Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Well planned is half done

By Peppi Vaananen

To organized people like myself, preparing for your upcoming trip can be nearly as exciting as the trip in itself. Today at the airport I revealed to my colleagues that the moments before the flight are among my favorite parts of traveling. I got many questions about this, and I thought to share my explanations for this with you, the readers. The first reason for this is that all the exciting stuff is still ahead of you. Nothing has gone seriously wrong (yet), and the big dreams you have for the trip have not been challenged by reality. The second reason, and what this post is really about, is that all the preparations like packing and studying about the destination get your excitement to a whole new level. You realize the trip that you have been dreaming of for years is finally happening! So let me guide you through some of the preparations that I perform before any trip, this one included.

During the first week of June, us students got a crash course in Balkan history with a specific focus on Kosovo. At first the amount of knowledge seemed impossible to comprehend, but step by step all of us started to form an idea of the area where we were heading. All the little details that seemed irrelevant turned out to be very interesting to know once in Kosovo. We were able to recognize the political parties and actors on the roadside advertisements, to have discussions on Kosovar customs with the host families, and to know why people like Bill Clinton have a statue in Prishtina. Overall, the learning process really did help us to arrive in Kosovo well prepared and eager to understand the country in depth.
Everything I took with me to Kosovo
Once the studying was over, it was time to pack. This action seems to divide opinions in two: you either hate it, or love it. I belong to the latter camp. For me, packing is not just throwing in stuff that you might need, but it is a learning process in itself. Getting informed on what is required in the chosen destination teaches you about topics such as local climate, majority religion, and topical fashion. For instance, in Kosovo we are expected to cover our shoulders and have an appropriate skirt length. These factors challenged me, a girl who tends to spend +30 Celsius degrees days only wearing a bikini. However, this made me to think of the cultural and religious context in Kosovo. Once the clothing was being dealt with, not much else was on my packing list. You can really survive 10 days with much less than you think you need. I challenge you to try packing as lightly as possible next time you travel. I promise that this will lead to positive outcomes: when you have less clothes to choose from, this saves you more time to enjoy the destination. When you don't have to wait in the airport queues for your bag, you will have more time to talk to the local people. When you pack minimally, you spend more time preparing and this usually correlates with fewer forgotten items. The reality is that the stuff we carry in our backpacks takes much more time to look after than we realize. When we have less of it to carry/worry about, we can focus on the real deal, the adventure.
Everything you need on a ten day trip to Kosovo
We arrived at the Adem Jashari airport around 5pm on Tuesday, which means that I have been in the country for approximately 13 hours. And let me tell you, these hours have already shown me that Kosovo is one of a kind. It would be premature to tell you what the country is like, but I can say that if you are looking for a vibrant city with kind people, cheap food and good drinks, a good balance of history and modernity, perhaps this should be your next destination.
The view from our bedroom / Beautiful hills of Pristina
Looking forward where this trip is going to take us. I will be back to tell you if my first impressions were accurate,

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