The Giant List of To-Dos (With Theresa It’s Never Get Up and Go)

1. Determine where we want to go: the must-sees along with the if we have time I’d like to sees. Make the hard choices about places that just don’t make the cut.

2. Figure out flights. Is a round-the-world ticket the best option or are one-ways better? Can we use our frequent flyer miles? Do we just want to book the big inter-continental flights or are there some intra-continental legs we also want to have set in stone?

3. Investigate the visa situation for countries we plan to visit. Do we need to get any in advance or can we get them at the border?

4. Make a packing list. Whittle down the packing list…and then do it again. Purchase anything we need but don’t have.

5. Determine what vaccinations we need and get them.

6. Arrange to get any necessary medicines: malaria pills, a generic antibiotic, contacts & supplies for a year, a years-worth of any prescriptions we have.

7. Secure travel and medical insurance. Make sure the insurance covers adventure activities and care within the U.S. should we have to return here for medical care.

8. Find a home for all our belongings. Sell or get rid of what we don’t need/want. See if anyone wants to be a foster parent to any of our stuff. Get a storage unit for whatever remains. Move out.

9. Assign someone power of attorney.

10. Figure out the best way to access money and handle credit card payments, etc. Make sure all companies are aware of our plans and don’t cancel our access to our money just when we most need it. Be sure someone we trust has access to our accounts should it be necessary.

11. Make copies of all important documents. Scan and email copies to ourselves and leave with trusted contact at home.

12. Sign up for a Skype account and make everyone aware of the details so we can stay in touch.

13. Get many, many multiples of passport-size photos made for visas, etc.

14. Set up a flickr account for photo sharing.

15. Get Theresa a plain silver band to wear in leiu of her actual wedding band.

16. Get student IDs if possible.

17. Figure out what to do about taxes while we’re gone.

So, all you savvy travelers out there, what’s missing?

The Situation in Burma/Myanmar

Since Jeff and I first decided to take this round the world trip–it’s been years in the making now…hurry up with the PhD already–we’ve been makings lists of places we want to go. We get a zillion travel magazines and we’ve read through books like “1001 Places to See Before You Die” and “Lonely Planet’s A Year of Adventure,” searching for locations that seem interesting to us. So far, we haven’t settled on anything certain, but we have a pretty good idea.

One of the places on our list was Burma, although it had a faint little question mark next to it. It’s a place we’d both like to discover but that we had uncertainties about. As a country led by an oppressive and illegal regime, we wondered what was the right thing to do. For political reasons, should we boycott this country, refusing to contribute money to a corrupt and cruel government? Or should we go in spite of the government, to meet the people, to better understand the situation, to try to put money into the hands of people who need it? We hadn’t really formulated an answer.

Recent events have made it such that the decision is not so difficult. Clearly Burma is a troubled and dangerous place–at the moment for travelers, probably always for citizens. And even if it calms down, I am not sure we’d go. I think before, when violence wasn’t so blatant, it was somewhat easier to justify a trip there. Now, with my political sensibilities more strongly awakened, it seems that it would be wrong to go against the wishes of democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Ky, under house arrest since 1990, who asked that people boycott the country until the military regime is deposed and civil liberties are restored. I hope that happens soon, that these protests are not futile, that democracy is indeed on the brink of a comeback. And I hope that not just for my own petty interests, but for the welfare of a people.

What do you think? How much should issues such as these play in to decisions about travel? I’m not exactly sure if I can draw a line in the sand, establish a base criteria. I’m not going to go to somewhere that is clearly dangerous—Iraq for example. But I don’t want to not go somewhere because of sensationalized danger that is in fact, not truly there. A fair amount of people thought we were crazy to go to Egypt in 2004, but if I hadn’t had gone, I would have missed one of the most amazing and friendly places I have ever been. And what about when a place might not exactly be dangerous but is very strongly anti-American? Although I hear wonderful things about Iran, I’m not planning to go there. However, I think we will go to Venezuela, which is led by a man nearly (or just) as crazy and anti-American as Ahmadinejad. I can’t articulate my reasoning, and I can’t say that it won’t change. Often making decisions about travel has to do a lot more with your gut than your head. It’s a rapidly changing world, and sometimes even a line in the sand is a little too permanent.

Introducing Me, The Better Half

Since we’re expecting this blog to be BIG TIME, with readers who aren’t my family members (Hi Mom, Dad, Matthew, Gregory, and Mark!) or the other five or so regular and commenting readers of my, um, less popular blog Spargel (Hi Laura, Megan, Anne, Lisa, and Jessica!), we thought we’d each do a little self-interview so people know we are. Reveal a bit about who we are in the real world, what we’re looking forward to on this trip, how we ended up so crazy as to think that we could and should do this. You know, the good stuff.

Who Am I?
I am Theresa. I am 26 years old. I am the wife of Jeff, the sister of Matthew, Gregory, and Mark, the oldest child of Mary Jane and Terry. I am a Kentuckian, born and bred, but I currently live in Bethesda, Maryland. In the interim, I have lived in Houston, Texas; Freiburg, Germany; and Athens, Greece. I am a pisces who doesn’t put much stock in astrology. I am a Rice University alumna, a Sacred Heart grad, a St. Athanasius Hornet. I am a wanderer.

What Do I Do In the “Real World”?
Currently I work as an editor at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I have had this job for over one year, which is a record for me, if you don’t count the three seasons I worked at the Louisville Zoo in high school. Since graduating, I have also been a Teaching Fellow at Athens College, an intern at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a program assistant at The Children’s Partnership. Though all of these positions have had their interesting moments, none really captured my passion. They were jobs, a way to make money, a means to make this trip happen.

This year, I’ve also begun to make money as a freelance writer. This, to me, is more than a job. It’s something I enjoy. One day, my only job title will be writer. Maybe even novelist.

What Places Am I Most Excited About Experiencing?
1. Patagonia. I think the landscape will be awesome. I can’t wait to do some trekking and to get up close and personal with this kind of natural beauty.
2. Serengeti National Park. I’ve always wanted to do a safari, to see the wild in the wild.
3. Vietnam. Growing up I don’t think I ever thought of Vietnam as a real place. It was an abstract, a synonym for war. I want to experience it as a real place with real people.

What Am I Most Looking Forward To?
I’m excited about investing time in getting to know a place, in being a traveler and not a tourist, in meeting people and learning about their lives, their hopes, their beliefs, in making connections. I’m also excited about sharing all of this with Jeff.

What Am I Most Worried About?
I don’t know if it’s a worry so much as something I know I need to be aware of. When I travel with someone else, I tend to hang back and let the other person take care of things, especially encounters that have the potential to be trying or difficult or result in some form of “rejection.” Not only is this not fair to the other person (aka Jeff), it also inhibits the kind of personal growth that these trips inspire. So I have to make a conscious effort to be less reserved and to push my own levels of comfort.

I must also admit that I’m not really looking forward to squat toilets.

And on that lovely thought, I’ll sign off for now. Jeff, your turn.