Before departure

Leggi in italiano

When approaching the lift-off date for a long trip, I don’t really linger on things like “I’m really going to miss [xyz]” or “I won’t be around for [insert fun event here]”, nor am I overtly concerned with the kinds of foods I might be leaving behind or will be encountering (though thinking about food does take up a lot of my mental space). No. The main concern, the main nagging worry relates to… how shall I put this? Comfort.

For someone whose knees never fit under the school desk, whose shoes at age 7 could no longer be bought from a children’s shoe shop, and whose feet since hardly ever find a woman’s fit… for someone whose height to waist ratio was always way outside the table in hosiery measurements, someone for whom, aged 12, the bed in the children’s hospital was way too short, and a full-size one had to be brought in specially; for whom any bed since has always been too small, ankles sticking out. For someone whose trousers have always been too short and bus, train and plane seats are an instrument of torture. Someone for whom a shower usually means from the breasts down, and working at a normal kitchen counter means leaning on your upper thighs resulting in backache…

For someone like me, who over nearly four decades of living has had to learn to adapt and to find the rare things and places that DO fit, travel means having to do without ALL of these solutions.

What kind of bed will I sleep in? If it has a raised frame, I know I will struggle immensely. Will I be able to find long enough trousers or big enough shoes if what I bring with me is lost/damaged/inappropriate? Will trips be unbearable due to small seats and my killer motion sickness?

I don’t know about you, but if I cannot sleep and sit comfortably, and be comfortable in the clothes that I wear, everything else around me loses any chance of being enjoyable.

To a certain extent, living means shaping the world around us to fit US: from practical things similar to those above, to the kind of people we choose to surround ourselves with. So launching oneself onto a trip like this, bereft of all those hard-won modifications and arrangements that were making life easier, more enjoyable, separating oneself from friends and loved ones… to do that, it takes a special kind of person, one that is a little crazy, I think.

Here’s to hoping the general discomfort will be kept to a minimum, and that my image of South America as a land of only tiny short people is utterly misguided.