Fantasy Vacation and Packing List

This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was to pick a fantasy vacation spot – money no object – and generate a packing list for the chosen destination.  I am not at all short on places that I could choose from.  I love travelling and have not done nearly enough of it in my life thus far.  I have only travelled on two continents and did not even make it to very many countries in Europe when I lived on that continent for all those decades.  If time and resources had permitted, I certainly would have done a great deal more travelling in my life. I pondered picking somewhere like Australia or Egypt or Italy (which I have been to but would love to return to) or the Scandinavian region or the Galapagos Islands.  I considered the Orient Express.  I even thought about creating a page based on the preposterously ambitious notion of a round the world tour.  I even thought about a little literary detour involving creating a page inspired by the fictional journey of Phileas Fogg.  With the latter two plans, I even came up with (in my head) a visual of what my page might end up looking like.

However, this time of year being what it is and my art time being consequently squelched in my schedule, I decided to downsize the ambitions of my page and perhaps my destination. I have an ambition to visit all 50 of the United States.  My husband is only missing three of them – Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma – whereas I have only been to 25.  I thought I had 26 under my belt until I started counting them up for the purposes of this challenge and found I had 25 left to do.  So I am stuck at the half-way mark.  In my first 14 months of living in America, I have actually not gained a single new state as I have merely revisited ones I have already travelled to as part of past vacations.  In our pre-parenthood years, Mr Pict and I did a lot of road-tripping around the States which is why I have as many as I do and so I had the idea that my vacation for the purposes of the prompt should be a road trip to collect the 25 states I have not yet visited – maybe going by plane to Alaska and certainly Hawaii.  So I perhaps downsized the “fantasy” element of the prompt and swapped it for something I might actually accomplish.

I started by giving the journal page a rough wash with brown watercolour.  I was thinking of those old map graphics they use in movies to illustrate a change of location, usually with a red line moving between dots on the map.  Think Indiana Jones films.  I then printed out a copyright free outline map of the US.  My intention had been to trace it onto the page but pressure of time meant that I instead used the print out itself to create a flap on the page.  I coloured in the states I have already visited with brown pencil, not wanting to use a wet medium lest the printer ink run.  I may have been to half the states but all that white remaining on the map only goes to illustrate that I have visited nowhere near half the land mass of America, even if one only considers the contiguous states. It’s a wide white stripe that runs down the middle of that map.  Around the flap I used brown ink to write down the names of all of the states I still need to visit.  I added an arrow to the flap – using a stamp – to indicate that it should be lifted.  Beneath the flap, I rather hurriedly jotted down a list of the things I would pack for a round America road trip.  I did not include clothes or personal hygiene items.  Let us just assume I pack those anyway.  I guess tea bags were a higher priority for me than things to actually wear.

Week 50 - List for Travel Destination - 1

Week 50 - List for Travel Destination - 2

Could this page be more inspired?  Yes indeed.  However, given I probably spent no more than 15 minutes on it I don’t think it is too bad.  And hopefully in the future I will have cause to create a journal page about me visiting my fiftieth state.


I don’t intend for this blog to be on a “living the dream” theme or for it to only showcase sunshine and lollipops.  I want this blog to truly reflect my experience as an immigrant to the US and, let’s face it, not every day is going to be a gentle breeze with prevailing unicorn farts.  Getting to the US was a tough slog and I, therefore, fully anticipated part of the slog to continue.  This, therefore, is my first post that’s a bit Eeyore gloomy.

I have arrived in the US as a Legal Permanent Resident.  (My children have become US citizens upon arrival as they are now the children of a resident US citizen parent.)  We took the Direct Consular Filing route through immigration meaning that we were processed through the US Embassy in London which theoretically makes for a smoother, easier journey.  Certainly we found it to be pretty straightforward – demanding, of course, expensive definitely, but with no glitches or surprises.  I, therefore, am now entitled to a green card and social security number, both of which I applied for in advance as part of the process the children and I undertook.  Meanwhile, however, I am in limbo waiting for these documents to turn up.  Because until I have those documents in my possession, I am a bit of a non-person.

So much here is dependent on having a social security number that there are barriers everywhere preventing me making progress because of my lack of SSN at this given moment in time.  My husband and I have a joint US bank account yet I cannot access cash from an ATM or use my debit card because I have been unable to register it without an SSN.  This is my biggest deal.  From having been able to pay for things independently, I am now in the position of having to ask my husband for money.  Of course, it is our money so I am not quite a kept woman receiving pin money but, nevertheless, my psyche is out of sorts because I am having to exist on little bits of cash here and there and really think about every dollar and cent that is in my purse.  It will be a bit of a celebratory moment for me when I finally have independent access to my own money.

There is an election in the US on 5 November.  I have voted in every single election in which I was eligible to vote (with the exception of one local election I missed because of being in labour – valid excuse I think) because exercising my democratic right to vote is very important to me.  The franchise was fought and won by people who in some instances literally gave their lives in the cause of making their countries truly democratic.  I am also politically aware and have strong opinions.  Now, of course, I am living in a country where I am not entitled to vote.  I am disenfranchised.  Right now that does not feel like such a massive deal but if I think of the future and continuing to have a political stake in a country (because I live here and am raising my children here) while having no political voice here that, again, reminds me of my non-person status.  The right to vote may well be the thing that drives me to seek citizenship at some juncture.

This all comes on top of a baseline feeling of regression.  In Scotland, I was a fully fledged adult, able to operate fully and independently, understanding all the systems, routine and structures of everyday life.  Here I don’t even have a sound grasp of basic things like volume measurements and I am very slow at making change because, of course, I am trained to add up cash in different denominations.  Whereas I could drive in the UK almost on autopilot, here I am having to concentrate at each junction, stop sign and traffic light because the rules are different.  All those little differences that make me have to stop and think and figure things out make me feel as if I have regressed from adulthood to being a teenager again, just embarking on an independent life.  It’s quite a discombobulating feeling.

Of course, these woes are all short term.  At some point in the not too distant future I will receive my green card and SSN and can be a fully functioning adult here.  But, nevertheless, it was important to record this gripe here on this blog for the sake of truth because I am sure ever so often being an immigrant will suck.