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During my flight across the Pacific to come to Australia, I scribbled down a list of things I wish I knew before I traveled. I may have been bored or maybe I was just reflecting over the last two years and what I would’ve told myself if I could go back in time to when I was a newbie at traveling.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT IS YOUR PACKING STYLE?
Are you the type of person to pack for a trip weeks in advance, or do tend to throw your things in your suitcase last minute and hope for the best?
By nature, I am the first type. I enjoy the slow process of planning; picking outfits and having an excuse to buy those travel-sized cosmetics and then arranging it all neatly into my suitcase.
But over the last few years as I’ve basically lived out of a suitcase for months on end, I’ve not only gotten quicker at packing but I also have fewer belongings, so I’ve somewhat morphed into the second type.
For example, when I came to Australia the first time, I was packed a month in advance. This time? I didn’t pack until a few hours before my departure.
There are pros and cons to both packing styles. For instance, when I was checking my bag in at the airport to fly to Australia this time, I had to reshuffle a few things between my carry on and check in to meet the weight restrictions. This meant that when I got to the gate after a tearful goodbye to my family, and after I scanned my boarding pass and was walking down the jetway, I realized that the book I had been planning to read on my flight was now in my check in, in the underbelly of the airplane. I would be very, very bored for the next few days of travel.
Or would I?
Lucky for me, I had a few other options of ways to occupy my time.
ON YOUR PHONE:
Download the app for your airline to have automatic access to your booking information or at the very least flag your flight information in your emails so it’s easy for you to find. I’ve had enough flights rescheduled or canceled last minute that I’ve learned that it is also smart to print out your original flight information (I know, old school) so that if you end up on the phone rescheduling, you have the booking information right in front of you.
- Download podcasts or books from Audible ahead of time! Some of my favorites are:
- Most of the music I listen is on Spotify, which means that I don’t have a lot of music downloaded onto my phone. So before a trip I always download a playlist to give me something new and exciting to listen to.
- Watch movies. Either on the screen in front of your or download a few on your phone or laptop before your trip.
IN YOUR BAG:
- First off, I’d like to give a plug for the Ona Bag. They are Italian made bags and they certainly are quality! I love that their camera bag are versatile for international travel. The Camps Bay Bag is what I have been using for the last year and it has the perfect amount of space for camera gear but also a pocket in the back interior where you can store your laptop and a few personal items. I bought mine on Ebay for half of the original pice and the only complaint I have is that it’s hard to find a water bottle that fits into the side pocket because the pockets are so snug.
- A water bottle to fill up at a water fountain once you’re beyond security. I don’t know about you, but traveling always makes me so thirsty!
- An immune booster. I kept several packets of the Pink Drink in my carry on. I went into this trip really tired because of a crazy busy summer at home in North Carolina. In the past, this would’ve meant that I could easily get sick during the trip or upon my arrival into the new country. But not this time! I’ve been working all summer to boost my immune system with ProBio5, and Bio-Cleanse. I’ve also found that jumping ahead in time zones is easier than jumping back, so upon arriving here I didn’t even really have jet lag and I was ready to jump into the busy #ywambrisbane schedule on Monday morning after I arrived into Australia on Sunday night!
- A good book. And don’t even begin to think of putting it into your check-in. I love reading about the places that I am about to travel to. Sunburnt Country is a great book that tells a lot about Aussie culture and paints beautiful, historical scenes of life in the outback and in the coastal region of Australia. It is written by journalist Bill Bryson who writes candidly about his travels. Australia is unique in the fact that it doubles as its own continent and as everyone knows, it is a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather and the most peculiar and deadliest wildlife that can be found on the planet. He weaves interesting facts in with his witty words to tell a story of his adventures in the Land Down Under. I read this book the first time I was in Australia!
- A moleskin journal. This was gifted to me by my sister and has become my all-time favorite because it can double as an art book! Also, pens. I’ve had a lot of people ask me what pens I use, so here it is: Tombows are my personal favorite calligraphy pens but I also love Energel pens by Pentel. You’ll need pens for journaling but also to fill out the customs form upon arrival.
- Snacks! I always make sure to pack a few granola bars or dried fruit or chocolate into my carry on. Airport snacks are always so expensive and so I’ve found it’s nice to have my own stash handy.
- A toothbrush! My mom taught me to put a toothbrush and a travel sized toothpaste in my handbag and that way I’m golden through my whole flight and travel process, with no bad breath!
- Wear comfortable clothes! If you get cold easily, take a light jacket along for the flight. Longer flights provide blankets for you but I’ve found that in the shorter flights, I often get cold and wish for something to warm up with. I always pack one spare set of clothes in my carry on, just in case my cheek in gets lost or to change into before I arrive at my final destination.
- If you are wearing sandals or flats, take a pair of socks along in your bag and once you are settled into your seat, slip off your shoes and put on the socks! This gives you the illusion that you are hanging out your living room rather than sitting in the cramped row of a jetliner.
- If possible, reserve a window seat ahead of time! I usually spend most of my time up in the air staring out the window and musing over the deep things of life. Also, this gives you the best views for taking pictures.
- For super long layovers: check to see if the airport has a shower. I’ve found that airports often have a shower stall in one or more of their bathrooms and it feels heavenly to be able to freshen up after hours and hours of traveling.
- Meet people! On my way home from Australia in May, I had a layover in Vancouver. I usually love long layovers but this time I hadn’t slept on the 14-hour since my flight took off a little before sunrise in Brisbane, Australia and landed in Vancouver at sunrise, 12 hours later.
I WAS AT MY GATE with about six hours to spare until my next flight home and I was watching a fascinating documentary series called, “Human.” I paused the documentary to grab a selfie to send to my sister and just as I snapped it, I noticed someone photobombing me. I turned around and the girl laughed, “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.” She introduced herself and we began talking. She was coming from Sydney, where she had spent a month on holiday. I had my earbuds up until meeting her, so I hadn’t heard the conversation that the lady behind me was having with this girl before we started talking. But my new friend confided, “That lady was trying to convince me to become a christian!” I listened to her talk and tried to ease into spiritual topics without coming across in the same way that the other lady had, since I could pick up that this girl had hesitations. “Wait, where are you from again?” She asked me at one point. “North Carolina” I said. “Oh, you’re from the Bible belt. Wait, are you a christian?” She asked, wide eyed. “I am, but I’ll admit, I haven’t always had strong faith. I lost my dad when I was very young and then about 10 years later, I lost my brother. It sent me through years of depression. I remember thinking that if God had allowed to me, surely He didn’t love me. But now I see it differently. He created the world and put us here to live immortally but because we sinned, now we suffer the consequence of death. I think that’s why we struggle so hard to face it, because we weren’t meant to die.” She seemed to soften as I spoke and then she opened up about her own losses. “I haven’t found anyone else who understands losing people that are close to you like you do. I don’t even know why I ended up at this gate, I was just going to sit here for a few minutes and charge my phone.” She said. We talked for two hours and when it was time for her to find her own gate to catch her flight, she said, “I feel like I’ve known you for so much longer than just these few hours.” She slung her backpack over her shoulder and disappeared in the crowd of people.
I sat there, stunned. In the past, I’ve had a difficult time talking about faith with strangers. But as a follower of Jesus, we are called to spread His love. I don’t think that means that we need to try to convert everybody that we meet. But I think it is so important to be in tune with what the Holy Spirit is speaking because He knows the intricacies of each person’s journey and whether they just need a smile and a listening ear or if they need to hear truth so that they too can be set free.
I love the ebb and flow of the crowds of people and cultures surging through airports. Airports are my place for deep thoughts. For looking around with eyes wide and saying, “Wow, God. You are so creative.”
Traveling and living overseas has certainly opened me up to explore worlds that are bigger than my own and I’m excited to see where God will take me in life and how He will keep taking me outside of my comfort zone in the future. Now it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments what you’ve learned that helps to make travel as effortless as possible?