Jeff leaves for Sweden tomorrow, and I follow 1.5 weeks later. We’ll be there for a total of 6 and 4.5 weeks respectively. While there, we’ll take a 5-day trip to St. Petersburg, and we may also visit Estonia and Latvia. That’s kind of big, right? Yeah, I’d say so. But from the way we’re approaching it you’d think we’re doing nothing more than flying home for the weekend.
In the past, I would have made twenty-seven packing lists by now. I may have even packed twenty-seven times. I would have made a list of all the things I want to see and do, searching blogs and travel boards, guidebooks and websites for the best of everything. I would have fretted and stressed. I would frankly have thought about it a whole hell of a lot more than the approximate 3.7 minutes I’ve spent thinking about it so far.
But this time I’ve done none of that. I’ve done nothing at all actually. Maybe it’s because we’re both so busy tying up loose ends and finishing up big projects. In between confirming elevations and trail distances or reviewing the figures in scientific papers, we haven’t had time to worry about whether we need to pack warmer clothes, whether we should take an extra plug adaptor, or whether it’s best to be at the airport two hours or 1.5 hours before departure time.
Maybe it’s because we’ve both lived abroad in Europe before. It’s familiar. It’s almost easy. I know that if I don’t pack a toothbrush, I’ll easily be able to buy one. I know that if I don’t pack enough underwear, I can easily do a load of laundry. I know that the transportation system makes sense, that Internet is widely available, that food is familiar, and that they may speak English better than I do. The fact that Jeff has traveled there every year for the past five and many times in the years prior to that, can carry on a conversation with that rare Swede that speaks no English and that, hey, he carries one of their passports around, makes it seem all the more easy and comfortable.
Or maybe it’s the fact that seen against the background of the trip we’ll embark on upon our return from Sweden, this trip seems small and incomparably simpler. We don’t need immunizations or immodium. We don’t need cable locks and yellow fever certificates. We don’t have to debate whether to take the chicken bus or pay a few extra bucks and splurge on the tourist bus. We don’t have to ponder the best way to approach a squat toilet. While our round-the-world trip will have us almost exclusively in the developing world, this trip will have us in one of the world’s most developed countries.
I don’t mean to trivialize our trip to Sweden, and I don’t mean to say I’m not excited. I’m sure once I board my flight across the Atlantic, it’ll hit me. I know I’ll end up with lists of places I want to visit. I am certain at some point I’ll worry about what I did or did not pack (though in mid-air it will be rather futile). I have no doubt that I’ll take a million photos and find thousands of things to marvel at. It’s a trip that a short time ago would have seemed huge…and which is, in fact, huge. But right now it’s kind of like looking at a lake while swimming in the ocean. And I can’t help but be slightly amused by that.