Lately, I’ve been hitting the road (actually, the air) and traveling a lot. It reminds me of my days as a consultant. When I started that line of work many years ago, I realized immediately that the stress of constant air travel could take a huge toll on me if I didn’t control it. At that time I developed my own set of “Rules for the Road.” (Yes, I’m that corny that I actually think of my travel guidelines this way). I wrote this blog post for my readers, but also as a reminder to me.
- Don’t let it get to you — The number one rule I’ve set for myself – and the one that has served me well in many circumstances – is that I will not let anything that happens while traveling get to me (I’m successful probably 85-percent of the time). There are lots of things that happen when you travel that can cause enormous stress, such as delays, crowds, weather issues, rude people and more. You have to tell yourself that all of these things ARE going to happen and you can’t control them. But you can control your reactions and responses. Remain calm, don’t engage unless you have to, remain polite, and just don’t let it get to you. When I feel the rush of events begin to affect me, I close my eyes (if I can safely), take deep breaths, and tell myself it’s no big deal, stuff happens. This mindfulness really helps.
- Reframe things from negative to positive – There are always multiple ways to view things. The other day, as soon as we landed, an elderly gentleman took out a cell phone and proceeded to have a very loud conversation with whomever was picking him up – via the speaker on his phone. We all heard his entire conversation. Other passengers were getting angry and darting mean looks at the gentleman. I chose to reframe this from an annoyance to something humorous. The guy was clueless and happy in his oblivion; the person on the other end of the line had no idea how many people were listening in — that struck me as funny. It was temporary so why waste negative energy getting annoyed?
- Travel is a great exercise opportunity – People often complain about walking through airports, so many airports have made it very easy to get around by moving sidewalks and trains. These are convenient, especially when you’re in a hurry. But if you have the time, why not take the opportunity to walk from terminal to gate? My home airport is Atlanta, and it’s a great walking opportunity. I bet a lot of people have no idea that many airports have interesting art exhibits in the walking areas between gates or terminals, Atlanta included. Take a walk – you’ll be surprised at the unanticipated benefits. Here’s a picture of a really interesting sculpture between the A and B gates in Atlanta:
- Don’t build extra stress into your schedule – I have seen people become furious because they have very close connections, and others aren’t deplaning quickly enough for them. These people are so obviously stressed out. One girl, who was so mad there were practically sparks flying from her, pushed past everyone in her haste and knocked me in the head with her purse! I smiled to myself a few minutes later when I saw her nearby waiting to get on the train to the next gate – all that wasted anger and haste didn’t get her to her destination faster than calm little me. I always try to plan enough time into my trip to accommodate delays, as they’re practically inevitable.
- Eat healthy – It’s no longer impossible to make healthier choices of food to eat on a plane. The key is to plan ahead. What is possible is that you’re not going to get anything healthy on the plane itself, so bring something with you or buy something on the concourse before you board. I usually carry nuts, fruit or a low carb protein bar as a snack. If I want a meal, I’ll buy a salad. I no longer eat bananas but if you do, they’re a great snack to bring because they are self-contained, help with dehydration, and provide potassium, which combats the effects of travel. One word of caution – remember that others around you will smell whatever you’re eating, so be considerate and eat foods with minimal stench.
- Drink a lot – There’s a reason I always try for an aisle seat. I drink tons of water before and during my flights. Besides the potential for dehydration in an airplane, drinking water causes me to need to use the restroom a time or two, which has two other benefits. First, it gets me up and moving, something that’s especially important on longer flights. Second, I have increased opportunities to wash my hands and rid myself of the germs that are undoubtedly flying through the cabin. I suggest bringing an empty water bottle to fill once past security or buying a large bottle of water in a concourse shop before boarding the plane.
- Take personal responsibility – This is another big rule, that I’ve developed after observing others. So many travelers are mad at everyone else for the problems besetting them, such as being too cold, too hot, having bags that are too heavy or that don’t fit in the overhead bin, arriving late, being squished in their seats, etc. These are all things that happen and they shouldn’t be a surprise. We’re grown-ups and we should plan ahead to take care of ourselves. Pack a sweater; pack a lighter bag or check it; plan for delays since that happens a lot. Most importantly, don’t be cruel to your gate agent or flight attendant. The things that happen are usually not their fault or within their control so why treat them badly? They’re just doing their jobs.
There are other air travel rules I’ve set for myself but these are the major ones. What do you do to make your air travel reasonable and tolerable? We’d love to hear your ideas.