Prior to my trip to India, I had never set foot outside of the United States. I was becoming a world traveler overnight. To my surprise, I was not very tightly wound about this whole concept of going from 0 to 100 out of the gate.
I told myself when I found out I was going on the trip on December 10, 2013 – nearly a year before I was scheduled to leave for India – that I was going to embrace everything uncomfortable about it. That was easier to do than I had anticipated. The trip seemed so far off, and so I just continued on with life. Even one month out from the adventure, while I was sitting on conference calls about security and travel requirements, it still seemed forever away.
I crave change, almost too much at times. I was going to be traveling with a group, many of whom had traveled a lot internationally. I listened in on all of the pre-trip conference calls and read everything that OneSight emailed to me to prepare for the trip.
When you do something big, you have to break it down into manageable pieces.
For me, the first manageable piece was taking in all of the information thrown my way. In addition to reading the OneSight email updates, I googled Jodhpur, the city where I would be staying. I watched multiple YouTube videos. I began to buy a new Indian food each week when I went to the grocery store.
Then came the paperwork for my U.S. Passport and my India work visa. I have to admit, I waited until nearly the last minute to get all of these things processed. I think part of this was due to my suddenly laid back approach to this process, and the fact that I have passed multiple secret service background checks during my years in politics when I worked presidential events and had a Vice President come to my office.
The U.S. Passport proved to be an easier process than the India work visa. I take for granted that I live in a country that is not physically surrounded by so much turmoil.
The next thing was packing. I actually packed light. I did not pack every little thing that was recommended, such as a flashlight. Yes, I am such a risk taker! 😉 I am pretty proud of how well I packed, since I did not take a lot and I had never traveled out of the U.S. before this. The planner in me was somewhat on autopilot, as I did not even take my suitcase out until a few days before I left. And I bought my final item – an outlet adapter – the day before I left home.
While I did a pretty good job of packing for my first time traveling overseas, I could have used a lot more paper products. Instead, I confiscated as much toilet paper and as many napkins as I possibly could from our hotel room and dining area to tie me over and to prevent me from blowing my nose like a farmer. The dry northwest India winter air did a number on my sinuses. I was miraculously back to normal within 48 hours of arriving back in the U.S.
And then all of a sudden, the time had arrived. Once I was at the airport, the rest was out of my hands. I was anxious and relieved all at the same time when I checked in at the Moline airport. With each leg of my trip to India, I became less anxious. I was getting closer to the destination. It was really happening! I was going to India! I had such a laid back approach because the idea of going to India was so big that my mind just shoved it to the side. Then the anxiety of not forgetting anything nagged at me for a few days leading up to the trip (when I finally decided to start packing). The entire journey to India still seems surreal to me in some ways. I knew no one going on the trip with me. I had not even met any of these people in person prior to meeting them in Newark, New Jersey. Thanks to a crazy broken exit sign on our plane scheduled to take us from Newark to Delhi, we had an extra night in the states to “bond” while we waited for the next flight on the following night.
Everything was already new once I reached Newark: the people, the airport, the whole international flying experience, you name it. I did take comfort in the familiarity of Starbucks. 😉 I was so excited that I could barely sleep during our short night/day at the hotel in Newark. And when the plane FINALLY took off from Newark, I took a deep breath and pinched myself for about the 20th time since leaving home.
The truth is, you can’t really prepare yourself for the really big stuff. That’s because going big requires a big leap of faith that everything will be just fine.