Traveling Abroad: A Pre- Pre-Flight Checklist

06 Jul 2008
July 6, 2008
Boat House in Puerto Rico

Boat house with concrete lighthouse for sale. A photo from my last trip to a Spanish-speaking land: Puerto Rico.

Ok, true confession: I am a neurotic traveler. Well, to be more specific: I am a neurotic pre-traveler. With one week to go before heading off to Aranjuez, Spain to give my first international talk (El uso de los blogs dentro de los museos de corte tradicional/New World Blogging in a Traditional Museum Setting), I’d sleep much better if I was entirely packed and ready to go. I’m always afraid I’ll forget something. A MacGyver I’m not.

Spanish translated PowerPoint: check (on thumb drive, on CD, on .mac drive and ftp site –yeah, that should cover it); clothes decisions made (hot weather, casual conference they tell me): check. Laptop: check and already nestled in my new international trip backpack. While not entirely a “light” traveler, I like to travel as light as I can: unencumbered both physically and mentally. Until now I’ve managed never to have taken my laptop on any trip, business or pleasure. But then again, I haven’t traveled out of the country for nine years. Yes, I’ll admit to that too.

When I started to consider international calling plans to keep in touch with the family, I suddenly discovered Skype. For someone who’s supposed to be on the technological cusp this was a long overdue revelation. Free PC-to-PC telephony –a new tech development since my last international trip. That, alone, made taking my computer irresistible. Tested on our laptops, my two girls now think they have an in-house walkie-talkie. It’s not that I haven’t traveled to far-flung places: the interior of China twice, way way off the beaten tourist paths. I’ve just been focused on domestic issues for a while. Yeah, that’s a good way of spinning my isolationism.

Oh yeah, don’t forget your opening remarks in Spanish (although I need to practice). I had fantasies of giving my whole talk in Español but I only got through the first 20 lessons of Coffee Break Spanish. Should it come up I can say with confidence: Tengo dos hijas. I have two daughters. I guess I haven’t come to the lesson “So you’re giving a talk on museum blogging in Spain” yet.

What’s really funny about these language lessons is that I learn more useful phrases when they talk to you in Spanish about the lesson itself. I experimented with Pimsleur a bit and came away remembering that most useful phrase Escuchar y repetir: listen and repeat. Well, they repeated so often I couldn’t help but remember it. And in Coffee Break Spanish I will be able to weave into my presentation: Vamos a empezar: Let’s begin.

So, there’s a pile of travel stuff starting to grow in the corner of our bedroom. And I keep some paper and a pencil next to my bed so I can write down additional items I need to take when I suddenly remember them in the middle of the night.

Forget the excitement of arriving in Madrid. I can’t wait for the excitement at my airport arrival for takeoff. By then I’ll have remembered everything or not. And I can just relax and enjoy the trip. Geez, Jeff, it’s only a week.

3 replies
  1. Nina says:

    I used Coffee Break Spanish, too, to brush up. It’s hysterical because it’s done by people w Scottish or Irish accents. But it IS Spanish Spanish as opposed to South American Spanish (Spanith :-)
    I asked my housekeeper to listen to it (she’s from Peru) and she had tears of laughter running down her cheeks.
    Have un tiempo merveloso (not sure of the spelling on that). Expect lotsa pics when you return.
    Will you get to see Bilbao?

  2. Zoey says:

    You’re certainly not alone in your pre-travel habits! Even for flights and trips I have taken over 15 times I find myself wide awake the night before ruminating over everything that I may have forgotten to remember. ;)
    Anyhow, I want to add a few words of advice regarding your language learning. Should you have the time, I strongly recommend taking whichever language learning tools you are using overseas with you. Immersion in the language will help whatever learning endeavors you making threefold! It is almost like learning by osmosis. Somehow, so many of the foreign language things you cover and forget in an English speaking environment will slot into place once you are abroad – simply having the language there in the background is enough to make a significant impact. I wish you all the best on your trip!

  3. Seth says:

    Nice to hear of someone else who’s discovered Skype. It’s definitely nice to have, although our home dialup connection restrictions you to IMing only. True, I can take my laptop and make video calls at Panera, but it always feels like someone’s looking over your shoulder. Enjoy Spain!

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