Classics trip: part 1 (Hi from JFK)

Leave it to the Northeast to deliver the first snowstorm to really pound the Mid-Atlantic and NYC all winter on the day we’re traveling across the Atlantic to Athens…

Happy March to you, too. It took us 5 hours to make it from Philly to JFK alone.

I’ve flown internationally in blizzard conditions before (to England a few years ago on a nasty night in January), and it wasn’t an experience I was looking to repeat. Ah well. My mom is somewhere in Philly having a heart attack over the conditions.

I thought I’d talk a bit about packing for international (or just long) travel, since this is not exactly my first time at the terminal-rodeo. I’ve managed to hone my packing and food prep over the years thanks to trips to France, Italy, and flights back and forth to London during my study year abroad.

Packing, while always annoying, is the easy part:

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I am my mother’s daughter. Pro tip: folding as thinly as possible is the name of the game. Stack as if your clothes are cheese in a display case: layer collars on opposite sides to keep things flat. You’ll fit a heck of a lot more than you would if you just stacked on two sides, and everything stays incredibly neat.

My #1 piece of advice for traveling overseas is obvious, but true: come to terms with the fact that you do not need NEARLY as much clothing & accoutrement as you think you do. Just because you CAN bring 50 pounds worth of clothes & junk, doesn’t mean you need to. For this trip– March 5th to the 20th– I’m hopping from NYC to Rome, to Athens, all over Greece, back to Rome, down the western Italian coast, and home again with 4 pairs of pants (including what I’m wearing at the airport), Sperry’s and sneakers, and a pair of flip flops for walking around the hotel room. I have a shirt for each day and two nice outfits (for fancy dinners in Rome, about which we were told in our itinerary). Other than that, I plan on layering for 50 to 60 degree weather in each country: a thin rain jacket in my backpack; a basic lightweight coat; and a warmer Patagonia. I have just one pair of PJ pants, a t-shirt per week to sleep in, and a sweatshirt in case I’m cold at night (and I’m always cold, so this was a necessity). I slipped a t-shirt, thin pullover, and pair of underwear into my backpack–just in case– and have one book and my iPad to keep me entertained. My luggage was 35 pounds, a much more manageable weight for me to “lug” around (ha) during our trip, which has us jumping from city to city every few nights.

On to the important part: the food.

If one picture defined my life, it would be this one.

Turning into a PB packet myself.

Plane food and I just “plane” don’t mix (ok, I’m done), and as you all know, I am both a real food and snack fiend. I have had some really painful experiences flying in the past due to bloating and general stomach discomfort…and if you know the kind of pain I’m talking about, you know that it’s NOT the way you want to kick off a 2-week trip. I’ve learned so much about how my body ticks since I first took off for Paris in June of 2006. Now I…

-Don’t eat plane food, to the extent to which that’s possible. It’s loaded with salt and preservatives, and drives my insides crazy. Even though it cost a fortune, I bought a grilled veggie sandwich from a panini place in JFK, snacked on a larabar in the terminal, and bought a huge bottle of water.

-Speaking of water…even though it means I have to find bathrooms all over the airport or use the dinky plane restroom, I try to stay just as hydrated while traveling as I would during a normal day. This way, I don’t become nearly as bloated (as long as I stick to foods without a ton of sodium).

-Try to eat on basically the same schedule as I normally would, meaning I pack lots of snacks and eat smaller meals throughout the day. Today, for example, I ate my normal breakfast of toast, PB and banana, packed a PB sandwich on Ezekiel bread, and had lots of celery and carrots on the side (with dark chocolate, of course).

-Even though it’s hard, I try to eat as few processed foods as possible. That means I packed lots of packets of trail mix with walnuts, almonds, seeds, and dried cranberries, dried fruit (DELICIOUS apricots from TJ’s), and about a zillion Larabars. Real food doesn’t tend to make even a blip on the radar of stomach irritation, so I stick to it. I even went as far as packing another PB sandwich on Ezekiel bread and stashing a banana in my backpack for breakfast after our long flight to Rome.

This might all seem a bit extreme, but for those of you with stomach issues like me who rely heavily on a routine every day to combat living in mild but constant discomfort, this level of preparation helps me to enjoy one of my favorite things in life: exploring new places and engrossing myself in a new culture.

And with that, we’re boarding! The Classicist in me is writhing with excitement. To Greece we go!

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