I’ve been on the move lately. I don’t usually travel this much but the last month-ish I’ve been across Spain and the Czech Republic. And back and forth. And I’ll be heading back to Spain for August. Then return to Prague for the school year. It’s been a little hectic and I’m ready for a gym, work, cook, Netflix routine. It’s all about that balance of running around and being a homebody. Anyways, after this last month of shuffling, I thought it could be helpful to open up my backpack and show what I’m usually bringing on the trains, planes and buses to keep me semi-healthy and mentally stable because, when traveling, there’s no way to avoid the long hours of nothing, the lines of socks-and-sandal tourists and the brutal food. The privilege of seeing something new and exotic in this world requires a bit of sacrifice and suffering but a little preparation can save a positive mental state and ultimately a few days of vacation.
Here are a few of the things I do and bring to make the hours enjoyable.
To limit the suffering when I travel, to start with the obvious, I always have my kindle, maybe a regular book, laptop and chargers. Those are givens. An external charger is key as well, outlets can be hard to comeby and once that iphone is more than a year or two old, the battery life doesn’t last like it used to. (Anybody else have that problem? Conspiracy? No? Just me? Ok.)
Other essentials for me are a sketchbook, a journal and a few pens. Some days, more often than not recently, I can’t read for very long without my mind wandering or my eyelids sliding down. So, if my book isn’t engaging, I’ll switch to doodling and a podcast. Which is another thing I make sure to do, download a few varied hours of podcasts.
After entertainment and electronics, it’s all about meals.
The food and nutrition aspect depends on the type and duration of the transportation. Trains are super easy and RULE because you can bring a grocery bag of goodies or even take-out. So there’s no tips or hacks. Training between European capitals? Hit the supermarket and then your favorite cafe before heading to the station. (The only thing better than a Beyond Burger is a Beyond Burger on a train.)
Planes are obviously more restrictive and much harder. Also, I can honestly say I’ve never had a meal in an airport and thought, “Wow, that was good” It just doesn’t happen. Not only is it way overpriced, the food is only sometimes passable, usually very disappointing. Have you ever eaten a quality airport meal? Let us know the what and where at ASAP please.
For that reason, I usually bring a granola bar or two (or three) and a few good sachets of instant coffee, preferably something like Four Sigmatic with superfoods in the mix. Some help you sleep or keep you mentally focused to get some work done. I eat before going to the airport and then typically post up in a bar or cafe near my gate, get a pint or coffee and draw or write, saving my stash of goodies for the flight.
On a plane, I always, always, even if it’s vegan and free, skip the meal. Anthony Bourdain recommended it and I’ve become a practitioner. Unless flying first class in one of those VIP suites on Virgin or Qatar Airlines, they’re serving a microwaved TV dinner with no nutritional value. It isn’t worth the time. Usually I’m trying to sleep, so another thing I got from my hero Bourdain is to have a gin or pint in the airport. Then, on the plane I ask for hot water and add a sachet of sleepy time tea. The comedown from the one drink, plus the tea and listening to something historic and dense like the Revolutions podcast, works like a charm and is the magic routine I’ve learned can actually get me to sleep on an airplane. #sleepingiswinning
Travel is my number one passion so I’m super aware that the process of getting from one place to the other can truly suck. The inescapable long hours in a seat, pressed between two hefty, heavy-breathing strangers can be a legitimate test of the soul. The goal is to make it go by as quickly and enjoyably as possible, avoiding psychosis inducing boredom or ingesting something that leads to gut-wrenching illness.
A little preparation goes a long way. A little gin, granola bar and coffee can save a life.
I hope this helped.