On Saturday, January 4, 2010, we left Maine at 9 AM, with what promised to be, a historic Nor’Easter nipping at our wheels. The channel 8 weather guy – known for his inflated predictions – claimed that the Portland area would see between 10-25 inches of snow (quite a spread, which insulates him from being called an inflationary extremist) and wind gusts over 50 mph. We loaded our Hyundai Sonata rental with 12 bags, 7 of which teetered on the upper weight limit of 50 lbs. There are no restrictions on how many bags you can bring. You do however, need to store them all in your stateroom, which in itself can prove to be an effective self-limiter. Steve had the brilliant idea of buying several large soft sided duffle bags from LL Bean that fold down to inches, in lieu of using hard cases with wheels that would take up half the stateroom. I wonder how many other passengers packed to their hearts content without considering the consequences? No… there is no luggage room… sorry folks. With Steve at the helm, we pulled out of the driveway as the wind slammed into the car. We were grateful for the 500 pounds of luggage keeping the wheels tight to the road.
Some of you may be thinking… 500 pounds? Excessive? Before you judge us, consider this. We packed for 106 days. That’s a LONG time. Steve’s size 13 feet translate into gargantuan shoes that filled an entire duffle, took two of us to tug shut, and tested the zipper’s resilience. The shoes for my dainty size 8 feet filled a bag equal in size… but you must consider that being a woman, it is my Birth Right to bring as many shoes as I deem necessary for all real and hypothetical occasions. Which brings me to clothes. We packed for 46 formal dining nights, 40 semi formal nights, and the rest, spiffy casual. A suit, tux, a few sports coats, and a handful of ties and Steve was set for evenings. For me, the wardrobe choices were vastly more complex. I couldn’t get away with a few dresses when I will see the same people for 3.5 months. There is also a daily afternoon tea (which requires it’s own wardrobe) and a vast array of daytime activities (which include tracking lions and kangaroos to being chased by diseased mosquitos).
We will hit every season. Rome will be chilly. In Sydney, Australia, Fall will have just arrived. New Dehli, India, will be stinky hot and humid along with the Zulu Nation in South Africa. In Hong Kong, Spring will have sprung. Jeans, shorts, fleece, wick-away stuff to sweat in, sequined gowns, yoga pants, patten leather tux shoes, rain coats, bathing suits, sneakers, strapless bras, and flip flops. Have I justified the weight?
During the week before leaving, we were jolted to semiconsciousness several times a night, having dreamt of “can’t live without” items to ad to the list. Of course, not wanting to wake fully, we failed to write anything down… leaving us with wispy memories the next morning that escaped our grasp. Is it any wonder that we started our journey sleep deprived?
That covers what goes ON the body, but we also had to tackle what goes IN it. I scoured the CDC website, looking for life threatening bugs. Many of the countries we will visit are known to provide safe harbor for insects who love to chow down on human blood while they deposit nasty diseases. There are also parasites that would joyfully take up permanent residence in our intestines. They might lurk in innocent ice cubes that started life in an Egyptian river…. just waiting for the chance to defrost in a diet coke. A river that earlier that day was used as a toilet and a clothes washer. To address these potential nuisances we got shot up with a Hepatitis A vaccine, and took a course of Live Typhoid Pills (this is a good thing, believe it or not). And, I can get used to drinking luke warm soda.
Swine and Seasonal Flu vaccines were virtually non-existent in Maine before we left. Traveling on a ship with recirculated air, and over 3,000 people who, no doubt, will skimp on singing the entire “happy birthday song” while washing their hands without being immunized first is akin to playing Russian Roulette. Panic set in! The search began and ended in Southern New Jersey. On a trip to visit Steve’s family in mid-December, we popped into a CVS Minute Clinic and without having to lie about being healthy, got what we needed. The final piece was trying to decide which Anti-Malarial medication to take. Reading about the potential side effects of Lariam was like being engrossed in a Stephen King novel. A chance of psychotic episodes… wicked bad dreams the night you take the (once weekly) pill… depression… anxiety… suicidal thoughts… just to name a few. And then the best one; the “half life” of this drug is LONG, which means that we could feel all of these wonderful effects for several months after the last pill. Hmmm… NEXT. We decided on Malarone. A ghastly expensive drug ($300 for 50 pills), but mild side effects in comparison. No malaria drugs guarantee you won’t contract the disease, so I packed two cans of “Deep Woods Off” as a back up. What’s worse… covering your body with carcinogenic Deet… or contracting Malaria? Definitely Malaria, if you get it, you got it for life.