Friday, August 29, 2008

Atlanta -- Aug. 29, Day Minus-4

Few things are more full of potential than an empty suitcase.

Or more intimidating for a chronic last-second packer.

Hi there! Thanks for visiting The Italian Job, which is what I'm going to be doing Sept. 2-10 while I serve as a trip host for Italy's Magnificent Lake District, the Emory Travel Program's upcoming journey of discovery. I'm the communications director for the Emory Alumni Association, and the Travel Program is operated by the EAA under the direction of my friend and co-worker Allie Hill.

That's why I'm here.

It's very early on Friday morning, August 29, in Atlanta as I write this. Four days before I leave for Italy. My suitcase is on the floor of my bedroom. Open. Empty. And it'll probably stay that way for at least a couple more days. Maybe I'll put a couple pairs of socks in it tomorrow or something.

If you have a Rand McNally handy, Italy's Lake District, where I'll be next week, is located in extreme north of the country, between Milan and the Swiss border. My co-host, Scott Keneda 91T, senior director of development and alumni relations in the Candler School of Theology, and I will be traveling with 38 guests--the largest group of the year so far. While both Scott and I are alumni relations professionals for Emory, not all of our travelers are alumni. Emory trips are open to everyone, and several of our guests' only ties to the University are through the Travel Program. Still, all guests will receive the same top-notch service and if we make another friend of Emory, we'll have done our jobs.

Some Travel Program itineraries cross continents. Our upcoming trip is pretty focused. Seven nights in the same hotel (which is nice ... packing and unpacking is limited), and save a four-hour layover in Germany, we won't leave Italy until we come home. But just because our mileage will be limited doesn't mean our experiences will be as well.

We'll take day-trips by boat on Lake Como, Lake Orta, and Lake Maggiore and visit picturesque towns like Baveno, Tremezzo, Como, and Bellagio. We'll also have one day in Milan. We'll sample all manner of cuisine; experience culture, nature, art, history, architecture, and (from what I'm told) really good shopping; and we'll meet many local experts who will lead a variety of informative, educational programming.

Through The Italian Job, I'll provide as frequent updates as I can. What we do, what we see, who's involved, and much more. If you've never experienced an Emory Travel Program destination, hopefully I can help you feel what it's like.

Still, four days before departure, our destinations are just map dots. Or photos in a brochure. Or Las Vegas casinos. The actual trip hasn't become real yet, and probably won't until I pack.

So much potential.

Packing for a trip is an arduous task for me. I never know how many pairs of shoes to take and I have a bad habit of taking too many cold-weather clothes during a heatwave and vise versa. However, packing a suitcase also implies upcoming adventure. And Italy has the potential of being one of the most exciting adventures I've ever had.

The traveling? That's the easy part. It's my 38 traveling companions (39 with Scott) that really make this exciting. The challenge of ensuring an unforgettable experience for them while I myself will be seeing and feeling so many new things gives me an off-the-chart thrill.

In the meantime, there's my suitcase. I have a lot of work to do. Good thing is ... it's on the far side of my bed. I can only see it if I'm really looking for it.

Thanks for stopping by. Please be sure and come back ... we're just getting started!