If we extrapolate the Buddha’s lessons to our 21st century travels, we quickly recognize that the state of air travel today neatly fits into his ancient Four Noble Truths: 1) that we crave comfort; 2) that we know no flight will last forever; 3) that karma exists; and 4) that upgrades are closet we can all get to achieving travel Nirvana.
Face it, you are going to be circumnavigating the globe on The Global Scavenger Hunt, and that madcap mystery adventure will entail taking of a few long flights, in addition to those inescapable ocean crossing voyages while trapped in an aluminum canister time-machine transporting you from one beguilingly exotic destinations to another. In the jet age we reside, they are simply unavoidable. And so, we thought it would be helpful to offer some well-honed survival tactics to help make the perceived miserable flights…well, less miserable. We think that they will assist you in mitigating the dreaded economy class syndrome’s side-effects and lower your Travel Misery Index quotients. And so, like the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, we offer our own eight-point plan:
It all begins with the proper mindset: See the glass half-full, don’t be a Debbie Downer. If you see your flight as just a big inconvenience—it will be. If you think it will be terrible—it will be. Try to look at it from a different angle: as an adventure, the possibility of meeting new people, reading a book, catching up on your movies, or the fact that it is only temporary (this too shall pass) and it is just a means to your end—getting you to your next great destination.
So, the best way to avoid entering one of Dante’s circles of hell is to be positive, be kind to others, be open…smile more. Accept your situation and practice patience. Expect it to be bad and long—you might be surprised it’s not. Employ a sense of humor. Accept the airline caste system: those that pay for upgrades get comfort, those that don’t, don’t. Noisy babies? Get over it—you were young once. Be tolerant and use your common sense. Anticipate being bored and leave your emotional baggage behind. Accept the time you are in transit—leave your over-inflated ego at home—it is out of your control, you are not the Captain! Be humble.
And remember, your flying is an extraordinary privilege and any complaints about it are really First World problems—get over them.
Practice the Golden Rule. Be friendly and have empathy: if you recline your seat, don’t be upset when the person in front of you does the same thing. Pamela is my own Emily Post, but her 1922 book, Etiquette, says it all and still rings true: “Do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others, sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstances—whether staying at home or traveling.”
Pre-order a veggie meal if possible. Check with Seat Guru when pre-booking your seat when possible. Some flyers love aisle seats; I am a window guy. I love looking out the window and seeing the earth’s geography unfold, plus, no one will disturb me when/if I fall asleep. Some people don’t like bulkhead seats because they are too near bathrooms and people milling about, some don’t like exit rows seats because the seats don’t recline.
Charge all your power devices. Think about aspirin therapy to help warding off deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). Dress comfortably with loose clothes (no jeans), slip on shoes, maybe hoodies and compression socks. Take out your contact lens before you fly…wear glasses and leave your vanity behind and go as make-up free as possible. Always use the bathroom before boarding.
Pack yourself a inflight comfort kit. Mine always includes the following:
♦ a charger
♦ an extra layer/wrap
♦ any needed Rx’s
♦ a sleep eye mask
♦ foam earplugs
♦ chap stick/lip balm with SPF
♦ sinus spray
♦ chewing gum/mints
♦ anti-bacterial hand wipes (for hands and surfaces)
♦ a simple lightweight change of clothes—spills happen!
♦ noise reduction headphones and/or ear buds
♦ distractions: nothing like a good book, magazines, games, music & audio books (on my iPhone) or preload movies (on my iPad)
♦ high protein snacks to avoid the low-blood sugar induced flying hangries: dried fruit, almonds, granola bars, trial mix, oranges, cheese & crackers, cookies, chocolate bars, jerky…
♦ Some people swear by inflatable neck pillows to avoid the bobbing head syndrome…but they just don’t work for me, maybe I am part giraffe, I don’t know?
One word: Endure!
Once you board, take control of your environment…in the age of space squeeze, secure your space. Create your own little bubble of defensible personal space to gain some measure of cognitive control: 86 all the seat-back magazines and stuff (an extra inch) and make sure your carry-on items aren’t under the seat in front of you—you will need all the leg room possible. I have been known to disappear and cocoon myself for long flights by throwing a blanket over my head. Puff, everything disappears.
If you wear a watch, after boarding adjust it to your destination’s time and start thinking that time: eat and sleep accordingly—it will help reduce the effects of jet-lag.
Only eat when you are hungry, not whenever unidentified free food you did not order is slopped in front of you. And don’t overeat to keep jet bloat to a minimum. Better yet, eat only carb-rich foods: pastas, whole grain breads and oatmeal to make it easier to cope with jet-lag.
Avoid diuretics like caffeine and alcohol (dehydrating and disruptive of sleep pattern) and drink lots of water and/or electrolyte-rich solutions: juices, Gatorade, decaffeinated green tea.
Expect turbulence…always keep your seat belt fastened, albeit loosely fastened, and visible to flight attendants so they don’t wake you.
To avoid DVT, perform seat isometric exercises every hour or so: flex and stretch your legs to encourage blood flow—especially in your calves, roll your shoulders, wiggle your toes, do foot pumps and leg lifts, make ankle circles. Try seat yoga or walk and stretch on your way to the bathroom.
Using sleep aids? Try natural melatonin, Tylenol PM or Benadryl before upgrading to knock-you-out-hard Ambien. Word to the wise: Don’t take before you are airborne at least 30-minutes, and if you do, make sure you have a window seat to avoid a drug-induced stupor.
Finally, two things make me feel like a million bucks: brushing my teeth often and putting on fresh clean socks. What’s yours?
Remember Right View…to help keep your blood pressure low take deep breaths. Consider closing your eyes and meditating a little—find a peaceful place.
Before final descent, prepare for your arrival—don’t be a travel zombie: visit the bathroom to void, moisturize, freshen-up and brush your teeth. Have all your necessary arrival paperwork completed. Before deplaning, check and re-check to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything: passport √, paperwork √, purse/wallet √ and comfort kit √.
Finally, say good bye and thank you. You have arrived without incident. Amazing isn’t it?
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