Readying for Travel

Tonight I leave on my journey abroad. I am piecing together my remaining items to be packed; making sure that my passport is at the ready and headphones are nearby. I have checked in to my flight, landing in London tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Having confirmed lunch with friends tomorrow, I downloaded the iPhone application of the London tube system, making my quick jaunt into the city center less anxiety provoking, since I’ll know exactly which trains to take. After lunch tomorrow, I’ll return to Heathrow for my flight to Istanbul.

I’ll arrive at midnight, taxiing to Cihangir, where I’ll meet the woman who is renting me an apartment for the next two weeks. I’ve heard that this neighborhood is residential, not touristy, and is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, shops, and galleries. With a list of attractions/distractions like that, I could probably exist without leaving my neighborhood.

Alas, I’ll venture out. To prepare for this trip, I got a Chip and Pin card from Travelex. A chip and pin, for those of you who don’t know, is a credit card with a chip in it that one uses in combination with a pin code. We don’t have these stateside yet, but they are becoming the norm in Europe. They have increased security measures and are much safer than plain credit cards. Also, the machines in which they are used are different than ours, there’s no swiping. I learned the hard way, on previous trips, is that once chip and pin is installed in an establishment, oftentimes swiping is no longer an option. More than once I had to run to get cash from a machine to pay my bill or make a purchase. Travelex, the same company that gives you travelers checks and exchanges your cash, offers a refillable card that one can purchase in dollars but will be exchanged for pounds or euros. I chose euros, knowing full well that most of the countries that I am visiting are on their own currency still. But just in case, at least I’m covered for a bit of cash in chip and pin form in case I get caught in a pickle. And no, I don’t work for Travelex, but they sure do make travel easier.

When readying for a trip like this, I do all the practical things. I count pairs of socks and underwear, I fill small bottles with facewash and lotion. I bring scarves and bikinis both, since you never know what you’ll encounter. I look at maps, kind of, and plan out the first steps of the process, knowing that jet lag will get the better of me. I do all of these practical things because I know that my first day of traveling always includes some sort of breakdown. I’m not alone in this; I’ve read Matt Gross and other frequent travelers mention a case of Day One Malaise. It’s a common affliction of exhaustion, disorientation and aloneness. Not loneliness, but aloneness. It doesn’t last long but never fails to make an appearance.

This trip, I began my anxiety a bit early, spending one night last weekend completely awake. Wide eyed, I asked my ceiling what on earth I was thinking, who would I talk to while away?!? Silly, I know, but there are moments when traveling and preparing to do so where your logical, thinking mind is not in charge of your thoughts. Day One Malaise for me normally includes one very expensive phone call and at least one very much appreciated glass of wine. Then, I’m ready for the world. To avoid any crazytown breakdowns, I have coordinated with my entire family and most friends to keep in touch over Face Time, iChat and Skype. With all the chatting we will do, I’ll hardly realize the distance between us.

So, with all my ducks in a row, I zip up my bag, double check for my adapters, cords, toothbrush and passport, and get in the car. My sister will drop me off, promising to treat my cat with unending love and affection while I’m gone, and I’ll say, “I’ll see you at Christmas.”

Lauren Bell

Lauren's interest in travel and food started young; she spent her childhood dreaming of living abroad, speaking foreign languages, and discovering the food of other places. While she's spent her time working toward attaining those goals, she has also gotten properly distracted at home in the US. She's lived all over California and New England: seeking out small farms, delicious eateries, and creative chefs and artists. She's enamored of all things artisanally made- be it food, wine, art, crafts...anything small scale, by hand and with love. She's the artisanal admirer. In an effort to emulate her talented friends, she has learned to make cheese, ran an urban, edible schoolyard garden, cooks, cans, and bakes pies. She dreams daily of moving to Europe to do the same there. Until then, she travels frequently, at home and abroad, works as a pastry chef, sells wine and cheese, and helps run a farm-to-table restaurant. She lives in Brooklyn with her Siamese cat, Henry.

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