Be Prepared!

And yes, it’s true…when I said that title to myself in my head, it came out like the song from The Lion King.

My travel musings this week are focused on some of the less appealing aspects of travel, but certainly very important aspects that cannot be ignored; namely, being prepared for the worst possible situation. I know this seems kind of pessimistic, but I’ve found that if you at least acknowledge the fact that there are certain aspects to your trip that couldgo wrong, you’re much more likely to be able to handle it calmly, and if nothing goes wrong, you’re pleasantly surprised. Allow me to elaborate…

During my year in Switzerland, I had a six week Christmas break. I chose to go back to the United States to see my family, as I had been fairly homesick over the course of the first semester, and my dad offered to pay for the flight. I left a good amount of stuff in my apartment in Geneva, but took all of my clothing that I wore on a daily basis back home with me. All that remained in Switzerland were some sweatpants and summer clothing (which I didn’t plan on needing in Maine in January…)

A month and a half at home was just what I needed. I was very excited to get back to Geneva, particularly because I was beginning my internship at the International Labor Organization the next day. I breezed through the Philadelphia airport and London Gatwick, and arrived in Geneva on Sunday night around 6:00 PM. I waited for my suitcase in the baggage claim area, idly wondering what I could possibly make for dinner. I waited for half an hour and my bag still hadn’t arrived. An hour passed, and no dice. I started to get slightly nervous. That suitcase contained my entire life, including all of the clothing that I desperately needed for my internship in 15 hours. It had my toothbrush, my hair brush, all toiletries…everything. And since it was a Sunday, there were no stores open in Geneva, and they wouldn’t be opening until the next morning, around the same time I had to be at the ILO.

Cue panic mode.

I explained to the gentleman in baggage claim that my bag was nowhere to be found. I gave him the barcode for it, and it didn’t show up in their system. Awesome. They took down my phone number and said they’d call me when they located it. As you can imagine, this didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence, and as I headed home on the tram, I envisioned various sea creatures ripping apart my suitcase somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Thankfully, I had enough friends in my building that I was able to piece together a respectable outfit, and could commandeer some of their toothpaste, but it made me realize how crazy I was not to have put some necessities in my carry-on, so that is now my recommendation for everyone I know: be prepared. If I had at least had a toothbrush, and some mini toiletries, the situation wouldn’t have been quite as horrendous. If I had had room, an extra change of clothing wouldn’t have hurt. So, when preparing for a major trip/move across the globe (like that of a study abroad experience) make sure you plan for all possible contingencies. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

And yes, they did finally find my suitcase.

Kat Cosgrove, OIE Graduate Peer Advisor


3 thoughts on “Be Prepared!

  1. Everyone agrees putting necessities on your carry on is a great idea. No-one does it though! It could have been worse. My daughter and some friends went to Uganda on a charity project and one of the girls had her bag stolen on the first day. Three weeks in othe people’s clothes supplimented with some cheap local items. She cried several times. Not what she was hoping for.

    1. That can definitely be the most stressful part of the experience–especially so far from home! I hope it went up from there and she had an unforgettable experience!

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