Tips for the Tough Traveler

Travel MapI travel quite a bit, and am away from home from 24hr-30 day stretches. Even longer, but after 30 days I transform my coordinate system, and home is again where I am. My advice would fill pages, but here are a few simple tips to keep on the road. They can be summed up by my thought spontaneity requires stability and that stability should enable, not hinder spontaneity. Yin and yang.

  1. Have a prepacked kit of toiletries/makeup/medicines ready to go. This, the clothes on your back, a credit card and a passport means you have the most important things already packed. Traveling a lot means packing a lot. Save time and cognitive load by not having to think about whether you remembered a million small things. You know you did; it’s in your kit, which takes seconds to place in a bag.
  2.  Anything less than 30 days bring a carryon. Less than 90 if you are especially advanced. Carryons give you flexibility to be standby, to reroute spontaneously, to hike vs. take a taxi or transport when none is in sight. A messenger back or small backpack is best, but that combined with a rollon con work well for longer trips. They never get lost. You can buy anything you forget, probably for cheaper, or borrow. Figure out what you truly need on the road by experimenting. Purposely leave something out of your kit, did you miss it? Add something unexpected in (a bathrobe? an eyemask?) did it make your trip more pleasant?
  3.  Create home on the road by having a road routine. Home is routine, it is the lack of having to make decisions, it is freed up cognitive load. Analogues to activities at home, or something completely new. On planes I write blog posts, fiction, electronic music, study languages, take coursera courses, and sleep much more than at home. I always look forward to my time in the air. I wear the same thing (black milk leggings, mono colored T, sneakers with house sandels to change into). I do the same thing at security. I recognize mostly where I am. Etc. Etc.
  4. Once you have exited the bus terminal, train station, airport, or taxi, be home. When I arrive someplace I immediately unpack. Don’t give up your exercise routine on the road. Tech can help. There are iPad/iPhone apps to guide you through yoga moves, pushups, situps, runs, all conducive to almost any setting. In fact don’t give up any routine you can help, if necessary create an analogue something similar, if not identical.
  5.  Whether you are there a 12 hours or 12 years learn the language. Learn to read signs, menus, say hello. This can bridge barriers and give you something to talk about with any local. You never know when it might come in handy, and the more languages you study even casually the easier it gets. Every new language is a new source of cognates and mnemonics for the next.
  6. If the frequent traveling isn’t missing any flights they are certainly spending too much time in airports. This and other koans will help you relax. Don’t let your blood pressure go up during travel, be more zen and let the inevitable misfortunes wash over you like a wave. There’s a lot of stuff to do while waiting, and mostly mistakes aren’t too financially unfortunate.

My last piece of advice is the simplest: travel so that you may take it. Travel will shape your mind in ways you don’t expect, and the experience can always be brought back home to make you a better, more understanding and flexible person, life partner, life student, or business partner. Travel can be what you like: to the next neighborhood, city, state, country, continent, orbital. Anything that gets you out of a comfort zone while transporting you physically to a place outside your support network.

0 thoughts on “Tips for the Tough Traveler”

  1. This is wonderful Christine! Though I may never be able to do #5 🙂

    I’d only add that shoe selection is critically important, because a) they’re among the bulkiest things you have to bring (especially if you have size 13 feet like I do), and b) they massively affect quality of life. I don’t think there’s a perfect pair of shoes that is, eg., waterproof, good for walking, easy to handle in security, etc. (right now I have a massive blister on one foot because I prioritized the first and third of those and brought topsiders to Ireland… whoops)

  2. Thanks for the post Christine. Some great suggestions in here.
    I like your last piece of advice on making the most out of the travel experience. One of the ways I like to do that is to connect with new people in my environment. Whether it’s somewhere expected (at an event or a meeting) or unexpected (on the plane or waiting somewhere), connecting with others makes the sacrifices of travel worthwhile.

  3. I totally understand you and have some similar habits while in the air. I have trouble finding good ways to learn less popular languages though. Do you have some tips to share regarding this?

    Another tip would be to stay open minded and believe in the positive in people wherever you go. It will give a lot of great conversations. Travelling to a country with the fear of being ripped off or something similar will make you lock your mind away and miss the real experience of the country, it’s people and their culture.

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