Easing the Travel Stress and Knowing How to Fly with Oversized Luggage.
The massive grey signs. "Departures." Followed by a list of airlines. Struggling to find Delta. I soon realize it is the first terminal, A. I make my way across three lanes of traffic and avoid getting beeped at or even worse the dreaded middle finger.
My somewhat Nascar like driving skills or that's how I feel what they resemble. Manage to bring me to my destination. I read, "Delta" on the signs. Pull my car to the spot. And I unload my luggage.
Working in the stand up paddleboard industry. This routine has gone on for numerous years. In different states and many different airports. One thing I have learned in my years of traveling, the airport has the potential to become the most stressful place on the planet. Started off by the the friendly people who make sure we only stay for 8 seconds in front of the drop off before being whistled at, waved at and heckled. To move on. Then the smiling faces who are helping us behind the counter usually soften the moment. Unless they charge us a small fortune or even deny us from bringing along our cherished bags. The TSA agents barking orders cause even the most experienced travelers to wonder, shoes on or off? Can I bring my peanut butter and is my lap top a tablet, and can it stay in my bag?
Learning how to travel took some epic fails. With those follys came stories and lessons. This recent trip inspired me to sit and write, share my tales and experiences. Helping to ease the stress of traveling and provide some insight so you don't have to make the mistakes I have already done for you.
My first tip is similar to starting off the work day. Get yourself in a good mental space. And if things go off the tracks, think of my favorite quote by Yvon Chouinard
"The word 'adventure' has just gotten overused. For me, adventure is when everything goes wrong. That's when the adventure starts."
How do we get ourselves into a good headspace. I like to start with taking a few minutes alone. Most of the time I tell someone I am packing and I sneak off into a room. Close the doors, shut off the lights and just pause. I use my breath, long, long exhales. This helps calm the mind and slow down the reactive state.
The next piece, know that something will not go according to our plan. For example, I booked a camping site, tent space, at an RV park. And tents were not allowed, it was only if you had an RV you could add a tent space. We were informed this at 10 pm. In the middle of no where. A bit of panic set in, stress levels rose, but before anyone lost their composure a vacancy sign appeared on the side of a hotel. One with an ocean front view. The takeaway, if things don't go according to that detailed, time sensitive list it sill will work out. Be patient, breath and look for what can replace it.
A bit of education goes a lot ways. I can't tell you how many times I've traveled to a place where someone has not brought their passport. Not forgot it, just did not bring it. If there is a small glimpse of a possibility you may travel internationally, bring your passport. Or better yet, just travel with it. How does this have to do with education? Simple know where you are traveling and what to expect. And always expect the unexpected. Another great example, the Caribbean you drive on the left side of the road. In the same cars we drive in the US. Talk about a bit of shock factor leaving the airport and everyone is on the "wrong side" of the road. Education will make that less of a shock. And if your solution is to "Uber" everywhere, make sure they have it.
Cash. This one has saved me numerous times. Not everyone takes credit cards, debit cards or even knows what Venmo is. I remember running out of gas in the desert somewhere in Nevada, I saw a sign that resembled something straight out of a 1960 western. And the gas station did as well, even with the swinging doors. I was in desperate need of fuel. The first question, how much cash do you have. $40. And the price of fuel suddenly became $5.00 per gallon. I avoided running out and purchased boat price fuel in the desert.
Along these same lines, when traveling abroad, exchange your funds as early as you can. I know the airport may charge you a hefty fee. But I've handed someone a $10 American bill and was then informed no exchange rate, meaning I paid $10 US dollars for something that only may have cost $6. Costing me much more than the airport fee. Imagine if that was dinner with my friends. I have also had a grocery clerk in Canada, the french part, not speak any english and push away my US dollars. Ignorance on my part, but I learned. Now the fun part. Traveling with big luggage. Whether fishing poles, golf clubs, surfboards, paddles or even those big things, stand up paddleboards. Learn the airlines policies and what they allow. If it says no stand up paddleboards over 9' but then says hang gliders up to 14'. Guess what, you have just purchased a 14' hang glider instead of a stand up paddleboard. Also put your paddle in the board bag, it eliminates them asking extra questions about what you are traveling with. If you are nervous about it breaking, pack it well. Bubble wrap, pool noodles, or even those soft mattress covers. And yes it can backfire. I have been turned around at the gate before, only once and it was last year. But I have also traveled for 9 years using this method. Same goes with paddles, they may just be fishing poles for the trip. The moment you have the person searching through their computer on if they allow it, it is too late. Just say fishing poles, smile and move on. I know it is not being 100% honest, but they just do not understand the unique sports we do. And as passionate as you may be, this is not the time for SUP 101.
Last but not least, smile, be courteous and remember we are guests. My good friend Bill Kraft taught me this years ago in the Caribbean. And it has saved me more times. Say hello to everyone and ask about their day. You are not too busy or do not have time. They are the keepers of the plane and if you are late they'll make sure it waits. But if you are agitated, rude or too busy to acknowledge the person trying to help you. It is not putting any coins in the Karma jar. Especially if you just told them you had your fishing poles and hang glider with you.
Hopefully this helps you enjoy your next trip and alleviates a bit of stress. And if you have any stories let me know. I love hearing the crazy ones and the good ones.