Preparation Part 2: The Final Countdown

So in the last week of finalizing my trip I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit:

  • I finished up my classes (Earth Science final, Pride & Prejudice essay, and an essay for Advanced Composition).
  • I got a haircut.
  • I bought a few more things for the trip: a dress, an adaptor, sandals, etc.
  • I cleaned the entire apartment, room by room.
  • I budgeted.
  • I got stitches for a knife cut to the index finger and then got them taken out (today!).
  • I set up my bills for while I’m away, put services on hold (like the gym), canceled some subscriptions, and made sure the vet knew that my boyfriend would be in charge of the pets for two months.
  • I made a list of important addresses in the U.S. (for postcards) and Florence (for my friends & family to keep track of me).
  • I wrote some thank you cards to the professors who wrote me my letters of recommendation.

Now that I’ve clock out from work for the last time and I’m getting ready to go to bed for the last time in the U.S., I’m beginning to feel the first pangs of, “Oh my gosh this is really happening!”  I’ve never been out of the country before (unless you count Canada) and so this is a huge deal, not just because I’ll be leaving but because of how long I’ll be gone.  I’m going to have to adapt to a new culture, a new language, and a new time zone (hello 8 hour time difference).  I’m scared, nervous, excited, and hopeful all at once.  I’ll admit that I hope it will be something like Eat, Pray, Love or  Under the Tuscan Sun — I love the idea of having a totally life changing adventure!  I’ll miss my best friends, my boyfriend, my family, and my pets, but I’m looking forward to this…  A break from work, from routine, from expectations.

With that, I’m going to finish up the last of my to do list and head to bed.  Italy, here I come!

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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.

Accountability & Italy

As a reminder, my accountability goals thus far are:

January

(1) 3 recipes per week

(2) Blog SuMTWTh

(3) Clean 20 min. per day

February

(4) Write 20 min. per day

(5) Don’t procrastinate via internet/tv

(6) Exercise every day

I did really well through most of January but I began to fall off track in a major way during February.  It wasn’t just the goals I’d picked, which were realistic and easily accomplished when I did them, it was a problem with stress and a sudden feeling of being totally overwhelmed in general.  I was going through some major ups and downs due to trying to get financial aid to study abroad in Italy.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to happen and cancelled the trip, getting into a more motivated mindset and preparing for the next few months ahead.  I was seriously ready to go, and totally motivated to work out and get in shape when… I got an email from the financial aid office informing me that my loan had been approved.

Wait… what?!  I was not at all prepared for this.  I was completely resigned to staying stateside and had planned out the next few months in my head to great detail.  After agonizing over whether or not to go for an entire miserable day, I eventually came to the conclusion (with the help of my friends), that this would be the trip of a lifetime and I’d be insane not to go.  So I said yes, thereby creating a whirlwind of craziness in my life, involving obtaining a passport with less than three weeks until my travel date, getting plane tickets, getting a physical, budgeting (serious, serious, painful budgeting — no joke, I’m broker than I’ve ever been), etc.

So what do I have in mind for March goals?

March

(7) Create and stick to a budget

(8) Begin learning Italian

(9) Spend more time with pets*

*(both to help keep my sanity and because I’ll be 2 months without them)

I’m going to continue to work on my other goals, although the recipes will get cheaper, there will be days the blog just doesn’t happen (especially after I leave), cleaning is totally necessary — so no slacking on that one, writing is sidelined a bit, it’s not procrastinating if I’m researching Italy — right??, and exercising is actually going to be more important than ever, since I read that jet lag is less intense the healthier you are, and of course I want to look amazing in Italy.

Anyway, I’ll probably be updating less frequently, perhaps three times a week, though I will continue to post amazing recipes.  You’ll just now have the added bonus of reading my travel woes and freak outs, in addition to the usual repertoire. And if anyone has any tips, for Italy, Florence, traveling, Europe, studying abroad, etc., feel free to let me know in the comments.