Thursday, September 15, 2011

T minus 10 days

I leave for Martinique in 10 days, and I'm feeling extremely unprepared.

My head is a big jumbled mess right now.  For the past several days, my mind has been running a mile a minute trying to make note of things I should pack and what I need to do before I leave.

I'm anxious to go abroad again.  It's been over 3 years since I've left the country, which in my opinion is way too long.  I've stayed in the States for so long that I've become a little too comfortable with life here, and I've been feeling very nervous about traveling to a new area again.  Excited, definitely.  But nervous. I think that's a good sign that it's past time for me to do something new.

I studied abroad in France for a semester in 2008.  I was 21, which felt old at the time.  But that was when I began to really figure out who I am.  Those short few months in France taught me so much, but I want to get so much more out of my upcoming experience in Martinique.  So... Time for a list.

DO be prepared.
... but DON'T overpack.

When I went to France, I was prepared for anything.  I packed clothes and shoes for any occasion, towels, blankets, medicine of all kinds, foods, seasoning salt.  Yes, I packed seasoning salt.  I had 2 full-sized suitcases (each weighing 50 pounds), a huge bag, and a carry-on.  I still don't remember how I managed to get all that crap through the Metro in Paris.  Looking back, I might have overpacked just a little.

This time, I am definitely not making that mistake again.  I am only packing what I can carry on my own without difficulty.  I want to be prepared, but the thing about traveling is that you will never be 100% prepared.  When do you ever pack just the right amount of clothes?  So I'm going to try to pack
 than what I need.  Anything I don't have, I can always buy there.

DO travel.
... but DON'T forget where I am.

While studying in France, I traveled to England, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland.  Within a 4 1/2 month timeframe.  It was great, but I barely traveled within France.  At the end of my semester, I realized that I had barely even discovered Angers, the city I had been living in.  I hadn't visited the château, the Cointreau museum, or any museum.  I had barely even crossed over the river to the other side of the city.  I did see the château before I left, but there were so many other things I never got to do.  I had completely neglected my own surroundings.

In Martinique, I want to immerse myself in the island and my city.  I want to visit museums, learn about the culture, visit different areas of the island.  I want to really live where I'm living.

DO practice French.
... and DON'T get discouraged.

This sounds ridiculous, but in France, I barely spoke French.  I got to the point where I would almost refuse to speak French.  I'm still trying to figure out why I shut down, but I think I had just gotten overwhelmingly frustrated with my French skills that my brain flipped a switch.  I completely withdrew myself from the unfamiliar.

That is definitely something I want to avoid in Martinique.  I want to immerse myself in the language and culture around me.  I know I'll sound like an idiot and get frustrated at how much my speaking skills have deteriorated in recent years, but I want to rediscover my passion for French.

It's silly, but this will be one of my biggest challenges in Martinique.  But this experience is going to be all about growing, learning, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.