How to Stay Calm While Traveling
Having traveled the world these last 20 years I’ve had a lot of layovers, delayed flights, cancellations, and just plain ol’ missed flights due to my own mistakes. It takes a certain amount of creativity to stay calm during these times of frustration. I recently arrived to JFK early for a 12:20am flight. The weather was a wintry mix of sleet and snow and the temperatures were dropping fast. Word on the news was that NY was about to become an ice bowl so I left my house around 8:30pm thinking the roads would be bad and if there was an accident …well with 2 additional connections and a ferry ride I just couldn’t afford to miss my flight. The way I see it is if you’re sitting around waiting for your flight at home, you may as well be at the airport all checked in and relaxing over a glass of wine instead of potentially scrambling from your house last minute.
So I arrived 9:30pm only to wait, and wait and at 4am …still be waiting. At this point I was just waiting to be told when. We finally boarded at 6:30am and the plane departed at 8am. So I had been at the airport for about 10 hours …just waiting.
Patience is a Virtue
I am not a patient person. In fact, I am an extremely impatient person who is easily frustrated by the lack of urgency and inefficiency in others, but for some reason when it comes to things that are beyond my control, like the weather, I’m another person. I’m calm, cool, collected and seriously just live in the moment. I guess that’s because that’s all you can possibly do. There’s nothing you can do to change the situation and it’s only going to make matters worse by acting a fool!
Here are my tips on how to stay calm while traveling.
Have fun! – Grab a glass of wine (or two) and splurge on a nice meal. As a budget traveler for 20 years I know the pragmatism of bringing your own snacks and forgoing special treats, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve definitely stepped it up and have more of a mentality of “It’s just money, you can always make more.”
So when I’m at the airport for a few extra hours I definitely treat myself to some wine, a good meal and random conversations with strangers which can be entertaining and annoying all at the same time, but at least warrants interesting stories and memories.
Do Yoga – At the airport? Yep, that’s right. Roll out your mat (or not) and move! It doesn’t have to be a hard-core practice, but even just a few Sun Salutations, standing postures and some Yin Yoga hip openers will set your body up for success on those long flights. You’ll be less sore and anxious after hours of waiting or sitting. There are even airports now that have yoga rooms or prayer and meditation rooms. I wouldn’t necessarily work on handstand transitions while others are meditating or praying, but be on the look out for these special spaces. I know DFW and SFO both have Yoga Rooms where you can actually bust out your mat and flow!
Find a Spa – In the States, this could be pricey, but once you’re in another country, especially Southeast Asia, take advantage of manis, pedis, facials and massage treatments. On this particular trip I had a 7-hour layover in Bangkok. After a 1-hour leg and shoulder massage for $15, it was time to eat, which took an hour, then coffee and catching up on writing took another hour. After walking around and looking at things for an hour then getting in line an hour early, it really wasn’t that much sitting around and waiting at all.
Visit the airport exhibits – I recently caught an excellent photography exhibit in Athens and an orchid display in Taipei. Many airports offer these extra hidden gems and you’ll find them by walking around which brings me to the next point.
Walk as much as possible! – Chances are you’ll be sitting plenty. Get up and keep your blood flowing as much as possible while you can. Take the stairs instead of the escalator and forget that moving Jetson’s sidewalk. Those are great when you’re in a hurry, but if you have the time, just walk! Trust me, 6 hours into the flight you’ll wish you could.
Comfort Zone – Bring your toothbrush, toothpaste and wet wipes in your handbag and anything else you may like to refresh with. Even just brushing your teeth between long flights can make you feel refreshed and ready for the next round. I use a homemade facial spritzer to wake me up and keep my skin hydrated. Try water, eucalyptus, peppermint oil, bergamot and lavender. Refreshing and relaxing all at the same time …like yoga for your face. I use to have a home line called “ApotheCarri”. (More on that another time).
Accept, let go and breathe – Sounds cliché, but instead of getting frustrated and anxious, realize the situation is out of your control. There’s nothing you can do. All you can control is your reaction to the situation. So if you have freak out, treat people poorly, and stress you will only make matters worse for yourself and others. Instead, find a quiet space, sit still, focus on your breath and relax. I won’t call this meditation, but certainly a practice of concentration or Dharana and just like your physical Asana practice; the mental aspect is a practice too. If you’re too antsy to sit still, get a book or a magazine and try to make this a time for yourself or even catch up on emails, phone calls or simply space out on facebook, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with just chillin’ and doing nothing for a change.
In the End
This particular excursion culminated in 10 hr. wait at JFK, 17 hour flight to Taipei, 5 hour layover in Taipei, 3.5 flight to Bangkok, 7 hour layover in Bangkok, 1 hour flight to the island of Koh Samui and a quick transfer and ferry ride to the smaller island of Koh Phangan. After 2 days of travel I was ready to chill on the beach …or at least at a yoga teacher training! I managed to maintain my cool those 48 hours, but just like anything else, it was a practice.