Monday, September 10, 2007

Logbook: Rested, Recharged, Resupplied, Ready

Restedrechargedresuppliedready1I spent Sunday morning online, finalizing my logistics for moving on (which I will explain below) and doing a lot of website maintenance and development. By early afternoon I was ready to get out for a while, so I walked about a half-mile to Newcastle's "MetroCentre" which claims to be the biggest shopping mall in Europe. The MetroCentre is indeed huge and while I don't think it is physically as large as "The Mall of America" that I visited in Minneapolis, it seems larger in some ways because of how it is laid out: a sprawling, disorienting maze of shopping arcades, courtyards and malls-within-malls. What made it most disorienting is that there are multiple locations for many of the shops, so you can't use them as landmarks. In other words, you can walk past a certain cell phone store and think, "Okay, I'll use that to remember where I've been" only to find an identical cell phone store -- same company, size, look and layout -- two courtyards away. As a result, your landmark plan goes awry and you find yourself feeling like you are either lost or going in circles. Anyway, since my purpose for going to the mall was to buy some replacement socks and underwear I wandered around until I found an appropriate store.

I don't know about you, but I don't honestly remember "wearing out" much stuff in my "former life." Mostly I remember shopping once in a while to "get new clothes" whether I really "needed" them or not. It was more of an exercise in wardrobe "rotation" than "replacement" when I felt like my wardrobe was "stale" or I "needed" something in particular and got other stuff while I was at it. It's very different on The Voyage because I don't have room to store excess clothing, and I certainly don't want to carry more than I need. Plus, when you wear the same two weeks worth of clothes, fortnight after fortnight, it really does "wear out" and all the laundry episodes I have described to you over the past 400 days take their toll as well. So, I am enjoying the experience of truly wearing things out and replacing them. If you haven't had this experience in a while, I recommend you give it a try. The feeling of satisfaction you can get from going shopping for only a five-pack of white socks and a three-pack of briefs is really quite astonishing.

Restedrechargedresuppliedready2With that "hunting and gathering" experience behind me, I made my way out of the mall -- actually finding my way back to the door I entered! -- and returned to my room where I integrated the replacements into my clothing line-up. In the process, I realized I had a few "out-of-season" items that I won't need for quite a while and although they still had a little life left in them they weren't worth carrying until they'd be useful again. So, like I did just about a year ago in Atlanta, I put together a small bag of my "used" clothing to go to charity. As a result of this whole process, I actually have a little less "stuff" than I did when I started The Voyage! In just over a year I have completely worn out -- and replaced -- five pairs of socks, four t-shirts, three briefs, two pants and a pair of shoes plus "downsized" three long-sleeve t-shirts, two short pants and a bathing suit. Imagine if you can what it is like to know -- and be able to itemize -- every article of clothing you own!

Yesterday I spent a lot more time online, catching up with friends around the world on Skype and by email. After accumulating a large number of messages in my in-boxes, it feels good to have replied to just about all of them and have a clean slate going forward. In the afternoon I went in search of a charity box to drop off my small bag of stuff and found one at a nearby super-store. The picture is a little goofy, I know, but I think it tells the story that even when you have very little stuff, you still have enough to share. (Perhaps akin to the story of "the loaves and fishes" I like to think of it as the story of "the loafers and britches." -- Sorry, Mom!) As long as I was at the super-store I decided to go in for one last shopping-in-English experience and had a blissful reminder of my first night in the UK over two months ago when I was just giddy at being able to read labels for a change. In so doing, I can report that my first and last experiences in the UK have been enjoyable times spent wandering around in super-stores. Not many folks can -- or would -- report that, I am reasonably sure!

Now I can tell you "what's next." In a couple of hours I will get a cab to Newcastle's Central Station where I will catch a shuttle bus to the international ferry station. There I will board a DFDS ferry for the overnight sailing to Amsterdam where I will spend a few days scouting out that famous city. Next week, my good friend Greg -- you know him from "The Hi-Line Road Trip" and as "Pumito" from "Los Viajeros" -- will be arriving for about a week of co-exploration in the area. Sometime around the end of the month I expect to start heading east again, through northern Germany and up into Denmark -- with a possible hop up into Norway and Sweden -- before almost certainly turning south into Poland sometime in October. That's all I know about the next month or so, and it's only a wild guess that after that I would continue south through Austria and make my way somehow to the Black Sea, the Aegean or the Mediterranean by the time winter kicks in.

It has been an excellent two-plus months of exploration in the UK and I have really enjoyed it. I have gotten to know this country much better, especially the people. I am now rested, recharged, resupplied and ready to move on with the next phase of The Voyage of Macgellan!

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