One early morning, I arrived at the Juneau airport for a work trip. Because of airport renovations, travelers had been advised to come to the airport two hours prior to departure, rather than the usual one hour. Check-in went smoothly, but for a variety of reasons the security line was so long that it stretched all the way to the caf and curled back around toward the escalators.
While not looking forward to the wait, I knew that there was no good reason to let it disrupt my morning. I sat down with a pen and paper and began drafting an article on travel. When the line began to move, I got up and took my place at the end. Suddenly, I noticed a distinctive pair of thick black glasses coming up the escalators. They belonged to Ira Glass, the acclaimed public radio host of "This American Life." He and his lovely wife were heading back east after several performances in Alaska, and I had actually attended his show at Centennial Hall the night before.
Suddenly the minor inconvenience of airport security became a golden opportunity to chat with the couple about the show and their experiences in Alaska. The line, at least for me, was not nearly long enough!
This story is a reminder that life is full of surprises, particularly when you are on the road. Each time we leave home, we subject ourselves to forces beyond our control. Ultimately, it is up to us to make the best of any situation. Having spent the last four months in and out of airports for work trips, these five simple habits made traveling a low-stress and rather enjoyable experience.
Carry a water bottle
Hydration is essential to good health, particularly when you travel. Because federal regulations limit liquids on board, it is very easy to forget to drink water when you have to deal with security checks, crowds, keeping track of bags, and getting to gates and terminals on time. The most economical way to stay hydrated is to carry a reusable water bottle and/or a reusable travel mug. These tools serve as convenient reminders to stay hydrated, and they are ecological choices that keep disposable cups and bottles out of the landfills of places you visit.
Less baggage means less stress. It also shortens time spent at security and reduces the chance of injuries associated with dragging or lifting heavy bags. I always struggle with this advice, however, I never regret it when I do manage to pack light. It is necessary to recognize the limits of what we can physically carry, and sometimes it is worth paying the baggage fees. Of course, it is important to find a balance between keeping belongings to a minimum and being prepared. For instance, packing an extra set of underwear, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste and floss in the carry-on is always a good idea and does not take up too much space.
Wash hands often
Airports, airplanes and various forms of public transportation are prime locations for the transfer of contagious diseases. Make sure to wash your hands frequently, especially when arriving at your destination. If washing hands is not possible, hand sanitizer is the second best option. Pack this with your other liquids to carry onboard. Also, be careful to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth while traveling until you are able to wash your hands.
Travel puts a lot of strain on the body, so try to do simple stretching exercises during or between flights and throughout your travel day. This will help release tension in the neck and shoulders and to maintain good blood circulation in the legs. It is also relaxing! If you notice you have been sitting for long periods of time, stand up once in awhile and walk around. Lightweight exercise bands are convenient to take along for doing light strength exercises on your trip.
Keep a positive attitude
Travel can be stressful, especially when unexpected events foil even the best laid plans. Fortunately, any negative experience can be transformed into a positive one if we keep a good attitude and remember that the best part of travel comes from surprises along the way.
Whether traveling for business or pleasure this summer, keep an open mind for all the wonderful opportunities that travel brings to our lives. Perhaps you may meet someone interesting in the airport, or you may run into old friends. In any case, the journey will bring plenty of opportunities to learn more about other places, people, and ourselves.