Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Travel Rituals: The Little Things that Keep Me Sane on the Road

In my profession, auditing, I’ve spent a great deal of time on the road. It’s pretty common to work away from home for a week at a time; flying out on Sunday and home on Friday evening. With all of the time I’ve spent in hotel rooms, a few OCD-like traits have become part of my routine.

First of all, before every trip, I update the music on my iPod. My music tastes change pretty often, and I like to use travel time to really dive into albums I want to dedicate some listening time to (I’m an album person by the way. I like to hear an album in its entirety and judge the music in that context. With the shift to digital music, many people today don’t even grasp the idea of listening to an album. Sure, every track won’t be a standout, but it puts a new perspective the individual songs…maybe a future blog post…I digress). I can spend hours changing the music on my iPod. Most of that time is spend poring over which songs to eliminate to make room. On my most recent trip to the Kansas City area, I finally dove into the classic Weezer album (and their last good album) Pinkerton. For some reason, I never liked the album when it was new but now I finally get it (again, future blog post).

Next on my list of strange travel habits is that I like to get to the airport more than two hours before my flight. For domestic flights out of Memphis, most people I have traveled with shoot for a maximum of an hour (and usually less). I actually like being in the airport for a while before my flight. It’s some of the best people-watching anywhere, as you can literally “watch the world go by.”

If I’m traveling alone, I always opt for a compact car like the one pictured above I drove on my most recent trip (hey, when it comes to compact cars for me, the nerdier the better…I did mention I listened to Weezer on this trip, right?). I don’t opt for the monster car like a lot of people I have traveled with in the past. Why? Well, the first reason is that I don’t need anything bigger if I’m traveling alone. Compact cars are always cheaper. Whether I’m paying or it’s on the company dime, it seems foolish to pay for something I don’t need. Second, it’s easier to maneuver in unfamiliar places. Third, with today’s compact cars, you have a better shot at getting something “cooler” (like the Prius Crystel and I got in L.A. last year) than you do with a mid-size sedan (usually an Impala or something equally as exciting). Most of the compact cars always have the features I want, like the MP3 player input. The last reason is that it’s just better for the environment. While I’m not completely sold on the idea that our “carbon footprint” is causing global warming, I do know that the less oil we can use, the better. Oil is not a renewable resource and using it puts money into the hands of some pretty shady people.

Yet another travel habit I have picked up is that I try to completely unpack my suitcase as soon as I get to the hotel. I learned this from Jimmy Buffett when I read his book, A Pirate Looks at Fifty. He always unpacks, even if he’s only there for one night. I’ve found that unpacking my bags and ironing a few things when I first get to the hotel helps ease some of the chaos of traveling. It allows me to put the suitcase away, and I feel much more settled. Along with this trait, I like to fold my dirty clothes and put them back in the suitcase as I’m finished with them. Putting the clothes in the suitcase helps keep the hotel room cleaner, and I like to fold them because it’s makes me feel like I’m taking better care of my things. Since I pay my hard-earned cash for my clothes, I don’t like the idea of wadding them up and stuffing them in a suitcase…hey, it’s the little things.

So there you have it, just a few of my somewhat strange travel habits. Does anything here strike you as incredibly odd? What about you? Do you have certain things you do when you travel that are outside the norm?

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