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Around the World: Frequent Traveler Rituals That Can Help You!

Jennifer Merin on

You may be surprised, but there’s no need for you to be alarmed if the woman seated next to you on the plane pulls a small plastic container from her handbag, squeezes some gel on to a paper towel and begins to wipe down her seat, the armrests and the fold down table that’s fitted into the seat in front of hers.

The gel is Purell, and the woman, a business executive who flies frequently for her work, is following a travel ritual that she practices every time she boards a plane.

“It’s just a way to assure maximum cleanliness,” she says. “I think it minimizes my exposure to germs. And, although I know that it does nothing to clean the air around me, I find the way it smell comforting. But, even more than that, it makes me feel like I have some control over my environment, even though I know that my safety and wellbeing are in the hands of a flight crew whom I don’t know. It’s a psychological comfort as much as it is a physical one.”

Or, you may be seated next to the gentleman who takes off his shoes and puts on a pair of bedroom slippers and, as soon as its safe and permitted to leave is seat after takeoff, heads for the lavatory to change his business attire to a pajama-like sweat suit which he wears for the duration of the flight.

“I need to feel comfortable during the flight,” he says. “But more than that, I need to feel like I’m starting the day afresh when I land and have to head immediately into a business meeting. If I put my suit on again before leaving the plane, I feel as though I am waking up and going to work, even if I’ve not had a full night’s sleep during the flight. It’s a psychological prop.”

These passengers, like so many others who are on the road almost as much as they are at home, have created travel rituals for themselves, habits that help them to cope with the various discomforting travel elements -- those that are predictable, such as the time zone changes that come with long flights, or those that come as surprises, including flight delays and cancellations due to unpredictable weather conditions -- with which they must contend on a regular basis.

Almost everyone who flies frequently for work or for the pure pleasure of exploring the world, has some sort of travel ritual that helps ease the tensions of time spent in what is essentially a silver tube hurtling through space thousands of feet above the earth’s surface.

The rituals vary vastly. Some -- like the Purell scrub down and change of attire mentioned above -- are quite obvious. Others are less so. And, they range from carefully considered practical practices to quirky superstitious ones with deeply personal references.

“I always put a picture of my son in my shirt pocket,” says one gentleman. I take it out and look at it as we are taking off and landing.”

“I carry chamomile tea bags with me, and have at least one cup of tea during every hour of the flight,” comments one women. “I find it soothing, refreshing and hydrating. Sometimes, after I’ve brewed the tea, I put thewarm wet tea bags on my eyes. I helps with puffiness and dry eye”

“I wear my college baseball cap on every flight,” says another man. “I pull the cap down over my eyes to try to get some sleep, but I really wear it for the good luck factor. And, I use noise canceling headphones, which help me to sleep, and just reduce the stress factor of engine noise and airplane creaks."

“I’m very sensitive to smell,” confides another woman, “so put lavender scented room freshener into a small perfume bottle and spray my immediate environment once or twice during the flight. It’s a very light and pleasant scent, so nobody has ever objected to it. But I’d caution anyone who wants to do this to make sure the container will clear the security check and to use it very sparingly.”

That’s good advice. It’s important for travelers to manage their rituals -- quirky or not -- so that they don’t disturb other passengers. So, tone it down and be as discreet as you can.

On the more practical side, frequent travelers say they maintain control over their airborne environment by treating it as though it were their office, and they set up their rituals so that they can use air time productively.

“I need to feel that I’m connected at all times,“ says one high flying executive. “Even when I can’t get Internet access on a flight, I still go through my email, answering messages and clearing out my inbox. That way, I alleviate some of the correspondence pressures and don’t have as many messages to respond to when I land.“

Another business traveler says, “I always carry extra batteries with me, as well as battery-powered charges, and a full range of adapters. That way, I am prepared to work through delays and I don‘t get as frustrated as I would otherwise.”

Here are some of the frequent flyer rituals that translate well into hints for greater comfort and productivity during flights and while on terra firma but away from home:

Print out essential work documents so that you don’t have to rely on a laptop or smart phone that you might not be able to access during flight. Also make a copy of your passport, other essential travel and personal documents that you might need in case of emergency.

Pre-pack a spare set of business and personal items that you use on every trip, and leave them in your suitcase and ready to go -- so you‘ll never forget anything essential in your last minute packing rush. Include a set of adapters, laptop or tablet cords, flash drives and other such items, as well as toiletries.

Designate someone at home to deal with any problems that might come up during your absence, and check in regularly with that person for updates. Also, leave copies of your itinerary and contact numbers with that person, If you work with a travel agent, arrange to be updated regularly about your flight status, so you don‘t have to rebook flights or hotels in case of delays or cancellations.

Get travel apps for your smart phone, so you can easily reschedule flights when necessary.

Download airline apps onto your smart phone, tablet or laptop so you can tap into travel updates, weather reports and enjoy free inflight entertainment, including music, movies and games.

When heading for a different time zone, adjust to it as quickly as possible. Set your watch to the new time zone when you take off.

Get sufficient exercise. While on the plane, do in-seat exercises and get up to stretch or walk up and down the aisle. When you land, go for a jog or hit the hotel gym before going to your meetings. This will reenergize you and help to cut the effects of jet lag. An hour of exercise can actually be more restorative and refreshing than an hour of sleep.

Keep it fun and creative. Always make time to do something you want to do for yourself . Use airplane time to read a book you‘ve been wanting to read. Best on a lightweight tablet if possible. And, at your destination, visit a museum or go to the theater or schedule at least several hours to just browse around and see the sights. It’s extremely important to nourish your spirit and intellect while traveling, and that should be part of your personal road warrior rituals.


Copyright 2019 Jennifer Merin


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