I do not think I’ve ever needed a vacation more in my life.
I needed a vacation last summer, in the summer after my first year of law school (read: why is the first year of law school so bad?). I had one planned with my long-term partner August, and under better circumstances there’d be posts here about our car camping and hiking trip to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park.
But then my brother got sick. Well. Sicker. He was born with duchenne muscular dystrophy and had always done very well for his age group as a bit ahead of the curve in his deteriorating health. And then in late July, it was like he stumbled off of the cliff, healthwise. He spent a month in and out of the ICU as we tried to figure out if this was the new normal for his disease. My family and I spent a lot of afternoons napping curled up in curious positions in uncomfortable hospital room chairs. Up until literally the day before my planned flight to Montana we thought his health might just be the “new normal,” a state anyone who has encountered a degenerative disease knows about. Until it wasn’t. I canceled my trip (no regrets, and I have plans to go to Montana in August this year).
We moved him to hospice care and said good bye to him a couple days later on August 18, 2016.
Two logistical travel notes, because this is a travel blog:
Jetblue, my preferred airline for the many flights between DC and Boston that I do as someone living in both cities, was fantastic the entire month of this family crisis. They were so understanding and helpful every time I called them. We had a canceled flight of my father’s that they let my sister and I use the credit for to get up there, they were great at moving the various pre-scheduled flights around, they helped me get out of DCA as fast as possible when I needed to, and not once did they charge us a change fee. They were awesome and it was such a relief to encounter that in the flurry of logistics and grief and they have my customer loyalty pretty much forever.
Delta (the carrier for our flights to Montana) was less awesome. I couldn’t get out of the $200 per ticket cancelation/”change” fee, there were three hour hold times, and I had almost $400 in “delta credit” that I had to use or lose before June 1st… but I couldn’t use to pay for my sister’s flight up for my brother’s funeral. It was not unexpected, but especially in contrast to how awesome Jetblue was, it was still frustrating.
Which brings us to Colombia.
To give me a distraction from grief in the couple of weeks afterward, I started planning a bit. I was looking for a new vacation outlet for my spring break (in February). I literally put in random cities in South America into kayak.com until one came up that was 1.) Warm 2.) Affordable.
Turns out Delta flies to Colombia, so I could use the credit before June. Turns out Colombia is warm. And affordable. Problem solved.
Or mostly. My partner at the time was not thrilled with the idea. Zika concerns,* mostly. We bickered a bit about it a bit. Then, for unrelated reasons and only a couple weeks after my brother’s funeral (yes, I am going to be angry about that for a long time), he broke up with me.
I bought my flight to Colombia the next day. Booking international travel is not the worst way to deal with a bad breakup. But yes. Even though I am doing much better (actually, all things considered, I’m doing pretty awesome), I definitely need this vacation.
So here we are. I leave for Colombia tomorrow morning via Atlanta – on a crazy early flight out of DCA. The only firm plan I have is the Lost City Trek. Everything else is kind of up in the air, but I have 12 days to figure it out. There will be beaches. And a lot of reading.
I am sharing this photo of everything I’m bringing mostly because I am super impressed with myself: Everything I need for 12 days fits into this 30L day pack, which I’ll carry on.
In there (plus on my body), I’ll have: (2) pairs of zip off hiking pants, a pair of shorts, (2) dresses, (3) shirts appropriate for hiking or socializing, (1) set of linen long sleeved camp clothes treated with permethrin, pajamas, (2) bathing suits, chacos, hiking boots, (3) sets of hiking socks and liners, underwear & bras, a headlamp, swimming goggles, my first aid kit, all necessary toiletries, a dry bag, a sleeping sack, a 40L foldable duffle, my bluetooth folding keyboard, a solar powered charger, my kindle, my phone (which will work more or less normally in Colombia), my journal, and a packable down jacket because it’s bloody cold on the East coast right now and it’ll double as my pillow for hammock sleeping.
* It’s not that I’m unconcerned about Zika, I’m just treating it similarly to how I would malaria, dengue, and all these other mosquito born viruses. Do what I can, accept the risk, and I have no intention of procreating for two years.