Shopping, Travel

Super Travel Bag Review Post

I’ve read far too many superlative sponsored blogger/travel mag posts for the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L travel backpack & the CabinZero ultra light cabin bag. I thought I’d add my own ‘non-travel blogger’ commentary since I don’t quite agree with review titles such as  ‘Is the Allpa the ultimate backpack for adventuring travelers?’ and  ‘A Carry on traveller’s dream bag by CabinZero.’  Once I got started, I realized that I have bought a LOT of bags since May. Might as well review them all!

I’ll be covering the following bags, with the most time spent on Cotopaxi & CabinZero, and maybe a few paragraphs each on the others:

  • Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Backpack
  • Cotopaxi Batac 16L Packable Daypack
  • OnePlus Travel Backpack
  • LeSportsac Large Weekender Classic
  • Marc Jacobs Nomad Crossbody
  • Banana Republic Ashbury Crossbody
  • CabinZero Classic 36L Ultra Light Cabin Bag

Friends of mine know that I have a weak spot for travel. And bags. So.. travel bags… well I’m helpless. I lust after backpacks, duffels and suitcases of all types. It doesn’t matter how impractical or expensive they may be, I get a little dreamy imagining using the bag on my meager 15 days of PTO/year.

In April I bought Ryan a Tortuga Air travel backpack  for his birthday (by request). It’s a discontinued model from a few years back, but it was available on Amazon at the time.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Backpack

Perhaps because I was googling about for more info on the Tortuga Air, I received a Facebook ad for the crowdfunding campaign for the Cotopaxi Allpa travel backpack. 

I’m wary of crowdfunding campaigns, mostly because it takes forever to get your stuff. The Allpa didn’t seem totally right for me (looked too unstructured, needed more pockets), but I went ahead and bought it anyways since I was curious. Well, I’ve taken it on two trips now (New Jersey in July, and I just got back from Morocco), so I think I’ve used it enough to give a thoughtful opinion on the pack.

Pros

There are actually a lot of pros. When I received the bag, I was impressed with how well made and sturdy the bag was. Usually my first test of a backpack is to check the zippers. The zippers were huge, which was a plus for me.

Other nice features included 4 padded handles on each side of the bag, for easy carrying. The diagonal webbing on each of the 4 corners of the front of the bag is strong enough to use to pull/carry the bag (um not that it’s supposed to be used that way… just sayin’). Most of the zippers are lockable, and they also have a theft proof webbing sewn across the openings, which is super simple in design, but will slow down any thieves on public transport.

There was a separate zippered compartment for laptops & iPads, which is kind of a must have for quick travel through airport security. There was also another zipper on the other side of the pack lengthwise, which allows you to quickly grab things from inside the main compartment without unzipping the whole clamshell.

Laptop compartment. The yellow pocket with the velcro strap is for iPads/Kindles

Other pros:

  • Ethically made
  • Not a super light bag, but a reasonable weight 3.7 lbs
  • Design looks less ‘backpacker-y’
  • Clamshell opening, like a suitcase (not necessarily a pro for me, but something a lot of people look for in a travel backpack)
  • Perfect size for airline carry on (even fits under the Vueling Airlines seats) – 20″ x 12″ x 8″, or 51 x 30 x 20 cm (well within the usual max carry on limit of 55 x 40 x 20)
  • Includes a rain cover
  • You can hide the straps and hip belt, making it easier to stuff into overhead bins or tight spaces.
  • For the quality of the bag, the price is right. Cotopaxi also recently sent me a recall notice for my bag, claiming that the TPU coating was incorrect. I’m about to send it back for a replacement, which is awesome. They seem like a really legit company.
  • Fits a ton!
Everything I packed in my Allpa for Morocco, including the green CabinZero bag, filled out about 80% of the space

On to the CONS

To be fair, most of my cons I saw coming.

Problem #1: STRUCTURE

Cotopaxi said that they created their pack to be sleek on the outside with no protruding straps or other features so that the bag wouldn’t get snagged on anything. The bag is also fairly formless so that you can stuff it to the max, and then cram the bag into all sorts of spaces. This is good for flexibility I guess, but it naturally leads to my biggest complaint: with no compression straps, this bag is super floppy. It needs more structure.

The easy access front top pocket

The interior of the bottom half of the clamshell includes straps to tie down your items, but it’s really the front of the pack that is the problem. The easily accessible pocket is on the top of the front clamshell (where you might keep your keys, wallet, passport, drink, etc), and it goes halfway down the front. It’s quite large – my brown leather bag pictured above fully packed could fit in this area. Unfortunately if you put a lot of stuff in the top pocket, you will need to pack things in the bottom of the front clamshell, otherwise, the top sags in and the weight distribution is terrible and uncomfortable. The bag really encourages you to pack it to the max, which is annoying. For most trips, I just don’t pack enough to warrant using this bag.

Another small con – the zippers are large and chunky (yay), but there is a noticeable space between them (boo). Not a huge problem if you use your raincover when it rains, but if you don’t have it on you, your bag could let water in.

From the side you can sort of see how the straps make the back panel of the bag lumpy. Also I threaded a compression strap through the back panel to tighten things up a little.

One bigger annoyance was that hiding the shoulder and hip straps was not totally smooth. It lead to a lumpy back panel.

Personal wish – I wish there were a built in water bottle holder! Cotopaxi sells an accessories kit that includes a water bottle holder that attaches to the outside of the bag, but I don’t really like the look of it. It’s been nearly 4 or 5 months since I bought the bag, I am still waiting for my accessories kit from Indiegogo, so no comment on how well the attachment actually works.

Big downside of the suitcase/clamshell design – It can be tricky to access items on the go. You really have to be strategic about where you place things, and make sure that you zip the internal zippers so that you can reach them when you have your hand stuffed in the middle of the two halves. In general this suitcase like design worked ok for me, but there were several times that I had to place my bag down on the floor and open the entire clamshell to find things/put things back. Awkward.

The biggest con of this bag for me is personal fit- this bag is not for short or skinny people. When I tried to use the hip belt, the back of the bag sagged and rode on my butt, which was incredibly uncomfortable. When I pulled the shoulder straps as tight as possible, I couldn’t use the hip belt. To keep them out of the way, I tried hiding them in the back panel, but it was lumpy and uncomfortable. The torso was just too long for me (I’m Five two with a 16″ torso).

I also had my friend Jill try the bag, and she was too skinny to use the hip belt on the very tightest setting! It seems to work okay for Ryan, which is no surprise, it was probably built for someone of a more average height/size.

Oh, another thing about the hip belt. The zipper (the blue line in the pic below) … I’m not sure what that pocket was for, since the opening was so tight. Maybe you could slip a key in there? A card? Certainly not a passport or a keychain, or even a chapstick. Seems like a waste. Making this pocket more 3 dimensional like the Tortuga Outbreaker would have been a more functional choice.

The tightest setting and no buneo
The right sized person for this bag apparently

After about two weeks of travel with this bag, I can say that if you’re smart about your packing, you can get around the problems I mentioned above. Don’t put super heavy stuff on the top front of the clamshell and don’t put lighter things on the bottom of the front clamshell. I bought a luggage strap off of Amazon and used it to compress the empty space. It’s not perfect, but it helps a bit. Know where you put your items so you don’t look like an idiot rummaging through your splayed open bag on the side of the street (ahem..).

My review sounds slightly negative, but I mean you can’t compromise on fit. I may sell this bag, we’ll see. In general this bag has way more pros than cons, and carries a ton of stuff gracefully.

Verdict: Buy if you’re not skinny or short

Cotopaxi Batac 16L

The Allpa was sold to me in a bundle with the Batac 16L, which they were marketing as their ‘stowable daypack.’ You can’t choose the color of your pack, the line is ‘del dia’, which means that the Cotopaxi sewers in the Phillipines have creative control. They use whatever fabric they like to make you a bright and crazy looking bag. I had been interested in getting an REI Flash pack, and this bag design seemed quite similar.

Quick take: I LOVE THIS PACK. It was totally unexpected. It is an obnoxiously ugly bag and doesn’t have as many pockets as I’d like, but geez I love it. It has double water bottle holders! The straps are super comfortable, despite being so thin. The ripstop fabric makes the bag light as air yet sturdy.  This bag can actually handle my beast of a work laptop, but it’s really  more suited for the beach and light hikes. It’s quite water resistant, handling a downpour in New Jersey easily. If I didn’t want to use a crossbody bag in Morocco, I would have taken this bag. The only con I can say about this bag is that the inside phone pocket is sewn in sideways, which doesn’t work for me. My damn phone just falls out.

Verdict: Buy

ONEPLUS TRAVEL BACKPACK

After our trip to NJ in July, Ryan read a review which is basically a love letter to the new OnePlus travel backpack. He ended up purchasing the bag in the grey, orange, and blue colorway. Once it arrived, he was immediately disappointed in the quality and comfort of the bag, so he decided not to use it all and gave it to me.

Let’s be clear, this bag is not the backpack from the heavens, as described by The Verge. However, it is a nice little work backpack. I’ve been using it since July, and it has so many pockets! I think they said 12 pockets. Twelve!!!

Cons: The bag material varies by color, and the grey’s fabric doesn’t feel great. The rectangular body of the bag is very stiff. There is lots of foam padding, which gives the bag a boxy shape that isn’t really compressible. The shoulder straps are not very comfortable either. Also the zippers have a hard time going around the corners, they get stuck quite often. The water bottle pockets on both sides lie flat, so when you put a bottle in, it eats into the interior space of the bag.

Basically this bag is like a more rigid version of the Timbuk2 Parkside backpack, which is one of my all time favorite work backpacks (also good for travel, as I took it to Myanmar). I’d suggest that you get that bag instead. It’s cheaper, lighter, and a more flexible bag.

Verdict: Skip it

LeSportsac Large Weekender

I was looking for a lighter replacement for my Kate Spade Saturday Weekender bag, which has gotten a bit gunky from ~5+ years of on and off use. LeSportsac duffels are pretty popular, and I used to give women carrying these side-eye because they’re pricey for what they are. But my aunts have given me LeSportsac cosmetic cases that are now going on 15+ years strong, so I took a chance and bought a used red and tan large classic weekender off of the resale site Poshmark for about 30 bucks.

This bag is so simple, but so good. It’s LIGHT, and has 4 pockets around the outside. There is no inside pocket on this version, but there is one on the more expensive ‘CR weekender’ model. The shoulder strap is actually very comfortable. Overall the bag is moderately waterproof.

Another major plus of buying one of these bags is the cute prints. LeSportsac actually has an archive of their prints, it goes pretty far back! The bag that I got is from 2005, and it includes a little key that locks the zippers shut. I don’t think that’s a feature of the modern bags. Recommended prints: Rifle Paper Company’s Rosa print & any of the Nintendo bags.

The only con that I can think of is that this bag is very expensive for what amounts to a nylon bag, but hey just buy one on eBay, and problem solved.

Verdict: The hype is real. Buy one used, they last forever.

Marc Jacobs Nomad crossbody

I considered using this bag as a travel day bag, but really I bought it for regular Fall use. This bag is from a few seasons ago, and I was lucky to score a brand new one off of the resale site Tradesy for less than half the original price. Buying purses secondhand is the best, since handbag lovers baby their bags, and are fickle, meaning they tend to sell off their bags when they are bored with them.

The bag comes in two sizes, I chose the larger. It holds more than I thought – a wallet, snacks, a can of coconut water, a book, phone, iPad, light cardigan, etc. If you have a DSLR, no it’s not going to hold that, but in general, perfect for a day of sightseeing. While this bag is a crossbody, I think it also would work pretty well in a variety of situations. It’s not too casual.

Cons: This bag is heavy. It could be too much for all day. Not sure if it’s my bag, but the hardware sometimes squeaks, which is grating. The saddle bag construction means you have to pull open the entire front flap to get at your stuff. Also, the zippered front flap itself is a pocket, but mostly useless and awkward. It’s a good hiding spot for flatter items.

Verdict: Cute, but not the best for travel

Banana Republic Ashbury convertible crossbody

When I originally bought this bag ten years ago, the salesperson mentioned that the collection’s designer came from Coach. Can you see the influence? Maybe in the hardware and thick tanned leather, but I dunno.

I ended up loving this bag to death. I then sent it off to a pleasant afterlife with Jill. While looking at travel bags, I remembered this bag, and decided that I needed it in my life again. So after a quick search of eBay, it was mine for $40. Needless to say, when Jill saw me again in Morocco with this bag in tow, she was confused, but delighted. She knew it was a great bag too.

Great for days out walking around town, also an ideal in flight bag. 2 outside pockets, 3 inside, along with a key fob. Fits ipad/notebook/wallet/phones/etc, but most importantly, sangria!

Pros:

  • Converts between shoulder bag & crossbody
  • Beautiful thick leather that is also quite tough,  preventing a slash and run theft
  • Outside pockets are big enough for the plus size iPhone, S’well water bottles & sangria!
  • Interior holds a lot, has 3 pockets and a key holder

Cons:

  • Only real con… with all the leather, this bag is heavy. With the thicker shoulder strap, it’s more manageable than the Marc Jacobs bag.

Verdict: Buy it if you can find it 😀

CabinZero Classic 36L Ultra Light Cabin Bag

Girl that bag is too big for you.
Love the color and the flag patches, wish they made it in 36L

Okay, last but not least – I stumbled across this bag when doing some online carry on backpack “research”. Basically I was shopping. Because I love bags.

It didn’t take much googling before I ran into CabinZero. CabinZero has mounted a fierce travel blogger campaign over the past few years, so there’s lots of positive reviews out there.

I really love the travel philosophy behind this brand. I mean, I don’t think I’ve checked a bag in 10 years, and backpack all the way!  Looks wise, I thought the bags were kind of cute in a basic way.

They happened to sell them in the Barcelona airport (where I had a layover), so I bought one on a whim. I folded it up, and it easily fit in one of my Allpa compartments.

CabinZero’s flagship bag is the 44L, but when I tried it on, it looked utterly  ridiculous on me. Since I already have a hard time filling my 35L Allpa I was torn between the 28L & the 36L, but they had the 36 in green, so I went with that. It looks smaller than the Allpa, but surprise surprise, it fit all my stuff! I think we can all agree however that the packing shown below is something of a hot mess.

Fully packed from the side

Pros

  • The bag will fit strict international airline carry on standards. The 36L even fits Spirit Airline’s personal item dimensions.
  • They are simple and light bags. This one was about a pound and a half? The lightness is super helpful for international flights with low carry on weight limits of 5-10kg (11-22 lb).
  • The price is quite reasonable for a travel bag.
  • Ethically made, yay no sweatshop guilt.
  • The inside is fully lined in a contrasting color, a nice touch.
  • The zippers are also super sturdy and feel smooth to zip.
  • You can use the smaller versions as daypacks at your destination. You won’t feel like you stick out so much compared to wearing the Allpa or a hiking style backpack.
  • The bag has a panel opening, meaning quick and easy access.
  • They include a special international tracking tag from a company called Okoban so that you can find your bag if it is lost. I’m including this as a Pro, but to be honest, it relies on the person who finds the bag to have internet access, be able to read English, and to WANT to return the bag to you, so uh… it’s kind of worthless, really. I don’t think you would get your bag back any easier than including your email on a luggage tag, or writing your info on the side of the bag in Sharpie.

Cons

  • I still want a water bottle holder…
  • A waist & sternum strap would be nice. These are included on the military version, which only comes in the 44L size.
  • Back padding could be more robust (it is on the military version…)
  • The bag includes 2 handles, one on the top and one on the left side. The handles have a cushioned strap which is nice, but it seems a little extra for the day to day. I think the Allpa does carry handles way better, and there’s 4!
  • The air mesh straps remind me of my Topo Rover backpack. They are not smooth against the skin, and make slightly crunchy sounds when you press down on them. These straps are comfortable during regular wear, but the annoying thing is that when I wear straps like these with a tank top, the straps are scratchy, dig into my shoulders, and my skin can bruise – I get ugly red bruises all over my chest and shoulders. That is a major con for me, but your mileage may vary. Just don’t wear tank tops.
  • Like the Allpa, this bag is meant for maximum space and flexibility, meaning that this bag is mostly a large floppy rectangle. The bag has compression straps, but if you look at photos of this bag online in use, the bag is either completely stuffed square, or it’s flop city. Why the hell do I keep buying these floppy ass bags? When will I learn? Where is my dream bag?
  • There are 3 pockets, one on the front and 2 on the back of the front panel. Meh, not enough pockets.
  • The laptop section is not padded, which keeps things light, but offers minimal protection. It’s also hell to get your laptop out at security.
  • The inside is one big cavern. You’re going to need to use packing cubes.

This bag’s shape and general features reminds me of my Kelty Captain backpack, which is super durable, has more pockets and organization, much comfier straps, has chest/waist straps, and also is ‘cabin-sized’ (but unfortunately much smaller). It’s such a great backpack. I have packed it as my ‘go bag’ in case of earthquake, but normally I use it once a week for grocery shopping.

I was not totally in love with the CabinZero when I bought it, nor when I inspected it further after getting home from the airport. I would have returned it under normal circumstances, but I couldn’t since I bought it in Barcelona, and the salesclerk ripped the tags off – rude!

I’ve gotten the chance to use this bag on a couple of dogsitting trips (2-5 days) & as a work backpack. The bag has grown on me a little. The comfort is better than I’d predicted based on the straps, and the compression straps really make it doable as a daypack. I can see this as being a good no brainer bag for people who pack too much. I will probably use this bag as a weekend trip bag, and use the Allpa for trips where I’m packing more or heavier.

Verdict: Buy it if floppy bags don’t piss you off.

Anyways, I hope this post has been helpful. I’m still on the hunt for the ‘perfect travel backpack.’ Looking at the Minaal Carry On 2.0 (sleek looking and so many pockets, but too pricy and travel specific), Osprey Fairview (fair price, they have XS packs, rave reviews from everyone, but kind of ugly, and the laptop section is the front of the bag and not flush against the back, which is stupid),  Gregory Border 35 (looks kind of like a Minaal copycat for a cheaper price- love Gregory bags but I know them mostly as a hiking pack company) and the Tortuga Outbreaker 35 (also rave reviews, but geez it’s expensive AND ugly too).

Home

Having my roommates move out a few months ago was a surprisingly emotional experience, but one bright spot of the transition was that Ryan and I got the perfect chance to redecorate.

I’ve lived with other people’s ragtag furniture for eight years, maybe more. There was never a good time to redecorate, even when I became the master tenant. My roommates taped up old maps, strung up Christmas lights, and there was a leftover super heavy and hideous couch. There was also a large bookcase/entertainment center thing. It was very college dormroom.

I have an aversion to spending big money on furniture, it makes me antsy just thinking about how I’ll get rid of it in the future. I also thought that I was going to be moving, so there was no point. One time about a year and a half ago, Ryan and I tried to redecorate the living room. One of the roommates seemed unusually upset by the idea of change, so we put it off.

But shifting to new roommates meant a fresh start. Ryan especially wanted to throw everything out and redecorate from scratch.

BEFORE


AFTER

After getting the carpets power washed and having a wonderful man named Jesus drag the couch and bookcase to the dump, we had a blank slate.

I’m not sure why, but I was stuck on the idea of an orange living room. Ryan was really stuck on mid-century modern. We both got our way. We’re still thinking about art for the wall above the couch, but for the most part, I think it’s come together. I’m  glad we went with the orange, instead of chickening out and going with a blue or a green (which also would have been lovely, but a much different vibe). It’s so punchy, and has such warmth no matter what time of day.

The couch and rubber plant came from shops in the neighborhood, but everything else we found online (Wayfair, Amazon, AllModern).

Including these ridiculous ‘Mongolian Fur pillows.’ They arrived wild and free like the pillow on the left, but after a little brushing (with Ryan’s beard brush), the pillow looked soft as an angora bunny : D.

Anyways, that’s it! I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Travel

Mid-Summer

With as rarely as I’m posting these days, maybe my blog post titles should just be the seasons. Umm.. let’s see, what have I been up to. I visited my mom in Los Angeles. This was my first time flying in to Bob Hope airport in Burbank, and wow! It was such a nice experience. Way better than the stress of LAX. Would fly again.

LOS ANGELES

Last time when I saw my mom at Christmas we went and saw La La Land. Not gonna lie, was heavily influenced by the movie to go visit Griffith Park & Observatory. It was quite lovely trekking through the park and then making it to the observatory on the top of the hill. Our timing was perfect, and we arrived just in time for the planetarium show, which made me nauseous.  So realistic!

Want

The next day we checked out the botanical gardens, where the main draw was the garden’s resident peacocks. I figured that it would be nice to see one or two, but they were everywhere when we walked in. In the first ten minutes we even stumbled upon a peacock in full glory.

Seeing a peacock at 100% meant that we had to take photos with the peacock. I’ve never done this before, and to be honest, I found it a little scary. The peacock was vibrating furiously, chasing after peahens, and making lots of mating calls. EEK! Even when we passed the main peacock dating hub, and were on the very outskirts of the park, we never stopped hearing their mating calls.

It was father’s day, and my aunt wanted to have a big lunch. Of course, everyone was already off doing holiday lunches with their fathers, so instead I celebrated with my mom, aunt, and grandma, all of us father-less. It didn’t make me sad, it was just an observation at the time, but later I found myself thinking about the differences in how we all processed the fact of this loss.

An insane line around 3 blocks for… donut ice cream sandwiches?
Pastry pit stop @ 85 Below, a Taiwanese bakery chain
There were all sorts of whack mayo/corn/squid ink pastries, but I was curious about the coffee. The house coffee was a sweetened milky americano.

All in all a successful trip.

What else? There was Pride. I ran for a bit in the Trans march since I was out and about right when it started, but I haven’t participated in Pride in years, really. It’s always a hot drunken mess.

DOGSITTING

It’s summer, so dogsitting is ramping up. I’ve got about a grand worth of work coming up in the next few weeks, which means I’ll be busy! I took care of two BIG dogs, but they were just the sweetest and laziest dogs ever, so no troubles there.

Cuddlebugs

READING

The service I use to check out e-books and audiobooks from the library (Overdrive) just released a new app called Libby that makes it much easier to check out & read/listen to books, and I’ve been loving it. Previously I would log in to Overdrive on my computer, download the books through Amazon, then send to my phone, and for the audiobooks, that was super tricky getting them to the phone and in the right format. I’m currently reading a biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, China Rich Girlfriend, and listening to audiobooks of  Furiously Happy, The Price of Salt & James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.

APARTMENT

Things have been super stressful at the apartment with multiple roommates moving in/out. It’s been utter uncertainty, chaos and drama for about a month, and that was starting to wear on me. I found myself feeling very sad about all the changes, even though I knew that everyone was doing what was best for themselves, and that we have to change to evolve. I dunno, you live 4 years, 6 years with a person and you will feel something when they leave.

NEW JERSEY

With all that was going on at home, I was looking forward to visiting NJ for a wedding. I was a bit confused about what to pack since we were staying on the Jersey Shore in a little beach town, but the event was at a Yacht Club and ‘black tie optional.’ Also I had checked the weather, and it was high 80s, alternating between cloudy and storms. Um… Not great beach weather.

Once we had settled in to our crappy beach hotel, Ryan said he needed a tie, and the closest real shopping options were outlets in Atlantic City, about a half hour away. I was tired, but we weren’t doing anything else, so I went to AC. It wasn’t particularly bustling on a Friday afternoon.

There is a Western themed hotel. Not a bad idea, but the props were pretty janky
There were the Atlantic City version of tuk-tuk drivers… You sit in a bench and they walk behind you, pushing you down the boardwalk. It looks very strange. Like a couch just drifting down the road.

Amid the fake … everything, I found a little bit of reality. Back in the day the beach was segregated, and Chicken Bone Beach was the tiny strip of the boardwalk/beach for black folks. It was called that by the whites because supposedly people were leaving behind their chicken bones in the sand. At first I was aghast at the naming, but it turns out that the local community is trying to reclaim the name. From the Wikipedia page, it sounds like this was a pretty hopping strip, with all sorts of community events and celebrity sightings.

Right as we were finishing up our shopping, a flash rainstorm hit and we were drenched. We ran to an Old Navy to wait it out, but it just didn’t quit. So for the whole ride back we were soggy and grumpy. Oh, also I was terrified because it was really hard to see driving in the storm. Ryan was calm about it, but how can you be calm when you can’t freaking see?

Walking the main drag, looking for pancakes
Hydrangeas were everywhere.
Small town, big breakfasts!
Ryan breaks his 8 month sobriety just for a night. It was a beautiful wedding, but I felt a little out of place since nearly everyone at the event was either family or had known  each other since middle school. Middle school???
8am beach bums

I got lucky with decent weather the last 2 days of the trip and that meant some quality beach time. On the last day I got up early and slightly hungover just so I could go swimming one more time. Later that day we made it out to see Ryan’s parents, and then it was off to the airport hotel to veg and watch Game of Thrones.

Obligatory beach selfie

Well, that’s most of what I’ve been up to. And back to the housing situation – three weeks into new roommates, and everyone is still not all moved in. There’s quite a bit of redecorating going on, so the house is going to be chaos for a bit longer, I guess.

Life, Travel

Spring

Last month I hit up the Codeland conference in New York. Codeland was a completely new conference run by the folks behind the CodeNewbie podcast, and I had decided to attend on a bit of a whim (you know this is starting to be a theme with me and conferences, I should really put some more thought into this). At the time when I booked everything I was feeling a bit bedraggled, and the thought of getting out of town, even for a conference, sounded good to me.

Coffee believes in me!
Battle of the bootcamps – Pros and cons of bootcamps, or… are bootcamps a scam?

It turned out to be a good choice. The conference had some really strong content, and an amazing vibe of acceptance and inclusion (it was woke as fuck, as I said in my coding blog). It’s strange. How do you create an atmosphere like that? One thing that they did do was offer tons of scholarships. I think there were 50+ programmers there for free.  It was a conference focused on new programmers, so that might have checked some  egos at the door. It was also a single track conference, which was new to me. I was stuck in the same room with a couple hundred other people 9-5 for 2 days. We should have gone insane, but we didn’t. The Bollywood dancing helped. Oh! I also ran into a few folks from my bootcamp that I recognized from their Github profiles. Great to meet people in real life.

We’re BFFs – Best Food Friends <3

I got to stay with my friend Michelle and even though we didn’t do too much, I somehow ate SO MUCH FOOD. Food bloggers, sheesh. Feeling like I should be social, I also set up a few happy hours and met up with some other friends, new and old. It was exhausting to fit that in around the conference, but the right thing to do.

Cherry blossoms @ Brooklyn Botanical Gardens === selfie time. Peep the fashion blogger in the middle. She was standing stone still while her photographer (boyfriend??) clicked away. So awkward in real life.
3 people, 3 pizzas, duh.
Taking my friend Natalie’s dog to the park for some beginner puppy training. Informative for everyone, and the pup pooped outside for the first time ever!!!

One thing that surprised me was that while I was there, I had absolutely no urge to live in NYC. Everything just felt like so much effort/so far away, and I was in Times Square for the conference, which probably was the worst possible place to be.

I also had terrible public transit luck, getting stuck on the subway during a massive power outage on my way to day one of the conference. I was stuck for a half hour, missing the first few talks. Others weren’t so lucky, and sat in dark trains for an hour or more. Then on my way out to the airport the AirTrain was busted. The unmarked shuttle bus was packed with unhappy people, and whenever we stopped at a terminal, people waiting to get on couldn’t because tourists did not want to get off or move in away from the bag rack to let others on. One lady who I guess was really late for her flight begged for people to move back to make space, but nobody moved. She became angry, and yelled at us as we puttered away. Sitting next to me was a very dapper gentleman rage posting on Facebook about the incompetence of the MTA(“This is sooo New York”). Once I got to JFK, my flight was delayed an hour. Then 2 hours. Then 3 hours. I later learned that SFO was doing some pre-scheduled maintenance of the runways, going from 5 runways to 1*. WTH. It was chaos, and flights to SFO were getting pushed back and cancelled. I didn’t get in until 2am, and had to pony up forty bucks for a cab home, which normally I would bitch about, but really I was just so relieved to be home and done traveling. What a mess!

* For 9 weekends April to June there is maintenance. It’s still a shitshow, I learned as Ryan’s flight the other day was delayed terribly just like mine. This is just going to continue, so why can’t they just reroute flights to Oakland? It’s better than a 3-6 hr flight delay/cancellation every weekend.

Drowning my transit sorrows in Shake Shack. And then there were like  3 more hours to fill.
2 am, time to find a cab

Speaking of homes, I’ve made more progress in the process of applying for a Below Market Rate apartment.  I finished my apprenticeship in April and got hired on full time as a software developer, just barely making the max income cutoff. With my income looking steadier, I was finally ready for my one on one counseling session to go over my goals and budget for househunting. The housing counselor was initially kind of hostile and challenging toward me. He was giving me shit about my proof of income, then he really wanted me to tell him about Yale, and how pretentious my classmates were, but I wasn’t biting, and hello college was forever ago man. Eventually he softened up, and by the end he was encouraging, saying that I was in a good place to buy (good income, no debt, etc.). He approved me, pushing me on to the next step. I just need to get pre-approved for a loan, and then I can start applying.

I feel a little anxiety about going to the next step, and it’s for a silly reason. I have to pick a person from the suggested list of providers, and then call and schedule an appointment. Then I have to gather all my paperwork and go there, and go over the numbers all over again. I’ve got inertia, and it’s because I don’t want to make a phone call and go to a bank to do more paperwork. Isn’t that stupid? Why can’t I just do this online, I said to myself. But no. PHONE. HOOMAN INTERACTION. I think the internet is making me socially stunted.

I still waver between “meh” and “no” on the whole buying an apartment thing, but  even if I don’t continue, it felt really good to run the numbers with an objective third party and hear that if I wanted to, I could buy an (below market rate…) apartment by myself. These scenarios involve tapping my retirement or borrowing $ for a down payment, but let’s just ignore that and say I’ve made it! Woot!

Life

January and February weren’t so hot for me. It rained nonstop, and I fell into a bit of a funk. I was tired all the time, overworking myself, and feeling disconnected from others. No bueno.  Here’s a blog post from February that I found sitting in my drafts:


In January there was a mini film fest at my local theater celebrating the work of the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. About a week later there was also the annual David Bowie dance party at a club in my neighborhood. Bowie and Almodovar are both incredibly glamorous and dramatic artists, and most of their work revolves around sex, drugs and rock and roll. At the time I found myself longing for a bit of glamour and art in my life. Instead, all I got was druggie drama.

I think that my tweaker burnout upstairs neighbors must have made the same New Year’s resolution as I did – be more social.  Multiple times a week they stay up high all night playing dominos, golf (?????), drinking, and who knows, probably doing woodwork. Their hangouts mirror my desired sleep schedule, starting at 10pm and raging til 7 am. Sometimes they go on even longer into the day, making it who knows how long, 18+ hrs of partying. As I’m writing right now, it’s been about 14 hours of this bullshit.

Where am I going with this? I guess I haven’t felt rested in a long time.  Every  day I say some variation of  “I’m tired.” I feel stuck. I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere. I just want to sleep all the time. It’s been raining all day, every day  for months. Life seems dirty and grimy. Yesterday I was commuting to work… lately it’s been incredibly crowded because of the rain, so we were marching together like grumpy wet cattle, and as I looked down at the steps as I climbed the stairwell, I saw a GIANT naaaaasty pile of human shit. I found myself thinking “Oh no! I should warn this guy in front of me!”, but nothing came out of my mouth, not even “Holy crap!”, which would have been a great pun… Thankfully he didn’t step in it, but then for the rest of the day I just felt incredibly guilty that I couldn’t even warn somebody about shit. And I know that is absurd.

How does one break out of this jaded  and useless “I’m tired” cycle? I don’t know. Waiting for this one to pass.


Ooooooof. It’s April now, and I’m feeling better. I tried to figure out what exactly I did to break out of it, and I’m not sure. To be honest, it stopped raining everyday, and that made a huge difference. I’m biking to work most days now, and I’m back to running regularly. The exercise really helps my emotions, which makes me feel like such an animal.  I got a little bit better at my job and as a result I don’t feel like I have to take my work home all the time to “catch up.” I’ve been trying to reach out to friends more, but that’s a mixed bag. There was a point in Feb when I was getting rescheduled/cancelled on multiple times in a row. That’s life, but it was still hard not to take it personally.

You know, it’s kind of terrifying that something as simple as the weather could fuck with my head so much. I can’t control the rain, but I can plan things to look forward to. I’ve got dogsitting gigs booked out until June, and I have a few trips that I need to plan, including a trip to NYC in a few weeks.

Ummm… what else is going on…

  • I’m still obsessed with the Fat Guy (not) cycling across America, and have started watching pirated episodes of My 600 lb Life on YouTube. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know why.
  • In March my mom’s laptop screen died. After a week of back and forth texts and calls, trying to diagnose the issue of 3 different and very much broken computers over the phone, I decided to just buy her a  new Chromebook. Looked at Amazon, watched a few videos, and ten minutes later, click, new computer on the way, done. At $80 to diagnose/fix the old Chromebook, a new computer at $200 seemed like a no-brainer. It felt really good being able to throw some money at a problem without worrying at all about the cash.
  • I helped my unemployed roommate get some part time work at my company, and I feel good about that too. The whole process has been completely different than working at a larger company. It’s much more casual and nebulous. For example, there was never, and probably will never be an official job description for the contract work she’ll be doing. At my previous company there would have been so much red tape. It’s really interesting. +1 for small companies.
  • Ryan and I are going through the steps to enter San Francisco’s BMR housing lottery (mandatory workshops, counseling, looking into loans, etc.), but I don’t feel too attached to the idea. Actually, if you know me, I loathe the idea of home ownership. But hey, it’s something to do with my time. As Ryan says, at the very least I’ll have something to talk to my mom about.