Don’t: Pack your backpack the day of your flight with the assumption that you’ll be able to carry it. If you buy a bright green backpack and can barely move when it’s on your back, you’ll look like a turtle waddling forlornly through the airport.
Do: Test the weight of your bag in advance and start exercising so you’ll be able to pick it up.
Don’t: Get all your vaccinations in one sitting. Your arm will be red, bruised and swollen and people on the street will treat you like a DV victim.
Do: Take advantage of the extra hospitality you receive if you do wind up looking like a DV victim.
I learned these lessons the hard way on Thursday, when I began my trip by flying to London to visit friends before hitting Italy. Though I barely made it onto the plane without losing my passport or dropping my backpack on a small child, my confidence got a boost as soon as I found my seat. The girl sitting beside me, who was studying the movie schedule, looked up and asked, “Are we eastbound or westbound?” Wow, I thought, one’s sense of direction apparently could be worse than mine. I answered “Eastbound,” but the girl was unconvinced – “Are you sure??” Dude, look at a map! We’re not going to fly past Australia and Asia to get from Washington DC to London.
I received another shock when I arrived at Heathrow and found a girl brushing her teeth in the bathroom. People brush their teeth in London? She could have been American – her mouth was full so I couldn’t ask – but DO question stereotypes about the foreigners.
Don’t: Pack a med kit full of everything a guidebook recommends. Remember that as soon as you try to lift your backpack, you will want to throw away most of what you originally put in it. Take only what you need immediately and buy as you go.
Do: Initially pack ibuprofen and lozenges. Following the night of your arrival, you will awake dehydrated, jetlagged and potentially hungover following the night of your arrival.
Addendum: Don’t drink too many nips on the flight.
Do try the water.
Hangover aside, this weekend in London has been a godsend. I was uncharacteristically stressed prior to my departure, due to normal “big change” anxiety or due to the fact that I was living with my parents. Either way the English seem to understand that everything is better with sausage, aged gouda and a pint of beer in the morning. Beats the pants off orange juice. If this is the food and accepted alcohol consumption of the Brits, I’m psyched to see what Italy is up to.