This Is How it Begins


I previously wrote about how a long trip begins from Seattle. I didn’t have a car there either, but public transport required a high threshold of patience and pain. In Seattle it took up to two hours to begin a trip, which was especially interesting when the first flight was at 6:00 a.m.

From my new hub in Portland, much of the process is the same – except I don’t have to leave two hours before I need to be at the airport. Since I often take early flights that connect to L.A., Dallas, or the East Coast, this is good.

The night before I leave, I pack the bag according to this imprecise list (cat not included). It doesn’t take very long, but before a big trip, I take some extra time to make sure I’ve got what I need.

Sometimes I get greedy and try to pack the bag too full. This is always a mistake at the outset – better to go out with a bit more space. It’s not that I buy a lot of stuff along the way, but my packing gets less orderly as I go from stop to stop.

Public transport being improved in my new city, I can now walk directly across my street to the bus stop. The bus comes every 15 minutes and takes me to the train station in 10 minutes; the train deposits me directly at the airport 15 minutes later.

Total cost: $2.00. Total time: 40 minutes if I time it right, one hour if I need to wait for the train.

Ticket Reissuing

For two weeks I’ve been trying to reissue my round-the-world ticket to account for the fact that I’m going to Saudi Arabia instead of Sudan as I had planned a year ago. The change is easy to make over the phone, but then the physical ticket needs to be reissued at the airport. Since it’s a paper ticket, in this case reissuing means rewriting. The rewriting takes a while – we’re talking 16 flight segments that need to be carefully copied out by hand – so I left my ticket at the American Airlines counter while headed out to Utah recently, and arranged to pick it up the next time I was at PDX.

It turns out that I forgot to leave one of the flight coupons and a copy of the original itinerary, so on the next stop (back from NYC), I drop off the additional documents. On the third trip to the airport a few days later, my ticket is waiting for me. Awesome.

It takes 20 minutes to process the payment for the routing change, and there is some confusion – but compared to other experiences I’ve had, 20 minutes is nothing. I switched most of my flying from Star Alliance to OneWorld in 2008 after a frustrating evening standing at the United ticket counter in Seattle for nearly two full hours waiting for a change to be processed.

Anyway, this reissue goes well, but later that day I get a call – the AA rep forgot to validate the ticket, which only takes five minutes but needs to be done before I can travel.

Which Brings Us to Today

This time, the flight leaves PDX at 6:00 a.m. Anything that departs at 7:30 or later works nicely with the bus and train combo, but for a 6:00 a.m. departure, I need another plan. This time the plan is to rent a car through Priceline for $14 ($22.50 with tax) that I pick up the day before.

On Sunday I get up at 4:15, download my mail to Gmail Offline, grab the bags, and head out. I drive to the airport, refuel the car on 82nd street, and return it at the Avis counter.

I get a Delta boarding pass from the kiosk and look at the long line of sleepy people waiting to check their bags. Before heading through security, I stop off at the AA counter yet again. It’s 5:15 a.m. and no one looks especially happy, but someone validates the ticket and gives me a boarding pass for the Miami-La Paz flight tonight. I take the express line through security and head to the D gates.

Pre-Trip Anxiety

Traveling itself is great, but I feel anxious almost every time before I leave. A few days before departure, I start to feel overwhelmed at all the things that are left undone. I intend to get ahead on my writing, and it never happens. I intend to have all my reservations made, and I always end up doing it as I go along each week.

The more I travel, the more I realize that this kind of pre-trip anxiety is just part of how it works. I don’t love it, but I try to come to terms with it. Now that I’m more experienced, if I didn’t worry about something before leaving, I might worry – in other words, I’d think that I was taking it all too casually.

I run through a list of things in my head and try to identify the root of the problem. If I feel like I’ve packed everything, if I know what’s happening for at least the next few days, if I’ve thought through the upcoming challenges over the next 10-14 days (uncertain visas, overland trips, floor-sleeping, etc.), then I gradually realize that the anxiety is not related to anything specific.

Eventually I find peace, but it usually comes after I leave. If I’ve done things right, something changes on the first connecting flight. All of a sudden I feel alive, in a sense of being wide-awake that doesn’t come from coffee. This is why I do this, I think. Some people take drugs, I take Delta flight 1510 with non-stop service to ATL.

I fly to Atlanta, Miami, and La Paz, Bolivia where the trip officially begins. Hello, South America. Nice to see you again.


Portland Max Image by Beej

Subscribe now and you’ll get the best posts of all time.


  • Alan says:

    Best line: “Some people take drugs, I take Delta flight 1510 with non-stop service to ATL.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Enjoy your trip!

  • Sean says:

    Portland really does make it easy when it comes to public transportation. Still a drag that you weren’t able to take advantage of it on this trip and had to go through the hassle of renting a car! Hope South America is treating you well!

  • Sarah Bray says:

    My husband and I just got back from San Francisco and got our first taste of a truly useful public transportation system. We’re from Virginia Beach and pretty much felt like country bumpkins the whole time we were there. In a good way.

    And pre-trip anxiety? Yep, I know exactly what you mean, but on a smaller scale. Hope peace reins supreme soon!

  • Kristine says:

    Thanks for this run down! Can’t say why hearing about the minutiae of a person’s pre-travel planning and anxiety is interesting, but it is. Maybe because I understand what that anxiety feels like. I’m living vicariously and also mentally rehearsing for when my life looks more like yours! Have a fabulous trip!

  • Ramin says:

    nothing to do with this blog post, but just found your blog and love the design! Plus, the writing is superb. Got yourself another reader there 🙂

    Thanks for sharing the great stuff,

  • Family Vacation Central says:

    Wow Chris, I am so excited to follow this trip. Your posts are so much better than anything that I write and it will be great to share this trip by reading it online. South America? Never been there, Europe, never been there, Asia, Never been there.

    This should be fun, maybe it will get me off my ass to bring the family off the continent farther than Waikiki

  • Etsuko says:


    Hope you are doing well! I liked the part “if I didn’t worry about something before
    leaving, I might worry – I’d think that I was taking it all too casually”.
    Being anxious is a good thing, as it’s a sign that you are taking the planning seriously. Little shift in perspective turns seemingly negative into positive!


  • Pascal says:

    “This is why I do this” and I agree with Alan saying about your best line. lool Can’t be more true, especially when I’m reading this article sitting in my cubicle wondering why I feel so un-alive and sleepy thinking about my next trip…

    Enjoy your trip Chris!

  • lise says:

    Your packing list includes a lot of cotton which isn’t easily sink washable and dry overnight. Do you ever switch up your packing list for warmer climates?

  • Chris says:

    Thanks, guys! Just arrived in Chile, where I’m meeting Emily and a few other AONC readers in an hour.

    FYI, the site was down for much of the day. I’m disturbed by that and we are trying to get some better answers from the hosting company than we’ve heard thus far. I apologize if this interfered with anyone who tried to come by.


    Almost everywhere I go is a warmer climate, but I don’t usually have problems with cotton.

  • David says:

    Hey Chris, I noticed you wrote that you took the express line through security. This being something I haven’t noticed at most airports, I’m curious exactly how you do that. Do you use the CLEAR card or is it a status perk or a PDX feature or something else entirely? Thanks. Hope you’re enjoying your trip; I’ve always loved South America.

    All the best, Dave

  • Fly Brother says:

    I’m ramping up for my own RTW and totally feel you on the anxiety factor. There always seems to be some loose end that needs tying up and I often can’t help but feeling like I left the iron on at the house while I’m in the middle of a 5-hour flight somewhere. Be safe on the road, man. Too bad our paths didn’t cross in Colombia while I was there.

  • Rasheed Hooda says:

    You are indeed a great writer. Thanks for making the mundane personal details so interesting. Hope to hear some interesting stories about the visit itself soon.


  • Karen says:

    I don’t know why all of these minute detail are interesting… but they are! As a wanna be world traveler… my first thought is …how? With your articles, I’m able to read exactly how… so thank you for that! 🙂

  • Jean Philippe says:

    Beautiful writing Chris! I was right there with you in that Avis car.

  • Gianni says:

    “The more I travel, the more I realize that this kind of pre-trip anxiety is just part of how it works. […] All of a sudden I feel alive, in a sense of being wide-awake that doesn’t come from coffee.”

    Thanks Chris! You described exactly the way I – and, quite sure, many of us – feel when traveling to foreign countries.
    (And, by the way, Chile is a soooo nice place – enjoy!)

  • Erica says:

    Hi Chris,
    I discovered your blog a few months ago, and, must say, it’s always an interesting read. Looking forward to more posts from your travels in South America!

    By the way, sounds like a smart move to get a new hub in Portland.

  • Roy says:

    Have a great trip, I empathise with you about pre-trip nerves, I suffer from them myself.


  • ieishah says:

    this afternoon, i got off the plane in belgrade, and was greeted by young athletes from all over the world–ghana, korea, switzerland, brazil– all wearing their team colors. they were mingling and talking, exchanging facebook and orkut addresses, even if they couldn’t understand each other so well. it was the most beautiful mingling and mixing and oneness of mankind i’ve ever seen. as i read your post it occurs to me: moments like these are why i travel…

    i’m off on a road trip to macedonia tomorrow; you wrote a post about gratefulness that was set in macedonia, no?

    safe travels!

    btw, the universiade games (like olympics for university athletes around the world) are being held in belgrade, that’s why nikola tesla airport looked like the un headquarters.

  • Chris says:

    @David (8 comments up),

    Some airports have express lines for people with elite cards from an airline (Gold, Platinum, etc.). In some cases this can help the process go a bit quicker, but in other cases the non-elite line actually moves faster – I can use either one.

    I think CLEAR went out of business last week, which doesn’t surprise me since I didn’t think they offered much of a service.

  • Colin Wright says:

    Great to see a step-by-step from someone who does this all the time. I get those pre-travel jitters when hopping from state to state, so I’m sure they’ll be even more intense when I set out for Argentina in a few months.

    Good luck and keep us updated!

  • David says:

    This was great to read. Last year when we lived in NE PDX, we didn’t have a car. When I traveled out of town, I had to do this same level of planning (public transit+rental+walking+nightbeforeanxiety).

    Still, it’s fun to figure these things out.

    There’s something exciting and fun about getting up before anyone else in your corner of the world and embarking on a long trip. Can’t explain it.

    In Paul Theroux’s “Mosquito Coast,” Father says, “We’re talking about 4 o’clock in the morning courage. And who’s got that?”

    Have you ever tried Zipcar? We’ve used Zipcars since we lived in Manhattan and D.C.. If you live in an urban area, there are lots of cars available and the rates stack up against car ownership (plus environmentally a good option).

    We got by on Zipcars and public transit living in three different cities. We even took camping trips and visited far away friends.

    (No, I don’t work for Zipcar. I just think it’s a fantastic idea.)

  • Diana says:

    I’m jealous…

  • Suzanne says:

    Your writings reminded me of my friend’s daughter who just came back from a semester at sea. in her third year at university, she did a semester on a ship that travelled to many countries. During sea travel she went to classes and when they got to port she could travel and visit. She also had a blog and I could actually feel the wonderlust in her writing growing from one continent to the next. I am continually amazed at someone elses impressions of different events and cultural experiences. Everyone has their own special frame of reference and I enjoy reading about “that” in peoples’ travels. Yours is, I must say, quite refreshing. THANK YOU!

  • Josiane says:

    The packing getting less orderly as you go, the pre-trip anxiety, the overwhelmed feeling due to all the things left undone… that all sounds very familiar! Have a great trip, Chris!

Your comments are welcome! Please be nice and use your real name.

If you have a website, include it in the website field (not in the text of the comment).

Want to see your photo in the comments? Visit to get one.