After months of planning, I’m a few hours away from getting on the first of three flights that take me to London. The bags are packed and I’ve probably forgotten something, but as long as I have my wallet, passport, and phone, it will all work out. Or, that’s the plan/hope.
Speaking of planning, I got my travel wardrobe down to 5 shirts, 3 trousers, 3 coats, 3 pairs of shoes, 2 sweaters, and 1 pair of pajamas. There are assorted underwear, socks, a scarf, knit hat, 2 pair of gloves, and headbands, but that is pretty much it. And other than the rogue red sweater, everything is green, grey, or black, including the shoes. Yes, I was tempted to get Kelly green Converse, but I resisted. Notes on the clothes: All of the tops cover my shoulders, so I should fit for any cathedral or gallery I want to visit. All of the trousers are boot cut even though straight and skinny cut jeans are supposed to be in fashion. I tried to like straight jeans… and I failed. It’s official – I am not fashionable.
I’d include photos of the electronic odds and ends and toiletries, but those aren’t nearly as photographic. And no one really cares if you are taking an adaptor or not (I am.)
Now that the bags are packed and all of my documents are printed, the free floating sense of dread is morphing into excitement. I’m going to Europe! By this time tomorrow, I’ll be trying to navigate the Gatwick airport. Wish me luck.
I will have been in Orlando for two weeks tomorrow (I don’t know why I thought that I’d be here for two and a half) and it has been a very good trip. Here are some of the more interesting bits:
- My oldest younger sister, Meg, took and hopefully passed the professional engineering exam on the 15th. She feels good about how she did and we went out for a celebratory dinner of garlic knots and pizza after she finished.
- My youngest younger sister, Cait, and my mom completed the Star Wars Half Marathon last week (this is the good news) despite my mom’s fall at mile 4 where she broke her left arm (this is the bad news).
- I spent several days playing in the Disney parks by myself and with my mom and sister. Since I’m related to multiple cast members and I used to work for Disney, I have the advantage of taking my time to happily wander around and see what is new while going on my favorite rides instead of trying to see all the things at all the parks within two days. Highlights were going on the Jungle River Cruise for the first time and the Haunted Mansion for the 14th time (or so) with Cait, riding Expedition Everest twice in 10 minutes, and seeing Kawaii: The Culture of Cute exhibit in Japan at Epcot.
- I spent 3 hours looking for shoes at nearly every store in a massive outlet only to find the perfect pair of Converse at the very last one. To the Converse fans who told me that they would make my feet look smaller and not like a clown, you were so right and I am sorry for ever doubting you. I love them.
- I’ve developed a crush on Winter Garden which has a really nice Saturday morning farmer’s market that sells an assortment of things from vegetables and homemade pies to steam punk jewelry and dog capes. The main street is walkable, there is a really wonderful bike trail, and the new apartment and retail construction is in the same style as the rest of the town. Meg and Brooks found a house nearby and I am very, very envious.
There is a line in the Big Book that goes “Relive me from the bondage of self” which often came to mind while I was planning and packing and selling almost everything I owned. The odd part was that I kept hearing it as “the bondage of stuff”.
As of today, my worldly possessions fit in a three suitcases and a large tote bag. Two of the three suitcases will remain with friends and family who have graciously agreed to stuff sit while I am away. That leaves one carry on suitcase/backpack and the tote for all of my clothes, electronics, and sundries for the next 6 to 9 months. Luckily, I like a challenge.
Surprisingly, the challenge hasn’t been in getting rid of my belongings. Divesting myself of furniture and books and clothing took time and effort, but it wasn’t personally difficult. In fact, I really enjoyed finding good homes for a lot of it. No, what has been hard is not getting new things. So far I’ve resisted buying nail polish, a set of pens, and the entire contents of Ikea. Even more difficult than buying new stuff is resisting the urge to take free things. Within hours of staying with my mom, I had added not one but two sweaters to my wardrobe. The caveat is that I love them so much. No really, I’ve worn then ever day I’ve been here and they will be perfect for staying at the B&Bs.
To keep from adding another suitcase worth of stuff to my toggery (thank you Dictionary.com), I’m employing one of my personal rules – Only buy what you need or love. I’m also avoiding Target. Between those two and having an 18 kg baggage limit, I just might be able to stick to my minimalistic goals.
When I told folks that I’d be leaving New Orleans to work and ramble around Europe, I usually heard “What does your mom think about this?” Almost immediately after that was “Take pictures. Take lots of pictures. And then post them somewhere that the rest of us can see them.” Since it was a command and not a suggestion, I decided to 1) start this blog to share what I see and do on my trip and 2) get better at taking photos. To that end, here is another photo of the swamp.
On my last full day in Louisiana, I visited the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve with a group of Tulane art students. The kids were great, the weather was close to perfect, and the irises (see above) were in bloom. We even saw a few alligators and a possible cottonmouth snake… from a great distance.
Potentially venomous creatures aside, I highly recommend a trip out to the preserve to see the swamp. The trails are really well constructed and it is easy to forget that you are within a few miles of a busy city. As one person mentioned while I was there, “This is so much better than a zoo.”
“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – General Eisenhower
Over the past few months, I have been reminded of Eisenhower’s words as I’ve prepared to leave my country and my profession. Since January, I have been mildly obsessive about reading posts in travel blogs, magazine articles, and packing lists on Pinterest. As a result, my Type A tendencies have already found best option for getting from the Gatwick Airport to my hostel in London when I arrive in Europe (Thameslink rail service for 10.30 GBP and 57 minutes, by the way). Balancing out the obsessive habits is my commitment to being present during my travels and staying open to changes to my carefully crafted plans. In summary, my goal is to be smart, be safe, and be flexible. With all of that in mind, here is what the plan looks like right now:
Short Term:I will be spending two months each working in western Ireland and central France before traveling on my own to Paris, London, Edinburgh, and beyond for another two months. My goal is to learn the ropes of running a small hotel while seeing some of Europe. Basically, I see the trip as a combination of apprenticeships in serving travelers with being a traveler myself. Also, I decided on longer stays in rural areas where there is a better chance of living like a local.
Mid Term: My intent is to come back to New Orleans next winter and spring and then travel to Alaska to work over the summer. Depending on how all of that goes, I’ll figure out what to do next.
Long Term: My ultimate goal is to run a hotel in New Orleans (preferably in the Garden District) and to provide training and employment options for men and women in recovery.