The clouds have passed, the rain is gone, and now it’s time to travel on. I have lived the last 10 years of my life in a town called Boulder, where the vast expanse of rolling plains and prairie land meet the Continental Divide. I came here as but just a boy of 18 years, looking for change, growth…and well, honestly – beautiful women (ok, college too). I believe I have found all three as well as a number of incredible and profound relationships that have helped to shape the man that I am on the path to becoming. In the ten years of passing time I have explored only a handful of life’s unlimited offerings, challenges and lucky breaks… and I am very blessed to have had good friends and relationships by my side for the ride. It is time now to go off and test the waters of possibility, a vast ocean of it awaits me and I am about to jump in head first.
I am off, gone, uprooted. My things are packed, I have sold off a good deal of my belongings and placed the rest in storage. The first stop on my journey without a single hint of end, will begin in a country called Panama. Those are my plans in detail as I now know them. I will travel as long as is necessary, photographing, blogging, and offering my hard-working spirit to those who may need it along the way. This is a journey about connecting with people through stories, food, culture, and hard work. It is a time for me to once again reinvent myself and be who I want to be…which right now can only be one thing – free.
I have let go of the fears of giving up a very comfortable and predictable life, for one of uncertainty and mystery. A life that is the same day after day does not work for me anymore. Instead let this be an interesting life, an unpredictable one that challenges me to my full potential.
The Mr. Lentz that you have known on this blog through woodworking, leather, and jewelry – will still exist, but alas I have had to put those things on hold for the time being. On the journey, I will most likely encounter other artisans whom I hope to write about and photograph as well. This will help me keep that passion alive, until I can one day stop in a place long enough to create again.
For all of you who have been a part of my life in Boulder, thank you dearly for everything you have offered me. I will never forget all of the good times and love we have all shared, and will miss you all dearly.
Queue tear drop.
…Now that a tear drop has fallen, it is about time for a laugh, let’s take a look at what I am packing for my endless journey through Central and South America…and perhaps beyond.
Going into this challenge of packing for an unknown amount of time with unknown destinations beyond Panama, I tried to focus on carrying as little as possible. As you can see from the photo above, it would appear as though I still can’t do without quite a few things, and quite a few more I am taking just for pure pleasure.
Here’s the breakdown:
#47 is my trusty minimal 35L backpack. One main compartment and one small zippered top compartment. It’s light, has small waist straps, and will fit in the carry-on section of a plane.
1. Packing cubes, used to compile similar items so that your bag isn’t a floating mess of randomness. This is very important with a one compartment bag like mine.
2. A compression sack normally used to squeeze a sleeping bag down to a manageable level. Here, I am storing all of my clothing, about a weeks worth: 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of lightweight underwear, 1 pair of boardshorts that will double as shorts, 1 pair of zippoff pants (lame looking, but hey – light as hell and they double as shorts), one pair of REI brand lightweight thin pants (I opted for these in place of jeans. There is no place for jeans in the tropics.) One regular cotton t-shirt for when I want to look like a normal person, one super breathable lightweight shirt, one breezy collared, pearl button short sleeve shirt, one very breezy long sleeved button up shirt (for the ladies), and finally one zippered hoodie. It is simply amazing how much can fit in that compression sack, though it must weigh in around 5 pounds.
3. Decent Columbia rain jacket.
4. Expandable full-size golf umbrella. No, not for the rain, but for the sun. You see when you are as fair skinned as I am with a propensity to avoid the sun at all costs…this extra 1.5 pounds will allow me to go on casual 2 mile walks in the heat of the day to get to some remote stretch of beach. Well worth it for the time being.
5. Stainless steel travel coffee press. Ok, ok, I know – what the hell? Before you begin your rants, let me explain a little fact about our friendly Latin American countries to the South. They make some of the best coffee in the world…but they don’t serve it in their own restaurants! In the majority of places you will be served hot water and a small container of Nescafe, yes I said that right – N.E.S.C.A.F.E. You could be all of three miles away from one of the top producers of coffee in all of Central America, yet the product being sold is worth so much that they will not waste a bean on the local market and instead ship it all away to other coffee whore countries. With this travel mug and occasional trips to the markets, I will be able to pick out local bags of coffee and make my own sumptuous cup whenever I want, then I might walk on down to the beach and enjoy it while checking out the surf. 2 extra pounds you say? Bah! Worth it!
6. Hand made Mr. Lentz Antiqued Leather belt from the Fugitive series.
7. Small bag of toiletries: travel toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, nail clippers (in the tropics – don’t use your teeth…lots of interesting sicknesses you can get), and hair gel which may get tossed.
8. Grab bag of advil, antacids, exlax, and a few anti-diarrhea pills.
9. Travel toilet paper, kleenex and purel hand sanitizer that doubles as disinfectant for wounds.
10. Bandaids, small and large.
11. Stuff sack of medications. I am taking Malarone down because I am a naive white person, and some levaquin for your random bouts of stomach sicknesses, and cyclobenzaprine which is a muscle relaxant that can also double as a sleep aid for 12 hour bus rides.
12. Sun hat made for surfing, with a flap that can come down to cover the neck.
13. Long sleeve rash guard to protect me from the sun while in the water.
14. Coolibar shapeable rim hat. Nothing like bringing some country down to the southern latitudes. I hate those typical traveler’s floppy hats, seriously they make me look goofy in the city – so I gave them up long ago and made some room for this awesome sun protector instead.
15. Silk bed cover. I have had this forever, and it has rarely been handy, but I sure was glad I had one when I needed it.
16. Eagle Creek packable daypack. This minimal and super light backpack will stuff itself into its own small compartment, and it’s waterproof.
17. Packable personal towel. At only a foot long this little guy is made of super absorbent material, and easy to pack.
18. Surf lock and cable. This device was created to help deter surfboard theft. A small metal clip will attach to the metal bar on your board where your leash attaches to. I switched out the key lock with a combo travel lock. I am looking forward to field testing it, though I always have had suspicions about the cable thickness and how easy it might be to clip it with pliers.
19. Mask and snorkel. In the tropics, reefs everywhere, warm ocean water…a must have item.
20. Swim goggles. Super small and lightweight sometimes I prefer these to the bulk of a mask and snorkel while swimming.
21. Nalgene BPA free water bottle. It is still made of plastic though and I am pretty sure 5 years from now some study will come out with yet another harmful chemical that leeches out of them.
22. Reef shoes. I have read that a lot of the surf breaks in Panama are sharp rocky reefs.
23. Reef sandals with the unfortunate addition of a bottle cap opener on the bottom. Someone tell these people that nobody wants to open their beer with the side of a sandal that potentially stepped in dog crap last Wednesday.
24. Shoes…I wish we all could wear sandals for life and with global warming, we just may be able to very soon – but for now I must carry this extra weight around with me for the few times I need to enter a bank. (Don’t try wearing sandals, shorts, or a ratty t-shirt into a Latin American bank, pure disrespect to everyone there (instead, imagine you are trapped in the 1940’s and wear appropriate attire).
25. Sunglasses and hard-case.
26. Not another money belt, but an even better idea: a money pouch that has a small loop for your belt to fit through, then it flips right into your pants hanging down a few inches from your waist. Position it where you like. Usually about 5 days into any trip I say F@#% it and forget about using the stupid sweat soaked money belt. If you are in a big city or otherwise unsafe area, it might be a good idea, though so is locking it in a locker in your hostel.
27. Hard zipper case containing a Samsung tablet computer and misc. micro sd cards to store photos. This is how I will be downloading and editing images on the journey as well as writing for the blog. By using micro sd cards I can backup my photos and drop the little chip into an envelope to be mailed back home and stored.
28. Another small stuff sack to help organize the electronics.
29. Lowe Pro camera case and Canon 5D with 50mm 1.4 lens. This case is just barely big enough to fit the camera, perfect for keeping it in my backpack or daypack and still have room for more items.
30. 2 camera batteries and one charger.
31. Lens cleaning kit. This may be overkill, but if I am going to spend a lot of time near the ocean – I will need something to wipe off the salty air residue that is bound to build up.
32. Universal outlet adapter.
33. A massive supply of earplugs and a very light eye mask. Life in hostels can get a bit noisy and ever since living on the plains I have gotten used to near pitch silence at night…guess I am going to have to adapt.
34. Trash bag. This will be handy in so many ways – backpack rain cover, impromptu poncho, wet clothing storage, pack cover while forging large rivers…
35. 10 feet of string. About 20 years ago I was a boyscout, don’t hold it against me. I already thought of the first use: sunglasses croakie.
36. Business cards. A quick way to give people my contact info to keep in touch or check out the blog, plus each card has different images of my leather and wood work so I can explain to people what I do.
38. Iodine tablets in case I am in a situation where I can’t buy water and I am about to die of thirst. This happens more than you might think, especially around 10 p.m. on a Sunday night when you just licked the last drop out of your water bottle and the only place open will take you on a 8 mile journey through unmarked jungle trails. Also included are a few yards of duct tape wrapped around a tiny pencil. Want to quickly make your daypack look unenviable? Splash a bit of water on it, throw it on the ground and embed some quality dirt into its pores, then slap one or two pieces of duct tape on the back and tear the edges of the tape. Might want to use one piece to cover up that Patagonia logo as well.
39. Three very small pocket notebooks and three pens. If I could only take one thing on a trip, this would be it. Handy in more ways than I can explain.
40. Waterproof watch. I hate watches and stopped wearing them about 8 years ago when I realized that keeping track of every second of the day only adds to the apprehension that you are supposed to be somewhere or be doing something at any given time. Unfortunately this is exactly what it is useful for when you need to catch a bus, plane, or the last taxi back into town.
41. Hacky Sack. A quick way to make friends when there’s just nothing else to do. Widely regarded as a hippie sport, those of you that lack hand-eye coordination need not hate.
42. A deck of cards. I bet almost every single backpacker is carrying one, oh well me too.
43. A bottle of 30% deet and another of 50 SPF sunblock.
44. Small caribeaner. When you are traveling on a bus and want to doze off, use one of these to attach your bag to the seat, thus thwarting a quick snatch from your neighbor.
45. Crappy wallet with old library card and random business cards. I will be using this to hold my daily amount of cash. If I get mugged – they can have it and the $30 within.
46. PacSafe portable safe and combo lock. A lot of places in Latin America do not provide safes or lockers to store your goods in. I chose this version of PacSafe’s line to store just the most valuable items in my pack, then I can stuff it down into the pack, close everything up and lock the wire around a bed frame. I also have the PacSafe version that provides a wire mesh around your whole bag, but that is too easy to snip since the wires are exposed, plus it makes it very obvious you are locking up something interesting.
Now that I am looking at this list…I definitely overpacked. I am sure there will be things I ditch and other things I acquire along the way. Part of the idea of traveling light involves only packing for a few days, and essentially buying a lot of the very necessary items when you are on your trip. I went through Venezuela for three weeks with everything needed packed into a small school daypack. It was awesome, but of course I wasn’t as into photography then, and I didn’t pack specifically for certain activities like surfing.
Throughout my journey I will be updating a travel map to track my progress in the journey. Here is a glimpse below, starting in my hometown…and apparently at The Rifle Club!
So, this is it. Goodbye Boulder, friends and loves. I am off into the the unknown.