Do you travel a lot for your job?
Through my career I’ve gone through times where I traveled a lot and hardly at all. I used to believe that when I traveled, life tended to get out of control very easily. Then I had kids and realized that the tendency for a crazy life seemed to follow me regardless of my location. That’s when I started noticing that the state of the “self” I carried with me on planes, trains, automobiles, board presentations, parent-teacher meetings and soccer games changed very little. I also noticed how little the mode of transportation or location mattered to who I was.
As I write this I’m on a train on a Saturday morning. I feel just as capable of “working” in this moment as I did last Thursday afternoon in my office. In pursuit of a flexible and travel-friendly life, I’ve made intentional changes in my life, work and personal/professional infrastructure to make any mobile location as easy a place to work as a coffee shop, my desk, a client’s office or a beach town. I think the changes I’ve made have INpowered me for more than just travel. Here’s why:
5 InPower Travel Tips
1. I’ve gotten rid of “low-value stuff”
It helps that the airlines now charge a lot for checked baggage, but I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff I used to travel with for other reasons. Going paperless is way more convenient (I’m on a train and can find anything in my office at a touch of an icon), but more importantly, it gets rid of stuff that takes my energy. (I rely mostly on DropBox as my file cabinet now, but also use Mozy, Amazon and local hard drives, too.) Stuff takes energy to care for, whether that involves cleaning, storing, moving, protecting etc. Women notice this energy-stuff relationship all the time because we’re always subconsciously aware of where our purse is in relation to our bodies.
Experiment with this principle of “less stuff” in your life and travel. Make an effort to cut your stuff in half for your next trip, even if it’s down the hall for a meeting. Challenge yourself to leave most of your stuff behind so you’re just taking what matters most. Notice how much lighter and freer you feel. Notice how much more you trust your own knowledge and experience when you don’t have “backup” stuff to lug around. Notice how much more focused you are on what you’re there to do, instead of managing all your stuff. This principle works in all parts of your life, but somehow when you travel a lack of stuff makes you feels even more free, light and focused.
2. I’ve invested in the “right stuff”
There’s no end of stuff you can buy for travel, so be careful or you’ll break the bank. Pilot one major item at a time. I lived with a heavy laptop I could afford for a few years before investing in a lighter one because I wanted to know how I’d use it when I traveled, and what I was investing in when I spent the big bucks. Eventually I bought exactly the size that fit in my bags and had the power I needed when I traveled (an 11” Macbook Air that I adore). I bought a cheap small suitcase to make sure I could survive a weeklong trip with a carry-on and I waited until the handle broke before I bought a more expensive version (by Tumi). I’ve gotten my toiletries and clothing down to about 1/3 the volume through the same strategy and now I’m investing in the stuff that is more durable, higher quality and convenient. Less is more, but only if the “less” is fit for the purpose.
3. I choose everything intentionally, and I learn from my mistakes
I’ve screwed up a few trip plans in my life. Rather than get angry, I learn what not to do. Yes, I could use public transportation in NYC all the time, save money and feel cool; but after a few late meetings I choose to use it only during rush hour when I know cabs won’t be available. The rest of the time I choose cabs or Uber because they cause me lower stress and help me focus more on what I’m there to do. I’m also late less often when using a car. This strategy helps me spend less energy worrying about how I’m going to get from point A to B and focusing more on just being ready when I get there.
Apps are an awesome way to use less stuff and make fewer mistakes. After losing too many confirmation numbers, I now organize my itinerary on Tripit to easily keep it all in one place (Note: it’s still worth printing your Tripit itinerary and tucking it in a bag just in case.)
4. My music keeps me grounded
I have a number of playlists that I’ve created and listened to often when in a calm and focused state. By listening to them many times, my music has trained my brain to be in the calm and focused groove. So when I travel I pop my headphones on to those particular playlists and my energy instantly conforms to the calm and focused state regardless of what’s going on around me. Now, getting into the calm and focused groove is an earbud away and it works like magic.
5. I envision success and trust the Universe
Once I traveled with a woman who was the biggest worrywart. Every time the flight announcement came on to announce a delay in our flight she visibly tightened her grip on the armrest. Finally they announced another hour to wait at the gate and I laughed out loud at the constant delays. Lightheartedly I asked her if I could get her a cup of coffee since we had time. She got angry at me, asking how I could be so unconcerned that we didn’t know when we’d be arriving.
In that moment I realized that I actually enjoy the fact that travel never goes as planned. I simply focus on a vision of success that’s not attached to the logistics working precisely. In that case, I knew the folks on the other end of my flight were watching the arrival time and would adjust, we’d agreed in advance that this was the plan (because if you don’t plan on the possibility of a flight delay, shame on you!). So of course I wasn’t worried. I’d done my best to plan for multiple outcomes and relaxed into the reality of how it would actually play out. The delays just meant I had more time for coffee and maybe finishing an article I was writing before getting on the plane.
I look at travel as a puzzle. How can I succeed even when life—in the form of the planes, trains and automobiles–will undoubtedly throw me some curveballs? I assume messed up details, plan as best I can and trust the Universe—because I have no choice. Turns out that our flight did get in about an hour late—and we missed the commuter traffic jam as a result. We arrived at the hotel about 15 minutes later than we’d expected, with less traffic.
Usually when I trust the Universe, things turn out better than when I try to control it all myself. I like it that way.