This Blog has moved!

This Blog now lives at Comments on this page are disabled and it is only kept because of my general aversion to broken links. Please update your feed readers to

Thursday, December 7, 2006

To France

I'll be spending the next few days in the south of France, doing much the same thing I'm doing here but in a place where the wind is warmer and breakfasts are tastier. I'll be traveling by train, partly because it's cheaper and faster than a car and more peaceful than a plane, but mostly because I like it. (The fact that I lack both a car and a driver's license made the decision that much easier.)

As I've learnt over the years, traveling always brings about its fair share of annoyances :

  • Filling up your suitcase is going to take three times longer than you estimated and five times longer than it should.

  • You better pack your luggage so that you can comfortably carry it along three miles of dirt tracks under pouring rain, because you'll probably have to.

  • No matter how early you get to the station, at some point you'll have to run in order to be on the train in time.

  • Although the train/plane is in theory as fine a place as can be to read/relax/play/work, you won't be able to do so because of some small trifling detail that ruins everything (The actual cause is of course never the same. It may be a baby crying like those WW2 air-strike warning sirens, the old man next to you falling asleep with his head on your lap, anyone of the 120 people in the compartment snoring like an asthmatic elephant, an attractive girl sitting in front of you with a pleasing but extremely distracting negligé, or, my own personal nemesis, 75 boy scouts who enter the train twelve minutes after you've chosen your place and spend the next four hours singing heart warming anthems to keep them in high spirits and the rest of the world miserable.)

Except for the last one, which deals with how human beings are by and large extremely irritating creatures, a fact about which the traveller can't do much, all of these can be made inconsequential by simply traveling as light as you possibly can.

This, however, is easier said than done. Especially when there's many things you plan to do on your trip (eg reading, blogging, taking photographs, general nerding, and coming up with a flexible GML schema for VPF data -- in no particular order) and each of them usually requires quite a bit of hardware. Since in about a month I'll be leaving for Switzerland with much of the same objectives in mind, I've tried to use these four days as a test for what I really needed to take with me on a trip like this.

Here's what I elected to take and why :

  • Apple PowerBook G4 12" : working, organizing, storing photos, watching SICP lectures, learning Ruby, and quite a lot of other fun and/or geeky activities.

  • About 300 pages of printed specs : light reading on the train journey, which is a bit longer than my PB's battery life.

  • 60GB iPod : data and photo backups, listening to Notes from a small Island, catching up on TWiT.

  • Sony DSC-T1 + charger : snapshots and visual note taking.

  • Canon EOS-1DMkII with EF16-35/2.8 : so-called "serious" photography.

  • Polarizing filter, 2GB CF card, 1GB SD card : see above.

  • Sleeping bag, clothes, cell-phone etc.

More to the point, here's what I left at home :

  • More books, specs, etc. : well, there's only so much you can comfortably carry on a train. Which in this case is perfectly fine because there's only so much you can read in four days. But had this been a longer trip, I'd have had to rely much more on ebooks, which I find tiresome to read on a computer screen. (I would really like to see an ebook reader with a screen that really looks like ink on paper.)

  • The EOS-1DMkII's charger. This thing is just huge and cumbersome and annoying and I guess the battery life will be good enough for me since I don't have the time to shoot all that much anyway.

  • More lenses for the 1D. My wide-angle zoom gives an EFL of 21-45, or quite-wide to nearly normal. Although this is the focal length range I use most of the time, it's still pretty limited. Oh well, at least I won't have to worry about changing lenses.

  • Tripod : I know I'm going to miss this. But my tripod is big and heavy so it's really difficult to justify on a trip where photography's not the main priority. A light carbon-fiber travel tripod would be really nice, but those aren't cheap.

  • Camera bag : I never use one unless I'm carrying more than two lenses.

  • Portable photo hard drive : I have the powerbook and iPod, and don't intend to travel far, so why bother ?

So here I am, on a train bound for the south of France, with all this stuff in two small bags, and a bunch of things to do. I'll get back to you in a few days to tell you how it all worked out.

No comments: