Natalie Garro, 129 TESS
It’s mid-way through October as I’m writing this, and by now I’m sure your clearances are rolling in, the purchasing has begun, and the anticipation is building. I remember preparing for departure so clearly: it still feels like yesterday, although — at this point in my service — all the preparations were happening nearly two years ago.
There’s so much to remember in the last few months before staging and departure; here are a few things I’m glad I did, and a few things I wish I’d made time to do.
I’m glad I remembered to…
The technical things:
- I renewed my driver’s license. It would have expired while I was in Thailand, and we have to retake the driving test if our license expires in Colorado. I renewed online, and I received my new license in the mail about two weeks later. (In this same vein, make sure your personal passport won’t expire during your service, so you can travel with it after service, if you want to).
- I renewed my credit cards, which also would have expired while I was abroad.
- I alerted my bank of my “travel plans.” I do use my credit card from time to time, mostly for online purchases from Amazon — which my angel of a father sends me in care packages — and for online bookings (airfare, hotels) that require a card for a reservation.
- I suspended my phone plan. Some phone companies will give you a full military/ government two year service suspension. My provider, Verizon, would not, but I’ve been able to re-suspend my plan every three months online, which allows me to keep my phone number. Ask your provider for more information.
- I put some money away, so I wouldn’t always be confined to my Peace Corps budget for my travels. This has been a great luxury.
The professional things:
- I started at a new workplace just six months before departure. I informed them during my interview that I would be leaving for Peace Corps in six months time. While they weren’t over the moon about the short duration of my employment, the support I received from my bosses and co-workers was crucial throughout the last few hectic months of preparing for departure. I also made sure I was working extra hard to show appreciation for their support, and they offered me my job back after I complete my service. None of us know exactly where we’re going to end up after two years, so maintaining positive professional relationships is a great safety net.
The personal things:
- Again, with a nod to my ultra-supportive workplace, I was able to make it out to Chicago and Pittsburgh to visit my extended family before departing for Peace Corps. Because they’re so far away, it’s not unusual for me to go for many months without seeing my family, but two years is a long time. I’m so grateful I was able to see everyone before I left.
- I was able to squeeze in one last canyoneering trip before departure. I frequently drove through my favorite places in the mountains, I hiked my favorite trails, and I even made it up to Winter Park to join my cousin and his friends for their annual ski trip — an event I’d attended every year since they’d started the tradition. I made time to do the things I loved, with the people I love, in the places I love. I made so many great memories to cherish until we can make more.
I wish I’d made time for…
A going-away party. I always feel a bit odd throwing myself a party, and I did mean to do this, but time just slipped by, and I really wish I’d been able to gather all the people I love in one place one last time before I left. I did my best to grab lunch, drinks and coffee before leaving, but I still missed a few people I’d meant to see.
- More cooking/ baking. Both of these are possible here, but we’re very limited on ingredients and resources. I wish I’d made more time to cook my favorite meals and bake chocolate chip pumpkin bread and eat all of it with my family and friends before I’d left.
- Buying a new external hard drive. Mine broke a few weeks before departure, and I didn’t get around to buying a new one before I left. Rookie mistake.
- Chipotle. This could have been my last meal in America, and it wasn’t, and I now follow Chipotle on Instagram.
- Learning more about Thai history and culture.
- Reading the posts on the PCV 129 Facebook page… There were so many good packing tips I missed!
The last few months before departure for Peace Corps fly by. Funnily enough, it’s been my experience that our service flies by, as well. I think the best advice I can give you is to enjoy the time you have with the people you love, in the places you love, doing the things you love. There will probably be something you will forget to do, and this won’t be the end of the world. Do your best to not over stress. Best of luck, and we can’t wait to have all of you here with us in the Land of Smiles!