In two days, I leave for South America. Two days. Forty-eight short hours.
And yet, my backpack sits empty. Completely empty. My plans are completely open. Once I arrive in Bogota, I have a skeleton timeline of what I’m doing for the next six months. But after that, I’ve got exactly zero plans.
I procrastinate. It’s what I do, but here’s the thing: I’m also not a fan of lists. I rarely make them; I rarely follow them. Lists are intimately personal; what I think is a necessity may be someone else’s luxury, and the reverse is also true. My luxury may be your necessity. I’m also not a fan of packing.
But I am realizing that my feelings of apprehension and anxiety are far more powerful than my excitement at the moment. I find that as people continue to ask me incessant questions about the next year or so of my completely unplanned life, my answer has evolved from…
“Well, I’m actually leaving my options open so that I can allow myself to follow any opportunities that might arise, including but not limited to: freelance writing assignments from National Geographic, an undercover mission into the heart of coca plantations for a 20/20 exclusive, and meeting the man of my dreams at a hostel in Santa Marta. So, we’ll see…” *Big Smile*
“I don’t have a FUCKING clue!”
OK.! I am. I AM freaking out that much.
But that’s OK because I’m going to put one foot in front of the other and maybe everything will go smoothly and maybe it won’t, but the bottom line is that the world probably won’t end any time soon, and remind myself ‘hey, I’ve DONE this before, and survived’.
On my first extended trip away from home at the tender age of 19, I knew nothing about packing a suitcase, much less a backpack. I went to a sporting goods store, bought a brightly colored bag, threw clothes in it without thinking about where I’d be or what I’d be doing. Almost as an afterthought, I threw an Adidas windbreaker [after all, it was summer, and I was used to South Carolina summers where there’s 90+ temps and 80+% humidity] in a backpack holding my camera gear. I ended up staying a lot longer than anticipated, going places I hadn’t considered, and buying quite a bit of clothing while traveling/living in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.
[bctt tweet=”I learned sometimes being prepared means having a credit card available when you need to buy all the stuff you’ve forgotten or you show up and no cheap lodging is available.” username=”adventureadikt”]
I learned a little from my first travel mishap and wanted a backpack for my Mexican adventure. My packing strategy wasn’t much better, but I did have a few pieces of ‘technical clothing’ to add to my mostly cotton wardrobe. I threw in a few sarong style wrap skirts, short sleeved sweaters, a bathing suit or two, t-shirts, soccer-style shorts, one cardigan, tennis shoes, and these sandals [the style of which I still have… these are probably some of my favorite all-time shoes]. I also added a sheet, full sized toiletries [thinking they have no stores in Mexico], a sleeping bag [a bulky one] and sleeping mat [maybe I thought I was going camping?], and a regular pillow. Additionally, I had a smaller backpack consisting of two SLR camera bodies [I kept one loaded with black and white film and one with color–yes, actual film, a nifty 50 lens, a 70-300mm zoom lens, a 500mm telephoto lens, a 28mm lens, a host of filters, and a full sized tripod.] I was definitely not packing light. My saving grace for this year-long trip away from home was that I had an apartment in Campeche and the longest I was away from it was 3 weeks. I learned the value of doing laundry on the road thus saving oodles of space.
For my month long trip to Italy, I opted to use a suitcase…. [trying to look oh-so chic]. I packed stylish outfits consisting of sweaters, skirts, riding boots, and a thigh length wool coat, and practical outfits of pants, long-sleeves, vests, loafers, and a parka. I also had a scarf, gloves, and a hat considering it was February and March.
So let’s just say that I’m no stranger to making packing mistakes. Usually mistakes of omissions, but mistakes nonetheless. I currently feel the need to make a list. Not a packing list. Because, really? did we just meet? It’s more of a — oh shit, I almost forgot to do this kinda list. I think it will help me gather my own thoughts...So here you go…
Check the entry requirements of your arriving country. Oh, you need proof of onward travel to enter Colombia, you don’t say? Do they really enforce that? [They didn’t when I crossed borders]
Clothing with tags still on it should not go in the backpack. Try on EVERYTHING you plan to pack and wear it at least once.
Book lodging for the first couple of nights… because arriving in a foreign place is disconcerting. There’s currency exchange, and foreign languages, and taxi cab drivers, and jet lag. Finding a place should be the last thing on your mind.
Print out and make copies everything you can think of. Print your tickets, hostel information, passport copies, maps of arriving cities, and anything on your computer that you’ve referenced more than once the week prior to departure.
Make an address book. I never need addresses until I find myself travelling and want to send a postcard, and then I’m waiting for people to respond to an email, requesting their mailing address, before I can actually send one.
Kiss your family, hug your friends, cuddle your cat.
Get a good night’s sleep and accept the fact that you likely forgot to pack something important, you will probably face flight changes and/or delays.