STEP 1: As you make your flight reservation consider your commute to the airport, as well as the time you are to arrive at the airport for an international flight. For me, I booked my flight from Quito to Houston and Houston to Denver. Since I am living in Riobamba, I needed to get a ride to Quito the day before because it is a 4 hour ride. On the day of my trip, my flight left Quito at 7:00am, which meant I needed to be at the airport at 5:00am . . . I am not a pleasant morning person these days.
STEP 2: Pack lightly. For some reason, I often feel the need to fill-up a suitcase – regardless of the size. With this being said, my suitcase in Quito was 61 pounds . . . airlines allow 50 pounds. It took me four attempts of taking things out until my bag was at a more appropriate weight. Argh.
STEP 3: Once you arrive in your first airport in the United States, soak in the things that you have missed most – even small things. As I walked to customs in the Houston airport, I got a drink of water from the first water fountain I saw and immediately filled up my water bottle. The water tasted amazingly delicious and cold – I loved it! Remember, in Ecuador, I only drink bottled water because it is not healthy to drink out of the faucet – and come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a drinking fountain in Ecuador.
STEP 4: When you see family you haven’t seen in four months, be sure to give them a BIG hug and enjoy their presence. I was fortunate enough to see four family members at the airport in Denver. Then, I had the opportunity to see more family at my brother’s house in Denver and even more family during my time in St. Louis! To the left, is a picture of my parents whom I got to see – and hug – at the airport in Denver.
STEP 5: Plan your time wisely – while simultaneously being cautious of not planning too much to overwhelm yourself. Be sure to spend time with family and friends who show you love, rather than those who you feel like you “should” see. This was particularly hard for me because there were several people I wanted to see and talk with, but did not have the opportunity to do so during this visit. However, it was important for me to make sure I had a stress-free schedule, so I could enjoy the days . . . and I even planned a little bit of free time for myself.
STEP 6: Visit places you have missed during your time away. For me, this included restaurants with food I had been craving, as well as places that make me feel good! Some of the restaurants I visited were Crazy Bowls and Wraps, First Watch, and Pei Wei – yum! The place I enjoyed visiting most was Forest Park . . . I love that place!
STEP 7: Sleep well. Of course good sleep makes us all feel better. In my case, I particularly enjoyed the absence of crowing roosters nearby, which I have gotten accustomed to during my time in Riobamba.
STEP 8: Love driving – and remember that U.S. driving laws are different that those in Ecuador. It was so easy for me to enjoy driving because my car is very fun to drive. Here is a picture of my car one day when there was a downpour of snow. In addition, one evening as I drove on a main road, I decided that I wanted to go the other way on the road instead. So, I made a u-turn right in the middle of the road and then thought to myself, “Un –oh . . . I am not allowed to do this in the U.S. That was totally illegal!” I’m glad no one was around. Yeesh.
STEP 9: Continue to practice your Spanish – in any way possible! Since I was not speaking in Spanish at all during my time in Denver or St. Louis, my Spanish teacher asked me to write a daily journal entry in Spanish. I felt like it was beneficial to do so after days of only speaking in English. Also, at church I decided to take notes in Spanish instead of English. Ha, ha . . . why not try to challenge my brain as much as possible, right?
STEP 10: Enjoy the weather . . . whether it is cold or f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g. It was really, really, really cold in both Denver and St. Louis. I did not always enjoy the cold weather, but I tried. Although, I did absolutely love watching the snow fall and taking a walk with a friend in the cold weather one afternoon.
STEP 11: Take a lot of pictures! I took my camera to most of places I visited, which is pretty unusual for me. Here are a few pictures of some of the people I was fortunate enough to visit during my short time in the U.S.
STEP 12: Watch TV or movies in English and revel in the fact that you can understand all of the words! Most people comment that I do not usually pick “high-quality” television shows or movies to watch. However, I enjoy them and that is all that matters, right? I had the opportunity to watch part of one of my favorite shows, Hawaii Five-O, viewed the movie, You’ve Got Mail, with a friend, and even went to a movie in the theater!
STEP 13: As the date gets closer for you to return to South America, shop for things you want to take back that you cannot easily purchase in Ecuador. For me, this included note cards for letter writing, a delicious smelling air freshener, a Spanish workbook, and blank note cards. I know I didn’t buy anything terribly exciting, but rather a few “wants” for the next six months.
STEP 14: Repack carefully . . . and lightly, if possible. Believe it or not, even though I left several clothes in St. Louis that I did not need in Ecuador; my suitcase was still too heavy in the airport. Once again, I had to take things out of the suitcase to arrive at an appropriate weight for my airline. Blech.
STEP 15: Arrive at the airport in St. Louis on time and be sure that your suitcase is in good, working condition. As I was unzipping my suitcase to take some of the extra weight out, the zipper popped off. Fortunately, the man taking my suitcase was very sweet and fixed it with some pliers. 🙂
Now, tell me what you are thinking – please! Just choose one or two questions – I love hearing from you.
- What is your favorite “step” and why?
- What is your “must-do” for a short visit to the United States?
- What did I forget to put on my “how to” list?