My travel partner this time around is Juliana. We have been close friends ever since the day we met — the first day of fifth grade. I know we are compatible because I traveled with her last spring visiting colleges on the East Coast (when we both fell in love with the colleges we will go to in the fall: University of Pennsylvania for her, and Georgetown University for me) and also to Morocco last summer on the "Global Service Learning" trip we went on through our high school. It was on our trip to Morocco that we began dreaming and scheming about a graduation trip to Europe.
I think we will balance each other out well because she is very no-nonsense and sharp at figuring things out while I am well-organized and optimistic (i.e., I won't be shy about asking someone on the street where so-and-so square is, and Jules will be confident navigating with a map). We also share many interests such as Impressionist art, international politics, and resistance movements. We both want a good balance of museums by day, a couple clubs by night, and a few days of relaxing at the beach.
During the past 24 hours, I feel like my family has overloaded me a little with information.
My dad: "Make sure to call so-and-so when you arrive in Prague — he will be happy to show you around...buy an international calling card to share with Juliana each time you arrive in a new country...little grocery stores offer the best cheap, fresh, nutritious picnics...people are just going to love traveling vicariously through you while reading your blog...everything you want to see in Amsterdam is no further than 10 minutes away by bike..."
My mom: "Don't wear yourself out feeling like you have to see everything. Take some time to relax and take care of yourself, too...wear your money belt!...stick with Jules. Don't walk alone at night...you've planned your trip so well. You're so independent and I'm proud of you...don't forget to wear sunscreen."
My brother: "Watch out for the signals you are sending guys. Some guys over there are much more aggressive than what you are used to...never lose sight of your drink. Don't drink anything handled by anyone but you and the bartender...watch out for thieves in the hostels...don't trust anyone who is friendly for no reason...if someone bumps into you, watch out because you might be getting pickpocketed...observe what locals are wearing and try to match it so you can blend in."
Most of this advice I've heard before, but sometimes I get nervous when my dad recounts a time when he was charged an exorbitant amount while using a phone in his hotel room, or my brother recalls being ripped off at the launderette and having to pay 200 euros to clean a few T-shirts, or my mom reminds me we have travel insurance that would allow me to be airlifted in case of a medical emergency — yes, very reassuring.
As I ponder my packing job, I think I packed one or two outfits too many. I grudgingly sacrificed one item of clothing at a time while coming to grips with the size of a carry-on suitcase and needing to make room for guidebooks, chargers, and travel accessories including a travel towel, a sleep sack, a clothesline, and an adapter. I realize parents who serve the purpose of carrying such travel necessities for the family are a luxury I will miss.
It was a disappointment when I had abandoned all the troops (clothing items) I could emotionally afford and I still couldn't zip up my bag unless it was set to expanded size. Despite my failure at packing truly light, the general packing experience was rather pleasant. I know — I'm a nerd, but I like coordinating outfits and rolling them up together into compact rolls, I like squeezing just the right amount of shampoo and conditioner into travel-size bottles, and I like printing out all my travel information and stapling it to make one neat packet.
I made a discovery yesterday — my parents' investment in my teeth paid for braces along with a series of retainers, so I was left with about six colorful retainer cases, and I realized they are great for holding jewelry and hair things. When customs searches my bag, they will probably think I have especially terrible teeth, but really the containers will hold my earrings, my hair clips, etc.
About This Entry
You are reading "The Plane: A Good Time for Context", an entry posted on 19 June 2008 by Jackie Steves.