Tuesday, 11 October 2011

On the Road: the checklist

To kick off the first guest series here on ArielGraphy, I give you Petite Chablis.  I don’t know how we found each other, but as a fellow academic we have much in common.  Although Petite continues on in academia while I observe, she does so with a great number of cocktail recipes in hand, which has to make the experience slightly easier, if not more entertaining.  However, she is also enduring a long-distance marriage.  All the more reason to drink, in my opinion.  Here is Petite’s guide to dealing with frequent travel anxiety.  Take note.

My husband and I have been juggling a long-distance marriage since ... well, pretty much since we tied the knot in 2009. He got a job in Boston; I was still in grad school in Jersey. A year later I finished my degree; the only job I was offered was in Toronto.  Since I took that job I estimate that a full 25% of my pre-tax income has gone directly into the pocket of Porter Airways to fly us back and forth from Boston to Toronto.  (I love you, Porter!)

Sound stressful?  Yeah, it kind of is.  What makes it even more stressful is that I have terrible travel anxiety.

I'm not talking about fear that the airplane will crash.  My fears are much smaller and far more legion.  What if I forget my passport?  What if I forget my wallet?  What if I left milk in the fridge?  What if I left milk on the counter?  Did I turn off the stove?  Did I remember turn off the coffeepot?  Where is my birth control?  For the love of God, DID I TURN THE STOVE OFF? Any time I fly or take the train or hop on a bus, I spend the day beforehand nervous and jittery and obsessively checking to make sure I've packed my passport and toothbrush.  When you travel as often as I do, that's a lot of passport-checking.

Send me to a new and unknown destination, and the nagging worries get even worse.  I worry that the hotel has lost my reservation, or that I won't be able to figure out the public transit, or that my flights will get screwed up and I'll be stranded in an unfamiliar airport, or that the person who's supposed to pick me up at the airport won't show, or that I will inadvertently wander into a scary back alley and be gruesomely murdered because I'm in a strange city and OBVIOUSLY that's what people in a strange city do, they murder people who don't know their way around.

Other people breezily tell me "but you travel so much!  You'll be fine.  What's the worst that could happen?"  This does not help quiet my travel demons.  Instead, I have developed the following type-A coping strategies.

1.  Over-prepare.  
I own a small, inexpensive green binder.  When I travel to a new location I print out everything I can get my hands on about where I'm going, punch it with a 3-hole punch, and put it in that binder.  And I do mean EVERYTHING.  Hotel reservations, flight information, a list of contact numbers, public transit maps, Google maps of the area -- anything that might possibly conceivably come in handy.  Ninety-five percent of the time I barely crack the green binder, but those times when the hotel's internet isn't working and I need directions to where I want to go?  I get to feel pretty damn smug about the green binder full of Google maps.

2.  Make checklists.  
After a rather embarrassing incident that involved me calling our Boston landlord in a panic because I thought I might possibly maybe have left the oven on (I hadn't), I started making a checklist for when I leave an empty apartment.  I go through this checklist before I leave the apartment, and yes, I physically check things off so I can be extra-sure I did them.  Now, when I get halfway to the airport and wonder if I remembered to turn off the A/C, I know that I completed everything on the checklist, so all is well.  Phew.

3.  If possible, fly in the morning.  
No matter when I fly, I rarely sleep well the night before.  But, if I fly in the afternoon or the evening, I also spend the entire day prior to the flight wondering if my flight is going to get cancelled or if the public transit will unexpectedly break down or oh my god what if I forget my passport AND leave the stove on?  If I fly in the morning, I can wake up, have breakfast, go through the checklist, and get out of the house before my brain is awake enough to start freaking out.

So there you have them, the type-A-crazy-person coping strategies I use when I'm on the road again.  Anyone else find that a busy brain makes getting there and back again a bit of an ordeal?

1 comment:

  1. I'm another nervous traveler. The binder idea is a really good one. So good I just may steal it.