Journal 1 -- May 7, 2006
Packing and getting ready to leave.

By Bob Corbett

Tomorrow is travel day, or at least travel day # 1 and Iím excited. Iím always quite excited at this point.

Packing is a very quick affair for me, but quite orderly. I got up, neatly made the bed and will use the bed as my ďpacking table.Ē This process takes little time for three reasons:

  1. First I have a special ďtravel drawerĒ one in which I keep only items for my trips and as much of it as I can. This includes such essentials as my passport, tickets and even travel books for my upcoming trip, and then many things I have just for my trips. My special wine opener Iím never without, my small but useful Swiss army knife, some small plastic bags I have used over and over, a scissors, tiny flashlight and such items.
  2. Secondly I have on my computer a travel list which Iíve developed and modified over the years and I print a copy of that to use it as a check off list.
  3. Lastly is the fact that I travel very lightly. On this trip I plan to take only one single backpack and nothing else. So, first go the contents of the travel drawer, Then I start with shoes and come right up my body, putting just a couple of each item, add my rain coat and thatís it.

The backpack itself already has some colored ribbons on it from my last trip, so I donít need to do that again. These make it much easier to recognize when it comes down the baggage ramp.

Also, since on my last trip, as many of you will remember, I had everything stolen in San Jose, Costa Rica, first theft Iíve ever experienced in several DOZEN trips to foreign countries. So, a few weeks ago I went out and purchased a quite lovely and very light weight travel vest. It has pockets in places I donít even yet know, all over even inside and Iíve worn it three times already just to check it out. Since the lower front pockets near the waist are fairly large Iím able to carry a book in one and my notebook, pen and glasses in the other, thus I no longer need my little shoulder bag at all. Just the vest. That saves one item of packing.

In a few minutes Iíll go in and print the check list and then take my daily walk by going up to Schnucks grocery store to get the few items I will need Ė the smaller travel versions of everyday toiletries Ė a small can of shaving cream, small shampoos, a small tube of toothpaste, little items that are more expensive in those small sizes, but cut down on the bulk I have to carry.

As always my guess is that ľ the weight of my bag will be my books. Iím taking several classics of ancient Greece, plays of Sophocles, Homerís Odyssey, other Greek plays. I have one modern novel set in Turkey, a couple travel books, an assortment of other modern novels including going back to Hemingway again (which Iíve been doing systematically the past year Ė this time Iíve chosen his The Sun Also Rises) and some poetry, even Chaucerís Canterbury Tales which I try to re-read every five years or so. And notebooks so that I can write commentaries for all the books I read. My backpack is as much a book bag and clothes bag.

I am not much of a ďsight-seerĒ at all. I go more to be in a different sort of place, preferably a different culture and different language with different food and interesting drinks. I like to just walk about and GAPE. I RARELY visit ďtourist sightsĒ and on Tuesday, our first full day in Athens, while Sally goes up to see the Acropolis, Iíll just walk about the Plaka, which I do love, and do things like get our ferry tickets for the trip to Santorini and such and let Sally tell me all about the Acropolis. Now I do have fond memories of a few years ago sitting on the balcony of a great room my son Brian had at some cheap hotel, sipping our own wine and staring off at the Acropolis which looked like it was just a few blocks away!!!! That was enough ďAcropolisĒ for me. I will look forward to sitting at outdoor cafes, reading of course, and sipping a bit of ouzo, which I donít particularly like, but like when Iím in Greece!!!! Iím also hoping to find some place that still serves absinthe which is getting harder and harder to fine.

And I love to eat. Athens is, quite honestly, not a place I much like. (That a gross understatement), but weíll only be there a couple days. Then it will be off to Santorini, one of the most wonderful places Iíve ever been and where the food is just great and fresh fish is delicious if the seas are such that the fishermen can get out. If not, well, then there are always kabobs and such.

I am feeling so utterly relaxed today. Itís like I am now letting go of all my daily activities and plans for my work here. Always the day before travel is my ďlet go day,Ē and, yes, packing, but thatís just a few minutes. Itís more a psychological UNPACKING. Letting go. And at 8:30 AM Iíve already done so and Iím feeling very very mellow. One more ďjobĒ -- I did finish a simply marvelous novel yesterday. The Kite Runner by Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini and I wrote my comments on the book last night, now I will head off to a coffee shop, have some breakfast, and edit this book review before posting it to my web page this afternoon. But THAT work, my book reviews, I do carry with me, but I still feel much less pressure to MYSELF when Iím traveling than I do when Iím home. I donít write those reviews for others, but really for myself. Nonetheless, I feel obligated to myself most of the time, but not when I travel. So THIS review is pre-trip and thus carries obligations, then next book (still unchosen) will not carry that burden. Yep, today is a day for psychological unpacking while doing a bit of physical packing.



Bob Corbett