15 September 2014

Top Ten Travel Lessons Learned

"The only way that we can live, is if we grow.
The only way that we can grow is if we change.
The only way that we can change is if we learn.
The only way we can learn is if we are exposed.
And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open.
Do it. Throw yourself."
~ C. JoyBell C.

The Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop was incredible.  I went to write with 11 strangers, and I left with 15 new friends.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting my photos and thoughts on the workshop and on the beauties of Kodiak, Alaska.

ime Lords with British accents who roam the universe in blue police boxes aren’t the only ones who view time as a “wibbly-wobbley timey-wimey thing.”

Before I ever set foot on Kodiak Island, I already had a growing list of Lessons Learned on an Alaskan Adventure.  Such foibles are to be expected with any endeavor we undertake, but especially so since I’m all about relationships and not logistics.  And I have a wee bit of ADD.  

So here are my Top Ten Lessons Learned that might also help you get ready for your next trip.

#1 – Three Months Does NOT Equal Ninety Days
This is part of the timey-wimey thing.  I know I can’t be alone in thinking, “I have plenty of time to prep and buy X, Y, and Z for my trip.  I don’t leave for another three months!”

Oh not so, my dear, not so.

Out of those ninety days, you have twelve Saturdays and six Fridays.  If I had remembered this fact back in June, REI, Bass Pro, and Dick’s Sporting Goods would have met a much less stressed version of me.  As it was, I was running around like the proverbial guillotined chicken, desperately searching for hip waders.

#2 – Solar Chargers: For Airplanes & Airports without Plugs
Even though I planned on being out of cell and wifi range while on Harvester (where happily, I had wifi for a few hours in the morning), I needed to keep my phone charged while waiting in airports and on planes.  

Alaska Airlines became my favorite airline because they are super polite, friendly, funny, and have plugs on the backs of the seats.  This was a gift from on high on the flight from DCA to LAX as my Kindle app drains my battery like Vlad the Impaler.

#3 – Rent a Bad Ass Camera & Back Up Your Photos ASAP
This is something I actually did and would definitely do again.  I rented my Nikon D3300 with an 18-300mm lens and camera bag from Borrow Lenses.  It was simple and affordable.  Without that sweet set up, I wouldn’t have been able to get the close ups of the Kodiak brown bears (aka grizzlies) in Katmai National Park or the snow-capped Alaskan Range.
Bear Tour with Kingfisher Aviation
Totally worth the money to get these close ups!
This was part of a lesson learned from my last trip to the West Coast.  I bought a Canon point and shoot (not terribly expensive, but still) and two days later, it took a swim in the Pacific. 

Related lesson #2? “Don’t drink several cocktails and then walk along the beach in the dark while taunting the waves.”  But that’s another story.

Related lesson #3?  “Back up your data as soon as you get home.”  Because I didn’t and I lost all 1,000 pictures except for a few I uploaded to my Facebook album.  I have someone trying to recover them, but if they can’t do it, those are a lot of money shots just…gone.

#4 – Saltwater and Skiffs Equal Waterproof Camera Bag/ Storm Jacket
My note to self reads: “You will want to take pictures while in the skiff.”  I used a plastic bag to protect it when I wasn’t taking pictures, but I missed a few shots because I was worrying about keeping the camera dry.  And the Storm Jacket by Vortex comes recommended by a National Geo photographer.  Sweet!

#5 – A Polar Plunge is Awesome – with a Wet Suit/Dry Suit
Call me crazy ~ I already know it ~ but I really wanted to snorkel in Uyak Bay. The water was so clear you could see all the way to the other side of the world.  It was also turn-your-skin-blue-ice cold.  Since I was returning home to 90° weather, I did manage to get my Keenes off and walk in the Buskin River for about ten seconds before I had to admit defeat.

#6 – Fly Fishing Makes Salmon Taste Even Better
Got some great shots (now erased *&^$%) of salmon jumping and struggling on a fly fishermen’s line in Buskin River and wished I could have gone out in the river and fished too.
I mean, I already have the hip waders.  And I like fresh fish.  

Just need to make sure there’s a manly man around to scale and gut it.  Tried that once ~ ick.

#7 – “The Mummy” Ride Makes Bush Planes Look Like a Merry Go Round
I owe an apology to my friend Gregers and his buddy Curt – I hate roller coasters and that roller coaster at Universal Studios on my layover at LAX was vomit-inducing horrific (although I just closed my eyes and kept my In and Out burger safely in my stomach) and I cussed them up one side and down the other for telling me it wasn’t a roller coaster.

But I was grateful once I reached Kodiak and had to ride in a bush plane and a float plane ~ both which are seriously under-rated.  They’re awesome and you get to see a side of the island/mountain you wouldn’t see otherwise. 

Plus, if you’re lucky, you get a Scots pilot.  That vortex of Scottish charm is potent in a five-seater Cessna.

#8 – Forget the Treadmill, Stairmaster Is Your New Bestie
There was a gravel path that I swear was vertical.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t really vertical.  But the gravel was loose and squishy, so I got a real workout to and from the banya and the main house.

On second thought, forget the Stairmaster.  Just put your hip waders on and walk in mud or wet sand.  Same result.

#9 – You Can Never Have Enough Travel TP and Hand Sanitizer
Packing light was essential to me, so I only took one roll of travel toilet paper and a handful of hand sanitizer wipes.  This was not a good idea, especially when going for long hikes, or in my case, long ocean skiff rides.

#10 – Make the Magic Last
Don’t be in such a hurry to get back home.  Actually, I didn’t want to go home.  Still don’t ~ I need a bumper sticker that says “I’d Rather Be in Alaska.”  So I booked a hotel in Kodiak and left a day later.  But I wish I had arranged to stay a few extra days in Anchorage.  Denali was calling my name and I couldn’t answer this time and it broke my heart. 

Yes, I’ve got it bad.  At least now I am better equipped for wherever the longing for wilderness adventure takes me.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are your travel lessons learned?

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