I still haven´t figured out why people dread travel days. I love travel days. Especially the long ones. Not just because of fond memories from circling the US in Greyhound buses in 1990 with Up With People, but also those travel days that include changing planes, continents, time zones and overprized-beyond-belief airport food.
For better or worse, here´s what I do. On the day of leaving I arrive early at the airport. We all have our issues with security here or how it´s done there. I certainly do. But giving myself plenty of time at the airport removes most of that stress involved, which is the main reason why I show up early. And yes, I do the same thing when taking a train or waiting for a long distance bus.
It´s more or less the same at a rural train station or at the world´s busiest airport – hellos and goodbyes, arrivals and departures. Emotions in transition.
I sit myself down in a corner and soak in the atmosphere. People-watching. At the same time I mentally backtrack the last few months. I try to remember the good things and the bad ones. I go thru the laughs and the letdowns. I wonder why she gave up so easily on me. I think about wise and maybe not so wise decisions I’ve made. I think of work, of course. I get stuck in that no man’s land between constructive reflection and obsessive dwelling. I need this process in order to leave bad things behind but also to be able to see the good things. Appreciate them. And when I have analyzed it and learned from it, I move on. That´s the theory.
Travel days are perfect for this kind of inner reflection, especially if one travels solo. When going about one´s business in the everyday life at home, it is hard to give oneself the lengthy peace and quiet needed. It is easy to reach for the remote and zap around in the desert of joy with 57 channels just to realize there´s nothing on, or reach for the cell phone only to be informed by one’s friends what premieres they´re at, what concerts they are attending and what they´re having for dinner. Everywhere smiles. It´s all happy faces, anniversaries and people doing fun things. And all you want to do is to stare at the ceiling for a few hours, doing some serious thinking.
I believe the reason why people don´t appreciate travel days as much as they should is that we are used to the speed of things. And the speed is taken for granted. In less than half a day you can fly half around the world. It´s fast. But it´s still twelve hours, plus the trips to and from the airports and the wait at the airport. It adds up to about a 15 to 16 hour travel day in the end. What you make those 16 hours is your choice. I´ve had many 24-plus hour travel days and most of the times those long travel relaxes me. I don´t have to do anything because the train/bus/airplane is bringing me there. Given the fact that I´m on vacation, I have also made a choice to be where I am.
So, what to do? Don’t see the travel day as something that you have to endure in order to get wherever you getting; see it as a bonus. The fundamental mistake is to sit there and count down the hours to your arrival. You will never be able to enjoy the travel days if you are, in fact, counting down the hours. It’s a contradiction in terms. Instead, think of how many hours you’ve been travelling away from the home you wanted to leave – for a while or forever.
On Sunday night I’ll be enjoying my favorite travel day. A 13 hour train ride thru the night from Tabriz to Tehran. I won’t be counting the hours. I’ll be enjoying every second.