Packing? Preparing? Pondering; a Spontaneous Traveler’s Guide to Embarking

Carolina Weatherall headshot
Carolina Weatherall
February 19, 2024

According to the “Sun Feb 18th” icon precariously situated in the upper left-hand corner of my laptop screen, I will be hurtling towards the airport in exactly six days, nine hours, and twenty-three minutes*. That’s imprecisely one week for those as concerned with the specifics as I am (that is to say, minutely so).  

“Hurtling,” by the way, is a word I have accurately chosen to describe the first leg, if not each of the ensuing legs, of my trip to Freiburg, Germany. Unlike the writers of many of the other blogs you might be reading, who will be peacefully chatting with their father, sister, partner or next door neighbor who has kindly offered to drive them to the airport, I will have leapt into the car after a violin case, my brother’s old hiking backpack, a suitcase large enough to crawl inside and the unpleasant, nagging sense of panic that I’ve forgotten my passport.

Unbeknownst to most people who know me in real life (except perhaps my college advisor, who knows by now to inform rather than merely to influence which classes I am taking each semester), I procrastinate. Spontaneous is my favorite state of being, so I generally swear by this to my own detriment. (For those keeping track, I am highly meticulous and capable where I am limited in the time I have to dedicate; like all the best procrastinators, I thrill at a new project, lose steam, then plow forward with the joy of inspiration I’ve invariably found along the way). I believe in a philosophy of life that transpires as life itself rolls along—and, truthfully, I can plan and direct like the best of them. 

It’s 3:00 now, which means I will be in a security line if I’m lucky or stuck in the post-weekend vehicular flock to Boston if I’m not. 

Suffice to say, this will not be a meditation on packing. I haven’t started that yet. Instead, this will be a meditation on spontaneity, because, somewhere, there is a person like myself who has not considered which pair of jeans they’d like to slot in next to which pair of shoes. (My strategy is to bring all of them, because I only own three pairs—of jeans that is, and the shoe decision remains to be made). The fact I don’t know the first thing about the roommates whose suite I will be occupying for five months is both thrilling and terrifying. I am excited to meet them and absorb everything they have to offer regarding student life in Freiburg, and terrified they’ll be chain smokers all too familiar with German beer to suit my infinitesimal tolerance for alcohol. While others ponder packing, I’ll research the best “authentic” alcohol-free wines of the southern German vineyards. 

Which leads me to the thing I have no choice but to ponder. I am a twenty-one-year-old young woman with a chronic illness. I’ve been taking prescription meds to treat my condition for three years now (hence: no alcohol for me) and am two days from beginning a new regimen which I will take alongside the original gluttony of Rx bottles. Unlike the previous medication, however, this new one requires a school lunchbox-sized cooler/ice pack contraption which I will have to carry alongside my “personal item” and “carry on.” Mercifully, I will not be paying for the extra space because airlines are prohibited from charging passengers traveling with medical equipment (I learned this from my college’s Disabled Students Association, which by the way is an excellent resource however you identify) and will come prepared with a traveler’s exemption notice from my hospital which I am prepared to present to the first TSA agent that raises an eyebrow. I also plan on becoming best friends with the flight attendants, who I plan on asking to swap my ice packs in and out of the fridge, and my seatmate, who will have to endure my periodic ice pack-related commentary. I’ve assembled all of the medications my insurance will allow me to own in a single medical period. I plan on packing these before I pack anything else and then I will feel accomplished enough to consider packing other things. That’s all. It will all happen. I’ll arrive in the Frankfurt airport tired, but alive. 

The last thing I won’t have to think about until after I’ve landed, spent two hours on a high-speed German train, and walked the twenty or so minutes between the station and the IES Abroad headquarters. This is to inform my roommates in German that I’ll have to make room in the shared fridge next to the Sauerkraut and Kartoffeln for my plethora of injection pens. That will be easy. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s sharing remarkably personal information with people I’ve never met. 

And with that, I’ll sign off to spend the last six days, nine hours and twenty-one minutes with my family: laughing and crying as I finish Ted Lasso with my parents, chasing the sun from bed to couch and back again with my tiger striped cat, and cycling to and from the bagel shop where I’ve spent every Thursday-Sunday for the past two months earning just enough to take the edge off grocery shopping in Germany. Oh, and I need to finish that book I started too long ago because it is not going to fit in my bag.

Until next time, 


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Carolina Weatherall headshot

Carolina Weatherall

My name is Carolina, and I am an English and German double major at Bowdoin College. When I am not writing academically or creatively I am playing the violin or standing in line at the theater for a student rush ticket. My favorite color is yellow. 

2024 Spring
Home University:
Bowdoin College
German Language
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