Swimming in the details, gulping at what's left to do.

Everyone scrambles before a trip, no matter how big or small. You always think you’ve got more time than there really is, and soon enough your ride is waiting out front. We’re down to the final 60 hours before heading to the airport. About three times that many hours would be helpful. Yet instead of doing something obvious, I’m going to share some of what we’ve learned in the process. Because even this stuff is part of the overall adventure. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Here are a few of my top tips for getting everything into the covered wagon and hitting the trail.

  1. We needed to rent our house while we’re overseas. Using targeted an audience of people in similar circumstances. Everyone in Seattle has at lease one dog or cat (except for us) and every listing with most services indicate no pets (except for us). Long story short - we found a lovely family to rent our place with a small barnyard coming with them from outside Ithaca, NY. I highly recommend and being flexible.

  2. Insurance is a bag of donuts mixed with a few rocks and pinecones. Travel medical evacuation/stuff-no-one-wants-to-think-about insurance has proven to be a hard get for people like us (traveling for a long, but not set period of time). Thankfully, the other stuff has been delightful. If you don’t love your insurance company, I strongly recommend USAA. They did some seriously funky stuff for our stuff here and their “Renter’s Policy” (seems like a misnomer) for the stuff we take with us is low-deductible, high-confidence security. If we do get a dog after we return, I may suggest naming it “USAA.”

  3. ZipLock bags are your friends. Compress your stuff. ‘Nuff said.

  4. VPNs and MiFi (personal hotspots) and the all-important “getting your phones unlocked” for local SIM cards and the list goes on. Expect to be frustrated and curl up into fetal position at regular intervals trying to figure it all out. Fingers crossed, I think we’re equipped.

  5. When friends offer help, take it. I haven’t done so enough. The offers we’ve received were/are amazing, and we all benefit from living in a modern village. Pay that forward, whenever possible.

  6. Whatever time estimate you have for packing - triple it. So if we had approximately 120 hours, we’d be set.

  7. Share your story with people. Expect some won’t know what to say. But you’ll be surprised often enough to make the extra sharing of personal detail to make it worthwhile. Case in point - one of the guys behind the counter at my local Chevron station is super friendly. Until two weeks ago, we only talked about the weather, in all its daily permutations. But when I told him recently that we’re stressed getting prepped for our move to Addis Ababa, I learned that he came from a place only 100 kilometers south of there. He’s provided a waterfall of encouragement and detail since then. We may even see him and/or family sometime this year in Ethiopia. It’s a big, complex world. Stories bring us all closer to one another and bridge unimaginable distances. That’s my mantra for the year ahead, truth be told.

Time to dip back into the pile of “to do lists” and unfinished tasks. Rock on.

Taking stock while on layover in Chicago

Explaining our choice of "Living Entoto"