How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Madness

by Brenna Holeman













Havana, Cuba
I’m leaving for Belize in exactly 41 hours. The past few days, as predicted, have been madness; for those who don’t know, I’m embarking on an eight-month journey through Central and South America, leaving behind the house I bought last year. I’ll be living in Antigua, Guatemala, for most of May and June, and then I’ll be heading south for as long as my budget lasts.
I have my vaccinations, my plane ticket, and the first few weeks with my mum in Belize organized, just as I suggested you should do if you’re planning a major adventure. But what of the little things? Why am I so stressed? Why, even with all of that planning, am I on the brink of completely losing it? Here are some of the things I have been doing this past week, things I think we all have to do before we travel for an extended period of time. These are the little things you might need to do before you go on a round-the-world trip or a long adventure.
1. Call all of your credit cards and let them know that you’ll be out of the country.
2. Order and pick up any foreign currency needed at the bank. Also pick up some American dollars (for us non-Americans) as it is usually the best currency to have other than the local money…that is, unless you’re in Cuba.
3. Laundry. So much laundry.
4. Photocopy and photograph all of your important documents. Give copies to a trusted friend or family member, along with flight numbers and any other important information. Also email all of this information to yourself.
5. Make sure your travel health insurance is all in order.
6. Make sure your camera, laptop, and anything else valuable you may be taking is covered under your home insurance.
7. Lay out all of your potential clothes at least a week before and try them all on. If anything is uncomfortable, don’t bring it. If you hesitate for even a second about packing something, don’t bring it.
8. Make sure you have the traveller’s arsenal: sunscreen, bug spray, flashlight/head torch, lock for your bag, first-aid kit, towel, alarm clock, and travel umbrella.
9. Get extra passport photos.
10. Make sure your iPod is full of good music, you have enough space on your hard drive, and your camera batteries are all charged. If you only own one camera battery, buy another one.
11. If you’re bringing your phone, figure out what you’re going to do about it. In my case, I bought a Skype phone number and plan on using a lot of iMessage, as everyone in my family as an iPhone. I’m not even taking my SIM card with me.
12. Pack everything, everything, at least two days before. Make sure you have everything you need and that it all fits nicely.
13. Unpack and repack as many times as you need to. Always try to remove things from your bag, not add anything (I’ll be sharing my packing list tomorrow!).
14. Get a haircut, pedicure, or any other treatment you like to have done before you travel. Depending on where you are travelling to, this may be the last time you get this done for a while.
In my case, I would also add say goodbye to friends and family, drink all open alcohol bottles I own, pack up my entire house, and try not to go completely insane.
To be honest, I’m not a very good planner, and I tend to leave all of this stuff until the end. I didn’t really follow my advice for how to get ready for a long trip, and I’ve been doing almost everything in this last week alone. The thing is, I’ve done a trip like this before, and I actually like the chaos, I like the checklists and the packing/repacking and the feeling of accomplishment over something as silly as buying a new travel towel. If I didn’t have that pesky chore of packing up a whole two-story house to make way for renters, I think I would have relished in the tasks I needed to do in this past week.
But just when I’m about to go crazy, just when I think I can’t possibly lift another box, try on another bathing suit, or go to the drugstore for yet another thing I’ve forgotten, I stop and remember exactly why I’m doing any of this at all. I’ll happily do these things, stress included, if it means a life full of travel, if it means that I get to do everything I’ve done, everything I’m about to do.


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Shawna Elizabeth May 1, 2012 - 5:16 am

I’m going to refer to this list in the future!

[Ali] To Be Continued... May 1, 2012 - 6:20 am

I’m with you on that one… even if I know I have months to plan and organise I seem to thrive off the stress of it all in the last week-or-so! Have an awesome last few days and see you in Central America!! 🙂 xx

Rachael May 1, 2012 - 7:33 am

This list is soooo useful! We’re doing a 9 month RTW trip next year…can’t. freaking. wait. Have an amazing time in the Americas! Looking forward to all the pics!!

The Ls May 1, 2012 - 9:54 am

Such a good list!!! Will definitely refer to it in the future. Bookmarked! 🙂

Katie @ May 1, 2012 - 12:07 pm

So exciting!! Your #2 cracked me up — namely because I get envious every time I see your Cuba photos, I think, if I live in such a “free” country, how come I can’t just buy a plane ticket to Cuba? And of course, that makes me want to go all the more.

Love your tips — I hope you link these on your side bar for future reference. I’m such a horrible procrastinator, I didn’t pack for my 2 month trip until the night before. Talk about undue stress… And I can’t believe you’re trying to deal with renting your house at the same time! I work for a property management company, and I can’t imagine dealing with that mess while trying to plan a trip like this.

Fingers crossed that just like every other time we do something crazy, everything will come together in the end. 🙂 Say ‘hi’ to my friend Brian who works at El Chaman bar in Antigua! One of the best. people. ever.

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 1, 2012 - 12:14 pm

YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE THE BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so so so excited for you and for your blog. Take a deep breath and enjoy every second!

Chinye May 1, 2012 - 4:34 pm

Love this list! I’m already freaking out about what I have to do, and this will be helpful in making sure I have everything under control. THis is so exciting!!!

Adina | Gluten Free Travelette May 1, 2012 - 8:07 pm

Great list and your Cuba pictures make me so jealous! Have an absolutly wonderful time! Can’t wait to read about your adventures!

renee May 2, 2012 - 1:36 am

Have a great trip!!!! i cant wait to read all about it!

This Battered Suitcase May 2, 2012 - 3:16 am

Thank you so much, everyone! I’m leaving in 18 hours and there’s not much more I can do now, but I feel pretty good.

Shawna – Thank you! xo

Ali – YES! I can’t wait to see you!

Rachael – RTW for 9 months…amazing!

The Ls – Thank you! I’m glad I can be of some help.

Katie – Thank you so much! I should link some of these on my sidebar, good idea. The house has definitely been the most stressful part…it’s 10pm and I’m still working away! I will definitely say hi to Brian!!

Andi – THANK YOU! I can’t wait to share stories with you…

Chinye – Thank you so much! I’m so excited for you, too!

Adina – Thank you very much!

Renee – Cheers, thank you!

David from May 2, 2012 - 9:50 am

It’s certainly important to be properly insured when travelling, especially if you’re making frequent trips abroad throughout the year. You may regard travel health insurance as an added expense or a luxury but if you’re ever in need of it, you’re sure glad it is there.

How To Plan a Trip (That Actually Needs to Be Planned) - This Battered Suitcase December 8, 2013 - 6:27 am

[…] Taking Care of the Little Things Before a Trip […]


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