The Final Details – Preparing for the Via Francigena

The devil is in the detail.
— Anonymous

It’s getting down to the wire now… after today, four days till take off and we are psyched, to say the least. There are still lots of little details, odds and ends to handle before leaving for four months. It’s like a passage without worrying about the provisioning, ocean currents or the status of boat repairs. Nonetheless, there lots of considerations and chores to accomplish before heading out.

I’m in ‘make-a-list’ mode at the moment. You know me. I’m the ultimate list girl. I’ve got lists for ‘Things to be done before we leave’, ‘Things to buy’, ‘things to pack’, ‘things to put in the carry-on backpack’, etc. It’s endless, but it helps to keep me focused on what needs to be done.

The packing lists are all printed out and gear is laid out on the guest room bed waiting for the final pack-up to occur. The list has been modified from our Thames Path trip and David will outline the changes in a later blog. Suffice it to say, that a four month jaunt carrying everything you’ll need on your back is a challenge. Granted, we will be in first world countries where pharmacies, grocery stores and clothing are available as needed. I just want to be as prepared as possible without carrying a 30-pound backpack nor having to stop constantly to buy things we forgot.

Beyond the planning and packing for the trip, there are several other considerations we’ve had to think about prior to leaving. One biggie for me is paying all the bills in advance and making sure I have all my accounts in order before heading out. The monthly house bills, e.g. mortgage, insurances, utilities, etc., are pretty much all auto-pay and Mary takes care of the rest as they pop up, but credit card bills are not automatic and I wanted to get them all paid before leaving. We only plan to use one credit card while in Europe which makes keeping up with monthly bills much easier. Filing our federal taxes was a must-do and thankfully is done.

There were house chores to be completed. The sprinklers needed some work in preparation for their spring/summer use. Shrubs needed trimming and general yard work needed to be done all of which was just completed yesterday morning. Air filters in the HVAC were replaced for the spring. Salt was added to the water softener. Tick those off the list.

Then there was the personal stuff: haircuts, a self-inflicted pedicure for me, dental check-ups. I wanted to make sure we had digital copies of our eyeglass prescriptions and our passports, as well as our tour tickets and various other documents I thought we might need. All done!

Since I’ll be carrying my mini-Dell notebook computer and I don’t use it very often except when traveling, I’ve recently fired it up to make sure all was up to date. It wasn’t, of course, so I’ve been methodically updating what I’ll need and syncing it with my regular everyday laptop for the past few days.

On the Thames Path, I also carried a regular, hard copy notebook. Sometimes I wrote my blogs or at least spontaneous notes during the day when we stopped to eat or rest and then completed my thoughts… in longhand, no less... at night, typing them into my notebook whenever I had the chance. I’d then download photos from my camera for editing and upload the blogs and edited photos to the website whenever I had reasonable internet. Though it’s a little extra weight, having a notebook is worth it to me. So I’m doing the same thing this time with a lighter weight notebook. Beyond blog notes, the notebook also contains a log of our daily steps/miles as well as expenses, our hotel info, airline info, tour info and any other detail that I think is important for a quick reference. Some of this information is duplicated in our phone or on the computer, but I’m okay with the redundancy.

We’re still ordering a few things, but we think we’re ready. There are always those last minute items that would be nice to have. We haven’t thought of them yet, but I’m sure when Sunday morning rolls around, after a sleepless night of anticipation and as we’re scurrying around packing, doing last minute laundry and chores, it’ll dawn on us that we’ve overlooked something. We’ll deal with it then.

Last, but certainly not least, we have yet to complete our daily walking itinerary for the entire trip. It’s a time-consuming task and David did this initially when we planned to walk from Canterbury to Rome. Since we’re now doing the trek in reverse from Rome to Canterbury, it’s a bit more complicated than just reversing the whole itinerary. I know logically it should be easy, but it isn’t.

It’s easiest with two of us working on it since it’s important to have accommodation and meals wherever we stop for the evening… hence a small town. One of us looks at the route on the Via Francigena app, one of us looks at the app to see where the route overlaps with a suitable stop and then one of us (is this really a 3-person job?) checks out all the possible accommodations and notes them for future reference. It’s tedious, but obviously necessary.

We’ll get it all done. Part of the anticipation is the angst that comes just before you check in all your luggage at the airport, board the plane, breathe and relax.