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a southern yankee abroad

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Next stop…Israel!

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I can’t believe I am leaving 1 week from tomorrow for a 9 day trip through Israel! I have always dreamed of visiting this land–the birthplace of 3 major world religions and a cradle of ancient civilization. Every Sunday for the first 18 years of life, I learned something about Israel. I can’t wait to see it in person.

I will be meeting up with a group of (awesome) fellow law students from NYU, and we will be spending the week visiting sites with religious, historical, and political significance. I am so excited for this opportunity…I have always felt drawn to visit this country for its spiritual and historic significance, and the trip is just around the corner!

What to pack? I am having a bit of trouble as I am starting my list. We will be doing a little bit of everything—visiting the Old City of Jerusalem (including the Wailing Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Mount of Olives/Garden of Gethsemane, and Via Dolorosa-the road where Christ carried the cross), Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, meeting a Justice at the Israeli Supreme Court, hiking Masada, camping in a bedouin tent, 4-wheeling in the Golan Heights, floating in the Dead Sea, getting some sun on the beaches of Tel Aviv, and meeting with various cultural representatives and law firms. We are also arriving during Purim, which is supposed to be very fun (it is the equivalent of Jewish Mardi Gras!) Sadly, I think I am going to have to leave my backpack behind and take my suitcase instead for this trip.

So far, I think this is what I am going to be packing. I am definitely looking for suggestions though, as I have never been and keep seeing mixed weather reports for Israel in March on Google! I feel like I am overpacking…but am I leaving anything out!?

-2 bathing suits

-flip flops

-sandals

-sneakers

-1 J Crew shorts

-2 Nike shorts

-1 yoga pants

-1 elephant pants from Thailand

-2 jeans

-1 long sundress

-1 going out dress

-1 pashmina (to cover shoulders in the Old City)

-1 professional dress (for Supreme Court visit)

-2 rompers

-2 tank tops

-3 dressy casual tops

-1 long sleeve top

-3 t-shirts

-1 small purse

-bandana

-baseball cap

-Uniqlo Light Down Jacket

-socks

-underthings

-glasses + sunglasses

-toiletries

-computer/chargers

-Bible

-Kindle/other reading

I already feel this trip will be the most meaningful trip I have ever taken in many ways. I hope I am packing the right things! Maybe I will try to pack it all in my backpack…for sentimental reasons, I don’t want to leave it behind…it has been with me to Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. We will see if it all fits. The countdown is on, and I can’t wait to be on the road again!

Always Packing: 3 Months in a Backpack

In the last month, I’ve discovered just how complicated packing a backpack can be. My 55 liter Osprey will have to fit all the belongings I need for the next 3 months. To make things even more complicated, I will be traveling to the hot and sticky climate of Southeast Asia, then to the cold and dry high altitudes of the South American Andes, and then to the hot and sticky (although considerably less hot and sticky than SEA) climate of Europe this summer. I will be doing very different activities in each place–everything from snorkeling and hiking to visiting museums and restaurants that run the gamut from casual to dressy. How do I fit enough outfits to cover my very different activities on 3 very different continents this summer? What can I absolutely not live without for the next 3 months? How do I fit it all into “Oscar” (my name for my backpack…silly I know)?!

After several iterations of folding, rolling, packing, unpacking, removing, refolding, rerolling, and repacking, I have found what I finally believe to be the perfect equilibrium of clothing and supplies for my trip. The very last packing revision happened when I was leaving my apartment to head over to stay at my friends’ place the night before I moved out of my apartment. As I put the backpack on, I very much felt like Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in Wild–I almost fell over from the weight of the pack!

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Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in the movie Wild. She gets how hard packing a backpack can be!

Fortunately, my short trek from Hell’s Kitchen to Park Avenue left me with enough flexibility to remove a few last minute items from the pack and put them into my NYC storage unit. I’ve included a comprehensive and notated list of final items that made the cut below!

Luggage:

-1 55 liter Osprey backpack (Oscar) – As alluded to above, Oscar and I really bonded in Africa last December. He is super reliable and even has a detachable day-pack that is very handy for hiking and squeezing into tight overhead compartments on airplanes! 

-1 carry-on crossbody purse – I have read a lot online about the PacSafe for traveling. Apparently, it is slash-proof and RFID protected. However, once I googled this magic travel bag, I immediately thought it was super ugly. I don’t care how “safe” it is, I did not want to pay $80 for what I consider to be an ugly bag. So, I found a bag for $30 at TJ Maxx that I think will work just fine! I will not be heartbroken if it gets lost, destroyed, or stolen, and it’s a lot cuter than the PacSafe.

-1 small crossbody purse – This is for going out; squished and packed in Oscar.

-1 wallet – I am just taking my regular, everyday wallet.

-4 packing cubes – 1 large for clothing, 1 large for accessories and outerwear, 1 small for underthings, 1 small for dirty clothes; a set of 2 are $30 at REI

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Packing cubes are keeping me organized.

Shoes:

-1 pair North Face hiking “boots” – they look more like sneakers, but have added support and Goretex (which makes it waterproof and breathable) for hiking

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These shoes have a lot of miles to go this summer!! 🙂

-1 pair Haviana flip flops – to wear in the shower or casually out. I chose a pair that look a little dressier than standard flip flops but are made out of the same material for only $15 at the Bloomingdale’s outlet in the UWS.

-1 pair dressier sandals – I made sure they were comfortable for walking.

*3 pairs of shoes…yes, that’s all!! Will I make it? We will see in August…

Clothing:

-1 pair jeans, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 pair leggings, 1 pair cut-off jean shorts, 1 pair green shorts, 2 pair running shorts

-4 tank tops, 1 dressy blouse, 1 t-shirt (Vandy, of course!), 1 long sleeve t-shirt, 1 sweater

-1 romper, 2 sundresses

Outerwear:

-1 zip-up sweatshirt/cardigan

-1 Ultra Light Down Jacket from Uniqlo- I am very excited about this purchase! This jacket squishes down into a small ball and weighs less than a pound, and is also super warm and water-resistant. I will be wearing this a lot in South America, but it is also easy to carry/pack in a purse for a chilly evening in Europe as well.

-1 rainjacket

-2 scarves

-1 straw brim hat – Another exciting purchase! This hat is also “squishable” and can be crushed into a bag without ultimately losing its shape. It also offers SPF 50 protection. 

-1 baseball cap (Alabama, of course!)

-1 Buff – you can read about how much I love the Buff here.

Underthings:

-4 bras – 1 sport, 1 strapless, 2 regular

-A week’s worth of undies

-5 pairs of socks

-2 swimsuits

Accessories:

-eyeglasses and case

-small bag of assorted, non-valuable necklaces, earrings, and bracelets

-sunglasses

-hair ties and hair clip

Toiletries/Medicines:

-2 mini-bottles shampoo, 4 mini-bottles conditioner, 1 mini-bottle facewash (I am pretty particular about my shampoo, conditioner and facewash, so I filled some empty travel size bottles to last me as long as possible before I need to buy refills on the road.)

-2 razors, toothbrush and toothpaste, dry shampoo, baby powder, deodorant , retainer (lol!), contact case and solution, extra contacts

stomach sickness medicines, vitamins, malaria tablets, Melatonin (to combat jetlag and to help with getting some rest on long flights)

-cosmetics (bronzer, mascara, lipstick, chapstick, travel-size brush, tweezers, nail file), small hairbrush, small perfume

Travel Supplies:

-flashlight

-headlamp flashlight – this proved to be so useful in Africa! I literally did not go anywhere at night without it. I may not use it as frequently this summer, but I know it will come in handy at some point.

-DEET mosquito spray – Mosquitoes don’t play, and I don’t have time to get a tropical disease!

-reusable water bottle, reusable plastic chopsticks

quick-dry travel towel – this towel has a strange texture, but can hold 2x its weight in water and dries overnight. Needless to say it is also very compact!

travel laundry detergent – I anticipate I will be doing a lot of handwashing of clothes on the road. This travel detergent looks like a packet of Listerine strips, yet each “strip” becomes detergent for 1 load of laundry! The packet contains 50 strips/loads.

-guidebooks for Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, “This Please!” pointbook, 1 book for pleasure reading (I could have packed my Kindle, but decided against it for the simple reason that I want to use the hostel book exchanges. I think the idea of trading real books with paper pages with other traveling strangers is romantic and old-fashioned in the best of ways, and I want to count this as part of my adventure!) 

Electronics:

Chromebook  and charger- I had originally decided to bring my regular laptop along on the trip. However, I realized that even though it was designed to be light and sleek, it was still a little too big. I purchased a Chromebook for a reasonable price that weighs 2.5 pounds and is a perfect size for travel. Plus, if it gets lost, stolen, or damaged, I won’t be devastated. 

-phone and charger

-portable battery charger – This item is a lifesaver, and I already keep it in my purse for long days in NYC when my phone battery gets drained.

-headphones

-power outlet adapter – I made sure to buy a 1-piece adapter that works on all 3 continents.

-camera – I’m bringing a simple point-and-click Nikon digital camera.

-extra batteries for camera and flashlights, extra camera memory card

-memory card USB reader

Necessities:

-passport

-yellow fever certificate

-credit and debit cards, cash, and currencies

-small moleskine notebook and pen 

-printed copies of reservations for flights, hostels, transportation, etc; photocopies of passport and yellow fever certificate
Did I leave anything important out? Am I packing too much? I guess I will find out once I leave the U.S. tomorrow! 

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T-Minus 5 Days…

I leave NYC for 3.5 months in just 5 days, and it’s starting to feel real y’all. The nerves are setting in.  Am I prepared to leave my life behind for 3.5 months? Have I remembered everything I need to do beforehand? Am I packing too much? Am I packing enough? Although I‘ve been planning for a few months, I’m starting to feel pretty jittery.

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I’m going to miss NYC!

I had a phone conversation with a good friend earlier this morning about everything, and it made me feel so much better about this entire process. The truth is, traveling and moving involves a good deal of planning and organization that feels unnatural for my spontaneous, “ENFP” self. The chat made me realize that it’s good to discuss the details, and embrace each step in the preparation process. So, below are a few “last minute” things I am taking care of before I leave for Mississippi this Friday, then for Asia on May 10.

A last minute visit to the Bolivian consulate in NYC. I am really kicking myself about this one! Based on prior research, I thought I could get my visa at the border. However, some last minute research and digging while I was out of town this past weekend revealed it is preferable to get your visa in advance. I went to the NYC consulate first thing this morning (Monday) with all of my many required documents that I collected as soon as I got back to NYC yesterday. Fortunately, the staff was extremely helpful and accommodating, and said my visa will be ready Friday after 12 noon, as it takes 5 business days to process. I will pick up my passport on the way to the airport to leave town Friday afternoon…talk about cutting it close!  

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The consulate staff was very helpful and reassuring this morning. Hopefully my passport is ready on time before I leave NYC!

Vaccinations. I had received most of the vaccines I would need before my trip to Africa in December, but I still needed my third and final Hepatitis A&B shot. I was able to find a clinic that does the shot for $100 cheaper than my prior research revealed, mainly because they don’t charge as much for the “office visit.” Timing-wise, I am supposed to get this final shot at the end of May, but I will be in Asia then. So, I took the calculated risk of getting the shot early, as opposed to trying to find a clinic in Vietnam.

I also decided to not get the Japanese Encephalitis shot. The doctor told me that, while there is no absolute guarantee I will not be at risk or contracting JE, most people contract it after spending more than a month in rice fields. As I may spend 1-2 days tops near a rice field, I opted to save the $300 and not get this shot. Another calculated risk, in my opinion.

Pick up malaria tablets. This is one disease not worth the risk to me!

Mail in seat deposit for law school by deadline. I CANNOT forget to do this!!

Final stages of packing and moving. I also picked up a few more (free!!) cardboard boxes this morning, and will finalize all my packing by Wednesday. I also need to visit my storage unit to pick up the keys, and confirm with my movers that I will still see them Thursday morning!

Cancel gym membership, internet service, and electricity in apartment. Return apartment keys to landlord. Super boring, but I can’t forget to do this…

Set travel notices with my banks. Having accounts frozen while traveling is very annoying.

Purchase data plan for cell phone. I may wait to do this once I am home next week, but still an important to-do item on my list.

Final salon visit for next 3.5 months on Wednesday! I’ll be getting the keratin treatment so my hair is easy to manage while on the road.

Last dinners and drinks with friends (for a while). This is where I feel guilty…I am running out of time in the city and I know I am not going to be able to meet up with as many people to say “bye” to as I had hoped or planned. I started this process last weekend, but the truth is there are only so many nights before I leave. I am definitely trying to see as many friends as possible before I head out of the city. As I’ve told everyone already, I don’t want anyone to forget me over the summer! 🙂 I am really going to miss my NYC friends and all the fun stuff that happens over the summer months. I will also miss my friends and family from home..although we are already separated by many miles, being on the other side of the world is going to make it feel like I’m that much further away.

Go for a few more runs in Central Park. I’ve decided to take a break from running over the summer, so I want to get a few last runs in CP before I leave. I know these will be my last ones until August, and the weather is so perfect in NYC now, so I want to make them long and good!

Set mail forwarding address with USPS.
I know I will feel much less anxious once I am in Mississippi this weekend. I will have my backpack ready and the rest of my apartment secure in storage. All I plan to do then is visit family and friends, go for some long runs, eat some good southern cooking, and fish! It’s going to be great. Until then, I am living the hectic NYC life for a few more days while checking items off of my to-do list.

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I can’t wait to spend some much-needed time with family and friends in Mississippi and Alabama! However, I have a long way to go and so much to do before my arrival Friday night.

Stuff: Pack it all and stack it all up

Sometimes, even the most mundane details in life become important. Over the past month, I have reflected a lot on my stuff, mostly as a function of planning for my upcoming travels. I will be living for 3.5 months solely out of a backpack, which is both terrifying and exhilarating. Many travelers sell all of their possessions before embarking on such a journey, but it is not my intention to go “full nomad.” After all, I will be returning to the U.S. to start law school in August (location TBD!) so I neither want nor need to get rid of every single thing. However, it is safe to say I have started a systematic downsizing process with my possessions. Such a seemingly mundane task, I’ve found, is actually quite cathartic and leads to a good deal of self-reflection.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo writes that one should ask whether an item sparks joy. If it does not, one should thank it for its service and then discard the item. This single piece of advice has been tremendously liberating. Whether it’s something as small as an extra pair of socks I never wear, or as significant as an old card from an ex I for some reason have kept around forgotten in a drawer, I have been discarding a good amount of my possessions.  Do I really need this huge TV, or did I purchase it to please someone else in my life? Do I really need ALL of these sorority t-shirts from 5+ years ago? I have found Craigslist, the Salvation Army, or even the recycling bins in my apartment’s basement to all be worthy destinations for these items. This process is ongoing. I estimate I am about 75% packed for my move on April 28. However, I now count this chore of packing as an important step forward in my traveling this summer and the new direction I am taking in my career and life.

I’ve loved my studio apartment in NYC, but it’s time to downsize.

Logistically, how does it work to pack up everything you own and live from a backpack? Fortunately for me, I realized my lease in NYC was up at the end of April around the same time I had a life-changing realization that now was the time to take my career in a different direction and finally attend law school (which, for those of you who know me, I’ve been talking about for years. I’m finally getting around to doing it!) I decided the months between the end of my lease and starting law school would be ideal to take the big trip around the world I’ve dreamed about for so long. I would be saving money on rent, but what would I do with my stuff? After some phone calls and Google research, I decided on Manhattan Mini-Storage. They cover the cost of the move into the facility, and offer a discounted rate after a 3 month period (I will be using it for 4). When I come back in August, I will hire movers to transport my whittled-down possessions to one of two fantastic cities (yet to be finalized). In the meantime, I will live out of my trusty backpack. More on how to pack specifically for that later!

I also cut down on costs by making friends with the employees at my neighborhood grocery store. The last two times I’ve moved, I’ve purchased boxes from the moving company or U-Haul. Now that I am looking at a traveler/grad student budget, I just wanted to avoid spending money on cardboard boxes if at all possible. Fortunately, all it took was introducing myself to the team at my local grocery store, being friendly, and explaining my situation. I have been stopping by regularly every few mornings for the past few weeks to get some amazing paper towel and cereal boxes. They’ve even started saving these boxes for me specifically because they know I like them them most! If you’re looking to do this too, be sure to get there before 11am or they may go ahead and crush the cardboard.

The big lesson I’ve learned is not to let my stuff own me. Have you experienced the life-changing magic of tidying up? It truly is life-changing.

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Still working on the clothes…obviously!

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