I had hoped that getting on a plane would calm all my anxiety about this trip, but unfortunately I didn’t find that to be the case. Regardless of the amount of preparation I’ve done, I know a lot of things about travelling are unpredictable. I may have an exciting meeting lined up with an expert in Santo Domingo, but they could cancel at the last minute because of a more important meeting or because their lunch ran over or because they called sick that day. I may think I speak enough Spanish to get around, but landing in the DR was a good wake-up call – Dominicans talk really fast.
There were almost endless last-minute details to arrange before flying out of New York early Sunday morning. I realized late in the afternoon on Saturday that Cote d’Ivoire requires an advance visa application (oops). Thankfully, they launched an e-visa application a few years ago. The Dominican Republic doesn’t have an Ivoirian embassy, so I would have been facing a trip across the border to Haiti to try and obtain a visa otherwise. The questionable English translation for this visa application had an amusing selection of relationship options: married, divorced, widowed, or celibate. Apparently in Cote d’Ivoire, if you were never married, you had better be celibate.
Packing led to a whole new set of headaches. How do you pack for three months of travel in vastly different countries and geographic contexts? Luckily all six countries are in summer, so at least I’m not facing a lot of bulky layers. In the DR, Cote d’Ivoire, and Malaysia, I’m sure I’ll be wishing for cooler temperatures, but I think my other destinations have quite a temperature range even in the summer. Nonetheless, in past travels I’ve never found myself wishing I had more stuff, so I opted for just a carry-on sized backpack and a purse.
I’m really hoping the above picture is everything I need for the next three months: I expect to be doing laundry quite a lot.
My flight was on Sunday 5/21 at 5am, which meant my mom and I drove up to New York on Saturday evening and stayed in a hotel for a few hours before a cheery 3am trip to the airport. I tried to convince her that it would make a lot more sense for me to take a bus to the airport Saturday night and stay in the airport, but it didn’t work.
I’m sure there are a lot of metaphors I could spout about leaving and uncertainty and all the things I’m going to learn over the course of this summer. The truth is that I didn’t sleep much Saturday night (not only because I had to wake up at 2:45am) and I spent the 4-hour flight plagued with nerves, trying to get a few hours of sleep between the arguing Dominican couple shouting across me in the middle seat. All I can do now is cross my fingers and hope that for everything I didn’t plan, or for everything that goes wrong, winging it works just as well.