Before anything else, preparation is the key to success
Wise words written by Alexander Graham Bell, first heard from my L’Oréal Hero, Rachel and forever ignored by me.
As always, my preparations for the impending adventure have involved last manic panics, a severe lack of common sense and plenty of cortisol-induced looks of horror from everybody around me.
This is a beautiful party. You invited all my friends. Good thinking!
Nine days before my flight, I submitted my application for a seven-day passport renewal.
I’ve never been good with passports. I lost nine of them in the space of five years and have got myself into some seriously scary situations.
The first was aged nineteen, on my way to California for a road trip with my ex-boyfriend Gareth and his friend Dave. I was stood at passport control in Boston airstation wearing a Hello Kitty backpack and an innocent smile when an armed guard snook up on my right side and very sternly said come with me ma’am.
He marched me down the white staircase in silence, through the white-walled corridors, into a white room and plonked me down on a white plastic chair. I had no idea what was going on and was too scared to ask. I sat there being visually interrogated by security cameras and about eleven armed guards while the lady behind the white desk checked I wasn’t a terrorist.
Another dramatic passport incident was in Amsterdam a year or so later. We’d met a load of Australians and had hijacked a canal boat for an after party that went on until the sun came up. When I got back to our hostel I realised I was sans passport with less than eight hours until my flight home.
We took a tram to the British Embassy which is where we befriended two very-dodgy looking men who had also lost their passports. Meaty, muscley, one with a black eye and the other with his arm in a sling, both dressed head to toe in black – of course it was a very sensible idea to hitch a ride in the back of their top of the range blacked out Range Rover to the nearest supermarket for us all to get our passport photos taken.
What kind of drugs, Denny?
Fast forward to my eleventh passport.
My parents insisted I got three application forms just in case I messed them up and, of course, I did. After proof-reading my first and second attempts, my Mum decided to grab the third form out of my hands and fill it in for me – all I had to do was squiggle my initials in the box.
I had a pre-paid appointment at the passport office for 9am and I somehow managed to sleep through my terrifyingly loud alarm clock. If it wasn’t for my maternal saviour gently waking me up with a coffee in hand, I would have missed it and lost £142 that I definitely can’t afford to lose right now.
I gratefully gulped down my coffee, zhuzhed up my hair, thanked my robe-wearing rescuer and Tazmanian Devilled my way out of the house. Then, just as I was backing out of the driveway, she ran out after me waving like a lunatic and holding up an envelope. I’d almost gone without the only thing I needed to take with me… Now, I only had thirty minutes to get myself to the city centre in rush-hour traffic, pit-stopping at Tesco en route to get my photos taken.
It’s weird how things like this don’t stress me out, but they don’t. Maybe I like an adrenaline-pumping feat, maybe I’m really optimistic, or maybe I’m just an absolute moron.
Leave your stupid comments in your pocket
Anyway, now that the whole getting into the country thing is taken care of, it’s time to pack.
I’m not taking three sets of fairy lights this time, but I have packed a foot-long body brush, an ayurvedic tongue scraper, and inflatable phone case, 1000 business cards and a rape alarm – you know, the essentials.
And just in case my backpack wasn’t heavy enough, I’ve also packed three big books that I’ll no doubt have zero time to read – Emotions Revealed by Paul Ekman, Sapiens, a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and The Anatomy of Love, by Helen Fisher.
Anyway, how is your sex life?
Oh and then there’s the clothes.
I feel sad temporarily saying adios to my florientals, my kimonos, my snakeskin heels and my broad selection of white frocks fit for a virginal sacrifice, but I have to at least try to be a little bit practical when creating my capsule collection. Plus, my floor length gold sequin gown would only get destroyed if I tried to squish it into a backpack.
It’s a seriously difficult task packing for the unknown. Yes I have six weeks in the monastery and a return flight booked, but if I can muster up enough moolah to keep me going, I might be hopping off my connecting flight at Barcelona and pottering about there for a while.
So I’m packing to potentially never return, and to compound the challenge, I have a distinct inability to pair up wardrobe choices with weather conditions.
On my thirtieth birthday in Marrakesh, I found myself with a suitcase full of flip flops and summer dresses in a city where everybody else was buttoned up in bubble jackets and scarves, just because I assumed it would always be hot there, nearer to the equator. For an outdoor festival in a thunderstorm I wore an exquisitely odd, yet completely pointless PVC Alexander McQueen jacket full of holes which left me with a mild case of pneumonia. And today, I left the house looking like an extra in Peaky Blinders with a backless vintage black dress covered in gold beads and a beret, but no coat or umbrella to shelter me from the torrential downpour outside.
What I’ve decided to cram into my bag is a very beige complication of leggings, t-shirts and active wear with a few pretty pieces so I don’t have to abandon my fabric personality altogether. Hopefully I’ve packed enough of a selection to prevent me melting to death in the day time, freezing to death in the night time, or being kicked out of the monastery for looking like a tart.
You’re Tearing Me Apart Laurie
And if my parents weren’t already traumatised enough with the idea of me roaming the planet unsupervised, there’s my plans for transportation.
Instead of grabbing my backpack and taking a taxi like a normal person, I’ll be whipping out a spanner to reattach my pedals, pumping up my tyres and cycling fifteen kilometres uphill to my new home.
I’ve never used a spanner in my life, I’ve only ever been called one, and the last time I got a flat tyre I called my Dad and whinged until he came and picked me up.
However, it’s not impossible to learn and having gained plenty of insight from the incident in Croatia, I’ve made sure I have at least eight hours before the sun sets. I’ve also checked the incline to make sure I’m not cycling up and down thirteen Snowdon-sized mountains in thirty degrees heat with 25kg of crap on my back.
I got this.