I love airports. I love people watching, my luggage with the spinny wheels and making new friends in line. Flying is ironically grounding for me, helping me shift perspective and find a spaciousness I can find challenging in my day-to-day. Since college, I’ve gotten my best writing done on planes, so much so that I’ll save up writing projects for when I know I’ll be flying. (This piece included.)
All that said, as much as I love airports, travel can be stressful. Here are three strategies that have helped me make peace with being away from home.
Be Honest With Yourself When Packing
Whenever I pack, I think about the opening scene in Dirty Dancing when Baby’s sister Lisa says “I knew I should’ve brought those coral shoes, “ and her mom replies, “Sweetheart, you brought 10 pairs.” Despite consistently using the packing list I’ve been perfecting since 2010, I fear that pang of, “I knew I should’ve brought [insert item here]” once I’ve left home. Figuring out what to bring can prompt a game of 20 questions in which I find myself asking:
- What will make me more uncomfortable, wearing a thong or wondering if I have a panty line all day?
- Where will I place my name tag on this outfit so it won’t get stuck in my hair or draw attention to my boobs?
- What shoes are high enough to help me reach eye level but aren’t so tall that they’ll have me walking like a baby giraffe?
But as I’ve traveled more I've realized, beyond concerns of forgetfulness and wardrobe logistics, packing brings up a scary question: Will I fit in? My clients vary from high powered attorneys who stay in $500 a night resorts to social workers who support rape survivors at a small nonprofit. While I’ve had great success connecting with both groups, I’m often on stage never having met the audience and unsure of the social norms concerning attire.
I’ve found that I’m able to be more efficient packing and less stressed when I pause and recognize the very normal apprehensions this process brings up for me. Journaling or talking with my husband about my pre-event jitters has helped me navigate those emotions.
Also, I probably don’t need the coral shoes.
Bring Food Or Go To The Grocery
I’m not a terribly good eater under the best circumstances. Even working from my home office just 30 steps away from my kitchen, I’ll find myself glued to my computer with my energy waning in the late afternoon only to realize I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Given the often non-stop nature of travel, I’m at even greater risk for missing meals. This happens often enough that if I call my best friend upset, he’ll ask me gently, “When was the last time you ate?” Additionally, it exhausts me to make frequent choices about food, which is inevitable when traveling and eating out for every meal.
I no longer travel without single serving peanut butter pouches, cashews and granola bars in my carry-on. For longer trips, I’ll make a grocery run upon first arriving in a new place and ask the hotel for a room with a mini-fridge.
Flying with sufficient regularity, the shine of airport adventure can wear off. I started this piece on a flight to Boston, excited about working with a client, getting face time with a team member who works with me remotely and spending quality time with friends. I was energized by the trip ahead and the buzz of being in transit
Juxtapose that with the last leg of my flight home to New Orleans. The minute I heard the flight was delayed several hours, I felt the full intensity of my post-trip exhaustion. Still, I felt pulled to finish this article (and a few other pieces). The tension between a desire to be productive and intense fatigue was further complicated by the recognition that I wouldn’t be home until after midnight.
Phoning a friend helped. On a quick call with my husband, I decided watching two episodes of The Good Wife was the very best thing to do with this newfound land bound free time. After all, the alternative was likely sitting in a frustrated daze staring at my laptop typing about 20 words per minute.
On your next trip, consider taking note of the moments you’re energized and those when travel drains you. Paying attention to the ups and downs of my own experience, rather than just trying to power through, has helped me tremendously.
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.