I stopped planning for trips long ago.
I'm still excited as ever to travel, but my prep time has gone way ever since since I boarded my first airplane in 1987 and couldn't stop thinking, for weeks before the trip, what we would do, where we would go.
I loved every detail -- the plane's liftable armrest, the cool hotel sheets, the ice cream. And for every trip after that for the next decade and a half, I over-packed and planned everything to the hilt.
Then the Great Departure hit. In 2004 I studied abroad in Paris, and I totally miscalculated how long it would take me to pack. That's because it wasn't merely about two suitcases. I needed to disassemble my bedroom and 1/3 of an apartment, stuff everything I owned into my Nissan Maxima (the very same!), drive my life's possessions across country, to my mom's house in California, before repacking and taking off from San Diego for the Latin Quarter.
Most people might start planning, giving stuff away, selling things on Craigslist, a week or two in advance.
I threw a party.
The mother of all parties. Hundreds of people, two kegs, started vaguely around 6 p.m. and ended the next morning with more couples than I can count making out in various corners of the house. La Sorella came from San Diego and our dad flew in from Texas for the occasion. She toyed with the boys and dad manned the grill while taking on my liberal grad school posse about the Iraq war. (He's a card holding Republican. I still love him very much.)
The next morning our apartment, which I shared with a Belgian anthropology postdoc and an Italophile nanny, looked like a hurricane hit.
I had arrived.
Anyway. After the party I had 48 hours to clean up and get everything ready for my departure. We scrambled. A friend and her dad offered to help. And I made it to San Diego, and eventually Paris, in one piece.
That's when I realized something: So many times I'd prepared and gotten stressed, and I still ended up missing a flight or getting stranded -- strikes, weather, faulty engines always conspired. When I left things to the last minute, I still made my flights.
Arrival at destination was not correlated with the effort I put into getting there.
Ding ding ding! Relevlation!!
What I'm saying is that it's a big fat crapshoot.
And that is where I am now. Throw stuff into a suitcase the morning of any trip shorter than 2 weeks, get to the airport as late as possible (but not recklessly so... I'm not that cocky), and be resigned that shit happens. And if you really need to be somewhere, plan to get there a day or two early. Period.
So before taking off for New York Friday, I decided to have a few people over. I packed the night before, picked up a few munchies and some wine, and opened the door to our incredulous friends. "Don't you need to be at the airport in 2 hours??" "Um, hey, it's almost 7:15. Don't you want to take off?" "It's all good. No worries. More wine?"
At 7:30 some friends kindly gave us a ride (thanks again!!), there were no security lines, we didn't get extra-screened, and at 8:30 we were at the gate for a 9 p.m. flight.
Pulled it off!!
I. Had. Lost. The. Boarding. Passes.
I dug around my tiny purse, looked in every pocket. Nothing. Between check in and the gate, POOF.
"Is there anything you can do?" I whimpered to Jet Blue's agent. "I can't find them!"
"One I could handle, but two? What's your name?" I told her and she cast a disapproving scowl as she typed madly into her terminal.
"I'm sorry! Maybe I left them at security? Do I have time to get them?"
"Ah! Can you print out a new pair? Do you need to see my ID?"
Finally, her machine spit out two fresh passes and we were in.
What can I say... No matter how much you prepare, something can go wrong. And no matter how much you don't prepare... something can still go wrong. Or right. At the drop of the hat.
[image via apartment therapy]