Secrets for Surviving Extreme Travel

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.

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I spent 11 hours on a plane yesterday.  There were two layovers and one mechanical issue that caused us to return to the gate and change planes.  We left Honolulu at 8 p.m. Friday and didn’t land in D.C. until 6 p.m. Saturday.

A few weeks ago, I flew 5 hours from Los Angeles to Atlanta where I was to catch my connection to Charlotte, NC.  That flight was scheduled for 36 minutes.  Due to lightening; however, we circled the airport for a break in the weather, landed, and sat on the tarmac for over three hours before ground crew was allowed outside.


I’ve slept in multiple airports:  a time or two in a chair, a few times on the floor (under a chair or on top of my 1934373_1187468439384_708150_nluggage), and once on a table in a food court in Lisbon, Portugal.  I’ve slept in the Yotel at Heathrow a couple of times and a sleeping berth in the United Red Carpet Club, Istanbul, Turkey.

There have been more than a few delays, flight cancellations, and challenges.  Volcanoes, ice/snow, and hurricanes/typhoons have impacted my travel.

I get tired of the travel.  I get tired of being surrounded by people, yet being completely alone.  I get tired of hotels and restaurant meals.  I get tired of having only enough time to do laundry, and repack, between trips.

I long to be the person who says, “I can only sleep in my own bed” and/or, “it’s so nice to be home.”

Alas.  That just is not my life right now.


My story is not that unusual. According to the CDC, 5.1 million Americans traveled overseas on business last year.  That number has been increasing consistently on an annual basis. In a 2013 Entrepreneur magazine article, Bruce Schoenfeld coined this as, “extreme travel”.  He wrote, “I couldn’t handle extreme travel for more than a few months at a time. It takes a toll. It frays connections with friends and family and shoves all other projects so far out of mind that I don’t even remember to feel guilty about avoiding them.”

Amen!!  Oh my gosh.  Amen!!

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There are a lot of little secrets and life lessons I’ve gleaned from this past decade of extreme travel.



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We can’t do anything about aircraft issues, airport delays, or the weather.

No one can.  No, not even the airline employee at the counter.

Yesterday I saw many people get very frustrated, become belligerent and rude.  People were cutting in front of each other and pushing to get off the plane.  Such behavior does nothing except escalate problems.

The airline is aware of the delay and knows that everyone wants/needs to get to their final location.  They’re working on it, trust me.

Remaining pleasant and patient not only makes you feel more positive and calm, but it may also mean customer service (and other customers) treats you better!  I have actually been given a stand-by seat, on two different occasions, because I was not rude to the people trying to help me.  TSA and airline personnel are just trying to do their jobs – like the rest of us.



After flying all day, or working all day and then flying well into the evening, it’s easy to feel fatigued and just want to crash on the sofa.  There is not only the stress of travel, but also work-related stress.  E-mails and voice messages need to be returned.  Reports and proposals need to be completed.  Books need to be edited/ordered, and travel arrangements for future trips need to be done.

To minimize the negative stress effects, it’s critical to eat well and exercise regularly.  I love trying local fare but I do my best to avoid the free cookies, vending machines, hotel bar, and manager’s receptions.

There are a lot of people, and a lot of germs, on airplanes.  Fatigue and sleep deprivation during travel can also weaken the immune system, making you even more susceptible.  Staying hydrated helps.  I bring a water bottle to the airport with me and I am required to drink one bottle before boarding and at least one bottle on each flight.  I also take an Emergen-C each morning, and wash my hands between/after every flight.

Fit in movement when and where you can:  on and off the plane.  Let’s face it, airplane seats aren’t known for their ergonomics or comfort.  The normal airplane seat forces your neck and head forward.  Trying to sleep means tilting your head either way back or way forward.  And we all know what hours being hunched over a laptop feels like.  Sitting in a cramped position for hours can cause stiffness, spasms, cramps, and put you at risk for blood clots.  On longer flights, I wear compression hose.  No lie!  I also stretch on the airplane. My chiropractor recommends standing periodically.  I do not sit down at the airport – I spend enough time doing that on the plane.  I run in neighborhood parks, lift in the hotel fitness center, utilize residential playgrounds, watch exercise DVDs and travel with both a jump rope and fitness bands.



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Travel across time zones interferes with the body’s circadian rhythm (our biological clock). This, in turn, negatively affects our quality of sleep.  Unlike traveling for leisure, where there is time to adjust to jet lag, arriving at my work location well after midnight, and being in the classroom no later than 7:30, means I have to hit the road running.

Go “all in” with the new time zone.  I do not say, “at home, it’s this time or that time.”  I merely say, “okay, it’s this time.” whatever it happens to be in my locale.

Try to stick to normal morning routines and habits.  I get up at the same time no matter whether at home or on the road.  Eat breakfast about the same time.  Go to the gym about the same time.




One of my mantras is “Mindset Mostly”.

I repeat it to myself frequently.  It means mindset is mostly what affects my situation and outcome.

Mindset mostly means regardless of my frustration, “I just nod whenever someone tells me how envious they are that I get to travel to so many interesting places, realizing they don’t understand the costs and challenges involved.”

It means I run the new Marriott commercial over and over in my head:  “Some people have to travel for work.  Some people get to travel for work.”

Mindset mostly means I am grateful for the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, and the experiences I’ve had.

It means, regardless of the challenges, I sincerely enjoy every single sunrise I am lucky enough to see from the air.

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