Hot! Down to the Wire

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As of writing this (at 7am on Saturday), I have about 76 hours left until I head to the airport for ten weeks in France. I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten most of my pre-trip checklist done, but I still have to clear off my laptop’s hard drive and buy a new lens cap for my 70-200 F2.8 lens. I have started the packing process with the stuff I’m not wearing between now and my departure, and I’ve started gathering my electronics and other miscellaneous crap too. Yesterday I cleaned out my camera bag and found stuff on the bottom that has been there since 2007!

Last week I was under a lot of stress from the trip. I was anxious about getting everything I need for the trip, anxious about money, anxious about having everything ready before I leave. Even though my departure was a week away, all week it felt like I was leaving the next day, and I swear that I must have had an elevated heart rate all week. I had easy days at work with few to no students, and yet I was barely able to get anything done on my blog because my mind was pinging back and forth between a million things.

Now that I’m a little more than 72 hours out, I’ve actually calmed down somewhat. It seems a bit paradoxical to become calmer now that my departure is so close at hand, but I think it has to do with the fact that I’m kind of at a point now where I’m just saying “Eh, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t…I’ll figure out something.” I’m also at a point where I’ve done most of the stuff I needed to get done. Sure, I have some important stuff left, but I’m pretty confident I’ll get it done. I think I’ve got everything I need, but if I don’t, well, Marc will be meeting up with me three weeks later, and he can bring whatever it is in his bag. I can live without most things for three weeks, if necessary.

The Ardeche region is famous for being very mountainous.

I’m in the final negotiations with various WWOOFing farms. My first choice, an endurance riding horse farm near Nevers, gave me a rather snooty attitude, so I turned them down. My second choice, another horse farm, this time in the rural Tarn area, could only host me for two weeks. After those two didn’t work out, I decided to just start looking for work on farms that sounded interesting, but that might not result in the skill acquisition I was hoping for. I’m now focusing on farms in the Ardeche region of France, which is both very beautiful and very remote, and it’s also near where Marc is from (and where his family still lives). I found a farm that does donkey-supported trekking, which was in a really beautiful area and would provide me with useful skills in how to pack a pack animal, but I never heard back from them. So, I’m currently trying to decide between an extremely remote farm that raises sheep and goats (which I have a small amount of experience with but want to learn more about), and a much smaller farm that focuses on chestnuts and berries, located just outside a small town (2,800 residents). Both have their advantages and both can take me for the full time, so I’m currently waiting to hear back from my second round of questions before I make my final decision.

This afternoon I’m going to be photographing an 18th century-themed picnic, which will help take my mind off of my trip preparations, and it will be a nice break from my recent life, which has mostly consisted of errands, packing, more errands, re-packing, and frantically sending off emails to various farms. On Monday I’ll be doing my final pack-out (since I have do to laundry on Sunday and there’s stuff I need in the laundry), and I’ll post a photo of everything I’m taking, plus a final list as well. Then, around noon on Tuesday, I head out to the airport!

All I can say is that I am incredibly lucky to have an extremely supportive boyfriend to keep me sane through all of this. Marc definitely deserves a shout-out for his help in the last few weeks, and for being the inspiration for this trip in the first place! I would not have been able to do this without him, and he has been wicked helpful, especially with translating emails for me.

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