I'm excited: I'm gearing up to return to Russia. Another batch of students... another set of amazing experiences... If there is one thing I would recommend to Americans, it would be to travel. Once you have traveled outside of the US, you understand a world of things you will never understand otherwise.
Last year I managed a day in Frankfurt before I got to Russia. I was astonished how much it helped my jetlag adjustment in Russia. I'm considering a couple another side-trip before Russia to duplicate that experience. (Alas, our students won't have the same option: their invitations MUST be processed through our Russian-side academic contact, which means their visas MUST reflect that data. That's a Russian-side requirement. My own visa has to be processed as a business visa, which has a different set of requirements.)
Soon, Russia, I shall return, and I am looking forward to it so much that my breath hurts.