Why oh why does this have to be so hard? Why is it that an experienced traveler like myself has a melt down every time I leave the country. It’s as if it’s the first time all over again; the indecision, panic, running around, trying to get everything to fit in a small suitcase. I’m in that familiar panic stage…the panic of trying to get things organized to leave the country for 3 months. One would think that I was used to this as I’ve down this road twice before for much longer periods than 3 months. However I’m still befuddled at what I need to be organizing right now. I want desperately to be a ‘good example’ and pack light and be super calm and organized…but that’s not reality.
Here’s the reality.
I’m leaving in one week. I haven’t looked at a single book or website to learn about where I’m going beyond the fact that I’m going to Italy, Jordan, and Lebanon. I don’t know any more than I’m simply arriving in Milan and my friend is picking me up. She sent me the towns that we may be traveling around in Tuscany and I haven’t done anything more than tuck the email away in my inbox. I am supposed to be arriving in Jordan to live with and tutor a family. My intention was to get my tutoring stuff organized and have a plan for what I was going to work with them on and have examples and sites picked out to utilize. I’ve done nothing. I’m supposed to move on to Lebanon in February – I haven’t even looked at an airline ticket or figured out how I’m getting there. I have no airline ticket home – I just know I’ll be heading back towards home in March sometime. I don’t know what I’m packing at all; nor do I know what bag I’m taking (backpack or rollie bag). I don’t know anything about Jordan or Lebanon; haven’t thought beyond “I’d like to see Petra and the Dead Sea”.
I feel like mess.
Then again, the more I think about it – maybe the lack of plans and organization is really the sign of a seasoned traveler? All of these open and unanswered questions…maybe that’s normal for people like Lisa Lubin (LL World Tour), Dave and Deb (The Planet D), Barbara Weibel (Hole in the Donut), and Anil Polat (Foxnomad). Maybe I’m becoming more like my travel idols?
However I can’t seem to think that not only does not planning and going with the flow is a key part of being a seasoned traveler – but to really be a seasoned traveler – you have to not worry about not being prepared. You have to have a zen like acceptance of it all. And I’m a long ways away from a zen like acceptance of not being organized. But I am better at coping with it than I was 4 years ago when I left for the first time; I guess I’m showing progress.
No more worry about what I’m not doing, let’s talk about what I am doing.
I’m spending Christmas in New York City…by myself. I know that seems rather depressing, but I was unable to get back to spend it with my family in the Midwest. I intend to make the most of the day by doing some volunteering in NYC that morning and then hopefully doing some photography. It’s just a day…however when it comes I’m sure it will be full of a few mental hurdles for me.
On December 27th I fly off to Milan, Italy to meet a friend who is from there. She’s Italian and had innocently invited me to come visit her in Milan. You should know never to say that to traveler…that’s like giving a crackhead a spoon and a lighter. Of course I was ready to jump at any excuse to get out of the US and travel! However this trip to Milan and Tuscany is really just the tip of the iceberg…it’s the beginning of my winter travels. For the first time in my many visits to Italy I will get to see Milan AND I will get to experience Italy with a local, not as a tourist. I’m so excited to be in Italy with my friend Vera, to see the local places, not be hindered by language barriers and to get off the tourist trail. I will not only be off the tourist trail, but I will be off the internet. That’s right …a real break from this crazy online life for a week.
On January 4th I have a very budget flight with a super long over night layover in Cairo (yes – sleeping on the floor in an Egypt airport…exciting huh?) and I will arrive in Amman Jordan to live with the family Al Swias for a month. This cultural exchange experience is through GeoVisions (LINK) and their Conversation Corps program. In exchange for room and board, I will be tutoring the family in English conversation. I’m really excited to start to learn more about life in the Middle East. I can only imagine how many of my preconceived ideas will be shattered.
Sometime in early February I will be heading to Beirut Lebanon to do another Conversation Corps program with GeoVisions. There I’ll be staying with the Costa family. When I tell people I’m heading to Beirut, a furrowed brow and a look of concern comes over them; which actually excites me. I look forward to showing you, my readers Beirut as I have a feeling you’ll be surprised.
In March things get really unpredictable – I will choose a place to go for a few weeks on my own, maybe Syria, maybe Turkey, maybe Israel; who knows what will happen! This is of course part of what makes all of this preplanning so difficult – I don’t really know where I’ll be going completely. I’m not sure of the climates and exactly how long I will be gone. Then again I am reminded that you pack for a week in your bag no matter how long you are planning on being gone; that’s what laundry is for.
I hope to make it through this pre-leaving panic stage in tact. Come December 27th…I have to get on a plane whether I’m ready or not…
What do you other travelers think…do you all go through that crazed panic filled leaving stage when you are about to depart again? Any tips on how to cope with it?
I will be blogging weekly about the volunteering experience on my other site Briefcase to Backpack – so be sure to check the Volunteer Chronicles to learn about the ins/outs of international volunteering.