It’s a little less than two weeks until I catch a flight to London, see a bit of Jolly Ol’, and then get my next plane to Tel Aviv. I’m used to international trips, but no matter what, I have that lurking feeling of unpreparedness and nervousness. I figure I have most of the important things (a naïve conception which I’m sure will be dashed to pieces the night before I leave) so now I’m just trying to round up the incidentals and making sure I’m within my weight allowances. I was able to get some shekels at the bank a few weeks ago and lucky to catch the exchange rate at a good time, especially now that the dollar has gotten weaker. I still have to break in my boots, get some of the toiletries I’ll need for nearly a month away from home, and decide which books I’m actually going to take with me. I want to read more about the area and the findings from the last dig season, as I want to be up to speed. I haven’t taken any courses in biblical archaeology, so I feel like I need to do my homework (I don’t want to be wondering what everyone else is talking about while I sit there with my M.A. in Anthropology feeling silly).
Everyone I’ve talked to is both excited and worried for me. They seem to think that any travel to the Middle East is inherently dangerous. My mother has subtly dropped hints of her concern during conversations and has been leaving maps labeled “Conflict in the Middle East” around for me to find. I think after she sees some pictures of me at the dig site and around the kibbutz she will feel a bit better. Oh well, these are the types of things that come along with being an only child, even when you’re twenty-three.
Here’s a few traveling tips (I hope I remember to follow them):
The first time I went to get a flight by myself, I found myself in the restroom of an Irish airport when the final boarding call for my flight was announced. It was at that moment when I realized I did not know how to read military time. 20:00 was most definitely not the 10:00pm I believed it to be; it was, of course, 8:00 pm and I had been caught, quite literally, with my pants down. Don’t make that mistake.
When packing, I try to remember that I’ll inevitably have pounds of reading material, souvenirs, and other swag at the end of my journey, so I have to take that into account. My simple solution is to just bring a bunch of clothes that are already on their way out and if I need some extra space/weight, I can just toss these, by now filthy, garments in the trash bin on the way to the return flight. I’m sure that by the end of my last trip a few years ago, my dirty laundry had been dumped in most of Western Europe.
Keep track of how much money you’re bringing and how much you spend. Sometimes, after the exchange rate, you don’t really notice how much you’re spending. Keep to your budget and always have a contingency plan if your money “accidently gets spent,” stolen, or vanishes in some other way. There have been times when I’ve had to get a last minute train ticket, reschedule a flight, or got an unexpected opportunity to go some place — having that spare money really came in handy.