« Annie Get Your...Opera? | Main | Andiamo! »

The Great Wall of Panic


With less than a week to go before my trip, I'm trying to wrap up almost all of my planning. And it's going well; in fact, I've just confirmed I'll have a A HOUSE SITTER FOR MY ENTIRE TRIP!!!! Yay -- that's a bit of a weight off my mind. It's not a happy event for my friend J., who is going through a painful divorce and needs a place to stay. But this gets her out of her sister's basement and into my house. In fact, she wants to come to stay now; I'm holding her off until next week.

But nailing down a house sitter is the kind of detail that I like to wrap up well before I leave, because I know that close to departure date, I'm going to hit the wall.

Perhaps dubbing this the Great Wall of Panic goes too far. I don't really panic before a trip, I simply decide the whole event is far more work and expense than it's worth, and I resolve not to go. This is my well-established pattern, and I've learned to get as much done, as far in advance as possible because I'll have no taste for it as departure draws near. (BTW, the above photo was taken at the Eremo delle Carceri, or Hermitage of the Prisoners, near Assisi.)

Naturally, I overdo the pre-planning frenzy. For instance, yesterday as I was printing out a few Trenitalia timetables, I decided to rethink my plans for arrival day. I'm scheduled to land in Rome at 11 a.m. and have booked a 4 p.m. Eurostar high-speed direct train from Rome's main Termini train station up to Parma. The 5-hour gap may sound like a lot of time to waste. But in booking, I factored in the likelihood of my flight arriving late, delays in getting through Customs, delays in the Leonardo Express train from the airport to downtown, etc. I didn't want to be sweating that entire time, fearful of missing my train reservation.

If all goes well and I get to Termini in just a couple of hours, I've made a few plans to have some lunch and see a bit of Rome while I wait for my 4 p.m. train.

However, I can't leave well enough alone. Yesterday, I decided I needed contingency plans -- what if I get to Termini in such good time that I could make an earlier train for Parma? Granted, the other possible trains wouldn't all be direct, they wouldn't all be high-speed, but no matter. What if I wanted to try to change everything so I could leave Rome a little earlier? I posted this as a question on Slow Travel, and was swiftly -- and wisely -- reminded to stop over-thinking. And stop over-planning.

So, chastened, I'm going to stop thinking about logistics and finish what I need to do -- cancel newspapers, finish some laundry -- and try to just enjoy thinking about what I am going to see and do in Italy. I won't try to look up how many calories are in a serving of GROM gelato (because the company posts that information on its website, you know.) I won't try to plan where I'll have lunch in Spoleto when I visit Umbria during week 3 of my trip.

Hmmmm, instead maybe I'll just imagine spending time with one of my new Italian boyfriends:


Okay, that was childish and beneath me! I don't expect to meet these handsome Italian actors from the miniseries Best of Youth. But it's nice to dream and beats the heck out of over planning train logistics.

Comments (19)

Every day I discover we have yet another thing in common: before each trip I take, small or large, I ask myself why in the world I am doing this - that it is way too much effort, mind-boggling and NOT worth the effort. Then I forget, and go through the exact same thoughts the next time.

I have yet to find a solution to avoid this - so I imagine by now it is hopeless.

I am sure that you, like me, always end up, AFTER, delighted by your trips, feel they were most certainly worth their effort and start planning the next "pazzia" to get all worked up over again, sure that THIS time it really isn't worth it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No advice from me except to allow yourself to go with the flow, remind yourself that things are determined often as they go along and that it WILL all be worth it.
Relax and enjoy,


Relax and when you get to Italy, enjoy that GROM gelato for me.

I am glad you got a house sitter! And sorry you are entering the frenzy zone... Just think about your wonderful room in the Hotel Orologio! (Oh, and say hi to your bf's from me...)

It's gotta be asked....why limit yourself to only one new boyfriend?!? I'd have a tough time choosing between those two... ;)

Great news about the house-sitter. Sorry for your friend but it's great that the timing works out so well for you both.

I'm so excited for you!


Mary, that is too funny! I can't believe that you feel the same way. On the positive side, the fact that this happens to us every trip means we know not to take it too seriously!

You're so right; once the trip begins, I forget all of my doubts and have a wonderful time. Which also helps me to keep my pre-trip jitters in some perspective!

Are you beginning to feel the same way, as you prepare for your trip? I hope not -- but if so, I hope that you, too, can keep it in perspective and have a wonderful, wonderful time!

Thanks Marcia, I'll try not to think about calories and just enjoy my gelato!

Hi Chiocciola, your excellent advice on Slow Travel reminded me to calm the heck down! Thanks again for your inspection of the Orolorgio -- and I'll give the boys your best!

Thanks Annie, it would be hard to choose between those two. I guess I should be grateful that it's a choice I'll never have to make! :)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, it sounds like you've recieved some very wise advice from everyone.

BTW, seeing your Italian friends makes me want to change my trip plans and return to Italy again! :)

Barb Cabot:

Sandra, in an odd way I take pleasure in knowing there are others like me who "worry" about so many/too many details. I can appreciate it in others. Once I'm on a plane however, the vacation begins. I hope you can relax soon. I have certainly travelled that road. I'm sorry for your friend but i know she'll enjoy having a place to call her own for awhile. I wish her well. Take care, good times ahead soon.


Kathy, once you get to Scotland and get an eyeful of men in kilts, I'm sure you'll forget all about my Italian "friends"!(I'm now imagining Sean Connery, back in the day -- and even now!)

Thanks Barb -- you're right, once I'm on the plane, I'll leave all my worries behind.

I'm looking forward to meeting you in San Diego next March!

Don't you love that pre-trip panic. I think it is the fear that you have fogotten something that actually makes you forget something. I make all sorts of lists and find that I always end up missing a list somewhere! ARGH


Too true, Jerry! I'm a real list maker but it's easy to get in a tizzy and start losing lists!


Oh, Sandra, you really make me laugh! But I know you are telling the truth, so I shouldn't laugh.

Just remember that you will soon be flying away to beautiful Italy, and you can have your first Prosecco and celebrate!


Oh Sandra - didn't know whether to laugh or cry as I read your blog post instead of starting to pack for our Tuesday departure! It is at this point that I ask myself why, despite startng the process WEEKS ahead, I always get to the penultimate day and begin to panic that I a. am bringing too much; b. am forgetting something crucial; c. can't remember where I put all the notes I printed out two months ago; d. have all the wrong clothes for the most recent weather report; e. should just give up and stay home.

Good to know I'm not alone.


It sounds like the perfect time for your friend to be house sitting for you. Glad that all worked out so well.

I meant to add in my slow travel reply that my train took 1 hour to arrive also from the airport to the Termini. It was back when cell phones just started to become popular. Amusing scene on the train listening in to hundreds of conversations of Italians calling husbands, wives, friends, kids, etc. informing them of the train problems. Not sure just what happened but we just stopped and sat in the middle of nowhere for quite a while.

I think you are wise to give extra time rather than sweating a tight connection.

Grom... YUM!! And your two Italian friends - double Yum!

Hope you have a wonderfully momentus trip - will look forward to reading about your adventures. Best of Youth was a suggestion made by some of the wonderful people here in the blog world and Slow Travel. It was a delightful miniseries. And those two are eye candy for sure! menehune


Judy, I think if someone offered a packing service at a reasonable fee, to make the unpleasant choices, they'd be swamped with business! Good luck with last minute preps and we'll have a good laugh about this next week in Bologna!

Hi Girasoli, I AM lucky :-)
And I am calming down about Rome! I'm glad I have my train reservation and now I won't sweat about either making the 3:50 train, or trying to rush to get something slightly earlier! Hope all of your travel preps are going well.

Thanks menehune! And that was a great miniseries, wasn't it? I even bought the DVD!

Oh Sandra, I know what you mean. I try to think about the wonderful time I'll be having on my vacation, and that I've already spent more than enough time planning. In fact, about a week from departure, I confirm my hotel bookings and such things, then try not to do any more planning, other than packing,until I leave.

Good luck, and I know you mush be excited!


Just wanted to wish you happy travels!


Good thinking, Candi. I really tend to overplan and it's definitely time to let go.

Thanks Kim!

Have fun!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)