Category Archives: Pre-Trip #1

Last Night in the States

My bag is packed, my mom sewed a patch on the back for me, and my plane leaves tomorrow.  I’ve been wanting to go for so long that finally going doesn’t feel completely real, though I confess I have a twinge of not nervous-scared but rather nervous-excited.  Whatever happens in the next six months will be interesting and undoubtedly different than anything I’ve done before, so I am quite willing to see what will happen.

I think I’m supposed to finish this off with something profound, but instead I’ll just finish with the same anecdote I had before I went off on my study abroad in New Zealand (don’t worry, once I’m actually somewhere I will have lots of pictures and new material!)-

Around the beginning of January when my dad started looking into purchasing my ticket, he realized that it was prohibitively expensive to buy a ticket to the bottom of the world on such short notice. The solution? Eighty-thousand frequent flier miles.

Of course, I was not the only one who wanted to fly to New Zealand using such an ingenious method, so the US Airways representative was having a hard time finding a possible route for me. After twenty minutes of muzak and us becoming steadily convinced we’d been forgotten, she finally came back on the line.

“There’s a way to do it? Great!” my dad exclamed, as I listened on to his side of things. “Uh-huh… how do you spell that exactly?”

After a stream of letters from the representative, my dad cupped his hand over the phone. “Yvette, can you look up where Nandi is? You’re flying through there.” I gave my dad a slightly perplexed look, because this was certainly something out of the ordinary. I’m pretty good at geography and my dad is somewhat of a globetrotter (in case the 80,000 frequent flier miles didn’t tip you off), so anyplace we haven’t heard of between the two of us is probably off the beaten path.

Typing “Nandi” into Wikipedia revealed a redirect page telling me that Nadi could refer to several places. A district of Western Kenya? Probably not. A range of hills in India? Nope. A daughter of the Langeni tribe? A daughter of the what now?

As the last entry, Wikipedia kindly mentioned that Nandi can actually mean “Nadi,” a city in Fijian citi whose name is pronounced “Nandi” in Fijian language. Aha! “It’s in Fiji,” I finally told my dad, and he nodded.

“Right,” he said to the representative, “that sounds perfect.”

I looked at my dad the way you stare at a person who’s not quite with it. “Dad, they just had a military coup!” I exclaimed. A Fijian general had ousted the legitimately elected president in early December, and from what I heard he’d done a great job supressing freedom of speech rights and the right to free assembly.

“Oh. Well, you’ll be fine at the airport,” my dad said. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or roll my eyes, so I settled on both in rapid sucession.

My dad hung up the phone and had one more word of advice on the subject: “Don’t tell your mother.” I figured she’d hear about the coup d’etat eventually, unlike overflowing the dishwasher it’s not something you can hide from your mother very long, but I agreed. She didn’t find out until about a week ago when I let it slip by accident, and by then it was too late to do much about it.

And for those wondering Fiji ended up being perfectly fine, though I could have done without the army guys with the too-large guns and the too-new uniforms.  But then these are the things we put up with so we can tell our parents two years later “look mom and dad, my first stop is Japan!  There isn’t a State Department Travel Advisory for this one!”

I’m being flippant, I know, but that’s the only way you can half-expect to keep everyone’s attention despite a large block of text and no pictures and I will quit while I’m ahead.  So be good while I’m gone everyone!  Catch you on the flipside.

How it Began

Reprinted from my former column in The Observer on 10/31/08, because I don’t like repeating myself:

It sounds shady as hell, but I first got the idea in a dream. You see, around this time last year I was going through a “what the hell am I doing?” phase that is undoubtedly familiar to everyone reading these words. My specific crisis focused on how I was set to graduate in January 2009 but knew I couldn’t enroll in graduate school for astrophysics until the fall. Getting a job is the normal thing to do under such circumstances, but it also seemed…boring. I have the rest of my life to get a job and act responsibly, so I couldn’t understand the huge rush to start doing it now.

But anyway, the dream. In my dream I spent six months between undergrad and graduate school on a trip around the world exploring countless treasures in exotic countries, having a great time of it, and then starting grad school with a new appreciation for life. (My dreams can get rather specific.) And I woke up feeling incredibly jealous of my dream self until I thought…why not? There was no real reason why I shouldn’t go on this trip; to say I wanted to do it was an understatement, and it would allow me to start grad school broke, as nature surely intended. So I began planning and saving for my trip, and never let off since that initial idea. As one friend observed, this trip is a bigger black hole of my time than a boyfriend would be.

One year later, here is the state of things: I am officially going. Starting in late January, I have an itinerary that goes to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Southern Africa, and my whole trip will cost less than a semester of Case tuition. Honestly, the most difficult thing about the whole process has been trying to convince my parents I’m not actively trying to kill myself.

Now when you get down to it, there are a million good reasons not to do this trip: the economy is tanking, Americans are not exactly winning the global popularity contest, you can’t guarantee nothing bad will happen, and so on. But for me one reason has held on and trumped all others: nothing in life is guaranteed except this moment. You never really know what will happen in the future, and nothing guarantees you will have the same opportunities you have today, so why not go for it? I figure my 80-year-old self will have more fun sitting on the porch telling stories of all the things she did instead of lamenting the ones she didn’t, and I owe the old biddy at least that much.

Also, one thing I have really enjoyed from this trip already is how much you get to learn about the dreams of others once word gets out. Most of the time people get wonderfully excited and tell me about their own dreams, sometimes about travel, but just as often about something completely different. I’ve even had one or two complete strangers confide in me saying, “I’ve always wanted to do X but am worried because of Y; what do you think I should do?”

I don’t know why people bother asking me, because my answer is always the same – do it. Sure, there’s always the chance it might not work, or that you will look like a fool, but none of us can be both young and wise, so we might as well take our chances.

And don’t forget, at the very least it gives your 80-year-old self a good story to tell.