Suppose we infer the Buddha’s lessons to our 21st-century travels ways. In that case, we quickly recognize that the state of air travel today fits neatly into his ageless Four Noble Truths:
1) that we crave comfort;
2) that we know no flight will last forever;
3) that karma exists; and
4) that being upgraded is the closest we can get to achieving travel Nirvana.
Face it; we will circumnavigate the globe on The Global Scavenger Hunt. Such an amazing occurrence. And this madcap mystery adventure will require taking a few long-haul flights to get us from here to there & back again. Unfortunately, they are simply unavoidable. There will be inescapable oceanic crossings trapped in an aluminum canister time-machine transporting us between beguilingly exotic destinations.
We thought offering some road-tested & well-honed survival tactics would help make those perceived miserable flights…well, maybe a little less miserable. Moreover, we believe they will assist you in mitigating the dreaded economy class syndrome side effects (high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, oxygen saturation, & the embryonic manifestations of mental & emotional rage) and help you lower your Travel Misery Index quotients. And so, like the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, we offer you our own eight-point plan:
It begins with the proper mindset: Seeing the glass half-full, not being a Negative Ned or 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. So instead, 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 movie backlog, or the fact that it is only temporary (this too shall pass) & it is just a means to your end—getting to your next great destination.
So, the best way to avoid entering one of Dante’s mental circles of hell is to be positive, be kind to others, be open…smile internally & externally more. Accept your situation & practice conscious patience. Expect it to be exhausting & prolonged—you might be surprised it’s not. Employ a sense of humor about your uncontrollable situation. Accept the airline caste system: those who pay for upgrades get comfort & those who don’t, don’t. (I look at it this way: I would never spend $3,000 on a hotel room for one night. Would you?) Anyway…Noisy babies? Get over it—you were young once. Be tolerant & use your common sense. Anticipate being bored & leave your emotional baggage behind. Accept the time you are in transit—leave your over-inflated ego behind—it is out of your control; you are not the Captain! Be humble.
And remember, your flying is an extraordinary privilege & any complaints about it are really First World problems—get over them! And yourself.
Practice the Golden Rule. Be friendly & have radical 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 on most matters. However, Emily’s 1922 book, Etiquette, fundamentally rings true: “Do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others” perfectly sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstances—whether staying at home or traveling.
When spending the better part of a day flying, you’ll be in a better position to handle it if you get on the plane well-rested, well-fed & manage your stress. So, shower at the last moment before heading to the airport, avoid heavy fragrances & dress in loose comfy wearing athletic clothes designed to pull away body moisture & smells.
Consider pre-ordering a veggie meal. Check with Seat Guru when pre-booking your seat, when possible. And to avoid getting sick on planes, statistics suggest taking a window seat & not getting up. Some flyers love aisle seats; I am a window guy. I love looking out the window & seeing the earth’s geography unfold; plus, no one ever disturbs me when/if I fall asleep. Some people prefer to avoid bulkhead seats due to their proximity to the galleys & bathrooms, & people milling about. Some don’t like exit row seats because the seats don’t recline. Pick your own poison.
Pre-charge all your devices. Consider aspirin therapy, taking one low-dose aspirin before boarding to help ward off deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). Dress comfortably in loose clothes (no jeans), slip-on shoes, maybe hoodies & compression socks. Take out your contact lens and wear your glasses. Go as make-up-free as possible—no one cares. And always use the bathroom before boarding.
Create & pack yourself an inflight comfort kit. Mine always includes:
👉 a charger wire
👉 an extra layer/wrap
👉 any needed Rx’s
👉 a sleep eye mask
👉 foam earplugs
👉 ChapStick/lip balm
👉 a toothbrush & toothpaste
👉 sinus spray
👉 chewing gum/mints
👉 anti-bacterial hand wipes (for hands & surfaces)
👉 a simple lightweight change of clothes—spills happen!
👉 wireless noise reduction headphones/earbuds (Note: wireless products will not work with in-flight entertainment systems…you have been warned!)
👉 mental distractions: a good book, magazines, games, music & audiobooks (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, trail mix, cheese & crackers, cookies, chocolate bars, jerky…
👉 some swear by inflatable neck pillows to avoid the bobbing head syndrome…but they don’t work for me. Maybe I am part giraffe? But I do use an inflated pillow that I love.
👉 in the era of Covid-19, it is wise to carry a good mask in case a nearby seatmate is excessively coughing & sneezing.
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 & unwanted stuff (gaining a precious extra inch) & 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 & cocoon myself by throwing a blanket over my head. Puff, everything disappears. And to help avoid getting sick on planes, use alcohol wipes to sanitize surfaces like armrests & tray tables. FYI: The latches on lavatory doors are known to be germ-friendly
If you wear a watch after boarding, adjust it immediately to your destination’s time & start thinking in that time zone: eat & sleep accordingly—it will help reduce the effects of jetlag.
Only eat when you are hungry, not when unidentified free food you did not order is slopped before you. And don’t overeat to keep jet bloat to a minimum. Better yet, eat only carb-rich foods: pasta, whole grain bread & oatmeal to make it easier to cope with the coming jetlag.
Stay properly hydrated: Avoid diuretics like caffeine & alcohol (dehydrating & disruptive of sleep patterns) & drink lots of water 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 won’t wake you up.
To prevent DVTs, perform seat isometric exercises every hour or so: flex & stretch your legs to encourage blood flow—especially in your calves, wiggle your toes, do foot pumps & leg lifts, make ankle circles & roll your shoulders. Try seat yoga or walk & 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-like substances. Word to the wise: Don’t take before you are at least 30 minutes airborne. And if you do, make sure you have a window seat to avoid a drug-induced stupor.
Finally, two things always make me feel fresh & almost like a million bucks: brushing my teeth regularly & putting on fresh, clean socks. What’s yours?
Remember Right View… and take deep breaths to help keep your blood pressure in check. Consider closing your eyes & meditating a little—find a peaceful place.
Before the final descent, prepare for your arrival—don’t be a travel zombie: visit the bathroom to void, moisturize, freshen up & brush your teeth. Make sure all your necessary arrival paperwork is completed. Then, before deplaning, check & recheck to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything: passport ✓, paperwork ✓, purse/wallet ✓, carry-on ✓, comfort kit ✓.
Finally, say goodbye & thank you. You arrived without incident; & it wasn’t always like this. Amazing, really.
Did we miss any secret long-haul survival techniques? Please let us know at: GSH (at) GlobalScavengerHunt (dot) com
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