Friday, December 28, 2012

Opinion of Probable Trip Cost

Happy Winter Everyone!

We finally got our first blast of snow for the year, and it finally feels like winter here in WNY.  12" Overnight!  Yee haw!

Winter has Arrived!

So, Opinion of Probable Adventure Cost.  This is, as you may have guessed, another (lame?) allusion to a Landscape Architecture term.  This one however can apply to the majority of design and engineering disciplines.   When a project is designed a lot of clients, rightfully so, need to know how much money the proposed design will cost to be constructed.  In Lehman's terms they need a cost estimate for the project.  Due to reasons which are beyond me, we cannot legally call the document which provides estimated construction costs to the client a "Cost Estimate."  Rather we are required to call them an "Opinion of Probable Construction Cost."  Sound like legal jargon?  Yeah, it is.  Alas, I digress...
So, how does the title relate to the trip?  Well, a voyage of the this magnitude seems like it would require a lot of cheddar.  Maybe more than a Landscape Architect would make?  I needed a plan if this was ever going to get off the ground financially.  Could we still eat, sleep, and play prior to departure and still make this happen.  I needed a Cost Estim....rather an Opinion of Probable Trip Co$t.

It took a long time for me to get on board with this whole venture, we are talking years!  I am a realist, what can I say?  I was in to buying things, almighty stuff!  My vice...movies, DVD's and Blu-Ray hundreds of them.  May seem small but those 4 for $20 stops at Blockbuster add up.  I may also have a small addiction to the Apple product line.  That reallly adds up.  I also was in the 'we need full time employment, we need benefits' mindset.  This is obviously not a bad thing as these things help sustain us as viable human beings. 

So the first thing to change was my mentality about work and benefits.  We ended up pairing our initial investment of time and money into a 4 month world adventure as opposed to a year.  This sat well better with me, and as far as work went, I hoped that my request to leave for 4 months would be more easily received by my employer, and make me more viable for future opportunities.  This allowed the peace of mind I needed to begin to see this as a definite possibility!

**Side note: We also have basic health insurance built into our airline ticket price purchased through Airtreks.  Bonus!

Next we had to somewhat revamp our budget.  We cut out a lot of fluff, not eating out so often, fewer trips to Starbucks, and of course my movie collecting came to a sudden halt.  At first I couldn’t dare to think of not being able to buy what I wanted when I wanted it, but now I do not miss it one bit.  We shifted a lot of things around and began jamming as much extra income as possible into our Trip Fund.  In addition I picked up a couple of residential design jobs on the side, we had a garage sale netting us a cool $600 beans and my wife and I let go of several things on eBay and Craigslist for even more money!  It all adds up.

Finally we had to think what we need to cover:
-          Expenses at home while gone
-          Flights
-          Overland Travel
-          Visas
-          Places to stay
-          Food
-          Souvenirs
-          ALL THAT GEAR!

We created our budget, saw what we still needed and worked very hard to ensure that we would be able to have the required funds, prior to departure.  We have done very well on this goal and come February the sacrifices will be so so worth it. 

A trip like this may cause some to think we are rich, or spoiled or just lucky.  I disagree, anyone can do this.  It is a simple goal.  You want to be a doctor, go to school, do well, study hard, and become a doctor.  You would like to go to an Ivy League College, apply yourself in High School, work hard, study harder, and go to that Ivy League.  This adventure is no different.  We decided we wanted to do it, made up our minds that it was important and have now put all of the pieces together to make it happen!

In a future post I will highlight some of the extremely helpful entities that have helped us save money along the way to allow us to experience as much as possible while still exploring within our financial mean$!  Cheers!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Flights are Booked and The Word is Out!!!

Thursday night we spent an hour on the phone with our rep at Airtreks and made, quite possibly, the most important purchase of out trip. We booked all but one of our flights for our 4 month sojourn around the world!! A huge step for us, but still loads more to do.

In addition I broke the news to my company on Friday! Our world adventure is now public knowledge! I was incredibly nervous to tell them as I had no idea how the news would be received. Would they be mad, would they be glad, would they be bummed out, or would they tell me to pack up and head out? All possibilities that I tried to mentally prepare for. I was also a bit bummed about the timing due to some great projects that will just begin to ramp up after the first of the year. However, as the old adage states...there will always be a million reasons not to do something.

Anywho, I met with my boss in the morning and told him about our plans, and my last day being January 25th. He was genuinely happy for me! He was envious of the experience that our around the world trip is sure to bring! The icing on the cake...he spoke very highly of potential of continuing to work there after we returned from the trip! Truly a great gift to work at a place that would even entertain the possibility of a position in the future. In the event of the trip lasting longer than 4 months or something else happening the company would obviously do what they need to do keep on going.

I couldn't have asked for it to go better!

2013 will surely be an amazing year! Lots of excitement, adventure and changes!

Champagne to Celebrate Our Flights!

Merry Christmas!

Santa came early and delivered the ornament below! Very very fitting seeing as starting in February my little lady and I will be carrying all we will (hopefully) need for our 4 month adventure in a big ole backpack like this!! Isn't it awesome how there are ornaments that appeal to everyone and everything on earth! From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

2013 Around the World Trip (ATWT) Ornament...ho ho ho

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making a List...Checking It Twice!

Happy Holidays All! 

Quick Update: 
We booked our first flight yesterday!  We found a great deal on a quick jaunt to New York City to visit some very good friends of ours.  Official Departure Date:  February, 2nd 2013! 

I realize my last post ended with me saying the next post would primarily focus on the cost of the trip, and how we are able to afford such a venture.  As I thought more about it I decided that there are so many things I need to take on the trip and am worried about them fitting and possibly forgetting something, so I thought I would put together a preliminary packing list so everyone can see the multitude of items we will be taking.  Also I selfishly would like to get my preliminary list out of my head and onto paper (so to speak).  Once we get closer to leaving I will post a final detailed list with photos of everything laid out.

So here goes:

·         Osprey Atmos 50 backpack for all the gear
·         Large duffel for keep the pack safe during air travel
·         Small (lightweight, of course) daypack for daily trips and carry on items

·         Several pairs of boxers and socks
·         2 Pairs of Mountain Hardwear- Rifugio lightweight :) pants
·         1 Pair of EMS zip off pants
·         1 Pair of jeans
·         2 Pairs shorts
·         2 Board shorts
·         5 T-shirts (approx.)
·         2 Long Sleeve T-shirts/ Henley’s
·         1 1/4 Zip Fleece
·         1 Rain jacket (one of my favorite things made by Marmot!)
·         1 Pair sunglasses (ALWAYS forget these)

·         1 Pair of Keens
·         1 Pair of Merrell lightweight hikers
·         1 Pair of Teva flippy floppies

·         Toiletries

·         Miscellaneous SCUBA/ Snorkel Gear (Mask, Snorkel, Neoprene Gloves, Neoprene Hood)

·         Canon Rebel DSLR and several large capacity (!!!) memory cards
·         Canon Elph for those spur of the moment shots you don’t want to miss

·         Lightweight HP Laptop
·         External hard drive for the laptop
·         Apple iPad (still unsure about taking this)
·         Apple iPhone primarily for emergencies

·         All the necessary documents (Passport, Visa’s, confirmations for bookings made prior to departure.
·         Sketch book (Landscape Architects cannot travel without one of these!)

That’s really all I have for now, I am sure this list will develop over time. 

I can’t believe Monday is Christmas already!  I love this time of year, but it sure sneaks up fast!  I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

L101-Preparation Plan

First off let me apologize for the cheesy Landscape Architect influenced titles, but that’s what I do so I will inevitably be interjecting titles such as this throughout the tenure of my blog.  I hope to educate folks a little bit and also add some levity to my blog.  For the benefit of those outside of the field of design and construction let me explain this title.

L100-Preparation Plan:
At my current place of employment (and as is standard practice) when we create a set of construction documents there is an ‘L’ series of sheets, ‘L’ standing for Landscape (A for Architecture, C for Civil Engineering…so on and so forth).  The numbers following the L speak to the type of drawings.  A complete series would be as follows:

L100- Site Preparation Plan: This illustrates removals, and modifications to the existing site to ‘prep’ it in order to construct your proposed improvements.

L200- Site Layout and Utility Plan: This shows the contractor what he is building and ‘lays out’ all of the improvements through notation and dimensions.

L300- Site Grading Plan: This plan provides the proposed grades for the site to ensure storm water flows where it should, you know away from buildings and such.

L400- Planting Plan: This shows the proposed plantings…duh.

L500- Site Details: These sheets are a collection of drawings which detail certain items out that the plans in the set may not be able to illustrate clearly.

So after that long winded intro: L100- Preparation Plan…in design it would be the plan showing the plan of the site preparations…in my blog it is where I talk of the preparations for the trip!  Get it?!  Ha ha, it means 2 things!

So as with any trip we have been making many preparations for our trip.  Purchasing many (to me) fun necessities, such as lightweight back packs, lightweight clothing, a new lightweight laptop and for my wife new tiny lightweight makeup thingies (ßtechnical term).  She is ridiculously excited for this. 

So as you can see there is a theme at work here: Lightweight.  Who in the heck wants to be lugging a 100 pound bag through all of the airports of the world?

We have also had about 100 iterations of the itinerary.  This is primarily attributed to a unique feature of our trip: we have periods of times and locations where we will not be planning what we will be doing prior to departure.  We will rather make plans once we arrive at these spots. 

Let me take you through our itinerary as it currently exists:

1:         NYC.  To visit some close friends for 2 days.
2:         Miami.  To get a refresher SCUBA dive or two in.
3:         Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  As of 2 weeks ago we finally booked this as our first international destination where we will be departing for a one-week live aboard SCUBA trip aboard the Humboldt Explorer!
4:         Peru.  Here we will trek to Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan City.  While in Peru we also hope to visit the Amazon and explore the natural beauty within.
5:         Madrid, Spain.  We will travel overland south through Spain stopping in Barcelona as we make our way to the South of Spain.
6:         Morocco.  We will depart Spain via ferry to make our way to the northern tip of Africa.
7:         Italy.  We will fly from Spain (once returning from Morocco) to Italy.  We will travel here for a few weeks.  We have plans to meet up with a couple friends of friends who have graciously invited us to stay here.
8:         Eastern Europe.  We will reach Eastern Europe and explore many of the countries here via, train and bus. Our time here will be mainly unscheduled.  A few key spots we hope to visit are: Croatia, where my wife’s family is from, Romania (Transylvania dude), Czech Republic, Turkey and Greece.
9:         Poland or Russia. We would love to make it into Russia, but have heard Visa’s can be tricky, so we may or may not be able to make it here.  If not we will head to Poland before beginning our trek home.
10:       Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  “…But you just said begin the trek home.”  Well yeah, but what good is just blitzing home when you can make a couple sweet stops along the way?!
11:       Cairo, Egypt.  This will probably end up as couple days to see the pyramids at least, because, well, they’re the pyramids!
12:       Home again!

Whew!  Anyone else tired?  Think we can pack that all in to 4 months!?  We are sure gonna try! 

Sound expensive, outrageously expensive?  In the beginning it sounded that way to me too… Stay tuned for the next entry (chees-ily entitled):  An Opinion of Probable Cost. 

***One last disclaimer, I must apologize for any grammatical errors that may occur within my blog.  I do my best to edit and proof read.  However, I am a Landscape Architect, not an English teacher.  So with that in mind, read through the errors y’all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Landscape what...?

What exactly is a Landscape Architect and what does it have to do with a passport? 
That is a question I hope to be able to answer over the next several months as my wife and I prepare for and depart on a grand adventure into the great wide world.
A Landscape Architect as defined Merriam-Webster's Dictionary is as follows:
— landscape architecture noun
: a person who develops land for human use and enjoyment through effective placement of structures, vehicular and pedestrian ways, and plantings
Although a fairly simple definition, the career as a landscape architect is anything but. However the perception of the profession of Landscape Architecture is even simpler than the definition. This is clearly illustrated by the questions and comments I receive on a fairly regular basis. I am often asked what I do for work in the winter, in addition sometimes when I tell people what I do, I am met with the following response, "Oh a Landscape Architect, you can help me mow my lawn."
My career began with a 5 year degree in Landscape Architecture from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry culminating with a three month Off-Campus Study in Australia.  I was fortunate enough to land a job at a small Landscape Architecture firm in Miami, Florida one month after graduation.  I worked there for one year before deciding that the heat, humidity and traffic of South Florida was not my cup of tea.  I made my way to Raleigh, North Carolina to a small multi-disciplinary firm.  For anyone who may not know what this means, it is simply a firm whose expertise is not limited to one type of design.  For example this firm employed Landscape Architects, Architects, and Interior Designers.  I spent a year at this firm before deciding that I was ready to marry my sweetheart of (at that time) about three and a half years and consequently moving closer to our families.
That move would be bring me to my current position at a large (and growing larger) multi-disciplinary firm in Western New York.  This firm employs architects, engineers of all backgrounds, planners, land surveyors and landscape architects.  I have been able to work on municipal parks projects, trail projects, streetscape projects, hospitality projects and casino projects to name a few.  On any given project we are asked to do a number of things such as master-planning, construction estimation, and design from concept through construction administration to ensure projects are built to the specifications to which we have designed.  The people I work with combined the wide variety of projects has made this firm a good fit for me.
Another thing that a lot of people do not know is that 47 states have ‘practice acts’ requiring those who practice Landscape Architecture to be licensed and 3 states have ‘title acts’ allowing anyone to practice landscape architecture, regardless of their qualifications, but only those with a license may use the title “landscape architect” or advertise for “landscape architectural” services.  To obtain this license in addition to receiving a degree in Landscape Architecture and completing loads of paperwork required by the state, a rigorous multi-stage licensing exam must be passed.  On August 23rd of 2012 I found out that I passed the final part of my licensing exam and can now call myself a Registered Landscape Architect.  It was a proud moment indeed!
“Ok dude, but what does the passport have to do with any of this?”
Oh yeah, the whole world travel piece…well, I am gonna leave you with a cliffhanger and hopefully you comeback for more.  We will essentially be traveling for an extended period of time and covering a lot of ground.  Through these travels I hope to be able to share unique design insights as we move from place to place.  Our adventure starts in February of 2013 off the coast of Ecuador in the Galapagos Islands.  Stay tuned!