Tag Archives: John Davison

Breaking the Travel Bag Paradigm

This travel tip came to me from John Davison–an extensive world traveler. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to read some of his thoughts on India.

Old nerdy joke from my high-school math club: a pessimist says the glass is half empty, the optimist says half full. The engineer says it’s twice as big as it needs to be. For whatever reason, the average traveler is forever doomed to the paradigm of taking much more than what’s needed for a bag– be it in terms of features, capacity or price.

As an Eagle Scout I can understand “Being Prepared,” as it is after all the Boy Scout motto, but I also argue that there’s a right tool for every task. If you’re traveling, and not backpacking–for a long distance that is, your best bang-for-your-buck, practical option is to pick up a Seal-Line Boundary Pack.

Boundary Packs - what you should be taking to Europe.

Boundary Packs - what you should be taking to Europe.

It’s water tight – as in, it floats. If you’re in a jam you could even use it as a buoy to float back to your ship (just ask John). A lot of packs are “water-proof” and made of water-proof materials but not made with “water-proof construction” and then there’s Gore-tex and eVent and…none of it is going to be as impenetrable as this bag. It’s made of thick vinyl and holds air like an opera singer, an especially fat one.

Weight wise, how does 2lb. 9oz. sound for a 70L bag? Yes, it’s only a single compartment, but how many times have you lost something because you forgot about it in your ultra-secret security pocket? What good are all of those pockets if you still can’t remember where you put things? One compartment is awesome for finding your stuff and just think of how fast security checkpoint will be when there’s only one space to open. If you’re that worried about organization, just get some Eagle Creek bags or Sea to Summit stuff sacks.

Maybe you’re leary about its practicality. Did you see the available colors? You could find your socks in the bottom of this bag in a black hole–that’s an insane yellow! Nighttime be damned! Sure it’s a little ostentatious, but I can almost guarantee that no one will mistake your bag for theirs at a baggage claim. It has a breathable shoulder harness, a waist belt and on the 70L and up models a harness that acts as a load-adjuster and grip if you’re just lugging it around. The face that it’s vinyl also means it’s not going to absorb your sweat all day while you schlep it around looking for the Hofbräuhaus. Should you need to check it on the plane, boat, etc. the harnesses come off and you’re left with a seamless, secure and water-tight bag.

John’s advice made a convert out of me so I picked one up for my upcoming trip to the Czech Republic (9 days). Packing my 35mm digital SLR, a few lenses, my clothes, shoes, books and toiletries, I know I’m going to have just enough space for my girlfriend’s things as well – and I bought the 35L. It’s also perfect carry-on size, so I won’t be waiting in any long lines once I hit the tarmac in Prague. I also won’t be rethinking the price. At $70 for a 35L, $80 for a 70L and $90 for a 115L bag, you’re still looking at one third to one quarter of what a full-fledged backpack can cost. My advice is to save the money on the pack, spend it on travel clothes (hence my two shirts for 9 days) and carry less overall.

As a caveat, it’s not a trekking bag and shouldn’t be used if you’re knocking out the Camino de Santiago or the Ho Chi Minh, but if you’re hostel hopping, island floating or just traveling around for only a few miles at a time, these bags are worth checking out.

Keep an eye out for my Prague recap in early September; I’ll let you know how the bag goes.

Life in a Round Boat

My first guest contributor is my colleague and friend from EMS, John Davison.

In the southern tip of India, in a land called Kerala, a vast network of waterways flows through the richest farmland on earth. Every year for millennia two monsoons have come to this very fortunate place, not just one as in most tropical lands. This bountiful rainfall has enabled the backwaters of Kerala to produce two robust annual harvests. This unimaginable fertility was legendary eons before the Romans traveled long and hard to trade with this verdant place. All this bounty is taken to the wanting outside world by boat and barge for there are no roads here. There never have been. In every way, water has always set the pace of life here. It was in this grand rural Venice that I was witness to yet another lesson from mother India. One that again would make apparent to me another time, another place, another way far different from my own.


As is typical of someone whose assumptions are in the process of falling away, it took me a while to really see what was in front of me . . .

At sun rise pairs of men, women and children in shallow, round wicker vessels much like large bread baskets – float past the window of my boat in silence. Even though they were just a few feet away, I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t happened to look up from my notebook. They made no sound. Slowly they drifted by, as they gently pulled up fine, delicate fishing nets that had been laying beneath my boat the entire night, trapping a few, flat fish that happened to swim by in the darkness. The fishermen had no paddles, oars and certainly not a motor of any sort. There was complete calm as they slowly drifted by and spun around and around on the surface of the water. The warm, still silence was complete.


At first it all seemed so directionless and unguided, spinning and turning any which way in powerless circular boats that had no front or back, no left or right. But when I watched them, really watched them, I could see that they used the current, the breeze and the slow pull of the nets to guide them along. At any moment they may face east, west, north or south, but the direction they were facing ultimately didn’t matter. They were moving. They were collecting fish. They were together. And during all the slow spinning and turning no words were spoken between them. The experience of generations united them with exceptional skill. Why speak? What needed to be said? Confidence in themselves and each other was profound and absolute. As was their knowledge that these prolific backwaters would certainly give them what they needed and could only take them to where they were going. Once you trust yourself, your friends, your place why struggle to always face forward – the auspicious path just may lay in some other direction.