To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Back from Belise, with lots to say

Belize was terrific. One of my sisters wondered out loud why anyone would ever want to go to such a hot, humid place, ever, but I loved it. I love being in a place where houses don't need windows, where birdsong pours into your bedroom when it's time to arise, and where you know exactly what to wear for the day because the temperature/humidity in your bedroom is exactly the same as it is outdoors. Also, because it's warm in winter and I can go outside, hike, and sketch any time I want to!
That's me, emerging from a tomb in a Mayan ruin. Only a little sweaty.

Since the last blog was about packing, first I need to put closure on how things I packed and took with me worked, so you people who are interested in the packing and use of the packed items won't have to wade through my blog to get to the details:

Tripbook: I make tripbooks containing all my important paperwork to use when I travel. This tripbook contains:

1. pertinent pages from a purchased and downloaded Lonely Planet book on Belize, printed out on my office computer.
2. printed copies of online confirmations and reservations I made.
3. copy of my round-trip airline itinerary
4. internet gleanings about sights and sites to see in Belize
5. TripAdvisor reviews about lodgings I had reservations at, so I could make sure I did or avoided doing things they mentioned
6. general advice on traveling in Belize
7. directions on how to get to my lodgings from the airport and point-to-point in the country, including taxi and bus information and advice.
I took the loose pages to a printshop where they punched and rolled a plastic spiral onto them for $1.80.
Tripbooks keep all your papers in order and are an invaluable travel aid. I referred to it regularly. It tucked nicely into the side of my fanny pack, alongside my re-built spiral-bound bird guide (discussed in the previous blog).

Travel Gear: I was able to tuck my fleece blankie (which came in VERY handy at night in the mountains of Belize, by the way) into my pack, but I wanted the neck pillow to be more available while I was traveling. Two carabiners (the metal D-shaped things attached to the corners of the pillow in the photo) made it easy to clip the pillow to my pack or fanny pack when I wasn't using it. You can find carabiners in camping goods stores or Walmart. They are useful for things around the house, as well, being practically indestructible.

Pills: When you're traveling, you need to keep any pills you take handy, and I was using the plastic box shown at right. The little sliders pull out so you can dump the pills into your hand, but it only holds a 14-day supply for me (I take quite a few vitamins). So for the pills I couldn't cram into the box I used a long skinny plastic bag, put in a day's supply of pills, partitioned it off with a rubber band, put in the next day's supply, etc. (see photo).

As it turned out, the plastic bag was a far better solution in the 100% humidity of Belize. The pills in the box, which isn't airtight, got moist and were almost impossible to get out (they stuck to the sliders!). They may also have become degraded from the moisture. The pills in the bag stayed dry and easy to extricate. Next time I'll just use a plastic bag.

Things I Carried Around On My Person in Belize: In addition to the camera, I carried a sun hat, which tended to pull at my throat when it wasn't on my head. Half-way through the trip I discovered the tiny clip on the strap that let me clip it to my shirt so the string wouldn't chafe my throat. This hat shades the neck and is extremely light-weight at 2½ ounces.

I never went out without my binoculars, smallish ones, but decent quality. I think, though, that I need to replace them with waterproof ones if I plan to do more travel in the tropics. I really worried about them getting moldy!

And I never wandered out onto the beach or into the jungle without my sketching kit, shown here at right. It contains my sketchbook, binoculars, eyeglasses, ballpoint pen for sketching, and watercolor pencils (sometimes). It also has a tiny bottle of pain relievers, an energy bar, a pencil sharpener, and clipped via carabiner to the zipper tab, my sitting pad which I cut from a ½" foam camping pad.
At left is the sitting pad opened out on a hard rock. Sometimes I don't even disconnect it from the sketching kit ~ I just doff the kit onto the ground beside me, spread out the pad and sit. The attached strip of white ribbon with red polkadots helps me find it if I walk off without it (don't laugh ~ it happens!).

Camera: I had been saving for some time to replace my old camera gear, which weighed slightly over a pound. When you are tired or have a headache, this is difficult to carry. I was finally able to afford a little point-and-shoot the size of a deck of cards, which comes with a dedicated battery and charger. I ordered two extra batteries so I could always have a charged one in my camera bag and one in the charger back at my lodging.

In the photo above is all my camera stuff, and a nylon "id packet" I got once at a convention. It is about 5"x6" and hangs from a nylon cord. It has a large pocket which the camera fits into, a zipper pocket that holds a battery and photo card, and a place to slip in a business card in case you lose it. Fully packed with the camera, an extra battery and an extra photo card, it weighs only seven ounces. The photo at right shows the case packed, with the charger beside it. At seven ounces, I sometimes don't even remember I'm carrying it, and have to pat myself down to locate it. I'm wearing it in the opening photo. The business card is essential ~ I lost my camera bag in Kauai last year, and it arrived in the mail a month later from some kindly fellow who picked it up in a parking lot!

Dry-bag: I planned to do an inner tube trip on the Macal River, so I took along a dry-bag, available in a camping goods store (or Walmart) to put my camera into between photos. I could have used a slightly bigger one and put in my sketchbook, too, but I seriously didn't want to get that sketchbook wet. The camera can be replaced ~ the sketchbook can't!
The other essential part of this set-up was the 4' length of nylon cord I always carry along. One end tied to the dry-bag, the other end was tied around the innertube. I was really glad for this when I went over a riffle in the river and it fell overboard. It bobbed along beside me until I could snatch it up again. If you fold the dry-bag over the wrong direction, it will leak, but I experimented beforehand and had no problems. In retrospect, I think a large dry-bag might be nice for keeping clothes dry in a humid climate. Hmmmmm.....

So that's the report on gear. I've beebled on so long that I'm going to have to hold off on the trip details until tomorrow.

I sent out a letter to my family and selected friends when I returned, briefly outlining my trip and the high points. I told them I was going to just put that letter up with some nice photos on my blog, but when I started looking through the photos I found so much I wanted to share that I simply can't limit myself.

Tune in tomorrow or so for the next installation. If you leave your email moniker in the little box in the right column of this page, you'll be notified when I blog and you can come read it. Those are my toes, by the way, pointing to the Ak'Bol Yoga platform on Ambergris Caye, Belize, my first stop in Belize.

So, 'til next time...


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Oh goodie, can't wait to hear more my traveling friend! Lucky you!

jeanette, mistress of longears said...

Fantastic tips - I didn't know there was such a thing as a "dry bag"! Can't wait to see more of your trip!

Irene said...

Okay, ladies, hang onto your hats ~ I'm on a roll!

Jeanette, this was the smallest drybag in a set of three for under $10. They are lightweight nylon with a rubberized lip which you fold over several times then latch. I always made sure to include lots of air with my camera so it would float!

Mary McAndrew said...

Irene it's so great to read about another one of your trips! I can't wait, I love learning little tips from you and also seeing how similar we are with many things! I always try to keep everything I carry as super lightweight as possible to avoid my awful back and neck pain.

Glad you're back safe and sound!

Irene said...

You twigged to the fact that keeping things light weight is of paramount importance to me! If you are in pain, you don't enjoy your experience, period. That's why, too, I don't try the arduous hikes or tours ~ I'd be so concerned with keeping up with others and not killing myself with the effort that I wouldn't enjoy the trip. Sounds like you may be of the same frame of mind, Mary!

Rachel Clark said...

Thank you Irene for such a clear, inspiring and structured blog. I will a fan who will soon be in a similar situation in Belize teaching art with an Eco-Wellness Tour. I really appreciate your work.

Thanks again,

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