I’m off – Spain, Basque Country, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia – for 70 days. A piece of notebook paper in my pocket is my reassuring companion for the last days before departure. Jotting down things I need to do and things to pack as they come to me brings peace of mind as, with two months of work, there’s lots to organize and lots to forget.
Still, once at the airport and at the gate, things I overlooked pop into my world, reminding me that I always feel a little awkward at the start of my big annual trip. Reaching into my day bag, I found a paperback I didn’t intend to bring — when I landed at Heathrow, it landed in the recycle bin. I didn’t bring my normal $200 cash reserve. With just a few bucks in my wallet, I’m relying entirely on my two ATM cards with no ready cash safety net. I’m sure it’ll be okay…but I’ve never left home without a cash reserve. I neglected to tell my bank I’d be out of the country and to expect withdrawals from Europe. And I forgot to change my voicemail at work. I like it to be my gleeful voice explaining I’m gone for a long time. This time it’ll have to be another voice. Reading through my Spain guidebook, I came upon our excellent suggested reading and movie list. A few less Jon Stewarts or Officeepisodes and a little movie watching tailored to my upcoming travels would have given me better insight into Spain. It just didn’t occur to me until now. And I neglected to call my first hotel to reconfirm…and to remind them that I’ll be getting in at nearly midnight.
With three hours of downtime at the Madrid airport, I got my euros (used a freestanding ATM machine not clearly associated with a bank — which I try to avoid), and got my cell phone geared up with a European SIM card (I brought two phones — my basic American phone wouldn’t take the card, but my old Nokia works great; €15 and I’m in business with about 20 minutes of call time and piles of text messages).
After a €28 taxi ride from the airport, I’m set in my Granada hotel — midnight, streets polished by strolling Spaniards. I feel like a groggy bear coming out of hibernation. But I think within a day or so, I’ll be settled into the rhythm of research and pounding the pavement to the melody of Spain.