After work, it seems I have a thousand things to do. During work, I am highly focused. I am seeing clients and patients. I am teaching, checking for comprehension, rewording, and re-teaching as necessary. Long ago I learned that “traveling” was not productive. When I am at work, I am working, not worrying about home. When I am home, I am focused on all things not work. Preparations for my trip are falling in the home time allotment.

I am the type of person who spends a fair amount of time researching to make a decision, then when I make the decision, I move on. Except emergencies, then I decide and revise as necessary. A bag is not an emergency, so I have been researching travel on bags for my upcoming trip to Africa. While a travel bag may seem like an easy solution there are so many choices that it is not. My thirty year old shoulder duffle bag is in decent shape, but it must have grown as it aged because it no longer fits under the seat or in the overhead compartment. (I knew they made those spaces smaller!)

Matt and M’Kinzy both have nice rolling bags and that might be nice for the airport. On the other hand, they catch the back of my heels and make the bag heavier when I have to run through the airport. Okay, my running days are over due to six knee surgeries, but I can quickly hustle. In addition to 26 hours of airports and airplanes there and thirty some hours back, I will have 8-12 hours of rough road bus travel from the airport to the remote town. Therefore, my preference is a bag that can be put on my shoulders and move with me.

Since I have been carrying an under armor backpack to and from work, I thought I would just get a larger one of the same size. Unfortunately, the straps that I like the most are not available on the larger bags of that series. That meant I had to enter the world of bags to get a new travel bag. There are bags that seem to require a third mortgage on your home, but they have a lifetime guarantee. They seem nice, but I don’t know that I will like them enough to justify the cost and they seem heavy. Most come with wheels.

After many after work hours looking at backpacks, I finally settled on a 40-liter REI duffle with backpack straps as my main carry on item. REI was nice enough to put the color I liked best on closeout and then give me a 20% off coupon. It did not come with a sternum strap and I had to order one separately. The first one I ordered did not have the elastic that they really need and half came off at some point and is lost in my office. The second one is on the way.

The other bag that is on the way is my personal bag. The small backpack that was recommended to me by a veterinarian who travels a lot is great. And heavy. And padded for a laptop that I am not taking. Since I am already carrying a backpack, I will need a smaller shoulder bag. I tried adding a shoulder strap, but it doesn’t work. My first bag is too big for this trip. The second bag I ordered is too small. It will hold a kindle but not my new ultra state of the art travel pillow. My third bag is on the way. Cross your fingers. I will spend sixty-eight hours with these two bags. A third packable bag will be my safari and daypack bag.

The flight to Brussels will be over the ocean at night. I tried to get a window seat for the daytime flight to Uganda, but Brussels Air won’t let me select seat because I fly out on United. Of course, Brussels Air flies nowhere near me. Just in case, I need to add several new books to my kindle and download them before I leave.

Of course, just because I am focused does not mean that I immune to distraction. While looking for sternum straps, I spent 30 minutes looking at first aid kits. Until I chose one in my price range that seemed to have a decent amount of items without a lot of weight. By looking at the detailed photos, I realized that I had the exact first aid kit in my Alaskan sled dog gear. I think I will get it out and add a few more Band-aids and update the Naprosyn and take it.

The carry on bag will have a few days (or worst case scenario the 2 weeks of clothes) and a few items that I would prefer not to have to buy in a third world nation. A smaller stay-with-me-at-all-times bag will have my passport, visa (that took 2 people and three days to get the online form to load), kindle, phone, snack and my extensive medicines that my MD (and I) think I need to travel to a third world country where malaria, typhoid, meningitis and hepatitis are relatively likely. This is after the travel for yellow fever, cholera, typhoid and rabies vaccines at two separate health departments. (Note to self: check which day needle exchange day is and do not schedule vaccines that day.)

Unfortunately, as a parasitologist, I understand only too well how important some of that medicine may be. Not only am I going to Africa, but I am going to the villages of northern Uganda. Even in Gulu, the solar-powered batteries may not power the lights all night. Batteries will be needed to charge electronics. I hit up M’Kinzy for the adapter that she took to London, but I need a splitter box to charge multiple items at one time. And cords that the puppies and cats haven’t chewed.

Then I have to decide what I am taking to the children that we will be visiting at the schools. School supplies are recommended, but paper is heavy and pencils seem boring to me. I found some Lego-like mini figures, but as much as I enjoy them I am not sure they are worth the cost and wouldn’t just be lost. I may add some of our board games since our house is past that stage. One of my two checked bags is already near limit because of a 26 pound pressure sterilizer that I am donating. By the way, it was too big for any bag we had and Matt searched and found a closeout wheeled gear bag with a UCLA logo. I am glad there was a team that had a sturdy but cheap bag for me. A plastic footlocker will also go with me. I will also be donating most of the clothes that I will wear while there. That means sorting through things to wear and leave and also getting some new shirts and pants for work when I return. Over the next few weeks I will be determining which supplies will be going in which bags. Then I will be able to see what I can take to donate.

I also have to prepare the house for my two-week absence. Neither Matt nor M’Kinzy mow the lawn or do outside chores anymore. It is fortunate that M’Kinzy’s college break overlaps my trip. She is a big help to her father.

One of the thousand things that I have on my list was to find a relief vet for while I was gone. The vet had to be good with patients, a good educator, willing to work and do surgery and be available. My first choices were all unavailable. My second choices also had prior commitments. When I asked for references, I did not get replies from many. We will refer the cases to area vets and I may have a friend drop in to check on various things. The staff will catch up on projects, cleaning, and stocking. In other words, I will be leaving them a thousand things to do.

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