Master The Art Of Stress-Free Travel With These Tips From A Man Who Travels For A Living
Travelling is stressful. I mean, duh. Trains, buses, ferries, tuk-tuks – they all wreck you in different ways. But aeroplanes are the worst. The expense, the cramped quarters, the inhumane treatment. Which means those of us who travel for a living have to evolve – quickly – to find ways to deal (Matt Gross is the former Frugal Traveler columnist for the New York Times and author of a travel memoir, The Turk Who Loved Apples which means he knows a thing or two).
My own routine begins with choosing an early-afternoon departure whenever possible. A 2pm flight lets me exercise early, avoid rush hour on the way to the airport and have a light lunch before boarding. (I always check in online. Don’t you?)
I’ve packed efficiently – shirts and pants in a Flight 001 Spacepak, socks and underwear shoved inside my running shoes, toiletries in a nice kit – and everything fits neatly into a four-wheeled, ultralight carbon-fibre hard-shell suitcase that, yes, I’m going to check in. And I’ve forwarded all my email confirmations (plane, hotel) to my cell, which has an app that seamlessly builds them into an itinerary.
I dress normally. But that’s because I always wear comfortable, well-fitting clothes: a blazer that won’t wrinkle, comfortably thick socks, jeans with a tiny percentage of Lycra in them, a lightweight Muji scarf if I’m going somewhere blustery. I even wear shoes with laces, despite the security check. But hey, I learnt to tie them when I was five and have gotten pretty good at the procedure.
Actually, I’ve come to welcome the security check belt removal rule. I like to do a series of stretches before my flight and a big-buckled belt makes doing that uncomfortable. I work on my hamstrings, calves and hips, maybe do some head rotations. I try to seek out some forgotten corner of the terminal where no one can see me. I may be self-conscious, but I board the plane physically primed for hardship.
As much as I like the romance of a window seat, the aisle is the place to be: I can stroll the length of the jet, stretch some more and hit the bathroom. But mostly I sit, take my shoes off, read, drink a beer or two and enjoy being cut off from the needs of the world 35 000 feet below. At 1.77m and 68kg, I’m well designed for air travel, but relaxing requires an indifference to discomfort. This is the most important art of stress-free travel – learning not to care – and it takes years to perfect.
Sleep requires a bit of calculation: how long is the flight? When am I landing? If it’s a morning touchdown, I’ll need to conk out asap. (No drugs, just willpower.) If we land later, I may stay awake. And when we arrive, I’ll do everything in my power not to nap. If I can make it to 10pm, I’m in good shape, and when my alarm sounds at 6:30 the next morning, I’ll head out for my first run in a new land – an hour of exploration and invigoration that reboots my system and frees me from jet lag. It often occurs to me as I shower off the sweat that I’m just about ready to fly again.