Moving is a pain in the A**. Everyone does it, nobody likes it. I’ve moved 5 times in the last 5 years (California, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas) and now, yet again, I am moving to Santa Marta, Colombia.
Santa Marta, Colombia – the oldest South American city aka the first invaded by the Spanish – and the crown jewel of eco-tourism on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, offers it all – you can bird in the mountain in the morning and have a sundowner on the beach that evening. With all this topographical variation (it is the world’s tallest coastal mountain range after all, rising 0 to 5700 m in less than 50 km – 30 mi), there is a lot of weather extremes, making packing all the more difficult.
I received a Fulbright Fellowship, meaning I will live and work in Colombia for a year, collecting my dissertation data – looking for frogs in the jungle. Yeah, you read that right. While I work to address the vulnerability of frogs to climate change, I will traverse from city to jungle on a frequent basis, meaning, what on earth do I wear?!
I’ve been packing for days – almost a week really. What do you bring abroad for one year? (Especially when there is a bag, weight, and ego limit – overpacker = Gringa alert!
When looking for frogs, I wear quick dry pants and long shirts (I look super cool - swear!). I often rely on layers because I work in a cloud forest and it is sunny one minute and then pouring rain 10 minutes later. So, I need to bring rain and down jackets, hiking boots, lots of socks, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, the whole works. But wait… plot twist! Now, I am living on the beach and I need swimsuits, dresses, shorts, a heavier layer? (will I ever be cold in Santa Marta?), accessories (of course!), cute shoes, workout clothes…the list for supposed “normalcy” goes on.
Back in Texas, after a lot of re-arranging and assistance from friends saying “no, no, no” I have two bags ~ 50 lbs each and a backpacking pack. I know I will not end up wearing half the clothes I bring, but I just can’t help myself, I clearly need that extra romper I bought a TJ Maxx for my 29th birthday.
Packing for the field, while stressful, means you are moving forward. Over the years, I've discovered the hardest part about moving is continually saying goodbye to loved. I’ve become far too accustomed to brushing off my emotions and gearing up for my next adventure. There is no other way to cope but to put on a brave face and “be excited” (my real emotions are excited, nervous, stressed, overwhelmed, happy, sad, it goes on). If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is to take your time to see off the people you love, it’s never goodbye, it’s only see you later.
Abrazos por todos.