You know that dictum that “work expands to fill the available time”? I’m slowly realizing that it also applies to travel preparations. Back when I was with Google.org, we’d occasionally say “Uh oh – gotta head to London / Ghana / Neptune / wherever next week” – there’d be a crazy flurry of activity, mailing out passports for visas, getting shots and throwing stuff into a rolling bag, and bam: when the day arrived, we’d be there on the tarmac, ready to roll.
This trip? I think it was probably three months ago that I first penciled these dates in for the Liberia/Ghana circuit, and I feel like I’ve been working on it ever since. Now, finally all packed the night before departure, I’m as exhausted as I usually am when I get back at the end of the trip. If this were a vacation, I’d need a vacation from getting ready to go on vacation. But it’s not – it’s as close to a “work” trip as I can manage in my current stage of employment.
To be fair, no one’s making me go – the idea originated in was what Kiell Kosberg (you really ought to be reading her fabulous travel blog) would call “an unformed lump of travel lust”: I was missing Africa, and wanted an excuse to go back. The slippery slope from there to the current itinerary tilted on the rationalization that it would be useful to check up on the half dozen social impact projects Devon and I are funding in Ghana and Liberia.
I think John Steinbeck nailed it with the observation that “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” The original “visit some folks around Monrovia then head up to Robertsport for a couple days of surfing” have been replaced by a packed schedule of meetings, followed by days spent driving as far up into the Liberian highlands as you can get while still being in Liberia to visit Last Mile Health (mom, don’t click through to that link, okay?). Their mission is “Saving lives in the world’s most remote villages,” and they’ve done a good job of nailing that “remote” part. (No, I guess it’s okay to click through – just that home page image is a little terrifying). I’ll be doing some urban visits too, spending time with the completely awesome people at the iLab Liberia and Jennah Scott’s team at the Liberian Philanthropy Secretariat.
At the end of that, I’m going to have one afternoon to catch my breath before continuing on to Ghana for a couple of days over at Kpong Airfield, with the good folks of Medicine on the Move. They’ve got a new crop of students in, with a bevy of new challenges and opportunities. Then up to Ashesi University, where I may be giving a talk. Or two. Or not – it’s all kind of fluid at this point.
But I did manage to reserve one evening for pure fun. Wednesday night, I’ll be getting together with the wonderful and crazy Ghanaian college kids our team worked with on the SmartBrowse project. Hmmm, Wednesday night. Isn’t Wednesday Reggae Night at Labadi Beach? I think I’m going to be tired when I get back.