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Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to ruin an International Trip 

The Clarion Content is delighted to offer up another column from regular contributor Catherine Howard. Ms. Howard is a whirlwind of activity and very much in the middle of the Durham artistic milieu. She is a visual artist, an art history instructor, and a curator.

And she is about to take the show on the road to Cape Town, South Africa. She addresses her fears, does and don'ts (mostly the don'ts) of preparing for a very big trip. She wants to hear from you, dear readers: tips and tricks, things to do and things to avoid.

Fingers crossed for the safe arrival of your luggage.

How to ruin an International Trip

by: Catherine Howard

We all travel – a commute to work, a road trip to visit family, a short plane ride for a weekend, or the few steps from the couch to the bathroom. Maybe every once in a while, though, some of us hop on a plane for a 30-hour flight to the other side of the world, too.

On February 29th, I embark on a two-month trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Thanks to the backing from many wonderful folks, I will be attending the "A Word of Art" residency program to work on my personal artwork and coordinate community art classes for children in the Woodstock neighborhood.

During the art classes, the kids and I will create drawings of our "ideal neighborhoods" and talk about them together. I will also fashion a giant maze (or maybe a big blanket fort – we’ll see what fits the space best) and cover it in the kids’ drawings and portraits, I will draw of each of the children who participated in the classes. Then, folks from all over Cape Town will be invited to come play a giant game of Hide & Seek in this “ideal neighborhood” during the opening reception.

Now, this will be my first international flight, so what was my first move? Google searching “how to pack to leave the country”, which resulted in a wide range of wonderfully helpful advice. However, in my discussions with frequent world travelers, the horror stories were even better than the logical advice:

How To Ruin an International Trip

• Start making a packing list the day before you leave.

• Pack only summer clothes without realizing that summer in one hemisphere means that it’s winter in the hemisphere where you’re going.

• Lose your itinerary with your hotel’s address.

• Leave your cell phone on and rack up massive roaming fees.

• Lose your passport without having ever made a photocopy.

• Wander excitedly around a city gazing upwards at the architecture and then wonder how someone pickpocketed you.

• Pack only sandals and get horrible blisters after day two.

• Forget to inform your bank that you are traveling and have your debit card blocked when you are trying to buy groceries on your first day in a new country.

• Get food poisoning and have no idea where the closest pharmacy is. Once you find a pharmacy, realize that Pepto-Bismol is not a universal term used all over the world, and that no one here knows what that is.

• Pack more suitcases than you can carry by yourself.

• Leave your bag (your computer and cell phone and ticket and passport in it) in the front seat of your unlocked car while you go to pay gas. Come back to the car to find that it has been stolen.

My luggage is almost fully packed. I’m still debating on whether I can really fit the 16 inch tall ceramic Buddha head that my family wants me to photograph in every location that I go. My travel bitch-face is ready (for all of you that think I am only a congenial, sweet woman, walk around a big city with me – I’ll terrify you).

But I know I’m forgetting something. Something will go wrong. Help me prevent at least one more possible disaster. What are your international travel horror stories?

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