The Repatriation Countdown Checklist

I’m less than thirty weeks from the end of my stay here, less than 200 days from moving back to the United States.  I’ve watched many of my fellow expatriate bloggers go through the process of leaving, and every time one of us approaches the end, there’s a sort of checklist that we go through.  Been to Oktoberfest?  Check.  Taken the usual picture of Neuschwanstein?  Check.  Had a beer on the Zugspitze?  Seen Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate?  Visited Prague?  Check, check, check.

I’m no different.  There’s a slew of things that I feel compelled to finish before I go.  I still have a few Category One stations left to visit.   I have a bunch of cities and countries that I want to see before I leave.    Moving back to the US won’t stop me from visiting and traveling around Europe, but it will slow it down a great deal.

Even so, the Countdown Checklist mode has set in for me too.   I just got back from Hamburg, and between now and my departure in October,  I’m going to take trips to Dresden, Leipzig, Heidelberg (#hbergmeetup!), Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Berlin again, and Furth im Wald to see a giant robot dragon!

I’m also doing some extreme padding of my “countries I’ve visited” resume before I go.  Here’s the places I’ve got solid plans to visit:

  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Bruges, Belgium
  • Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
  • Keukenhof for the Tulip Festival, just outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Oslo, Norway
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Krakow, Poland and Auschwitz
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Vienna, Austria (again)
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Vaduz, Liechtenstein

…and that’s all before mid-summer!

For those of you who have moved back home, did you have a Repatriation Countdown Checklist?  Tell me about it in comments.

Travel Anxiety

By now, most of my readers have figured out that I travel a lot, that I’m planning on continuing to travel a lot, and that more often than not, I travel alone.  I’m pretty experienced at traveling, and I’ve more or less got my rhythm down.  What would surprise most of you, I think, is that I suffer from fairly strong travel anxiety. Utterly pointless, illogical, irrational, but still very powerful. In my head, it’s kind of like this:

Gut: We’re gonna miss the train!
Brain: Relax. We have seven whole minutes to walk from platform four to platform eight. We could moonwalk  there and still make it.
Gut: But what if this train is EIGHT minutes late to the connecting station?
Brain: Then we take another train. There’s another train going to the same place twenty-five minutes later.
Gut: WE’RE GONNA MISS THE TRAIN!
Brain: ::sigh::

…and so on.

When I’m traveling, I get into a partial flight or fight mode.  My heart beats faster than normal even if I get to the train station or airport with hours to spare.  If I have imbibed more than a tablespoon of water, you can bet I’ll be in the bathroom repeatedly. (I joke that I’m just following Imperial protocol, dumping all of my garbage before I make the jump to light speed.)  I’m always worried that I’ve left something behind or forgotten to lock my apartment door.  I can’t fall asleep on planes or trains either; I’m usually too wired.

My brain knows that I can handle anything that might come up-  there’s always another way to get to where I’m going.  I’ve never been truly lost, or truly stranded.    Even when my flights got buggered up last March and I was stuck in Frankfurt for an extra night, I was able to find a hotel with Jenny’s assistance from her computer back in Regensburg.  I’m not even all that bothered by airplane turbulence.

Every problem I’ve ever encountered while traveling has been solvable and none of it was really all that bad.

…Gut: But we’re gonna miss the plane!

Do you suffer from (or enjoy) any travel anxiety?  How do you handle it?

Look up- You’ll miss me if you blink twice.

I sleep better in hotel beds.

When I’m in my own apartment, my brain never quite shuts off.  It’s partly FOMO, I think.  Until a year ago, I’d never heard of FOMO-  Fear of Missing Out.  It’s a type of social anxiety, a compulsion and a fear that you might miss something cool happening.  Fear of missing out is why I never fall asleep before midnight, and rarely before one in the morning.    Part of my need to travel is FOMO, I suppose,  but it’s also a variety of some other things that I can’t quite put a name to.   When I’m at home, I never settle in.  I rarely sleep very deeply.  I never wake up refreshed.

In hotels, though, I sleep better.  I think it’s partly that when I’m traveling, my mind shuts off-  I see entire cities in a single day or a weekend.  I walk the breadth of a city,  traverse courtyards, climb up church spires.   I run until I’m exhausted.  I wear myself out, and then I can sleep.   Then I can breathe.

In my early twenties, a girl I dated saw this trait in me.  Even then, I had the wanderlust, the need to keep moving.  Even when I was stuck in South Florida with no passport and no money to speak of,  she saw that I was discontent.  When she called me out on it with her typically insightful way, she referenced a single line from an Alanis Morissette song:  “Why are you so petrified of silence?”

It was an excellent question then, and it’s an excellent question now.  I think that maybe I like Adventure Steven far more than I like the silent version of myself that visits whenever I’m at home for a long time.  Living on a continent that isn’t your own is a distinctively lonely experience.   Sure, I visit with my friends here-  we share meals, or go to the pub.  That covers a few hours, or an evening.  Then I go back home, play around on the computer, chat online, watch far too much Netflix, and fail utterly to fall asleep.  The loneliness and isolation sets up a lively card game with the discontented restlessness, while boredom puts some good tunes on the record player.  Mild insomnia tends bar.

I’m still lonely when I travel to new cities, but I feel it so, so much less when I’m in motion.

I can always breathe a little bit easier when I’m in motion.  I sleep better when I’m on the road.

That’s why I travel.  That’s why I run.

run

Currency

One amusing side-effect of traveling the way that I do, is that after a while, your junk drawer starts to look a little bit like Doc Brown’s binder of different currencies from Back To The Future 2.

currency1

Most of the places I travel are on the Euro, but not all of them.  The amount of Czech Crowns I have left would barely buy a glass of beer here, but I store it because at some point, I’ll be back in Prague.  I try to use up my currency before I leave, but I don’t always succeed.  I use paper CD sleeves to store them so I can see easily what I’m dealing with.

currency2

What’s the most interesting currency you have put aside?

298 Days

My residence permit expires at the end of October, and I’ll be heading back to the US around that time.   October may seem like a long way off, but it’s really not.   I have less than three hundred days left in Germany.

I wrote a 500 days post back in June, after I passed the halfway mark of my time here.  It listed a number of the things that I wanted to accomplish before I leave.  Between June and December, I finished five of them.  Here’s an updated list of things that I really want to do before I go.

I want to see the Tulip Festival in Holland.  This will likely happen-  My partner-in-crime Jenny and I are planning on trying to make it out, but you can’t really plan that too far in advance.  The tulips don’t bloom on a set schedule and if they’re not blooming when you go, it’s a wasted trip.

I kinda want to see Mini Europe in Brussels.  I’ll probably pair Brussels with a visit to Luxembourg-  they’re in a straight line, more or less, and they’re all on my Geographic to-do list.

There’s a bunch of other places in Germany that I want to see.  A selection: Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  Oberhaus Fortress in Passau.  The Tomb of Charlemagne in Aachen’s Palatine Chapel.  The Auto Technik Museum in Heidelberg.

I’m going to see Carnival in Cologne I already have my hotel room reserved for the events of Carnival Sunday and the Rose Monday parade.

I’m attending a wedding in July.  I’ve wanted to write a post about weddings here for a while, but I haven’t been to a wedding in Germany yet.  That’s going to change though:  Over the holidays, Jenny and her boyfriend Robert got engaged!   Jenny is my best friend on this continent, and  I’m wildly happy for them both.  I’m sure I’ll be writing about this happy occasion several times this year.

We’re going to DrachenstichI found out about this too late last year to make it happen, but I’ve already got tickets for this August.  I’m really looking forward to this!  Drachenstich is a festival in Furth Im Wald which is kind of like Medieval Times, but with a giant robot firebreathing dragon!

furtherdrache2010

Here’s a trailer thingie so you can get a sense of the festival.

I need to visit more countries.  I haven’t been into Poland, Romania, Turkey, or Croatia yet, and I’d like to.  And maybe Greece, if there’s time.  There’s still so much to see!

If you only had one year remaining to live in your current country, what would you want to do before you had to leave?