I've been lurking here for some time and figure a proper introduction is in order.
A few years ago while traveling I decided I was done carrying around my M3. It just seemed too big and delicate and bothered me. So when I got back from that trip I did some web searching and found the Merkur "Travel" DE razor that comes with a small leather case. I bought it and some Merkur blades. Since then I've been using that DE whenever I'm on the road. I typically used it with a tiny can of Gillette foam but sometimes just lathered up "hand soap" into something slick enough to get the job done.
My impression of the razor from those early shaves was that it was more like driving a manual while the M3 was like an automatic. I only did one or two with the grain passes and the shave was not as close as the M3 but it was close enough. I usually got a minor nick while shaving but nothing problematic.
After coming back from a trip this summer having used the DE for 3 weeks straight I realized that I was out of M3 blades. I went to the store to get some but the prices just looked insane. So I thought that I'd rather spend my money on a "non-travel" DE razor and some more DE blades instead of continuing on with the M3.
I did some more web searching and uncovered B&B and a whole lot of information about shaving "properly" with the DE. The ideas of shave brushes, creams and lather entered my mind for the first time.
So I ordered a Savile Row "travel" brush (SR-100), some Taylors creams, a Merkur HD and the LetterK blade sampler. I bought Proraso products at Target.
Thanks to all the information and advice I've read here and other places on the Internet I'm getting really nice irritation free shaves. It really is much less painful and troubling than shaving with the M3.
I still do not get quite the smoothness I can get with an M3 but I think I eventually will once I can do against the grain passes. Some combination of poor skill and sensitive skin makes the against the grain passes simply not an option for me now. Razor burn and major nicks result whenever I try.
But the quality of shave I'm getting now is 100% acceptable and there is no going back. I can't tolerate the irritation I was getting from the M3 given I get no irritation with the DE. Lack of irritation is a huge factor for me.
Thanks to all of you for helping me along!
-Mike/Michael (take your pick)