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Published: February 7th 2008
My trip from Efland, North Carolina, en route to Lithuania began last Monday. With the help of my brother, I packed all of the things that I would need from now until October when I return to New York. The packing process was not much different from my last two big pr-trip packs, but the difference this time was that I did not necessarily know what I was packing for. The past two times I packed for a baseball season. But for what am I packing this time? First I will be in Lithuania going to baseball practices, then two months in France as a dancer, then traveling to South Africa for three months to volunteer in an afterschool program, then a few weeks back in Lithuania to play baseball before returning to the US for a month. How does one pack for all of those things?
I arrived around dinner time at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and took a taxi into the City, to Bajir Cannon’s place in Brooklyn. There I was greeted by Bajir and Jessica, who informed me that we were leaving immediately to unload a Uhaul full of platforms for their new performance/rehearsal
space in Prospect Park. With 5 of us chipping in it took about 45 minutes to move all of the platforms.
Then we headed off to dinner at Bajir’s favorite restaurant, a little hole in the wall Caribbean restaurant with just five tables in an upstairs loft. I ordered a Jerk Pork dish, and it was definitely the biggest (and spiciest) meal that I have had in 2008. The food was so good! It made me want to travel to the Caribbean (I think the owners of the restaurant were from the Dominican Republic). Bajir made a deal with the chef that he would come back some day soon, hang out in their kitchen and learn how to cook.
The next day I headed into Manhattan, Adam and myself lugging all of my luggage, to meet Dan Janvey and Andrew Baxter for coffee and brunch at a diner. We talked about the upcoming elections and Janvey gave me his pitch for Barack Obama (which was quite convincing).
I then parted ways with the boys and headed for Penn Station, then from Penn Station to Newark Airport, where I caught my overnight flight to Paris.
I did not realize how tired walking through New York City with 100 pounds of luggage can be until I boarded the airplane and fell right asleep. The flight was only 1/3 full, so I was able to have an exit row all to myself. I slept for the full 7-hour flight to Paris.
We arrived in Paris at 10 AM. Jean-Luc, my baseball coach from last summer in Bois-Guillaume, France, greeted me at the airport. We got in his car and headed into Paris. The normal trip from Charles de Gaulle Airport into Paris takes only about 30 minutes, but on this day the taxi drivers of Paris were on strike, which meant there were many times more cars on the road (does that make sense? Or maybe there should have been less traffic....).
We finally arrived at the French Baseball Federation’s head offices where I got to meet many of the folks doing the behind the scenes work in French Baseball. It was a very modest office, just four rooms with several desks in each. I pulled out several items from my bag that Jean-Luc had asked me to bring over for him—baseball equipment and hats that would be much more expensive to buy from a supplier in Europe.
We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant not far from the offices, and then headed off to the airport.
Jean-Luc was very gracious to pick me up from the airport, hang out with me all day, and drive me to another airport to catch my flight.
My next flight was with RyanAir, the European equivalent of Southwest Airlines or JetBlue. It offers very cheap flights to cities all over Europe; the catch is that EVERYTHING COSTS MONEY—including baggage, online checkin, drinks and snacks on the plane, and 8 Euros per kilogram of extra luggage. I miscalculated the weight of my bags somehow, so when I tested my bags on the scale before checking in I found that I was 15 kilograms over the limit. This was disconcerting considering that I had already brought what I felt was the bare minimum that I needed. What would I get rid of?
In the end, I cut it down to about 4 kilos of extra baggage. I was wearing two sweaters, two heavy jackets, and my pockets were filled with books and other knick-knacks that would add extra weight to my luggage (there is no weight limit for what you wear on your body!!).
I ended up having to dump a pair of thrift store hiking boots I’d bought for seven bucks, all of my toiletries, and a few other random things. It was a painful experience having to simply put things in the trash, but it really made me think a lot about how little I actually need to get by and how in fact many of the things I’d brought along were not necessities.
Slightly lighter than when I arrived in France, I departed for Dublin, Ireland, where I spent the night with Brian, another friend. We spent the next day walking around Dublin, which is a beautiful city. The weather was beautiful in Dublin the day I was there which left me with a possibly false impression that it is always sunny and beautiful in Ireland.
Finally, at 8:30 PM on Thursday evening, I touched down in Kaunas, Lithuania. Viktorija’s sister, Jolanta, and her father met me at the airport and drove me home.
This is one of my favorite things about traveling…..finding ways to connect with friends (usually in New York City) on the way to my 'final' destination. My three-day trek to Kaunas took me through New York, Paris, Dublin….and though I arrived in Kaunas extremely exhausted, I felt that I had already had a full vacation in just the first three days of my journey--a journey that begins now and continues on until I touch back down in New York on September 13th.
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