the way I planned, this didn’t completely derail my life but was a little nerve-wracking since almost all of my gifts and souvenirs were inside. In the interest of informing anyone else with the same questions I had, here’s my packing list.

Clothes and such:

  • Three tops, all long or three-quarter sleeved. One black and grey striped knit top, one navy and white plaid in a very lightweight gauze, and one white and light blue pinstripe button down.
  • Two skirts, long. One black knit, one black and white print.
  • One pair zip-off hiking pants in grey. Pants zip off into capris.
  • PJs.
  • Under garments. I generally choose to bring a week’s worth, because while I’m cool with wearing tops and pants over and over before washing, I’m not so cool about my undergarments, especially in sweaty climates.
  • Two bandanas, for dabbing delicately at my glowing brow in non-air-conditioned circumstances.
  • Two pairs of shoes. Chacos sandals and barefoot flats. I didn’t wear the flats at all.
  • Toiletries of your choice but also including some kind of laundry soap for handwashing in the sink.
  • Small handbag that is not a backpack. I took my purse, which has a cross-body strap and a closure.
  • Ziploc bags and/or plastic grocery bags, for containing messes, separating out dirty clothes from clean ones, and generally being a useful back up plan for many situations.
  • Chargers for phone, Kindle, etc. I didn’t need any special adapters.

In the backpack:

  • Scarf, for warmth and blocking out light or unwelcome staring. Can also be used as a headcovering, although I didn’t use it this way.
  • Noise cancelling headphones, for watching movies or just cancelling out noise in general.
  • Ipod.
  • Kindle and back-up paper book. Ok, I had two more back-up paper books in the carry on. It’s a compulsion.
  • Phone.
  • Water bottle, empty. Fill this beyond security at the airport.
  • Little bag with earplugs, chapstick, hand sanitizer, handi-wipes, kleenex, bandaids, prescriptions, painkiller, and sleep aid.
  • Copies of all your travel documents (flight info, hostel info, driver’s license, passport, visas, etc.) I took both hard copies and a USB with all of my info on it, just in case.
  • Inflatable neck pillow. Seriously.
  • Little notebook and pens.
  • Snacks.

All of this did me just fine. Here’s some more good info about packing for traveling, although this list is more of a “backpacking across the world for months” kind of list. Maybe we can convince Emily to tell us what travel items she considers essential?

Adventuring across the world

For the last six months or so, I’ve been working on a personal project: An Adventure. For most of the month of June, I was half way around the world, visiting Emily and traveling across Bangladesh and Nepal. The experience was pretty amazing and definitely falls under the category of “Life Experience.” Even now, after months of planning and saving and making lists and visiting doctors, after getting on multiple planes, seeing strange and wonderful things, and getting back on those planes going the opposite direction, the whole experience is surreal. Did a really do that? Really? Yeah. I did.

If you want a bit more in depth detail, you can see a summary of our experiences that Emily posted on her blog: part 1 and part 2. I’m going to give you a few of the highlights.

Emily and I went to grad school together. We’re good friends. We like irreverent selfies.

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At the American Club in Dhaka, where I had just had my first real coffee in more than a week. They drink instant coffee over there. At the American Club I got French Press, with actual coffee beans!

The reason I even got the opportunity to go halfway around the world is because Emily is a librarian and teacher at a boarding school outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The school is very new, and when she arrived last August, there wasn’t a library to speak of. This is what it looks like now:

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Small but growing graphic novel collection. They’re great for helping out struggling English learners.

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In some ways the school wasn’t so different from your average American school. Iron Man, Bart Simpson, and Wolverine still show up. This mural was painted by the students. The boys’ uniforms were still in states of disarray, even on graduation day. One obvious difference: The cultural portion of the graduation program included various Bollywood-inspired dances.

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Sunset and a rain cloud seen from Bangladesh. That’s India in the distance.

We traveled a bit in the northeast part of the country. This was outside Srimongal. The next day we crossed briefly (and illegally) into India while on a boat tour of the Lalakhal River, which turns into the Ganges in India.

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Kathamandu, Nepal. We didn’t stay long, but it was so wonderfully cool there after the heat of Bangladesh.

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Mangoes growing in a tree outside our hotel in Chitwan, Nepal. So close and yet so far! I attempted to eat my weight in mangoes while I was abroad. This is a completely legitimate reason to travel to that part of the world. Also, I rode an elephant in Chitwan. Life Experience Points +1.

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Kid riding a camel backwards down the streets of Pokhara, Nepal. You know. Like you do.

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This is also Pokhara. It rained almost the whole time we were there, and this is what it looked like just before the rain started pouring down. This picture looks like I shot it with an artsy-fartsy black and white filter, but actually I took it in color. It just looked like that naturally.

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And finally, a view from the top of the world. Not literally. I didn’t climb Everest or anything. This was Nagarkot, Nepal, where we went to see a sunrise over the Himalayas. There wasn’t much of a sunrise, unfortunately, due to low clouds, but the chance to just spend a night in a converted Hindu temple on top of the world (where this was the view from our room) was more than worth it.

Questioning technology for travel

I’ve traveled a lot. That’s probably an understatement. I like to think that I have certain things down to a science. I know exactly what I need to do to make my life as easy as possible while traveling (i.e. never assume you can find food when you need food, view long wait times as an opportunity to relax, dress in layers including some kind of scarf, never ever let the overhead air circulation device blow on you because you definitely don’t want that virus in 3-5 days.) I know what I need to bring and what I can leave behind.

Yet as I prepare to leave for LOEX tomorrow, I find myself with a new-to-me problem of reducing my technology luggage. Is an iPod, a smartphone, a Kindle, and a laptop too much? Yes. Yes, it is. I know that I can hypothetically consolidate all of these bits of technology into my smartphone given enough time, smartphone memory, and 3G data, but I am quite new to the smartphone world and left it all to the last minute to figure this out.

It is interesting how my life is different, living out here in the mountains. I know that I significantly under-use my smartphone here, in a way that I wouldn’t if I lived in a city with public transit and reliable cell phone coverage. I am slow to understand all the things that can be done with a smartphone. Because I don’t spend a couple hours a day on a bus or subway, I have not figured out how to sync my music and podcasts to my phone. I have not tried my Kindle app. I don’t read blogs on my phone. I know that I can do all these things on my phone, but I just don’t need to. I read my blogs on my laptop. I watch movies on my laptop. I listen to music on my iPod nano almost exclusively in the gym, where the built in clip and miniature size make all the sense in the world.

I also realized that part of the reason I want to bring all of these devices, aside from the making-my-life-better part, is that the user experience is so much better on separate devices. Why read blogs on a tiny smartphone screen when you can do it on a laptop? Access and time being equal, I would not prefer scrolling around a tiny screen and magnifying tiny images on a phone to seeing my blogs in their best form on a computer screen. Why would I read a book on my smartphone when I can do it on a non-backlit screen? And I am not checking my email on my Kindle. Been there, done that, not worth the hassle. I choose my devices because I like they way they do things, not because there isn’t a different or more streamlined way to do it.

I grant you that the iPod doesn’t need to make the trip, in the strictest sense of the word “need,” but it is very small and already loaded up with my favorite podcasts. I’m bringing my Kindle because, well, it is also loaded up and ready to go. I have decided to leave my laptop at home, since using it as a security blanket is not worth lugging it along. The phone, obviously, is going.

The one technological aspect of this trip that I haven’t yet questioned is how I’m going to take note:. Paper and pen, all the way. Fewer typos, much more flexible, easy to pick up and put down (and drop, if it comes to that), easy to balance on a knee, and usable while not looking at it. Not to mention, I’m a doodler and pen-fiddler. Bringing an iPad would no doubt be the “cool thing” to do, but it is not nearly as functional.

All of this has brought a new dimension to my understanding of my technology usage. What do you all consider to be your essential technology travel kit? Any tricks or apps I need to try?