10 Weeks: What To Pack?

One of the more difficult aspects of this trip has been the question of what to take with me.  I want to pack as lightly as possible, for ease of travel on the plane as well as the ground, plus I want room to take souvenirs back with me.  Yet, I’m going to be gone for 10 weeks, so I’ll need enough clothes to see me through (and I don’t want to be unfashionable in Italy so I can’t just take anything).  I’ve been searching through a number of travel blogs trying to figure out what I’ll need to take.  What I took away from all that reading was:

  • Dress modestly — in particular, getting into the churches is difficult if you are wearing anything either too casual (shorts and flip flops) or revealing (shoulders and arms exposed, too short of a skirt).
  • Jeans, flip flops, and shorts are not nearly as ubiquitous as in the U.S.
  • Don’t bother trying to dress as well as the Italians — it simply can’t be done.
  • La bella figura “the beautiful figure” is the Italian philosophy for presentation of oneself.
  • Skirts, dresses, and slacks are preferable to jeans (in general, looking “feminine” seemed to be key).
  • Heels are more fashionable but not at all practical if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking.

So what did I pack?  I present to you now:

Evolution of a Suitcase

(1) Totally Empty.

(2) Layer 1: 2 towels, 1 swimsuit, 5 dresses, 3 skirts, 1 slip.

(3) Layer 2: well, actually, this layer had to be taken out and redone

(after discarding half of the clothes to save space) but it’s a pretty cute picture nonetheless.

(4) Layer 2: 1 pair gauchos, 1 pair jeans, 6 jackets/coverups, 1 hoodie, 11 camisoles/undershirts, 1 pair leggings, 2 scarves, 5 pairs socks, 1 set pajamas.

(5) Layer 3: 9 shirts, 2 belts, 1 pair sweatpants, 2 bras, 17 pairs underwear, 2 pairs pantyhose, 1 pair sandals, 1 pair flats, 1 pair undershorts (essential for skirt/dress wearing because they prevent thigh chafing).

(6) Layer 4: toiletries, 1 pair tennis shoes, 1 pair flat boots, 1 comfy but fashionable sweater.

(7) Did it all fit?  It did.  And it only weighed in at 36.2 lbs.!

(8) And here is my outfit for travel.  I decided against jeans (not nearly as comfortable as slacks). I’ll also be sporting my Jason Wu trench coat and my carry-on (I’ll be packing that tomorrow).

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Preparation Part 1: 2-3 Weeks Until Take-off

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks since I was officially able to call my Florence, Italy trip a go.  Because I’d originally thought I was going to have to drop out of the program due to its nearly (but not quite, in the end) prohibitive cost, I had missed a lot of deadlines.  With three weeks until the trip was supposed to begin I had not gotten the required physical or even applied for a passport, which meant a lot of last minute hustle to get everything done in between three college classes and a full-time work load (not to mention daily life stuff).  So this is a short list of what I’ve been doing the last two weeks:

  • I applied for my passport and paid an extra $60 to get the application expedited, plus $30 in shipping so the application and the passport could be overnighted.  I did this on March 1 and my passport arrived today, giving me just enough time to…
  • Register with the US Embassy.
  • Go to the doctor to get a physical and a tetanus shot. (ouch).
  • Call my credit union to let them know where and when I’d be going so my credit and debit card would work abroad (which reminds me, I still need to ask them if/how much I’ll be charged in fees for using an ATM or making purchases abroad).
  • Contact the financial aid office at my college to sign over my financial aid check to my boyfriend so that he could deposit it in my checking account (since they hand over checks the first day of the quarter and I won’t be here).
  • Budget, and then work a ton of overtime to make the budget work.
  • Buy some clothes for the trip (a dress, a skirt, and slacks — plus my mom bought me a trench coat) and do all my laundry so that I could try on all of my clothes to pick the best outfits for the next two months.
  • Finish going through my iTunes library A-Z so it’s totally organized (essential for the long plane ride).
  • Research Florence!  The best resources so far have been The Florentine, the AIFS Florence Blog (plus the student blogs they feature to the side), and Visit Florence.
  • Download Let’s Learn Italian! from iTunes so that I could get around the airport (plus I bought Barron’s Italian Visual Language Guide).
  • Email & meet with the director/coordinators/professor/students involved in the program (well actually, I haven’t met the other students yet — I won’t see them until we move in together).
  • Keep track of the Euro so that I can figure out the best time to trade in my dollars — so far it’s gone from about $1000USD/$680E to $1000USD/$760E, so it’s getting better…
  • Buy a cute journal (because I sold my MacBook to help finance the trip — eep!  I’ve only got an iPhone to see me through).
  • Download some iPhone apps for travelers.
  • Set up a Flickr account (which you might have noticed to the side of the blog) as a photo dump for my iPhone.
  • Check out the time difference (it’s currently 9:34pm on Tuesday here and in Florence it’s 5:34am Wednesday) and the weather:
  • Start reading The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici by Christopher Hibbert.

I’m sure there is more but I don’t want to make the list too long.  Of course, I’ve been trying to keep up with my goals too, but the success is a bit spotty, especially now that I’m in the last week of college (not to mention my last week in the states).  The two goals I’ve met most easily are cleaning and spending more time with the pets, but that last one is easy peasy.

In the Name of Love

“The most powerful symptom of love is a tenderness which becomes at times almost insupportable.” — Victor Hugo

Because the big V-Day is this week I want to dedicate the whole week to real love, instead of just a single day based around giving and getting, like a pink and red version of Christmas.  How best to accomplish this?  I don’t know.  I think every day will be different.  Today, I made a treat (to be shared in a later post) to celebrate a coworker’s birthday on Tuesday (yes, his birthday is Valentines Day), I picked out a menu for my own V-Day night with my boyfriend and let him choose the dessert, I watched romantic comedies all day on TV, including the end of You’ve Got Mail, my all time favorite romantic comedy (my all time favorite romantic movie is An Affair to Remember), and I signed up to write love letters for The World Needs More Love Letters, so here’s to hoping they send me a bundle!  And of course, I played with my babies:

As for my goals, I’ve been doing okay.  I’ve been consistent with the blog and the recipes, and doing my 20 min. cleans about every other day, although I’m still struggling with the writing and exercise goals.  It’s so easy to push them to the back of my to do list and then end up at 9:00 thinking it’s too late.  I swear though, as soon as I finish this blog post I’m going to do some serious working out with my Gaiam ball.  I only have five weeks until Spring Break and one more quarter after that until summer, so I’m already counting down the days until I get a little free time to catch up on things.  I’m trying to remember though, that I have six hours in a day after work and two before if I get up on time, and that is more than enough to stay caught up, if not totally sane!