Shawnda: Explore. Dream. Discover. My pre-departure thoughts

June 1, 2011

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
[Mark Twain]

This has been my favorite quote for quite some time now, and I am just beginning to apply it to my life.  I leave in 3 days to what has been my dream destination for about half of my life.  I find myself full of emotions…and all together I can’t tell if I’m so excited I’ll pee my pants or so terrified I’ll throw up. Right now it’s about half and half.  I’m sure I’ll get about 2 hours of sleep within the coming days and stay awake high off of caffeine from work and excited anticipation for my 7 week trip. 
As of now I am more nervous for finding my way through the airports and figuring out how to pack everything without being charged hundreds of dollars in baggage fees.  I’m almost positive I can bring a small ruler as a carry on and a plastic baggie for a checked-in piece of luggage and still be charged 50$ one-way.  I would rather not be tormented by my shrinking bank account while on a two day and 40 minute flight to Gaborone. 

And yes…it will take me two whole days to get there, with approximately 35 of those wonderful 48 hours spent on what will most likely be an uncomfortable plane with several crying children, bad food, scary vortex toilets, and a middle-aged overweight male in my personal space.  Luckily, I will have both my iPod and computer well equipped with books, movies, and music.  That and I’ll pack along some Advil PM to put me to sleep.  

And of course I am nervous to travel with diabetes.  The farthest I’ve gone was to Florida for a week.  I only needed two vials of insulin,  some syringes and my glucose meter.  Now I am equipped with more medical supplies than I would ever want…about 7 vials of insulin, a box of syringes, glucose tabs, ketostix, emergency glucagon kits, test strips, backup lantus, a spare meter, pump supplies, etc. etc….the joys of having a chronic disease.  However, I am happy to be leaving in very good health, and I believe that I am more than capable of taking care of myself and not allowing my diabetes to ruin my time abroad.  I expect some minor complications while getting used to the food and getting sick, but hopefully they will remain minor. 

Despite these nervous pre-departure worries, I cannot wait for what will be the most enriching and eye-opening experience of my life.  As I said, I have wanted to go to Africa for a very long time, and hope to someday spend a large amount of time working in the area.  I am so interested in its culture and landscapes, and also cannot wait to learn more about its history and people.  I will be taking three classes at the University of Botswana in Gabarone: two in public health, and one focused on its language, Setswana, and culture.  

My goals for this experience are to not only travel and see as much as I can, but to also learn what I am meant to be doing with my life.  This is a lofty goal, but I think that learning about public health and living in the environment I would love to work in will help me decide between a career in medicine or a career in public health.  This could not come at a better time for me, considering that I will need to decide between taking the GRE or MCAT this fall (!). 

So..summed up in a few paragraphs, these are my thoughts just a few days before departure.  I’m sure I’ll be posting many more nervous vents within the next hours once I realize how completely unprepared I am and how frustrated I am with packing. 

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