Learning to Travel

I’m traveling more and more. In February I was at Boskone, which was a very short trip, just to the other side of Boston. In April, I was in Orlando for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. And last weekend I was in Arkansas for the Arkansas Literary Festival, which by the way was wonderful. I was even on television! I appeared on Today’s THV, a morning show on Channel 11 in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can see the segment here: “Reading Up a Storm at Arkansas Literary Festival.”

The thing about traveling, for me, is that it’s exhausting. And sometimes I feel as though I don’t do it very well, particularly when I’m traveling a lot. I don’t eat well, or get enough exercise, or get anywhere near enough sleep. But this time, I decided that I was going to create some rules for myself that would make traveling easier and healthier. I’ve got a couple of rules already.

1. Sleep when you can. You really do need to sleep whenever you can, and that includes on airplanes. I slept most of the way home today. (I took four planes in three days: two there, two back. Boston, Chicago, Little Rock, Chicago, Boston.) You should never hesitate to take a nap in the middle of the day. It’s very difficult, when you’re doing these sorts of events, to get enough sleep. Sometimes you’re at a cocktail party at night, and then you’re on television early the next morning. And you want to do all that, it’s important to do, it’s why you’re there. But when you can sleep, do. And don’t be afraid to miss events. On the last night, I missed two events I had originally intended to make, but I knew that if I went, I would be out late socializing. And I had a plane to catch the next morning.

2. Eat small meals frequently. First of all, you’re going to get small meals. You’re going to get crackers and cheese at a cocktail party. Or a free continental breakfast at the hotel. Travel is expensive, and you want to take advantage of all the free meals you can. You also want to try all the foods you don’t usually get to. In Little Rock, for example, I had a chai frozen popsicle covered with chocolate. It was very good, and not something I’ve ever had before. The trick is never to eat too much at once, and to eat at frequent intervals so that you’re never either full or hungry. You’re going to be so busy that you need constant energy, and small meals are best for that.

3. Bring short-sleeved shirts and sweaters. I inevitably find that I’m hot outside and cold (often painfully cold) inside. Planes are cold, hotels are cold, anywhere conferences are held are usually air conditioned. So I find that I need to be ready for both the heat and the cold. The best way to do that, for me, is to bring short-sleeved shirts to wear underneath and sweaters to wear over them. I also find it very useful to bring scarves. They fit into small spaces, and yet they can add color to basic black clothes and warmth when you’re cold even in a sweater. Otherwise, I travel in jeans. Jeans and black skirts of various lengths will take you through most events you need to attend, as a writer.

So those are some of my travel basics. It’s very hard to stay healthy, physically and mentally, when you’re naturally an introvert and you have an intense travel schedule that involves meeting a lot of people. The more travel tricks you learn, the easier it is . . .

(Oh, one last trick. Never try to read anything serious on an airplane. You may have the best of intentions, but you will inevitably give up. Trust me. Magazines and murder mysteries are best.)

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5 Responses to Learning to Travel

  1. Kirstie says:

    The first two points are advice I recieved in relation to early motherhood!
    You’re right about tempreature fluctuation, most airconditioned venues turn the aircon up (or is that down?) to ridiculous levels so you freeze, but once you step outside you peel of the layers as quick as possible.

  2. Linda Adams says:

    I don’t know if this helps — I always hated the family travels to see my grandmother, and I never understood why. It turned out I’m kinesthetic, which means I need to move around more than more people. So, on my last trip, a two hour drive turned into a four hour drive. I got out at every single rest stop and moved around. I also stopped at two sightseeing places along the way. Turned out they were both a bust, but I enjoyed the break to see the area along the way, which was pretty. It did take longer, but I wasn’t overtired like I usually was.

  3. Margaret Fisher Squires says:

    Good strategies! I think we all benefit from stretch breaks. Even some stretching while in one’s seat can help, I think. And a brisk 5 or 10 minute walk can be quite energizing (there’s even research to that effect).

    Make sure that among those small frequent meals, you get some protein and fiber. Protein smooths out the blood sugar levels so they don’t jump around so much, and fiber smooths out….but you already know that.

    I often carry a small bag of nuts or trial mix, just in case.

    Hand sanitizer?

    Remember to stay hydrated.

    (I always chuckle when I think of the young man I overheard one hot summer day. He came into the coffee house and ordered a soda, and, seeming to think he needed to explain such behavior, he remarked solemnly, “You know, on hot days like this it’s important to remain liquified. I mean, liquidated….”)

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