Category Archives: Travel

Airline Experiences Compared

On my way from New York to Australia, I flew with three airlines: US Airways, United, and New Zealand Air.

It’s interesting to compare the airline experience for these three airlines:

US Airways:
I wonder if their flight attendants should be called salespeople now.  Gone are in-flight meals, gone are all free snacks, gone are all types of in-flight entertainment.  Instead, we have flight attendants hawking snacks ($3.49 for Chex Mix) and making a lengthy broadcast over the PA, for a “special offer” of the US Airways Visa card – now with 100,000 free miles and no fee for the first year!   Talk about a captive audience!

Like US Airways, but now all the advertising is automated!  Everyone gets a seat back direcTV display, albeit one that asks you to pay $6.99 for access to the 100some channels for a <2 hour flight.  And woe to those who refuse to pay up – they get bombarded with endless advertisements and more urging to pay for the service!

And the best part is, the off button is non-obvious – you have to hold down the lower contrast button for 10 seconds, to turn off the advertising.

Air New Zealand:
A breath of fresh air!  Interesting in-flight safety videos!  Individual seat back displays where you can watch movies & tv shows, listen to music, and play games!  For free!  I finally got around to watching Lincoln, Cloud Atlas, and Skyfall.

America and Australia Compared

America vs. Australia – as a New York yankee in Ozzieland, these are some differences I’ve noticed between America and Australia:

1. No EFTPOS signs at shops.  EFTPOS = electronic fund transfer at point of sale, which is a long way of saying credit cards / debit cards.

2. Superfunds. You’ll see advertisements of superfunds all over the place.  These are the Australian equivalent of 401k retirement savings – though in Australia, they are mandatory!

3. Driving: yes, Australia  drives on the left hand side of the street.

4. Health care: if you need to see a doctor, you go in for a 10-15 minute consultation, and are charged $70+.  If you were living in Australia, you’d have Medicare (mandatory), so you’d then get a refund sent to you, bringing down the cost of your doctor’s visit to ~$30.

5. Tax & tip: taxes are already included in all prices, and tipping is inappropriate.

6. Currency: The smallest bill is $5, with there being $2, $1, $0.50, $0.20,$0.10, and $0.05 coins.  $1 and $2 coins are golden.  Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth II is on all the coins, and as you look at coins minted in the past, you can see how she has gotten older with time.

7. In the US, we have pharmacies. In Australia, we have chemists.  And just like in the states, they are everywhere.

8: Australia, like basically the rest of the world, uses the metric system.  So, kilograms instead of pounds, kilometers instead of miles, and kilojoules instead of calories.

9: In Australia, Hungry Jacks is Burger King – apparently due to a trademark dispute!

10: TBD

Travelogue: San Francisco

On my way to Australia, I made a pit stop in San Francisco for three days, visiting some good friends.  These are my notes on the city:

– San Francisco is based on a hilly peninsula right on the Pacific ocean, so even though the weather is pretty good year-round, there are always high winds, and the weather can change very quickly.  Always bring a jacket.
San Francisco - Portrait at Night

Continue reading Travelogue: San Francisco

Travel Equipment

When going on a journey,there are three questions that will shape your trip:

1) Where will you be going?
2) How long will you be there?
3) What travel equipment are you bringing?

For many backpackers, #3 is what separates the men from the boys, the travelers from the tourists, the hardcore from the casuals.

Right now, the mantra seems to be “travel light”.  To bring a rolling suitcase is a travesty, to bring just a backpack is common, and to bring less than three changes of clothing is to be a god walking amongst mortals.

Since this is my first time traveling, I decided to go a medium route – traveling light, but not completely unburdening myself of modern civilization.

The Travel Equipment List!

(disclaimer: any links to amazon use my affiliate code, which helps me finance future trips!)

The Backpack: Deuter Transit 50 Travel Pack.

Your backpack is the centerpiece of all your travel gear, since you’ll be relying on it to carry all of your gear.  If you go to a store like REI, you will see that there is a huge variety of backpacks – large and small, waterproof, with straps to carry additional gear, opening from the top vs. the side, etc.

For traveling around the world, you want to get an (appropriately named) travel backpack – these are different from camping backpacks in that they are generally smaller, are not waterproof, open from the side, and have an attached day pack.

The next step is to choose a size – since I want to travel light, I went with a 50+12L backpack – 50 liters of carrying capacity in the main pack, with an additional 12L in the detachable day pack.  Doing my research, there were two main backpacks to choose from at this volume – the Deuter Transit 50 Travel Pack, and the Osprey Farpoint 55.  Comparing the two, the Deuter has thicker and more comfortable straps, but the Osprey is lighter and has a larger daypack.

Ultimately, I felt the Deuter was more comfortable (if also a bit unwieldy), and went with that backpack to carry all my other travel equipment.

Clothing: five days worth

– five pairs of underwear- five tee shirts
– two pairs of shorts, one pair of cargo pants, one pair of jeans, and a set of comfortable sweatpants
– one hoodie, one stylish short-sleeved button-up shirt, and one light jacket
– five pairs of socks- one set of sneakers, one set of sandals, and my vibram toe-shoes
– swimming trunks

And to top it off, I got myself two compression packs
– this not only allows me to reduce the amount of volume my clothing takes up, but also keeps my clean clothes dry and separate from any dirty laundry.


– Netbook: Asus Eee PC.  Initially, I wanted to travel without a computer, so that it doesn’t distract me from my traveling, but I also wanted to keep a travelogue and research for some business projects.  An ultrabook would nicely fit the bill without being too heavy, but I didn’t want to be out $1000 in case I got robbed, so I compromised with a netbook.

Update: as somebody who is used to larger keyboards (Microsoft Ergonomic, which looks like a monster but is amazing), hot damn it is hard to get used to the tiny keyboard of a netbook.

– Camera: Panasonic DMC-ZS3 with 32gb sdcard.  Outdated, but point and shoot.  Also, charger, an extra battery (ebay), and USB cable to upload photos every once in a while.

– Phone: I have the Droid X, which is an amazing phone, but it is unfortunately a CDMA phone and unable to take a sim card, and so unusable in much of southeast Asia.  I brought it along as a backup camera, ebook reader, and occasioanl phone (wifi only).  Also, charger and two extra batteries (ebay).

Update: while in Australia, I picked up a cheap 1900s-era GSM phone – the Samsung Keystone 2.  It doesn’t even have a full keyboard, but slide in a prepaid sim card, and it works for phone calls and texts.  Plus, infinite battery life.

Misc. Travel Gear:

compass (gift from a concerned friend, of dubious use)
– waterproof pouch for phone (again, gift from a concerned friend, of uncertain use)
travel first aid kit
x-shot camera mount
money belt
– collapsible water bottle
– microfiber towel
– hanging toiletry bag + toiletries
umbrella: it’s the rainy season here.  After having multiple umbrellas break on me over the years, I got myself a Totes umbrella, which has lasted me for 4 years now.  Heavy, though.

Update: my “travel-sized” bottle of sunscreen got confiscated by the TSA.  I certainly feel a lot safer when my straight razor makes it past their screening, but my sunscreen does not.  #securitytheater

Travel Manifesto

This is a travel manifesto, outlining why I travel.

Who am I?
Hi, I’m Jonathan Lee.

What am I doing?
In one month, I am moving out of my apartment, putting all of my material possessions into storage, and buying a one way ticket to Australia.  I will bring one backpack worth of clothing and equipment, and will backpack around the Australia /Southeast Asia region indefinitely – my magic 8 ball suggests 3 months.

Why am I doing this?
– Because I have to.  All my life, I’ve been a very conservative person, always planning ahead so that I can remain fully in control, avoiding even the remote possibility of failure.  I want to change this.  And so, I’m making this trip without any real serious planning beforehand.

– Because it’s the best available time.  I’m 27 years old, single, and renting.  There’s nothing tying me down.  If I don’t do this now, I never will.  The best time might have been right after graduating from college, or immediately after getting laid off a year ago.  But the second best time, is right now.

Where am I going?
First, Australia. Then, New Zealand?  Thailand?  The Philippines?  Japan? Poland?  Germany?  Netherlands?  Only time will tell.

How will I be traveling?
Hopefully, cheaply.  I’ll be hitting up hostels and couchsurfing whenever I can!