Tonight, I started preparing for a trip.
You could say I’ve been preparing for months. I sent in an application on October 11. I attended an Orientation on November 21. I started teaching a class, helping others to prepare, on January 11. I bought a plane ticket on January 25, and have been vaccinating, malaria pill-taking, passport verifying, and travel insurance-buying for weeks. And this weekend, I started the process I go through before any trip, no matter how small: pile-making.
Above, you’ll see my pile. It will go through many iterations and reorganizations before I leave my house at 4:30am on Wednesday. But so far, my pile contains:
- My brand-new Osprey pack – custom molded hip belt and all, which I’ve been lusting over for approximately 4.5 years. Merry Christmas to me, and thanks, Grandma Dyne and Papa Don!
- Books. Always has been and always will be the first thing in my pile. This go-round, my well-worn Spanish dictionary, a shiny new travel guide, a field guide for qualitative research, and Jack Kerouac will be joining me…on the road.
- A head lamp. So that I can read all those books I brought while I swing to sleep in my hammock.
- Sustenance. Because ever since I started training for the National Marathon, I can’t go 10 minutes without stuffing my face.
- The Keep Jenna Healthy Kit, consisting of iodine tablets, 50% deet bug spray, and a bed net…just in case.
- A digital recorder to capture the insights from focus groups and interviews that I’m bound to miss as I attempt to stretch my rusty Spanish legs.
But as I cross my T’s, dot my I’s, and make my piles, I’m postponing the real preparation that my strung-out graduate student brain hasn’t had the energy to tackle until my Mom asked me the question I’ve been avoiding for weeks:
“Are you scared?”
It reminded me that I’m not just packing for a trip, and I’m not just collecting some data for a class research project. I’m going to rural Honduras, a culture I know very little about, and the experience is bound to challenge my assumptions, try my patience, and test my resilience (even though I hardly know what that word means anymore.) I can certainly say that I am fearless, and I can go, return, and jump back into academia, marathon training, and cuddling with my dog.
But I know that it will all be more worthwhile if I take pause. If I allow myself to prepare.
To articulate my assumptions, so I know when they are challenged.
To name my fears, so I can recognize my own courage when I see it.
To decide what I want to learn, so I can allow Honduras to teach me…but also open my mind to the lesson I don’t know yet that I need.
And to be grateful.
So it is better late than never. I’ve been making my piles for a while, but tonight I started preparing for a trip. This blog is a part of that…so join me for the ride 🙂