In the Suitcase: Voltage

Several years ago I purchased a nifty universal power adaptor. It came with various shapes and sizes of plugs in an all-inclusive little box. It allowed me to plug in anything I owned, such as a camera battery charger, and then plug into the round plugs of Europe or Asia or wherever I ventured. During my India trip, my dad let me borrow his portable hot-water boiler, which is a metal coil you stick into a cup of water and lets you boil water for tea or brushing your teeth in a questionable environment. It boiled the water within thirty seconds, which I thought was incredible.

Turns out, while I was able to adapt the plugs to fit into the wall sockets of other countries, I didn’t actually convert the power. So there I was, sending 220 volts through a water boiler meant to transfer only 110 volts through. There were no resulting electric sparks or electrocution, but I may have fried the water boiler.

Of course, I also spent an entire season in Paris plugging my computer through the adaptor without ever converting the power, but it seemed to be fine. Of course, I did have a surge protector and all that, so that might have helped – I don’t know (I’m not an electrician).

In any case, for our upcoming trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I’ve invested in a little converter to plug into the adaptor which plugs into the wall socket. It was only $5.00 on eBay. It will come in handy in the places that actually have electricity – where we’re staying in Kenya may not have such a luxury. If you live in the United States, you’ll want to make sure you purchase one that takes 110 volts and converts it OUT to 220-240 volts, NOT the other way around. The other way around might cause a little electric surge and a power outage.

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