Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Telling Life: Ten tips for the road weary storyteller and others

You may have noticed I've not been posting quite as regularly lately. This is because I've been working a lot, which is great. Most of the work hasn't been near my home and has included very long hours, which is fine, but takes some management. I'm learning a lot about self-care, energy management and efficient packing so I thought I'd share. I'd love to know your favorite road-warrior tips! Please add them in the comments so others can benefit.
  1. TSA-PreCheck. I know, you're thinking this is a waste of money. It's not. Airport security lines are just getting longer and the $85 I spent on my Known Traveler Number has saved me hundreds of hours in line. I can be pretty confident that arriving an hour ahead of time is enough and I won't miss my flight; if you don't have TSA-PreCheck that's no longer a guarantee.
    If you're concerned about the government having your fingerprint or running a background check, that's another matter. You have to follow your conscience.  
  2. Money vs. time. It's always a trade-off. TSA-PreCheck, for example, is an excellent example where the cost per hour of the clearance is likely quite low for me. I expect the $85 spread out over the time it has saved me is barely $1/hour. My time is worth more than that. Likewise, when I park at the airport I use the lot where they pick me up and drop me off at my car. It's .50 more/day when I use a coupon and this way I don't have to wait for up to 30 minutes for a shuttle. Other things aren't worth it, but I always make sure I consider the trade-off between time and money when I can.  
  3. The right bags. I travel with two bags, my laptop backpack and my carry-on duffel. I use a duffel rather than a roller because I can get almost as much in it and it almost always fits in the overhead section, so I don't have to gate-check it. My duffel can carry about a week's worth of clothing along with all my toiletries and other sundries. Admittedly, I don't wear clean trousers every day, but it works. I'm currently using this bag because, if I want to bring my camera instead of my laptop bag, it's equipped for it. 
  4. Effective packing. My duffel wouldn't work if I didn't pack effectively. For one, I roll things instead of folding them. This takes up less room. For another, I make choices about what I can wear more than once (come on, you do this, too). I also make sure I'm wearing comfortable shoes for the travel days and pack only one other pair for work purposes. I also have a toiletries baggie that I leave packed and in the duffel. 
  5. E-readers and other technology. You can carry hundreds of books if you have an e-reader. Yes, I prefer paper books, but this technology has been life-changing for thousands of travelers.
    Equally, I use a number of apps that make everything MUCH easier. TripIt is amazing.
  6. Important info. I keep all kinds of important info in a notes program on my phone. This includes airline and hotel contact numbers. I was on a flight that was significantly delayed. We sat on the tarmac for close to an hour before they told us we were going to deplane and would have to wait several hours for another plane. This meant I wouldn't be home until the next day. I was already tired and cranky. As soon as the announcement was made, while still on the airplane, I called the airline and was rebooked on a flight leaving in 45 minutes. If I didn't have that number handy I might not have called.
    I also upload copies of presentations, notes and handouts to Dropbox, so I have backup copies that aren't dependent on my technology. Sometimes I copy them to a thumb drive that I carry with me. Technology can fail so keep backups of important info. And you already back your computer up before you hit the road, right?
  7. Mobile office. I have a mobile office that lives in my laptop backpack. It includes pens, a notebook, chargers for everything I might carry, a mini-powerstrip, paper-clips and so on. It adds a little weight but has been incredibly helpful when I'm working on the road. I also carry a little bottle of hand-sanitizer attached to my bag so I am less likely to catch a cold while traveling. 
  8. Don't assume you'll remember everything. I keep lists, writing down even the most obvious of things. Right now, when I have only a day at home, my list includes things like: laundry, pack (with a sublist of what I'll need), blog, dishes, buy toothpaste. These are simple things that I'd like to think I could remember, but I know I have such a dense schedule, I don't want to wake up before my big meeting and find I've run out of toothpaste.
  9. Timing. Timing is everything. Give yourself enough time and make choices about what will get done. You may not have time for everything. Maybe you'll need to ask for help. This is where lists can come in handy!
  10. Sleeping and other habits. Just because you're on the road you don't have to lose all of your good habits. Try to eat well on the road. Stay hydrated. Get enough sleep. I carry a few binder clips in my duffel because often hotel blinds don't close quite all the way and the room can be bright. I sleep better in the dark. Do what you can to continue the same good habits that you have at home while you're on the road. A little thought can go a long way to staying healthy on the road and back home.
  11. Mindfulness, patience and wonder. Your bonus tip is one of the most important. Remember, things will get screwed up. The computer hook-up will fail, the flight will be cancelled, you'll forget something important at home. You have some control over how you react to these things. If you get angry and frustrated things will seem even worse. If you can take a deep breath and remain calm, you may find people are more likely to help you and, at a minimum, your blood pressure won't spike. Most service people (like gate agents, pilots, hotel clerks and so on) are doing the best they can. A smile and thank you can go a long way. By being mindful that we are all in this together, by practicing a little patience, your travel hiccups will at least be easier to bear.
    And don't forget, you're in a new place doing work you chose. Even if you don't have time to explore, enjoy the sound of regional speech. Ask your hosts about what they love. Chat with the people in the airport waiting next to you, they may have wonderful stories to share. Don't lose the wonder of being on the road and the road will hold you up.
I'd love to know what tips and tricks have worked for you. I hope this list is helpful as you hit the road for work and adventure!

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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