A quick thought about ancient things as I was booking the last hotel this week. While the missions have been around for much longer, most of Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular, popped up about a hundred years ago. Being an East Coast girl, a century is peanuts - if a building is not at least two hundred years old, I'm not impressed. However, it doesn't take much to remind me that in comparison, our grand democracy is really not that old. I booked a night at a family-run hotel in Salzburg for late in the trip, and the building itself dates back to 1365. What's really impressive is that it's just a run of the mill hotel - no bells and whistles - but this little building in a small Austrian mountain town managed to survive in one form or another for almost seven hundred years. That is definitely something to marvel at.
Speaking of marvels, one of the great wonders of the world will be watching me pack everything I need for a nineteen-day trip into one small duffel bag. I am a spoiled traveler. I like to be comfortable. Camping means cabins and running water and electricity. And I always overpack - turtle-like, I want to carry my home around with me at all times. Oddly, once we're on the road, I don't mind getting lost, taking strange detours, or exploring, but I definitely want to know that if something goes wrong, somewhere in my bag is something that will set everything to rights. However, since we're moving around a lot, packing light and smart is going to be essential. A few tips I've come to hold dear:
1. Passaporte, pasaje, y pista. Passports, tickets, and money. This is all you really need - everything else can be replaced or acquired without too much effort, but safeguard these three things. Make copies of your passport (or take pictures), keep a copy of your itinerary separate, and don't put all your money in one place.
2. It's all about the shoes. The worst trips I've taken have involved poor footwear choices on my part. Find something comfortable and sturdy that you don't mind getting wrecked on the journey, and make sure they're broken in before you head out.
3. E-readers. Ah, technology. I can't go anywhere without a book or five. Now I can carry 10,000! Make sure your e-reader of choice is packed, along with all the proper chargers and adapters.
4. Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, and Cheers. No matter where you go, chances are nobody's going to mistake you for anything other than a tourist, but it doesn't hurt to learn a few words of the language of whatever country you're planning to visit. You'll make a better impression and besides, it's just polite. Slainte!
5. Talk to people. Half the point of traveling in the first place is to see the world from a different perspective. Get out of the tour group mentality of just checking major sites off a list and talk to the people you meet - the owner of that B&B, the guy sitting next to you on the train, someone at the next table at the cafe. You'll probably learn a lot from the people who actually live in the places you're visiting. Go figure.
6. Handbag 101. For those of you with a handbag mentality, here's the contents of mine when I'm traveling - yes, it's ridiculous, but as I said, turtle: wallet, passport/ID, itinerary, e-reader, charger, map/guidebook, camera, spare battery, hand wipes or Purell, tissues, Chapstick, sunglasses, Advil, Band-Aids, Neosporin, pen, paper, business cards, mini-flashlight, gum, hand lotion, cell phone, water bottle, granola bar, and sunscreen. Basically I could sustain a small country for a month on the contents of my bag. If you're like me, go for travel size and invest in a couple of small, zippered bags to help contain the chaos.
We are just under a month away and there's still plenty to do - I need to buy train tickets from Vienna to Salzburg and back, need to consider my computing and camera options, and I need to start getting my messy apartment in order so that the cat sitter can actually find the cats.
Oh, and work. Lots and lots of work. Fun, fun, but it will definitely be worth it.