Thursday, January 15, 2009

Getting There

“The road is better than the inn,” so, at least Cervantes thought. Often it is indeed all about the journey and the wonderful adventures along the way. At other times, though, getting there can be a chore and the “there” is definitely better than the “getting.” Trips, like ours, involving air travel, are of this sort. How to make things easier? We have certain rituals based on experience. They’re probably mostly familiar, but I share them in what I hope will be an organized way.

Naturally, it all begins with packing. The tried and true adage here is that old favorite: “half the clothes and twice the money.” Envision how many (clothes) and how much (money) to bring. Then halve the former and double the latter.
To maximize suitcase space (1) minimize inflexible items, i.e. shoes and (2) roll all rollable clothing. This does not do wonders for pressed shirts, but it does economize space.

Plane trip
1. Late Grooming
A transatlantic trip can be a grubby affair. Since it is an overnight flight which arrives in Europe early in the morning, one’s body clock is still on U.S. time. This is complicated by the fact that one’s body, plain and simple, carries the dirt and chin stubble most often associated with late night rather than early morning. How to compensate? I have found it helpful to shower and shave as late as possible before boarding the plane. Obviously, this is easiest if there are no connecting flights. I have been known, however, to shave in the connecting airport while awaiting the overseas leg of the journey. This may not seem like much, but, psychologically, arriving in a condition that more approximates what one would normally feel/look like in the morning does make a difference.

2. Sleep Mask.
On the flight itself, one indispensable implement, for me, at least, is a sleep mask. What one seeks: minimizing fatigue and jet lag, while maximizing good health and the opportunities for a full day after landing, depend on sleeping as much as possible on the overnight flight. Sleeping in the cramped setting of a plane is quite a challenge. On and off slumbering is the most one can hope for. Here is where the sleep mask becomes crucial. It forces one to keep one’s eyes closed and encourages a return to dozing status. I usually go with the double dose of sleep mask plus blanket pulled over my head. It may not look pretty, but it is effective.

3. Clock/Water
Getting the self ready for the new time zone is another crucial prerequisite for handling jet lag. My own onboard ritual is to have dinner (at least airlines still serve this gratis on transatlantic flights, even though U.S. airlines now make passengers buy the wine to go with it), then set my watch to the target time and get to sleep as quickly as possible, i.e. put the sleep mask on and resolve not to remove it until the flight attendants are bustling about getting breakfast ready.
Since an airplane’s air is dry, it is also important to drink plenty of water.
The three adages of successful Transatlantic travel then are: “half the clothes, twice the money,” “clean yourself up as late as possible,” and “stay hydrated.”

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