The Travel Turnaround: Preparing for One Adventure While Recovering from Another

Claire Ward University of Havana, Cuba


May 28, 2019
Currently Studying at: University Of Havana Summer, Cuba
Homeschool: Belmont University

When I travel, I often find myself planning my next trip before I am even home from the first one. As a student, I am constantly trying to squeeze as many vacations or study abroad trips into my limited breaks from regular classes as I possibly can. While there is absolutely nothing I would rather do than spend my time exploring this wonderful and mysterious world, I can occasionally bite off more than I am able to chew and schedule these adventures a bit too close together. This is what I am experiencing now.

Barely one week ago, I returned home from an intense two-week tour in Ghana with my university chorale. The experience was completely incredible, but I have only just begun to feel as if I am back to normal after a 6-hour time difference, a grueling 32-hour journey from Accra back home to Memphis, and navigating some of the extreme emotions that come with performing our set comprised entirely of African-American spirituals in the courtyards of the colonial forts that were the starting points of the transatlantic slave trade. All of this, and I have to be ready to depart for Havana in three short days. Obviously, I signed up for these experiences knowing how quick the turnaround would be between them (on top of having to move home from college less than a week before I left for Ghana), and do not mistake this post as any sort of complaint about these amazing opportunities. However, despite generally considering myself an experienced traveler, I was unprepared for how difficult this transition would be.

In an effort to be more prepared the next time I inevitably put myself in this situation, I have compiled a list of things that have helped me be prepared to leave again (emotionally, physically, and logistically):

  • Don’t succumb to the jet lag monster! Do everything in your power to avoid sleeping for 5 straight hours in the afternoon as soon as you get home—spend that time talking to your friends and family about your trip and about what went on in their lives while you were gone. The faster you can get on a normal schedule, the better prepared your body will be to eat again.
  • Unpack your suitcase immediately. If you are like me and are emotionally attached to one suitcase that you insist on dragging with you on every trip, you will need it to be empty so that you can begin preparing for the next trip. Aside from the practical reason for unpacking quickly, the people you live with will just be glad that you emptied out the bag of dirty, travel-worn clothes.
  • Get some mental closure on the first trip. It is impossible to fully experience your next journey when your mind is still in another country, culture, or even language. For me, this closure comes with making a scrapbook of photos and memorabilia when I get home. My scrapbooks wouldn’t win any awards, but they are a great way for me to recap the trip, look back on the best memories, and close out the journey. Even writing this post is a part of that closure process.

Despite my efforts, it is unlikely that I will feel fully ready by the time I leave for Cuba on Friday. However, simply being aware of that “unreadiness” is a large part of being in the right mental space to depart. I am of course going to carry a part of my last journey with me to Cuba, but I will also be embracing my time in Havana for what it is, without the influence of my past travels. I look forward to my new journey as exactly that—a new journey.