Leaving the country is tough
There have been many hurdles jumped in the past 3 weeks since I “left” work. Left it quoted because I picked up two shifts for some extra spending money. I felt I had to in order to balance out all that had been purchased for departure into 3rd world countries for an 8-9 month hiatus from the good old USA. I remember feeling restless about the credit card bill, and that carried over into small problems and made them feel bigger. But as the departure creeps closer and the checklist is getting smaller the feeling of excitement and anticipation of what our new reality is going to be is growing. Everyone who goes out on long backpacking journeys has their own trial-and-error memories of what to bring and how to plan the next large chunk of a year out of your bag. It can be pretty intense.
The travel clinic:
My trip to the travel clinic was interesting to say the least. I got to deal with the fact that my insurance coverage in Rhode Island was non-existent because it was a Massachusetts insurance plan. I went to a travel clinic in Worcester and the nurse practitioner was not impressed. When asked to list what countries I was potentially going to be in my answer was met with confusion. “What do you mean Central and South America, I need specific countries.” So we looked at a map and I started naming all of them as potential areas. Four shots were administered into my arms to get immunized for the trip. A tetanus and typhoid fever vaccine in my left shoulder area and a yellow fever and hepatitis vaccine in my right arm. I almost passed out upon receiving the immunizations for no reason. I’m not scared of needles or have a weak stomach. This happened whenever I gave blood or had blood drawn but for different reasons. I think my body doesn’t like things injected in or taken out. After juice (not kidding) I couldn’t give a choice on the antimalarial prophylaxis because the drugs sounded either too expensive or the side effects were the exact opposite of what the trip was supposed to be about. Take these, but stay the hell away from the sun because some chemical in the drug reacts with sunlight. And all of the intense do’s and dont’s for health risks had me wondering what people who live there do and don’t do. Don’t drink the water (obvious). Don’t swim in it either. Wash your hands before handing any food. Don’t eat salads. Don’t eat food off a cart on the street. Avoid pork. Don’t eat anything that isn’t heated until hot. That’s cool, we’ll just be hanging around the equator indoors with the blinds shut from the outside world scared of getting sick for your entire trip. I chose the cheap antibiotics and plan on seeing how bad the side effects are. If they are too much for me I’ll figure out something else. Eh.
Things to buy/sell on ebay:
So I started selling off all my things I could think of that had some sort of monetary value and I could live without. I also had to purchase some important items that were unavailable in stores for reasons I’ll explain soon. This was both favorable at times and frustrating as hell. I wound up letting go of my old video camera and it’s top of the line fisheye lens, my truck, my rugs, my chairs, my projector, and anything else that was deemed unnecessary. I had to buy a D7000 on ebay because they were sold out everywhere. Their Thailand plant was shut down by a huge flood and the supply was gone. On ebay people were selling the just the body’s at a $300-400 markup . It took several weeks but I locked in a mint condition one at a bargain of 100$ above MSRP. I wouldn’t have done this had I been told I could pre-order and have it before March 1st (departure). The next shipment comes in this Friday (found out yesterday). Oh well. Then lenses, battery cards, and a new holster for slightly discrete handling.
Backpack: you’re newest travel companion.
My backpack choice was narrowed to two so I naturally bought both and will decide upon seeing the 2nd one. It was hard choosing the right pack for the trip because this choice was going to be a very intimate part of this experience. Living out of a backpack is something I’ve done before for a few weeks. This choice caused probably the most anxiety. I wanted something that was big but small enough to carry-on a plane. It also needed a detachable day pack. It should also need a rain cover. I found two that fit these criteria at a reachable price. I practiced filling my pack up with what I think I might need to bring. This is a process that seems will take a few tries to not regret bringing too much stuff. After packing and repacking and packing I think that I am finally settled on what I’m bringing. Tip: get compression sacks. They are amazing and should be used in every bag. It’s extremely hard to imagine what you will need for a big trip like this and I’m just flat out guessing but I believe I have the necessities. Headlamps, clothes for a week, boots, shoes, eyeglasses, pack towel, toiletries, camera with accessories, hat, sunblock, drugs, compass, bouncy ball, journal, band aids, wool socks, documents, and no job. Check.
Since I left things with my company as an “I’ll work if there is something for me to bill” basis I was pleased to hear I could pick up 2 extra days. Although it doesn’t seem like much it came at a somewhat crucial part of the planning and researching crunch-time that it really took a lot out of me. That and the 5:15 alarm was not met with a smile.
You would be surprised at just how many different facets of your real world and digital life that you would have to contact to cancel or put something on hold. I unsubscribed to about 10-15 junk email subscriptions that I’ve been getting for years. Not sure why I kept them but still. Had to switch banks to a more reasonable one concerning international exchange rates and fees. I had to call my car insurance 3 times to get my storage insurance past the management (progressive insurance… progressing backwards). Bye netflix. See ya short term investments. Cell phones, change of addresses, anything with an automatic payment… It’s crazy how raveled into the digital world you can become in this day and age.
Packing up your apartment:
This is never usually greeted with open arms and I can say that it’s especially hard when you try and just have what you need to go traveling after it’s done. It’s hard to think about dropping all the conveniences of life and crunching them into a 55L bag.
I can tell you what a surreal feeling it is to being in such a familiar place as home and all of the sudden a factual thought stops you when your mid-reach into the fridge. In just a few days I’ll be in a completely different world. I will be roaming in a new and uncharted territory in a place very far from home. A smirk and an internal “oh yeah” usually follows. The excitement floods in and it’s something that can honestly be felt. Fear and apprehension can also be found here. I’ve made some contacts down south and I’ve been getting some warnings that can make you feel a little queasy. But all in all I know that keeping a good head on my shoulders and being aware is a great start. Learning spanish is another.
The closer the departure gets and the more goodbye’s that pass have drawn a polarizing feeling about the adventure that lies ahead. It’s truly hard to wrap your mind around something like living out of a backpack for the better part of year before you are actually doing it. My heart and my mind knows that once the starting gun goes off and I’m in the race that I will fall into the comfortable wandering version of myself that I have been keeping fenced in the backyard for the past few years will shine. But seriously, in the moment it can truly be very hectic to think about leaving your comfortable surroundings, everyday comforts, and familiar faces and landing in a country that doesn’t speak your native tongue. This plays into fears and your mind and ultimately convinces you that you are crazy. But once you see through all of the unknown and therefore scary parts of the mission ahead you can see that you are taking a trip of a lifetime. There will be bumps along the road, but they are nothing compared to the potholes I’ve been bouncing over before. The adventure awaits, and I’m ready.