Cool Tools

13) Use Roller Bags

This new generation of rolling carry-ons and rolling suitcases is the berries. What a back-saver. Find the lightest, most durable stuff you can find. I like the ThinkPad Vertical Roller Case (model #40Y7384) but that’s probably just because I’m a Thinkpad guy. Still, they’ve thought of everything on this briefcase: gel padding, vertical “upright” design, telescoping single handle, has a retractable document holder built into the top (perfect for tickets, passport, directions), removable water bottle holder, removable cell phone holder, ultra-nice ID tag holder, business card storage, fits in all overhead luggage bins (including the thin Canadair “jump jet” bins), … I mean… they even give you a retractable *blue* LED flashlight inside! Yes it’s $132. I know. Too much. But mine has lasted for 20 years I think. Ok… maybe not quite that long. :-) Keep the rolling suitcase to a manageable size (not one of those rolling *trunks*!) and you can easily glide them both behind you, one in each hand.

14) Bring a Filtered Water Bottle

I’ve been carrying the Bota “Outback” for some time now…

But pick your favorite. I like this one because it has the built-in lexan guard over the top, so you don’t have to suck on a dirty “straw”. Because you can “squeeze” water out, you can also use the Outback to filter a glass of water to drink the “real way.” It filters 99.9% of the Giardia Lamblia and Cryptosporidium cysts — without the iodine that’s not so good for you. It’s also easier to squeeze so you get a slightly faster flow rate than most bottles. Either way, bring along *something*. I’m here in Spain as I write this. Sure the water is clean in most of Spain. But today I’ve spent most of our day in a 700-year-old community. There’s no way I can be sure that all these pipes are new. Having the filter, I can pretty much be assured of pure water, any time I want it. Besides, it’s great to have a water bottle anyway, and if you’ve got to carry one, why not carry a filtered one! :-)

15) Carry a Thin Notebook

Write everything down. Get in the habit of making good notes. The notebook has to be thin enough to stick in your shirt pocket or hip pocket, so you always have it with you. Do a section for finances. Write down every expense, make note of every currency exchange, including the commission and the exchange rate. Do another section for language learning. Jot down words you want to learn to say, words you can’t quite understand, whole text phrases you want to memorize, etc. Depending on the stage of your work, you might want other sections for interviews & cultural lessons, another for prayer requests & praises & devotional thoughts, another section for contacts & addresses & people with whom you’d like to follow up.

17) Try a Photographer’s Vest

I realize this might or might not be your style. But at least consider it. Get breathable cotton, with 15 or more pockets. It becomes a walking, incognito extra carry-on. On one occasion recently, a cultural “insider” had said he could only take 2 people with him into a Muslim area. I volunteered to stay back and let two others go, but he insisted that I could too, in addition to the other 2 visitors, because he said, as he threw a glance at my vest, “He’ll look like a professional journalist anyway.” My camera fits in one pocket, while in others, I can insert a lightweight mini-tripod, a small flashlight, hand sanitizer, passport (in a protected, waterproof pocket), some artificial tears, and everything else you like to carry along. You should be able to find these online for $50, and in a large camera specialty store for $70. Obviously, the advantage of the latter is that you can try them on. Stick to khaki. The black vests seem a bit too paramilitary for my tastes.

18) Stay Healthy but Don’t Become O.C.

I always tell my kids, “If you want Ferrari performance, you better power up your engine with high octane fuel.” How do you power up your own personal engine? You decide, but I’ll tell you what works for me. No matter where I am in the world, I make sure I have breakfast food with me. I never miss. Maybe it’s a granola bar from home and a banana from the local market. Or maybe it’s a bowl of some kind of bran cereal with “a box of milk.” Either way, I think it’s the most important meal of the day. If I miss breakfast, however, I roll with the flow and just pick up when I can. No worries. In general, when traveling, I like to avoid any food that hasn’t been peeled, washed in a safe way, and/or cooked. That means most leafy salads are off-limits for me. They just trap too many impurities in the crevices of all those leaves. In fact, I stay away from any foods with crevices. I also avoid sauces and dressings that might have picked up impurities from setting out too long. I carry a very small bottle of hand sanitizer with me to “wash up” before handling any foods with my hands or before I touch my eyes. I make sure I know how much sleep I need — then I get it as best I can. Know yourself and your limitations, then stick to them. You’ll do no good for anyone else in the world if you get amoebic dysentery. At the same time, I try not to become obsessive-compulsive (O.C.) about the whole thing. After all, we are in God’s service, we are in the work of making disciples of all nations, so he’s promised he’ll be *with* us. What safer place on earth can one imagine? :-)

19) Find a Camera/Kit

Find a camera you can carry, then *use* it. Making the choice — now that’s the tricky part. For example, I was hauled into the back of a swat truck once in Uruguay because, unbeknownst to me, policemen were making a drug bust in the market I was photographing. I think they concluded I was working for some magazine or something because the camera I was using had one of those long telephoto lenses on the front. It was too high profile. My suggestion is – carry a camera that’s comfortable and practical for you, but beware of equipment that raises your profile unnecessarily. Right now, I’m using a Canon PowerShot G7. It’s one of those unique cameras that has essentially all the settings of a single-lense reflex, without the look of one; in fact, it carries reasonably well in my jacket or vest pocket, completely out of sight. But it’s probably too much camera if you’re not the type to study the owner’s manual. Again, the secret is to find something that works well. Read reviews online. When you notice that a friend or co-worker is producing great results, ask her what she uses, then see if that would work for you. And once you find something you like, stick with it — and *use* it. That means you’ll probably a little tripod to stick in your backpack or vest pocket. It’s the only way you’ll get shots with *you* in them (using the self-timer). My carry tripod is so light, I barely know it’s in one of my right vest pockets. It’s probably just 6″ long, but it’s generally all I need to capture a shot of a luncheon meeting or a time-exposure of a church building at night. I sacrifice a bit by carrying a rather powerful external flash. Those built-in on-board flashes are great if you’re only taking snapshots up to 11′ away. To capture all those new believers at 10pm, you’ll need something stronger. Get a flash attachment with a head that you can pivot upwards to “bounce” the flash off the ceiling so it illuminates the entire room. That’s the way to get a really pleasing picture at night without all the glare in your subject’s eyes.

20) Pack Modularly

When I was a scout as a 7th grader, they taught us to pack “a sack of sacks.” Today, that advice still applies — for missionaries and short-term missions travelers too. This is a great use for those plastic grocery bags from your neighborhood grocery. You can either pack socks all in one sack, underwear in another, shirts in another, etc., or pack by day, i.e., all the changes of clothing you need for Monday, another bag for Tuesday, etc. Double-bag the electronics gear (in a clear bag if you can), soccer cleats in another, soccer ball in another, shin guards & air pump in another, a couple of “kits” or soccer outfits in another, you get the idea. Some say to pack your underwear on top, but I figure the terrorists have all heard that advice by now anyway, so forget it. :-) Send as many liquids as possible through your checked bag. For those liquids you have to carry on, don’t forget to have them ready in a clear zip-lock bag, and send them through the x-ray machine separately.

21) Passive Noise-reducing Earphones

These will do you double-duty. Not only can you use them with your mp3 player or laptop, but also, most airlines have switched to the same “stereo mini-plug” size for their in-air entertainment and movies sound tracks. So rather than use their cheapies, you can reduce the ambient jet noise (and crying kids, bless their hearts :-) ) by at least 10 dB, while getting better fidelity at the same time.

22) Buy Travel Interruption Insurance

The more complicated your itinerary, the more likely it is that there will be some kind of hiccup. You can buy travel interruption insurance from a number of sources, among which is…

which makes a gift to Brigada for every policy you buy there. From my own searches, I’ve never found travel insurance for less money, either… and I’ve had to collect from them more than once and they’ve paid promptly, even if all I had were my cancelled tickets and a travel log. Regardless of where you purchase it, it’s becoming more and more necessary these days. Security lines are longer, check-ins are more complicated, and connections are more harried. So do yourself a favor. It’s a small price to pay for a great reimbursement plan. Basically, no matter what you have to do, just make sure you keep your receipts and everything will be covered. Travel interruption insurance has now become standard operating procedure for me.

24) Carry an 8′ Brown Extension Cord

File the widened ‘polarization tip’ off the one prong of the plug so it’ll plug into the 220 V. British (round prong) tip adaptor ok. Use the brown extension cord not only to bring the electric closer to you (in rooms that only have 1 plug for the whole room), but also to multiply the plug so you can charge your a) laptop, b) PDA, c) digital camera all from the same cord. Many rooms will have only one plug. You won’t want to have to decide which unit to charge.

26) Take [Thin] Extra Reading (Including Bible)

It might be easy to forget in this day & age, seeing as how many of us take our laptops. But when those jets are taking off and landing, it helps to have a couple of copies of your favorite magazine for the times that they won’t let us fire up our laptops. Either way, we need access to a thin Bible or its equivalent for daily quiet time and teaching times anyway.

27) External Hard Drive

Finally, pick up an external hard drive to take along for daily backups. I like to buy a 80-100 gig laptop-size hard drive, then pick up a USB-powered travel case. There are zillions of choices. I like the one offered by

Search for product HD-201U2. New Egg has suitable hard drives too. Something like their “100GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache ATA-6 Notebook Hard Drive” for $109. $19 for the enclosure + $109 for the drive gives you $128 traveling 100 gig backup system, all in a portable format that’s so small and light, you’ll barely notice it in your checked bag. If your hard drive ever fails (like mine did while traveling overseas two years ago), you’ll be glad you’ve backed up.

28) Give Back Something to Brigada

Has this “Cool Tools for Travel” list been helpful? We hope so. If so, why not consider giving something back to Brigada, to enable us to keep helping others. Help us send this edition and other future editions to 10,000 people in dozens of countries around the world. Just click one of the pushbuttons at the right-hand top of the home page… or use the PayPal link on the upper left if you prefer. Either way, you can also click on the “Donate” page in the link at the top of the webpage
Again, you can choose to use PayPal or any major credit card (to do the latter, when it asks for your PayPal account, just erase the user name and password, then, at the bottom of the page, where it says “Use any major credit card”, just click there and fill it out like a normal form at any other payment web form. On the other hand, if you want to use PayPal, just fill in the info for your account. Or if you prefer, just send an old-fashioned check payable to Team Expansion to: Team Expansion (Brigada), 13711 Willow Reed Dr., Louisville, KY 40299. (Team Expansion is a 501(c)3 incorporation so for USA citizens, your checks made out to Team Expansion are tax-deductible.) As always, be sure to let us know if you’d like us to promote any particular service or ministry, or if you’d prefer your gift be anonymous. And thank you in advance for helping.

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