Alain de Botton says in his book, The Art of Travel, “the finest aspect of travel: its anticipation.”
I’m going to have to politely disagree, Alain.
I’m moving to Mexico on Friday. That’s incredibly soon. It inches ever closer as I sit here procrastinating.
I’m sitting here at a table in my parent’s spare bedroom and I’m literally surrounded by stuff. There are water bottles, books, sunscreen, notes, cameras and makeup palettes, and that’s only in my direct line of vision. My suitcase is underneath the desk, open, half filled with things I’m not even sure I’m taking with me.
For someone who constantly claims to not have that much stuff, there’s an awful lot of it encircling me right now.
I have this issue with moving/preparing to travel. I don’t like to do it.
Being in a new country? Awesome! Backpacking around Asia? Best time ever! Packing a bag and figuring out what I need to do before leaving? Utter chaos.
I get anxiety to the highest degree. I stress out about forgetting something, I impulsively order things I don’t need on Amazon just in case. Then I lay everything out ready to pack and I leave it there for a few days.
I create this chaos for myself. There is no need to be stressed, no need to make such a mess or buy so much stuff. I know this. And yet, here I am, moving to my 6th country in as many years and doing it all yet again.
Luckily I still have a few days to get myself together. I have a tried and true recipe for forcing myself to focus on the real tasks at hand and getting on that plane without leaving my passport behind.
I am a list-maker. I make lists for absolutely everything. So when it’s time to move and make sure I don’t forget anything, I make a list. I keep it on my phone so that I can add to it as I think of things. The list has everything from ‘get a haircut’ and ‘buy nail polish remover’ to ‘sunscreen’ and ‘passport’. Nothing is too small for the list. Everything remains on the same list so that nothing gets forgotten.
There’s nothing worse, as a lover of lists, than making more than one list and forgetting about one of those lists. Chaos will follow.
The only time this rule is broken is the night before the trip. I usually write a new list that night for things that need to be done the morning of travel. This is a newer system I’ve started and I’m kind of in love with it (never forget your charging iPod again!).
As the weeks become days, I start turning items on that list into reminders on my phone. That way I don’t forget to book that hair appointment, to get to the pharmacy for those last minute toiletries, or to pack my camera and charge my batteries for my Kindle.
Do One Thing At a Time
I have this bad habit of trying to online shop, pack my carry-on, fill my Kindle with books, charge up every device and stuff socks into all my shoes all at the same time. This is a very bad idea. Often none of the jobs get done properly and I end up spending more time on these simple tasks than I would if I devoted a small amount of individual time to each of them.
Now I make sure to take each task one at a time. I load up my luggage, rolling each piece, packing patiently (sometimes) and then move on to the next job. Multi-tasking doesn’t exist.
I know this might sound like a way to procrastinate (and it totally is), but I often need to step out of the situation and distract myself. When things feel like too much, when I’m starting to get stressed over WHY IT WON’T ALL FIT, I need to stop and come back to it. I need to come back to it later when I’ve eaten a snack and sat in the sunshine for a few minutes.
Get off the Internet
By this I mean, stop browsing websites. Stop ordering photos, stop trying to figure out whether I should get the cordless camera remote of the one with the cord. Stop buying things. Stop researching. I have had months of doing all these things. I have everything that I need. I’m going to Mexico City, not the jungles of Laos. They will have stores, they will have Internet. I don’t need anything else. The time for planning is over. It’s time for packing.
Get to Work
The only way this bag is getting packed is if I actually pack it. I can make all the lists, set all the reminders, and spend a whole afternoon writing a blog post about how I’m going to do it, but now I actually have to do it.
Okay, now it’s time to actually take this advice. Must turn off Internet. Must pack.
How do you handle the pre-travel jitters? What do you do to keep on track? I think I need some more help!