Thursday 26th February. Bletchingley, England.
Crikey- Get a load of this little beauty! The weeks have been zooming by, and the end of this job is coming into sight. Before long, most of the reconstruction will be completed and all that'll be left is the painting and decorating. As I start to plan the next few months of my journey, I'm also considering some new toys that I 'need'. Firstly, what about this little Petzl headlamp? Until now I've been reasonably happy with my little flashlight, but trying to hold the flashlight in my mouth while I'm reading a map/ changing a fuse/ negotiating my way up a bush track in Georgia in the middle of the night often results in chipped teeth and/or drool running down my chin, neither of which increases my chances with the ladies. But wait till the girls see me with my new Petzl mini headlamp. It's three LED's give up to 24 hours of bright white light, and is powered by AAA batteries, which I can recharge with my battery charger. I'll be the coolest dude in the nightclub!
It might also be necessary for me to buy another sleeping bag as well. The Vango Venom 400 that I've been travelling with has been great, but as silly as this might sound, it's too warm. In November when I slept under a bridge in upstate New York, I was cozy in my sleeping bag even though the air temperature fell to freezing point. It's a very serious bag, but on a trip around Europe during summer, I'll need somethng a little more jovial. It's a difficult decision because you never know when the temperature can drop- particularly in the mountains- at any time of year, so you don't want a bag that isn't going to keep you warm at all. So far I'm tossing up between the Venom 150 and the Venom 225 or one of the much less expensive Voyager series. I'll still need my serious sleeping bag again as I approach Russia, so I'd have to leave it with someone to mail on to me when the time comes. Hmm...
Something that I've put off for too long already is a new battery for my laptop. This one only gives a minute or two of working time so I always need AC electricity, and there have been lots of opportunities already where I could've made constructive use of battery power- on trains, ferries or buses, in jail, and in pubs and cafes.
Better quality photographs are going to require additional equipment, too. This is the toy I really want- the wide angle converter, which will give me the equivalent of a 24.5 mm lense. There's also a teleconverter available that would more than double the zoom capabilities on my little Canon. *nice*
I determined at the beginning of this project, that it would be a project that would benefit more than just myself, and so far it's pretty much fallen short of that goal. *although there could be a young maiden here and there who'd dispute that* Eastern Europe may be my first chance to do something worthwhile for people who need help. If you have any suggestions or recommendations as far as volunteer organizations, I'd love to hear them. If you're interested, here's a few of the websites I've been researching with regard to volunteer work in Eastern Europe...
...and here's a selection of volunteer groups put together by Ohio University.
I found this book on Amazon and it reminded me to check my Amazon account. There's over fifty US dollars waiting in there for me, but I can't collect it until it reaches a hundred. DOH! If you're making purhases as Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk you can help me reach the hundred bucks by using links on my favourite books page to actually enter Amazon. That way, any purchase you make on that visit, earns me a commission.
I need at least two new Lonely Planet guidebooks as well, but I can't tell you which two, or that'd give away the surprise. There's likely to be a surprise change of itinerary in April or May. Oooh, the suspense is just putting you to sleep, isn't it?
Another source of commission that has been largely overlooked is the hostel and tour booking service on the main page of this website. A friend of mine recently emailed me to say that he'd booked a couple of nights at a hostel, through my booking database, and he hoped I'd get something out of it. In fact I make something like a pound (almost two US dollars the way the exchange rate's going!) for every hostel night booked. I'm not sure how much I earn from tour bookings. So if you're setting off on a trip, why not have a browse through the hostels and tours that are on offer?
Sorry this update has been mostly housekeeping and shameless but necessary promotion. Truth is, there's not much else to write, or if there is, it's not very cheerful or I'm too tired to think of it or make it interesting. Tomorrow is payday, making the 52nd day I've worked with just one day off. Yesterday I went to visit my friend in hospital. She'd started chemotherapy the day before, and apparently the tumour has already shrunk. She's got more movement in her neck than she's had for some time, so that's encouraging, but it was still an awful shock to see her so weak and pathetic. She mustered up enough strength to throw a mock punch in my direction when I teased her, but it wasn't long before she was visibly exhausted. She's been unable to keep down any food, and today she was due for an operation to insert some sort of tube so she can be fed directly to her stomach. This is because when they start the radiotherapy, her throat will be burnt and sore, making eating near impossible. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers for her.