Wednesday, January 27, 2016

HItting the wall

There comes a point before every big trip where I just hit the wall.  Emotionally, physically, mentally, I'm just tired.  It's not close enough to completely stop being productive and functional, but it's close enough that I can almost taste it.  I'm at that point now.  I'm writing this more to remind myself that it happened again, that I feel like hell, that I want to sleep until I leave, that I am crying for no reason, that I don't want to do a stitch of work, that I don't want to work out.  My battery is low on several counts.  And while we haven't had much to speak of yet, a snowstorm, which I live in constant fear of, might just push me over the edge.

In talking to other veteran travelers, I realize that this sort of pre-trip behavior, depression, lethargy is common, which makes me wonder: do we sabotage ourselves in the lead up only to make the finally getting there that much more satisfying?

Case in point: I was seething over the receipt left by the US Postal Service notifying me that I must show up in person and sign for a package.  Who has time for that?  I work during open hours?  Why are you doing this to me?  And who on earth sent me something I need to sign for.  So yesterday, I showed up, presented the receipt and, when I finally saw where the package was from, I struggled to hold back tears. My safari dossier was here, and it was tickets for my internal flights, camp vouchers and final itinerary that I was signing for.  Calgon take me away.

It's funny because I felt somewhat rejuvenated, yet physically rundown, after LA and Vegas, and really thought I could muddle through until I leave for Africa.  But, suspecting I couldn't, I started to get some of the heavy lifting done well ahead of time so I'd have less to worry about that last week before I leave.  That's why credit cards have been notified and my packing is mostly done.  Really all that's left is to get the cats ready for the sitter, get money and stop the newspaper.  In theory.

Re: wearing hiking boots on the plane, I caved in and bought trail runners from Brooks, the brand I buy  my running sneakers from.  They are sturdier than plain old sneakers but will stand up to the rougher terrain while being more comfortable to travel in.  They will look far better with my traveling garb too.  Which is important.  The things we do for fashion and comfort.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Carry-On is a go!

The carry-on was delivered two nights ago.  I'd been over anxious to see just what I'd committed myself to.  I have to admit, there was a moment of panic when I lifted the box off the porch and it weighed next to nothing.  And even more panic when I opened the box and found that the bag itself was folded down and condensed into a large zip lock vinyl bag.  GULP!

However, I bravely unpacked the bag and left it on the floor for a moment, while Simon, my 14 pound boy cat, climbed inside with not much room to spare.  GULP again.

Then I took the bag upstairs and just casually dumped the pile of clothes I'd started for this safari (which is almost everything I'm taking) and my toiletry bag in it, and it fits.  And THERE'S STILL ROOM!  If I use those vacuum packing bags I might even be able to take a little more.

The only concession I'm making is to wear my hiking boots on the plane.  I just don't have the luxury of wearing sneakers in transit and carrying the boots.  But that's a small sacrifice.  So I'll look like a fashion disaster what with my yoga pants and top for flying and hiking boots.  No one will remember me once we're off the plane.  Or care, even.

So now the idea of going carry-on only for 2 weeks on safari is extremely likely.  I'm gobsmacked.  Wahoo!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Already packing and other getting ready for safari stuff

In order to settle my unquiet mind about this going carry-on only business, I got down to it and started packing.  Yes, there'd already been a pile of safari-going outfits accumulating on the floor.  As I dug them out and washed them, they went there.  Today I focused on the personal items and cosmetics, figuring if I could condense all the  liquids down to the 1 quart bag, I'd put my mind at ease.  And I did indeed get it all in the bag, but I'm still mildly unsettled.  I've jettisoned the alarm clock in favor of my iPhone.  I'll like wear my hiking boots on the plane rather than sneakers.  Uncomfortable and not very fashionable, but unless the new duffle has oodles of room, there won't be a spot for chunky hikers.  Who knows, I may be surprised.  So I think I'm as streamlined as I can get.  One well-executed trip to CVS and I should be good to carry-on.

I downloaded the British Airways app, as I've become a big fan of mobile boarding passes and checking in online.  With the app, I'll only need a cell signal in Nairobi coming home, not access to a PC.  I printed out my e-Visa, my Sheldricks foster certificates and the BA itinerary just in case.  The rest of my travel documents are coming from my safari planner shortly.

My day bag is just about packed with my wildlife guidebook, binoculars, both cameras, Tilly hat, sunglasses and chapstick (this time with SPF 15, won't make that mistake again). It's my "personal item" for the flight, so I'm trying to keep it light.

So in theory, all I have left to do is stop the newspaper, leave instructions for the cat sitter, charge the batteries, load the iPod with movies and get cash to exchange when I land.  I'm trying to take pre-emptive action against that week-before-I-leave anxiety that always sets in.  If I have nothing left to do, there's nothing to get anxious about.  In theory.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Safari #3 is now a month away!

Having the sheer number of trips going on between when I finalized my safari and now I think has kept me from really getting excited about safari.  But now that LA and Vegas are safely behind me, and I've recovered from that trip, I can set my sights fully on safari.

After so many trips last year where we enjoyed the liberty of going carry-on only, I've decided to try it for safari.  Try it as in, let's practice pack and see how doable this might be.  I've been mulling it over in my head and have talked myself into it all being possible.  After all, I'm bringing summer-weather clothing (light!) and will have access to laundry service at the midpoint of my two weeks on the ground there.  But the thought of just strolling off the plane, exchanging money and heading to my hotel (no more visa queues, did it all online!) is just so enticing.  And then when I return home, since I have Global Entry, I can be in a car heading home much faster if there's no luggage reclaim involved.  I can do this.  I know I can.

My safari planner, who is a GEM, has put an incredible itinerary together for me.  After a quick night in Nairobi, I fly right out to Amboseli to a lodge at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Amboseli is known for its massive elephant herds and I'm so anxious to see them, as well as Kilimanjaro itself.  Despite being in Tanzania, it is actually best seen from Kenya.  Go figure.

Then it's back to my beloved Mara, this time the Naboisho conservancy.  I'm hoping beyond hope that the big cat spotting here is as good as it was in Olare Motorogi.  I'm also hoping to get into the reserve itself and find the Marsh Pride.  I'm still gutted over the loss of the Marsh Pride females (Siena and Bibi, who were poisoned by locals last month) but want to see the remaining pride if we can find them.

Specifics aside, I'm really longing for the wide open space, the white puffs of cloud that just seem to hang in animated suspension right over us.  As much as we drive to them, they never seem to get any closer.  The beauty of the pink lightning jumping between clouds in a storm.  The warmth of the sun.  The quick as a minute sunrises and the watercolor drawn sunsets, gin and tonic in hand.  Being unplugged, mentally, physically and device-wise.  This blogger is tired, needs a recharge and a reset.  This is why I love Kenya.

I will ease back into reality when I return to Nairobi and stay in Nairobi National Park.  It's a wildlife reserve right in the middle of the city.  On my last day on the ground in Kenya, I'll get to the Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage and meet four of my five foster elephants (the fifth has already graduated to the next level of reintegration and is no longer in the nursery.  As much as I don't want to wish away the entire trip, this is what I'm most looking forward to.  I've followed these babies for over a year now and am so anxious to see them in person.

So with a deep breath I'm going to start laying things aside to pack (or not, as the case may be) and start organizing myself so that last week before I leave isn't the stressed-out freak out that it usually is. I just cannot believe that over a year later, I'm finally taking this trip!  Hakuna matata.

2015 recap redux

After the last blog post, I suspected we had a couple more road trips left in us.  And we did.

First we decided to go to Amsterdam to take in the Munch:Van Gogh exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum.  We booked the trip somewhat spontaneously (for me, that's about a month ahead) and then the whole Paris terror attacks happened.  We went anyway, as is our way, and enjoyed the heck out of Amsterdam.  The exhibition is going down as perhaps the best I've seen anywhere, but the test of time will have to have the last word there.  It was, in a word, exquisite.

Then, almost as spontaneously, we returned to our beloved Los Angeles for a quick (30 hour) stay to see Morrissey play on New Year's Eve, then drove to Las Vegas for three days to see him there as well.  As hesitant of (and dare I say resistant to) Las Vegas as I was, I ended up loving the time there.  Not sure I'd go back without the tantalizing Morrissey on the other end of it, but I did have fun and come back significantly poorer.  But alas, I think that's what Vegas does to you.

So while I logged about the same number of miles as previous years (I travel about 37,000 miles annually), this year it was over 11 trips.  11 times when I packed a bag and either got on a plane or got in a car and drove for hours.  It seemed like all we did was pack and unpack.  Not that I'm complaining, but we were pretty exhausted at points, and both of us fell ill with some exhaustion/stress-induced illness during the course of it all.  Every minute of it was completely worth it.  No regrets.

As I recapped on Facebook:
37,256 miles traveled
1,055 miles on the bike
126 incredible art exhibitions
6 Morrissey shows...
12 other shows (we only bailed on one this year!)
Tornata in Bella Italia (prima volta dal 2007)
Back to Amsterdam (first time since 2007)
A wonderful travel buddy in my sis
Bring on 2016….