Now in the final week before we walk onto a plane with one way tickets, the realities of leaving have truly — finally — began to set in. The notion of such a sudden break from a well-worn routine is a jolt enough; but the thought that the sudden break will become the new reality — well, that’s heavy. Leaving without bounds presents a wild opportunity for reinvention, for learning and changing. Not that I think I’ll come back speaking Hindi and certified in yoga, but stretching out my brain so that a whole stew of new things can fill it — things that I’ve never been exposed to before — is pretty exhilarating.
That said, this week we pack and prepare.
As a number of surely excellent other travel blogs (one, in particular comes to mind) have written on the art and nature of packing up all your belongings and leaving them behind, I wanted to touch on just a few quirks that’ve stuck out to me.
1. Packing Music for the Trip
For better or worse, I’ve always liked my mobile music players simple and efficient. My Sony Walkman, which played cassette tapes (clarification if you are younger than 25), was a reliable, sturdy economy model. My first Sony Discman wasn’t some anti-skip technology, built-to-withstand-earthquakes nonsense. It was just a Sony Discman (that played CDs; clarification if you are under 20). Likewise, my iPods are always the small models. My current iPod, brandishing a nice big crack on the front from the time it hit the treadmill and flew 10 feet backwards, is just 8gb. That’s roughly 1200 songs.
Sure, at first that sounds like a lot. But these are the songs and albums I’ll be stuck with for the next nine months. No new downloads. No deleting and reloading music. No room for error, basically. Now in the past, I’ve liked having a small iPod. It forced me to choose wisely what music I kept with me, and pushed me to delete everything and start from scratch every month or so, thereby encouraging me to check out new music in earnest while always maintaining a few classics on deck. But without my whole library, what I load onto my iPod this week is what I’ll have, and all that I’ll have, to listen to for just under a year.
How do you choose what makes the cut? As a bonafide music nerd and/or snob, this isn’t a decision I’m taking lightly. I’ve been over and over my list, ensuring it’s a mix of all-time favorites, fairly new albums that I’m fairly certain will enter the canon of all-time favorites, and just a few wildcards that I hope I don’t get sick of.
I followed a few surefire rules: Anything I just began listening to, say within the last month, is disqualified automatically. Too risky; not time-tested. The list had to contain enough Grateful Dead, but not too much (can there be too much Grateful Dead?). Enough happy music and sad music. Enough music to groove to and think to. None of this ‘one song by one artist’ bullshit. Call me an old man, but I listen to albums. And if I didn’t put the whole album, I’ve got a whole collection of songs by that artist. Get off my lawn.
If none of this interests you, by all means skip ahead. But for my fellow music-gobbling friends, here’s the working list of the albums that’ll soundtrack this trip. YouTube any of these, and I promise you’ll be in for a good time.
1. Alt-J “An Awesome Wave” 2. Andrew Bird “The Mysterious Production of Eggs” 3. The Antlers “Burst Apart” 4. Bear in Heaven “Beast Rest Forth Mouth” 5. The Beatles “Abbey Road” “White Album” “Let It Be” 6. Ben Harper “Fight For Your Mind”
7. Ben Kweller “Sha Sha” 8. The Black Crowes “Before the Frost…” 9. Black Joe Lewis “Electric Slave” 10. Bob Dylan “The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Live 1964″ 11. Bob Marley “Burnin’” “Exodus” 12. Bright Eyes “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning” “Lifted” 13. Caribou “Our Love” “Swim” 14. Chance the Rapper “Acid Rap” 15. The Clash “The Clash” 16. Cloud Nothings “Attack on Memory” 17. Cody Chestnutt “Landing on a Hundred”
18. Corinne Bailey Rae “The Sea” 19. Dawes “Nothing is Wrong” 20. Devendra Banhart “What Will We Be” 21. Dr. Dog “Fate” “We All Belong” 22. Drake “Take Care” 23. Eddie Vedder “Into the Wild Soundtrack” 24. Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeroes “Here” 25. FKA Twigs “LP1″ 26. Foo Fighters: Assorted tracks under the Fucking Fooo Playlist 27. Frank Ocean “Channel Orange” 28. Good Old War “Only Way to Be Alone” 29. Grateful Dead “American Beauty” “The Closing of Winterland: December 31, 1978″ “Cornell: May 8, 1977″
30. Grizzly Bear “Veckatimest” 31. The Head and the Heart “Self Titled” 32. Hozier “EPs” 33. I Am the Avalanche “Self Titled” 34. Incubus “Morning View” 35. Interpol “Turn on the Bright Lights” 36. Japandroids “Post-Nothing” 37. Jeff Buckley “Grace” 38. Jimmy Eat World “Clarity” 39. John Butler Trio “Sunrise Over Sea” “Flesh and Blood” 40. Kaki King “Glow”
41. Kanye West “Yeezus” “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” 42. LCD Soundsystem “Sound of Silver” “This is Happening” 43. Led Zeppelin “BBC Sessions” “Houses of the Holy” 44. Lettuce “RAGE!” 45. Lorde “Pure Heroine” 46. Mikal Cronin “MCII” 47. Mike Doughty “Haughty Melodic” 48. Miles Davis “Birth of the Cool” 49. Minus the Bear “Highly Refined Pirates”
50. Modest Mouse “The Moon and Antarctica” 51. Motion City Soundtrack “Commit This to Memory” 52. My Morning Jacket “It Still Moves” “Z” 53. Nada Surf “Let Go” 54. The National “Alligator” 55. Neil Young “After the Goldrush” “Havest Moon”
56. New Radicals “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too” 57. Nirvana “In Utero” 58. Oasis “What’s the Story Morning Glory” 59. Passion Pit “Gossamer” 60. Pete Yorn “Music of the Morning After” 61. Pomegranates “Everybody, Come Outside!” 62. Radiohead “Kid A” “OK Computer” 63. Run the Jewels “Self Titled”
64. Ryan Adams “Gold” “Love is Hell” “Cold Roses” 65. Simon and Garfunkel “Best Of” 66. Songs: Ohia “The Magnolia Electric Company” 67. Stevie Wonder: Assorted Tracks from “Innervisions” “Music of My Mind” “Songs in the Key of Life” and “Talking Book” 68. Thrice “Beggars” 69. Thursday “A City By the Light Divided” 70. Timber Timbre “Hot Dreams” 71. Tune-Yards “Nikki Nack” 72. Valerie June “Pushin’ Against a Stone”
73. Vampire Weekend “Modern Vampires of the City” 74. Weezer “Pinkerton” 75. The White Stripes “Elephant” 76. Why? “Alopecia” 77. Woods “Sun and Shade”
2. The First Diabetic to Fly?
I am diabetic. I also love to travel. For the most part, the two factors haven’t been mutually prohibitive. But that is because, up until now, all of my trips have been at most a month long. And a month-worth of insulin, test strips, needle tips, emergency meds and glucose tablets is not so hard to procure. Nine months, however, and we run into trouble.
I remember moving to Israel, I was terrified of traveling without the comprehensive health insurance my work had provided for me. I spent sleepless nights emailing diabetes associations, travel insurance providers and my own doctors to find solutions. In the end, Israel had a wonderful treat in store for me: even before becoming a citizen (I bought tourist insurance while on a work visa my first year here), my medications were covered so long as I had prescriptions. Being a diabetic became so much easier; in a country with socialized health insurance, you may wait a long time at the doctor’s office, but you won’t be denied something you need, and it almost certainly will be affordable.
But there are limits to any blessing (except, I guess, love? That seems to have no bounds, right?), and I’ve been testing them in preparation for this trip.
The question is: how to ensure that I have enough insulin and diabetes supplies to last me through the trip, and further, how to ensure that those supplies are stored as necessary (i.e. refrigerated).
In theory, the solution would be simple: My doctor would write me 9-months of advanced prescriptions, I’d bring some with me and have the rest sent to specified locations throughout the trip, to be picked up like special bonuses along the way. But in practice, nothing is so simple for a diabetic. In fact, sorting out these issues has been so complicated, I’ve been asking myself, and anyone within a few feet from me at any given time: Am I the first diabetic to fly? Has no other diabetic ever traveled for an extended period of time?
I know the answer is no — there have absolutely been backpacking diabetics — and yet the resources available to me to create this patchwork of ‘healthcare on the road’ are frustratingly, impossibly sparse. So what’s the problem? Well, here goes: numbered for your convenience and mine (this process is too difficult to keep track of).
Please note: This is not the definitive list of possible options to keep myself alive. I’m sure I’ve missed loopholes and easier pathways — more because I feel they must exist than because I think of my search as less than comprehensive.
I agree with the sentiment, but not his reason behind it.
1. UPS and the Israeli post office won’t send insulin through the mail. Well, theoretically, they would, but without the guarantee that it would be kept refrigerated — and not frozen. Insulin kept in the cargo storage area of a plane will most certainly freeze and be useless. Unless I am a medical supply company with my own methods of shipping, I’m out of luck. So sending myself medications is not an option.
2. Finding information about diabetes supplies in India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc, has been difficult. I’ve called pharmacists, insulin manufacturers, diabetes associations and personal contacts, and the answer seems to be: yes, the meds are available over the counter, but no, I don’t know how widespread they are or how much they cost. By all means, I have gotten answers here and there, but the process has been a knitting together of answers, bits of information and hearsay.
On the phone with one Indian pharmacist in Delhi yesterday, I learned that 1) My brand of insulin was available, 2) My brand of insulin was not available, 3) I could purchase it without a prescription, 4) I would definitely need a prescription, 5) If I brought a sample of my own insulin, he would give me more insulin, 6) I should call back in 15 minutes. You get the point.
3. Representatives for insulin manufacturers don’t talk to each other. Having now spoken to several, the reps for some major insulin brands have told me in which countries their product is found, but no further details. They may as well have said, “Just look on our website,” then hung up.
4. My doctor is willing to write me the prescriptions, but my health insurance isn’t willing to honor them.After much prodding, my general practitioner wrote me six months worth of all my prescriptions — and I planned to buy the rest on the ground in our last months. But having jumped that hurdle, I hit a serious wall. My health insurance provider, Maccabi, will not allow the purchase of more than 3-months worth of medications. This — this right here — is the crux of the problem. Has no sick person ever traveled? And if they have, have they been encouraged, or forced, to buy off-brand medications in foreign countries?
We’ve spoken to Maccabi help-lines, Maccabi travel insurance branch, Maccabi doctors and more, and we’ve asked those very questions. The answers we’ve received have been silence. “We don’t know.” “Three moths only.” “… Sorry.” As we’ve learned, Maccabi recently changed their policy to only allow people to fill three months at a time, period. End of story.
This is unacceptable. And so…
5. I can only rely on myself. There is no way, no way in hell, that being diabetic will stop me from traveling. Medically, I’m sound; I just need a lot of supplies with me — all of which will fit in my backpack. It’s the bureaucratic bullshit that is getting in my way. So I’ve woven together a plan to ensure my own health and safety. I’m bringing some insulin with me. I’m sending some insulin ahead to Thailand with a friend. I’m asking Tal’s family, who will be joining us in India this winter, to bring assorted meds and supplies. And I’ll buy what I need along the way.
The plan, by all means, isn’t perfect. But I’ll assuredly be fine. For the sake of their sanity, just don’t tell my grandparents. This is, however, a major problem facing diabetics — and any person with a life-long condition that requires extended, but completely manageable, care. It’s something I look forward to overcoming, and to lobbying for upon my return.
3. The New Justin and Tali?
Dopplegangers: Nature’s Biggest Mystery
Tal and I decided early on that we didn’t want to give up our apartment while on the road, so as soon as the announcement of our departure went out we began searching for subletters. The place is clean, sunlit, spacious and (at least reasonably?) affordable, so finding interested parties wasn’t a problem. But finding interested parties who were sane, well, that was a bit harder (Queue story of the 40-year-old doctor on the verge of getting his license to practice in Israel who said he ‘couldn’t commit to longer than a month in this country’).
But when I got a call from an American girl named Lila, I had a good feeling. We agreed to meet her right away.
That afternoon, I opened our door to Lila and her husband Jon. They are two short-ish, smiling Americans who just arrived in Israel; she is a redhead with wavy hair and big eyes, and he is tan and compact with dark hair. Yes, I know, that is weird. But things got weirder from there. Lila came to Israel to study. Jon said ‘Sure, why not,’ and got a job. Lila speaks some Hebrew. Jon does not. Lila is a girl. Jon likes to run 10k races. In other words, they are us three years ago. We stood in our apartment sizing each other up: each couple staring at their doppleganger, alternate-universe version (full disclosure – they do have the slight height advantage).
We knew immediately that they were the right fit to sublet our apartment. Not to be entirely too cheesy too early on in this journey, but the symbolism of having a look-alike, same-story couple move into your apartment as you venture into the land of reincarnation lays pretty thick here.
And with that, we’re off to Delhi and the Smyle Inn, the first in what is sure to be a long line of budget hostels. We decided to hit the ground running and booked this well-reviewed place in the middle of what can only be described as a ‘backpacker’s ghetto,’ Paraganj. Wish us luck.