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Travel Unravel Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Travel Unravel

What 249 Gram Drones Mean For Travelers

There are a number of rules, regulations, and restrictions for flying drones around the world. Often, an important number you’ll find in many of the regulations is 250 grams, a weight used to differentiate between drone classifications. With the release of the DJI Mavic Mini specifically designed to weigh 249g, you might be wondering what it means if you travel with a drone.

There’s a lot of confusion regarding the current weight limits and not knowing the right rules could get you fined or worse. Here’s what you need to know about flying your lightweight drone.

Why 249g?

It’s important to remember that drone rules vary across the world (here’s an always up to date map, as well the mobile version), but in many United States jurisdictions and western Europe, 250 grams often marks the line between two classes of drone. Since a lot of the world has taken its drone law cues from the U.S. (one of the world’s largest drone consumers), 250 grams has become an unofficial global standard.

scottish highlands

Drones weighing more than 250 grams are usually considering amateur unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) whereas 249g and less are either a lower class of drone or classified as toys.

Rules Still Apply

One major point of confusion for a lot of people to clear up now – in most places with a 250g weight limit, drones weighing less aren’t exempt from any rules. For the most part, drones like the Mavic Mini weighing 249g don’t have to be registered, but all the other restrictions apply.

And if you think about it, that makes sense. The Mavic Mini is 249g but it can still fly above 120 meters (394 feet) which is most places is not allowed because that’s another level of flight space. You still need to maintain a visual line of sight (VLOS) in Sweden for example, since 249g or not, crashing a drone can still be dangerous to people below.

Know The Local Regulations

Drones weighing less than 249g might be able to be imported into countries where UAVs are not officially allowed but it’s important to check the specific rules that apply. As I mentioned above, this map is updated in real-time and DroneMate (Android/iOS) can put all the local laws and regulations in your pocket for offline use. It’s also worth mentioning that as drones get lighter and smaller, legislators are likely to update the rules over time to encompass the updated tech.

249g drones like the Mavic Mini make it just a little less hassle to get permission to fly a drone in some places but that’s not likely to be the case indefinitely.

What Do You Need To Declare At The Airport?

dublin airport

We’ve all walked under those big green and red banners at airports asking if we have anything to declare. Perhaps you’re undying love for rock ballads? No, that’s not what they mean but if you’re confused about airport declarations understanding what the question means can help.

Specific Disclaimer

Most countries will hand you a declaration form or under those declaration banners, list out specific items you should declare. Essentially customs are looking for things they can tax and prohibited items for the most part. Remember that every country has different rules so remember to brush up on what’s prohibited to avoid any legal trouble.

Governments Love Taxes

Technically, you can list every single item you bought in a foreign country that you’re bringing back home with you. Practically, for stuff under a few hundred dollars, “gifts” is a reasonable description. There’s a set total number (e.g. $1000) for taxable purchases abroad which is why customs often asks how much something cost.

dji mavic drone

Many places will differentiate between unopened boxed items as well so if you are pulled aside to have your bags checked in customs, electronics in plastic will likely get you stuck with a duty (i.e. tax) to be paid. A new set of headphones around your neck however, probably not.

Prohibited Items

Some might be obvious like guns but other prohibited items often include produce, meats, and other organic materials. Invasive species and other non-native seeds can disrupt local ecosystems so most everything that’s not sealed, packaged, or canned will likely need to be declared. A wrapped box of chocolates, highly doubtful.

Cash Money

Currency (for example in the United States) over $10,000 must be declared. Not doing so can lead to customs agents confiscating nearly all of it. The idea behind these laws is to disrupt smuggling and money laundering operations. With modern banking though for most people, it’s probably better just to bring a little cash for the airport ride then use the ATM afterward. Large sums of cash are easy to lose as well so unless absolutely necessary, keep it in the bank.

Pets

Any kind of non-human animal traveling with you (including service pets) need to be declared in many places. Keep this in mind as you walk through customs to have your pet medical information, as well as other documents, handy as you go through customs. Pet microchips will usually need to be scanned as well, plan accordingly and take your time.

I Declare Generalities

As I mentioned above, customs in every country vary (like regulations on drones) but their motivations are pretty much the same. Taxes on stuff you bought abroad, contraband, and live animals are what customs are controlling. The $5 magnet you bought for your mom isn’t on the table, unless that magnet is made of rare diamonds.

GORUCK GR2 34L vs. 40L: Choosing The Right Size For You

Extremely durable, GORUCK’s GR2 series backpacks are appealing choices if you’re looking for a medium-sized travel bag with a tough aesthetic and smart internal organization. The GR2 are popular for many reasons but when deciding to buy one, trying to pick between the 34 liter (L) or the 40L can be tricky.

GORUCK’s website recommends if you’re 5’8” (172 centimeters) or shorter, go with the 34L. Taller people, go with the larger bag. Easy advice to follow for those who are decently away from that common average height. To see what a GR2 34L and 40L look like on someone about 5’8”, you can watch my video above or read on.

The Differences Simplified

Looking at the specs, the GR2 40L is only two inches taller than the 34L, with all the other dimensions the same. The 40L does weigh more though, a noticeable half pound (~250 grams) in the hand. In both cases, neither of these bags look huge because of the black color and smart use of the space. The GR2 doesn’t bulge at the bottom or sides like many bags this size, even if it’s stuffed to capacity.

goruck gr2 34l vs 40l

Let’s begin there. If you already have a larger (30 liter or more) backpack filled to capacity – particularly with electronics – go with the GR2 40L. I say this because even if you’re a lot shorter than 172cm, if you’re maxing out a 30-33 liter bag (like the Aer Travel Pack 2) already, you may as well get the bump up in space. You should probably carry less since one thing most travelers should avoid is a backpack that touches the top of your butt cheeks when you walk.

Cheeky Measurement

Backpacks that touch the top (or lower) of your butt cheeks when walking cause the bag to move with every step. That constant motion causes a continual shift in weight that becomes very uncomfortable quickly, particularly as the load increases. For many people 5’8”, the 40L won’t touch the top of your butt, especially when it is full since the bag tends to “lift” away from your lower back when fully packed. It’s fairly close though, so your individual torso length will make all the difference here.

  • Shirts – Another reason not to get the 40L if it’s going to move across your back with every step – the 1000 Denier nylon used on the GR2 is strong, but also hard on clothing. You’ll go through a lot of shirts if you get a GORUCK GR2 that’s too big.

goruck gr2

15-Inch Laptops

One thing to be aware of is the 2-inch (5 cm) shorter 34L makes it difficult to get a larger laptop in and out of the laptop pocket when the rest of the bag is full. I use an Incase sleeve to protect my laptop when traveling but even without that, it’s a very tight fit requiring some gentle jamming into the GR2. Smashing your laptop in and out of this pocket can’t be good for your expensive Macbook Pro, for example. Personally, the smaller laptop pocket was a deal-breaker on the GR2 34L I was maxing in the front compartments. Some electronics like mirrorless cameras do well with compression, laptops do not.

Still Right In The Middle?

Ultimately, if you’re 5’8”, the 40L may not be too big on you. It’s really the length that’s in question here – at 22 inches (~59 cm) long it’s a close call. I understand GORUCK leaving in some leeway here and the absolute height cutoff is probably closer to 5’7” or 6 (168-170 cm). I’d suggest if you’re around 5’8”, trying to pack or reorganize a bit because the 34L can practically hold everything a 40L can. (I was able to fit all my electronic gear, albeit tightly.) If you’re shorter than 5’7” then the added space of the 40L won’t be worth the discomfort during travel.

In case you still can’t decide, order both bags and try them on (fully loaded) to see how they fit. GORUCK has a generous return 30-day return policy if you decide to return one or both back. Some (much less expensive) backpacks you may also want to look at are The North Face Recon, Thule Subterra 34L, and Swissgear 1900 which are shorter bags but deeper, allowing for larger capacities on smaller frames.

How To Travel With CBD

You’ve probably been hearing more about CBD lately since changes in hemp laws are making it available in a growing number of countries worldwide. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis that doesn’t have psychoactive effects and many claim it’s a remedy for a variety of issues, including jet lag.

Aside from its effectiveness there’s still a lot of confusion among travelers around if CBD is legal and how to travel with it. If you’re one of those travelers you can watch the video above or read on to learn more.

What Is CBD?

CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, one of the two main compounds in marijuana. The other compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the one that gets you high if you smoke or ingest it. CBD doesn’t get you high (unlike khat) and its popularity is based on its potentially therapeutic effects. Being sold in familiar foods such as chocolates and gummies also makes CBD easy to market. CBD oil is also sold separately which you can use to add to tea, for example.

CBD is extracted from industrial hemp, then the THC removed yet many CBD products have trace amounts of THC. So long as the CBD contains less than the local permitted amount of THC, it may be considered legal. In the United States CBD extracted from hemp is legal if the THC content is below .3% – at least in most states. Because CBD is not regulated, the amount of CBD as well as trace THC often varies from what the label says.

Depending on the legal status of marijuana where you are, CBD with THC may also be available. This is an important distinction in a lot of places and for this post, we’ll focus on just CBD. If you’re curious what the local marijuana laws are around the world, you can check this free map or download GrassFox on iOS or Android.

wifox ios app store     wifox google play android
How To Travel With CBD

Obviously a lot of these rules will depend on jurisdiction but for now the best advice is not to travel with CBD internationally. The rules regarding CBD and marijuana are a complicated mesh which may or may not be well understood, even by those enforcing them. Marijuana possession is a very serious offense in a lot of places and CBD branding or oil droppers can easily be mistaken for it. (Or just no distinction made between the different cannabinoids.) Don’t put yourself in unnecessary risk by bringing CBD on an international trip but it won’t hurt to have some before you head to the airport.

cbd airplane

Within the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently clarified CBD derived from hemp (without THC) is legal to fly with. It’s important to note if you’re flying to one of the few states where CBD is not legal, you might run into trouble if you’re found with it. (At a traffic stop for instance.) National parks within the U.S. don’t allow CBD either because they are federal lands. Many theme parks as well as cruise lines prohibit CBD as well.

CBD is available in several European countries but again, since the rules may vary across international borders even within the Schengen Area, don’t go abroad with it.

Does CBD Help Jet Lag?

There is no cure for jet lag which is the result of a bombardment of things that muck up your sleep and body cycles. You can try shifting your body clock with peanuts or using these expert sleep tips but in both cases, the goal is to get good sleep at the right times. Although there’s not much clinical evidence of CBDs benefits, anecdotally it does help many people sleep better. Consumed in food, taking CBD an hour or two before you fly might help you doze off better.

CBD can’t make jet lag vanish but it has some promise for giving you improved sleep so you can more rapidly adapt to a new timezone. A lot is not known about CBDs benefits and side effects so be sure to do your own research and talk to a doctor if you’re unsure about trying it.

What Are The Odds Of A Meteor Hitting A Plane In Flight?

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2019. Top photo courtesy European Southern Observatory, the others from public domain on Wikipedia.

space

I fly a lot which gives me more than enough time to contemplate irrational scenarios of doom in the sky. Nervous fliers might not want to think about a space rock hitting your plane at 10,000 meters up, but just how likely is that scenario?

Plane crashes in general are very rare events that most people end up surviving if they’re in one. A lot has to go wrong for a plane to go down (on average 7 compounding factors) but a meteor strike could be a single, catastrophic disaster. Meteors pummel through our atmosphere anywhere from 11-72 kilometers per second (15,000-257,000km/hour) but what are the chances of being struck? Fortunately it turns out the chances of being struck are astronomically small and the chances of surviving an impact aren’t as hopeless as you may think.

Moving Targets

Let’s first start out with the basics – the average jumbo jet moves at 890kph (555mph). The fuselage of a 747-400 is 70 meters by 6m, the front wings 64m wide, and the tail wings 11m. All of these numbers mean the surface area of the wings is 543 square meters, the fuselage roughly 420m. A total of 963 square meters of area but since a meteor would only be coming from above, let’s cut down the total vulnerable surface area by half: 480m^2.

Meteor Size

Most meteors that are visible from the ground range in size from a grain of sand to a pebble. (They’re so bright because of the speed at which they enter the atmosphere, not their mass.) Most meteors smaller than a marble never reach the lower atmosphere where planes fly.

meteors in the sky

In 1996, David J. Helfand, chair of the department of astronomy at Columbia University and his colleague Charles Hailey determined the size of a meteor needed to significantly damage an airplane would need to be baseball-size or larger. Several thousand meteors this size or large hit the ground each year, mostly in the oceans and other unpopulated areas. At the time, a meteor impact was considered (but later ruled out) as the cause of the TWA flight 800 crash.

Cars Are Still More Dangerous

David Morrison of the NASA Ames Research Center, gives the best estimate of the possibilities of a plane being struck by a meteor entering Earth’s atmosphere:

“A typical car has an area on the order of 10 square meters, and there are roughly 100 million cars in the U.S., for a total cross-sectional area of about 1,000 square kilometers. The typical airliner has a cross-sectional area of several hundred square meters, but the number of planes is much smaller than the number of cars, perhaps a few thousand. The total cross-sectional area of airliners is therefore no more than 10 square kilometers, or a factor of at least 100 less than that of cars. Three cars are known to have been struck by meteorites in the U.S. during the past century, so it would appear that the odds are against any airplanes having been hit, but it is not impossible that one might have been.”

Morrison adds that it’s much more likely for a plane to be struck on the ground (since that’s where they are the majority of time). Any impact to a plane in flight Morrison notes, wouldn’t necessary result in an complete disaster. Assuming the meteor were relatively on the smaller size and did not hit the fuel tanks, a successful emergency landing isn’t impossible.

For you nervous fliers, it might help ease your nerves to know even a supersonic rock from space is something your aircraft and pilots could potentially handle. But the overwhelming odds are you should be more worried about having a middle seat or lost luggage than any space debris.

Is Globalism The First Step To Star Trek’s Utopian Society?

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2019.

This is a guest post by Joao, one half of No Footprint Nomads, devoted Trekkies who write about sustainable travel from their experience of over 9 years on the road. Top photo courtesy No Footprint Nomads.

no footprint nomads

On Earth, the creation of life has evolved from individuals to groups: first particles, then cells and on to more complex creatures like animals, who organize in their own social structures. Homo sapiens have also followed this natural progression. By first gathering in groups, then cities, later countries – and more recently, unions of nations.

When looking at the large scale of events, we are evolving towards consolidation, even though we sometimes feel we are living in the most nationalistic time of our common history. The often used term “globalization” is real and nobody can deny we are more connected now than ever.

Internet, extremely low travel costs and the rise of remote work have created an ever-increasing flow of movement around our planet that is surpassing records every year. We can already see the effects in locations like Venice, Italy, where they have to limit access for tourists to protect the local lifestyle.

This natural law will affect all areas of our society like capital and money – although we’re still far away from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Neutral Zone“. (Where several 20th-century people wake up in the future to find out capital and property are no longer present in society.) This may be difficult to imagine in today’s capitalistic world.

Planet Earth in the Star Trek futuristic world is a border-less society. Our current globalization trend (e.g. European Union) is a stepping stone to that world. And when we talk about modern nomads, we are talking about the first truly border-less individuals. I use the term “modern” on purpose because the original nomads were very different from today’s. Back in the day, they traveled for survival to find food and shelter; today’s nomads travel to experience the world’s diversity. Society 1.0 represents the first nomads on camel-back, sedentary societies became the norm for 2.0, and now we are becoming nomadic again, hence society 3.0.

A nomad sees the world as an endless opportunity for exploration, either for pleasure or for personal growth. Time and borders are not as important in their life, although we are still somewhat far from a totally border-less society. Visa limitations, strict immigration rules and warfare are still very present in our world and defy the ambition of true nomads. But nomadism is essentially a mindset, a way of looking at the world and not being blinded by borders, by human-created divisions when, in fact, we are all the same species.

airplane window sunset

A nomad can live in a country for awhile until they feel the need to explore something else, like meditation, and then move to Thailand to dive into that passion. The world becomes a potential open university, and borders don’t matter anymore.

I’ve been involved with the nomad community for some time and there are some trends that arise after years living this lifestyle. It reminds me again the same TNG episode when Captain Picard replies to the man from the past, who does not understand the reason for living without material needs:

“The challenge, Mister Offenhouse, is to improve yourself. To enrich yourself. Enjoy it.”

In the nomad community it is not unusual to talk about meditation, healthy food, book reading, stoicism (yes, Gene Roddenberry’s inspiration for Vulcans), yoga, self-learning and all other activities related to enriching yourself, just like Picard said.

Every day that I live this life and meet more inspiring fellow nomads, I can see a little more of our future the way Roddenberry, a true visionary, painted for us in the series. If you are a true Trekkie, then consider embracing the world as a true nomad and forget any differences we might have.

Thank you very much Joao for this Trek-inspired guest post! You can find Joao and Sara on this site, No Footprint Nomads, where they write about sustainable travel. You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Qa’plah!

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