Airline tickets are in hand! (Or, at least, in my inbox). In 11 days, I fly to Quito, Ecuador, where I’ll spend my first week doing an orientation with Fulbright, visiting the immigration office and the US embassy – taking care of ‘paperwork’, and perhaps a little sight-seeing in my free moments. My biggest challenge at the moment? Finding the perfect pair of shoes!
Ok, maybe shoes aren’t my only challenge. I have mile-long to-do list that includes things like verifying insurance coverage, doing taxes, making computer back-ups, getting my place ready for the house-sitter, finding a place to stay in Quito…And figuring out how to fit everything I’m bringing into 3 bags: A mid-sized suitcase, a carry-on, and a backpack for electronics.
Sure, I could just go find a larger suitcase. I found this purple mid-sized suitcase in my Dad’s shed at Christmas. He had several more – some very big. But when I found I couldn’t really lift the big ones, even when they were empty, I decided to pack light. Anyway, this purple bag was my Mom’s main travel bag – all the crazy identifiers on it are hers. I like bringing along something that was hers. It’s like she’s going with me. Besides, I found it full of those vacume-seal plastic bags and other little travel knick-knacks that I might use. (She was big into organizing stuff…like someone else I know.)
But I wonder if I have enough bag-space. How do you pack for a 6-month trip that involves everything from dressing up for fancy academic functions, trekking through mud and rain above 10,000 feet, and, possibly, wildlife-watching on a Galapagos beach? Oh, and you’re also carting around your laptop, as well as some textbooks, Spanish-English dictionaries, and a guidebook?
As mentioned above, shoes are the biggest challenge. Right now, I’m looking at 6 pairs (pictured below). They’re all lined up, looking their best for me – promising to be everything I hope they could be. But the truth is that none of my shoes are perfect. I wish I had a work-shoe that was super-comfy (enough to walk miles on cobblestone streets), goes with everything I own, looks dressy for big occasions, and keeps my feet dry in a major thunderstorm. I really don’t think such a shoe exists.
The hiking boots sit there with calm assuredness. They are my go-to major foreign travel shoe – and, incidentally, the most expensive pair of shoes I own. If someone wanted to steal them, I’d probably hand over my iPad instead. There’s no way I’m leaving them. The running shoes know they’re coming – as well as the old faithful pair of Dansko clogs (even though they disappoint in wet weather). But the rest? We’ll see.
Enough about the shoes.
After the first week in Quito, I fly to Cuenca, where I’ll live for the next 6 months. Thanks to another Fulbrighter presently living in Cuenca, I’ve worked out a promising home-stay situation. My own room and bathroom, all meals, laundry, cleaning, internet – for a price that is well less that what it’s costing me to maintain my life in Colorado while I’m gone. I can focus all my time on work and getting to know the country. And the Spanish immersion will be a big help. I think I’m going to be spoiled.