Holding my breath I closed my eyes. Around me the auditory press of a vibrant Italian city roared about its daily business. Filtering through the array of sounds I sorted out the thread I was looking for – a rhythmic sound. An organic sound. The sound of boat paddles slicing smoothly into the currents of the river, extricating itself, and slowly dripping droplets of water in its wake. It was the subtle splash of a boat advancing against the current and immediately triggered memories of my childhood. Of times spent in Mexico in a small inflatable kayak paddling gracelessly against coastal currents and a mild wind. So much was different and yet so much was similar. The sleek suggestion of movement, the groan of the oar, and the sound of the boat cutting through the water.…
I had a comfortable late-morning flight to Rome. The route to Copenhagen airport is an easy one. Hop a reliable bus for a 5 minute ride, switch to the metro for a 35 minute trip and boom. Next thing you know you’re at Copenhagen airport ready to move quickly through their efficient security lines and on to your destination of choice. The whole process is an easy one and something that I’ve gotten the hang of. But, what’s the old saying? Complacency is dangerous? That sounds about right.
Many of you probably found your way to VirtualWayfarer because of one of my packing videos or blog posts. Both are an area I specialize in and consider myself a bit of an expert in. So, when it came time to pack for my 5 day visit to Italy I didn’t stress out about getting things pre-packed. Oh, sure, I did the basics and made sure that the laundry was done. I even spent some time the night before fretting over what formal clothing to pack. You see, I was heading to Perugia as a finalist in the Perugia International Journalism Festival’s ‘Stories on Umbria’ contest but there in lurked my pitfall.
As I fretted over which suit to pack … to go formal or casual … which tie to take … and how to get it to Italy without turning it into a wrinkled mess in my backpack I neglected actually packing the essentials. When morning came and it was time to leave I launched into a flurry of motion tossing clothing, electronics, and the usual assortment of items on the bed. I was confident – and dare I say a bit cocky – chatting on Facebook and chuckling when friends asked if I’d packed yet. After all, I’m an expert – I only need 30 minutes.
Sidetracked repeatedly by conversations and general distractions I eventually realized that I was running a bit behind. I made the last minute decision to wear a sports jacket, dress shirt, jeans and a pair of leather dress oxfords for the flight. I’d only have about 30 minutes between when I was scheduled to arrive in Perugia and the welcome reception/dinner so I ruled out changing upon arrival. I also packed a full suit and dress shirt which I took in a hanging bag as a carry on for the following day’s official ceremony. This meant I needed to pack my normal walking shoes in my backpack. Which I did. Quickly. Grabbing a pair of my signature Keen Targhee IIs, tossing them in an old supermarket bag, and burying it deep inside my bag all took about 45 seconds. Then in went the rest of my clothing, camera chargers, spare batteries, dopp kit and the like. I paused, and with a flourish tossed the bag over my shoulder, snagged my camera bag, my suit and was out the door.
I made my flight to Italy with oodles of time. The trip from Rome to Perugia was uneventful. I applauded myself for my efficiency. The dinner was delicious and provided an incredible opportunity to socialize with veteran journalists from the likes of the AP, New York Times, and Telegraph. The following day’s award ceremony was equally enjoyable. Though I didn’t win the prize, being in the final three was an incredible honor. Particularly because I was the only blogger in attendance. I spent the remainder of the day walking around Perugia in my black dress oxfords. It was only the following morning as I transformed from semi-formal journalist to relaxed travel blogger that I realized I’d made the worst packing mistake in my personal history.
As I sat in my dimly lit hotel room, still a bit groggy from the night before, I pulled on my jeans, tossed a black v-neck t-shirt over my head and then dug around in my bag for my walking shoes. Unceremoniously I yanked them out and dumped the yellow Netto bag out onto the floor. With one hand pulling my t-shirt down over the rest of my body I slipped my left foot into my shoe and then kicked the right shoe into position. Then, as I went to slide my foot into the right shoe I realized it felt odd. I re-positioned, still not focusing on it, and tried again. That’s when I looked down and paid closer attention. That’s also when I realized that in my haste I had made an impressive error. I had packed two Keen Targhee IIs, true. Unfortunately the two were also two left shoes in similar, but slightly different colors.
That’s right. I packed two left shoes. Two left shoes that were also different colors. Sure, it would have been bad if I ended up with one left shoe and one right shoe from different pairs – that I could have passed off as being creative, or gritty, or…hell, I don’t know. Instead I was left with one simple conclusion. I was an idiot. Not only was I an idiot sitting in a dark hotel room, 2 days into his trip laughing at himself, I was an idiot that had three days of hardcore walking around Rome scheduled. Not something you typically want to do in a pair of black dress oxfords with minimal support, smooth souls, and stiff leather. As far as just wearing the two left shoes? Fat chance.
Too stubborn (and perhaps cheap) to buy a replacement pair of shoes for a mere 3 days I pressed on and wandered Rome alternating between my shower flip flops and my Oxfords. To make matters worse the Oxfords were relatively new, which meant that the leather was still quite hard and hadn’t formed to my feet. So, my penance for rushing out the door and not packing properly? Blisters, sore feet, and a bit of blood.
Oh, and for those of you that might wonder why I have two pairs of near-identical Keens – it’s because I picked up a replacement pair right before my 50 day Africa/Europe trip this past summer. The old pair were still good, but not quite good enough to risk the trip. The end result: two near-identical pairs of keens which sit like old dogs at the foot of my bed. The latest in a long line of shoes which have been featured repeatedly in the 320+ photos that comprise my traveling boots album. So, if you noticed that the shoes in my recent Italy Boot Shots were a bit out of place…now you know why.
Moral of the story? Even if you think you’re an expert, it’s still a good idea to pay attention. After all, no one is perfect.