A while back I was noodling around on facebook and clicked on an ad for a Habitat for Humanity build in Thailand. I had nothing better to do, so I continued through to the application part of the Habitat website, and submitted an application to work on a Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter work trip. Having submitted countless job applications over the past five months without much response, I wasn't expecting to hear back, it was just something to do to pass the time and to feel like I'd accomplished something.
A couple weeks later I received an email from the team leader for the Thailand build, saying my application had been accepted. My response was one more of fear than excitement, I really wasn't expecting to get on the team, and although I'm sure Thailand is beautiful its not at the top of my list of places to visit. I contacted the team leader with questions about the trip, and she seemed, well, less than enthusiastic. It wasn't helping me to overcome my apprehension, and certainly didn't inspire me to travel halfway across the globe. I politely declined the invitation, choosing instead to do some research on the Habitat website to see if there was perhaps a build project that I would feel more comfortable with.
I researched carefully, and applied for projects in Romania, Portugal and New Zealand. Romania holds sway in the primitive part of my brain as I have some Romanian ancestry; Portugal seemed fairly unintimidating - its right next to Spain after all; and New Zealand was a ringer, I probably wouldn't go simply because of the prohibitive cost of flying there, but I'm a huge fan of Flight of the Conchords and a friend of mine traveled there recently and saw Bret McKenzie in a theater. She even took a picture of the back of his head for me. I'm more of a Jemaniac than a Bret Girl, but still, that's pretty sweet!
To my surprise, my application was accepted for trips to all three countries, who knew it was that easy? I politely declined New Zealand because of travel costs, and began to weigh the pros and cons of Romania vs. Portugal. I spoke to the team leaders to get a feel for how it might be to spend an extended period of time under their direction, and while both trips sounded like fantastic opportunities, I finally settled on Portugal. A high school friend of mine lives in Barcelona, so I worked in a trip to visit her before the project, and my dad lives in Switzerland, so we made arrangements to meet in the south of France at the beginning of my trip.
All this was months ago, and it seemed like a project that lay far in the distant future. Meanwhile I continued applying for regular paying jobs while keeping myself busy with volunteer work and writing for Gapers Block.
Amazingly, the day has arrived that I must begin this journey. My flight to Marseille leaves later today out of O'Hare airport, and I'm apprehensive, excited and nervous all at once. I've never traveled this far by myself, but I know it will be a great experience no matter what happens. I managed not to spend any of my severance pay from when I was laid off in May, so I was able to pay for the trip without going broke, and since travel is always a question of having enough time and money - and I rarely have both, I feel like this is a rare opportunity that I should take advantage of while I still can. Someday I'll be sitting behind a desk wishing I'd taken advantage of all this free time, kicking myself for not doing something a little bit crazy, like travel to Europe for two and a half weeks even though I have no job.
I'm leaving the laptop at home, I want to travel light and the fewer things of value that I bring with me the less I have to worry about once I'm there. I'm not sure how much Internet access I'll have, so I'll post as I can but there's a chance that I won't have any big stories until I return in mid-November.
So, Happy Halloween to all of you - or as they say in France, Appee Alloween. There's no hard "H" sound in their language, silly French people.