I received an email today from one of the producers at the Huffington Post organization.
“We are doing a segment today on traveling and how to enjoy it without being stressed. It’s about really taking advantage of a vacation. I know you have done tons of traveling and I’d love to include you and hear if you have some stories and/or advice.”
Before reading this email aloud to the Pocket Babe, fully anticipating her out-loud guffaw, I knew there was no way I could participate in this broadcast which is scheduled to air live, minutes from now as I’m writing this. The truth is that I simply cannot stand traveling these days, particularly International travel!!! I am the definition of a stressed traveler!
It has nothing to do with flying. I have been a pilot for more than 40 years, have owned 11 private airplanes and have a deep love of aviation at all levels. It isn’t the airplanes that provide the stress, it’s everything else!
Below is my response to the invitation:
“Unfortunately, I’m the wrong guy to proclaim the joys of International travel. The truth is that it’s really not much fun these days. Okay, it SUCKS! With the added security measures at airports, clearing customs and immigration, reduced baggage allowances with extra charges for everything and most airlines maximizing passenger counts by reducing seat sizes….well….let me just say that the best approach is humor!
I’ve tried being all Zen about it. That only works for the first couple of trips. On my last trek from our place here on Ecuador’s coast to Miami (a 2-day journey) via Panama City, I had finally managed to fall asleep in the tiniest of airline seats. My left leg had apparently relaxed, my knee protruding slightly into the aisle. I was awakened by the food cart slamming into my knee at top speed, eliciting a loud scream from my sleeping form. I’m honestly not sure if it was the pain or the sound of my own scream that awakened me.
Yeah…I’m going with humor! The swelling went down after a couple of days but the bruise lasted a week. Nope! No apology from the flight attendant!
I do think one can travel comfortably. The key is to travel as “light” as possible. Backpackers have the right idea. Also, I suggest keeping schedules as flexible as possible. Stress comes from unmet schedules. Allow WAY more time than you think you’ll need for connections and long lines for rental cars. Also, I bring food. One never knows when you will find food or if it will be the sort of food you might want. On my last trip, I stuffed two Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches into my carry-on and ate one of them standing in an airport line and the other when I finally arrived at my hotel, 2 hours behind schedule, in a small, Ecuadorian town at 1 a.m. and nothing was open. Survival food, for sure, but they sustained me.
Traveling by one of Ecuador’s buses is a great adventure. At various stops, food vendors will board the bus with baskets of homemade whatever and ride to the next town, selling their products to the passengers along the way. By the way, Ecuador’s bus seats are MUCH larger and way more comfortable than airline seats!
Vacation travel has to be considered part of the vacation…part of the adventure. For me, ensuring that our schedule has plenty of slack in it is the greatest contributor to reduced stress…oh…and having a couple of sandwiches in your backpack.
Encounter a delay? No biggie! Turn that moment into part of the adventure. Work hard to find the humor. Play head games.
See that couple over there? I think he is a mortician and she is a magician’s assistant.
Go talk to them and tell them what you think they do for a living.
Wait, I’m wrong! She is a divorce lawyer specializing in infidelity cases he is an over-the-road trucker. They met at Denny’s and are having an affair.”
Striking up converstations with strangers is great fun! Adults love to play so play with them. Who cares! You’ll never see them again anyway! Yep…I’m pretty sure I left my Zen in Costa Rica!