Saturday, January 27, 2007

On the Road (Again!)

I travel a lot. Not only do I have an office in Sacramento, but I also conduct workshops around the country and attend conferences. I’ve already gone on three trips this year and it’s only January!

The irony, of course, is that I would be just as happy staying home in my conventional Culver City neighborhood. I always feel like I’m missing something important when I leave L.A.; plus, I HATE to fly. This isn’t just grumpiness over airport security or the discomfort of being shoehorned onto an airplane. This is a true fear of falling out of the sky. I will never see the movie “United 93” and the plane crash scenes in “Lost” always send me running out of the room.

So how do I do it, over and over again? Well, I’ve discovered I pass through five emotional stages when coping with the trauma of travel (with sincere apologies to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross!):

1. Excitement - especially when I’m planning to return to a place I love (e.g., NYC, Hawaii) or when I’m traveling to a place where people I love live (e.g., Seattle). Then there's the fun of finding the cheapest airfares and hotel rooms, as well as hunting down theater events or other things to do.

2. Regret - as soon as I book my trip, I begin wondering how I’ll survive five hours in the air. Will the flight be bumpy? Will it be snowing/raining/foggy/unbearably hot when I arrive? About a week before my trip, I suddenly become obsessed with weather reports, looking for any excuse not to go. “What was I thinking when I said I’d lead a workshop in Philadelphia in JANUARY?!!”

3. Anger - especially when I realize all the fun things I’ll miss because I’m going out of town. “Whaddaya mean you’ve got free sneak preview tickets to the new George Clooney movie? That’s the week I’m in Ohio!!” My crankiness is further compounded by the new regulations limiting carryon items. Because some guy in Great Britain knows how to make explosives out of deodorant and a stick of chewing gum, I now have to squeeze all my cosmetics into a quart-sized ziploc bag. (I’m sorry, Mary Kay, but there’s only room for one jar of facial cream!) You know the world has gone crazy when lipstick and a tube of black mascara are considered lethal weapons!

4. Terror - stomach aches and sleepless nights; but even worse is the fear of forgetting to print my Southwest boarding pass until it’s too late to get on the A line! Such dread can only be surpassed by a white-knuckle cab ride to the airport. Luckily, we live only ten minutes away from LAX, so my husband usually plays chauffeur.

5. Acceptance - once I’ve made it safely through security and have found my gate, I start to settle down and accept my fate. “Surely the pilots won’t risk their own lives by doing anything foolish!” I always tell myself, keeping my fingers firmly crossed. On the plane, I plug into my headphones and push “shuffle” on the iPod. Frank Sinatra, Sting, the Beatles, Neil Young, and Steely Dan are all my best friends as I wing my way to my next destination.

Then, of course, there’s the trauma of finding a cab/shuttle/train to the hotel; but at least I survived another flight.

And most people fear public speaking more than anything else. Ha! When’s the last time you had to run your lipstick through a metal-detector before speaking in front of a room full of conference-goers? I’d rather conduct a full-day workshop in Los Angeles than fly to somewhere more exotic any day.