I’ve been traveling for my work for 12 years now. Even though I’m an artist and performer, it’s still business travel. And the worst part about business travel is getting ready to go. All I have to do is think about the MapQuest directions that manage to land me not in the theater district, but in the red-light district, or the rental car agent saying “Well, okaaay,” in that don’t-say-I-didn’t-warn-you voice when I decline insurance…and I’d rather not pack at all.
Any savvy business traveler will tell you that the key to a smooth-running business trip is efficiency in preparation and a good time-management system prior to leaving. But here’s the thing about savvy business travelers: there’s something wrong with them. Maybe they don’t like their homes. Or they need to get a dog. Or maybe they were brainwashed at a Franklin-Covey seminar into thinking that true fulfillment is all about having the right PDA.
This is a guide I prepared for the other kind of business traveler: the slightly harried business traveler. And what I have written here is the result of exhaustive research. Through self-observation, delving into time-management books, and interviewing other harried business travelers, I’ve created a tool to guide you in the preparation for your upcoming business trip.
I call this: “How to Prepare for a Business Trip in 22 Easy Steps.”
So let’s just say your next trip is on Wednesday. Here’s what you do…
Step One: This step is called “Setting Intent.” You learned about setting intent on that Wayne Dyer PBS special, and you now know that when you “set intent,” the intent will rush through your subconscious, and many unknown quantum neural pathway peptide somethings will get to work on your behalf. This happens even while you sleep. So, as you’re turning out the light late Saturday night, look at your husband and say (with conviction and purpose), “Crap. I have to go to Anaheim on Wednesday.”
Step Two: On Sunday morning, make a to-do list so that you have structure for the packing process. This will eliminate all stress from your week.
Step Three: After completing Step Two, check your email. Send eleven of your friends a chain email you’ve received that promises unending prosperity and love if you send it to eleven people, and lay-offs and tumors if you merely delete it.
Step Four: Notice that it’s really nice outside. Suggest to yourself that you do some gardening. Say, “Putting my hands in the earth will open my heart, awaken my bliss, and make me happy before I get too intense and start packing.” (After all, people often accuse you of being too intense. And who wants that?) So, go to Home Depot, and watch yourself load up that little pull cart with about seven different shrubs and packets of summer annual seeds and lots of little seed trays, some soil, mulch, and a big rock that says, “Peace.” (This rock will further serve to prove that you are not, in fact, too intense.)
Step Five: Dig big holes. Then, make them even bigger. Pretend that they’re as big as the little instruction tags say they should be. Squeeze the shrubs into the holes. Decide that the hydrangea needs to be a little to the right, which would mean moving that azalea. Move that azalea. Dig another hole. Put the hydrangea in it. Step back. Stare. Fill holes with soil. Cover with mulch. Repeat the process well into the evening when you finally set the “Peace” rock by the path in the side yard.
Step Six: That night, pull out your suitcase. Stare into it. Visualize that it is neatly packed. Think “Anaheim,” and give Wayne Dyer more stuff to figure out while you sleep.
Step Seven: Go to work on Monday. Have lunch with several friends and talk about how little you want to go to Anaheim and how no one understands how hard it is to travel for business. Ignore the friend who says that you deserve to go to Anaheim since you insist on forwarding all those damn chain emails.
Step Eight: Leave work early on Monday to begin the packing process. When you get home, realize that the Variegated Hydrangea is now too far to the right. Dig it up. Make a new hole. Move more shrubs. Wonder if it’s too late to run out and get some hostas.
Step Nine: Move the “Peace” rock to a better and more prominent location in the front yard.
Step Ten: When it’s getting dark, go upstairs to begin packing. On the way up the stairs, remember seeing some great travel-size shampoos and lotions at The Body Shop last time you were at the mall.
Step Eleven: Drive to the mall.
Step Twelve: Drive home in a car that smells of all things exotic: satsuma, papaya, mango. Know that these travel-size aromas will serve to add comfort and self-care to your trip. Feel that this drive to the mall has added a great deal to Anaheim already.
Step Thirteen: Arrive home. Now you pack. You’ll be ready a day in advance. Good for you! First, because you’re going to California, and it’s still early spring where you live, you need to retrieve your summer clothes from the crawl space. Go into the crawl space. Spend 20 minutes moving golf clubs, crutches, board games, accordion files, and the Barbie townhouse out of the way. Say to yourself, “Man, I’ll bet this thing hasn’t been cleaned out in years.” Think of your friend Nancy who has been working with a life coach, and how the life coach made Nancy clean out her closets and get rid of clutter, and Nancy sure does seem a lot happier these days. Right now would be a perfect time to clean this crawl space out.
Step Fourteen: At 3am, after pulling everything out of the crawl space, making lots of piles, stopping to read old journals, trying to fix that cheap pulley-string elevator in the Barbie townhouse, looking at old yearbooks, getting angry at Randy Young all over again for ditching you at your senior prom, setting up a seller’s account on eBay, and finally giving up and going on-line to order a good book on organizing, fall into bed.
Step Fifteen: Wake up groggy. Stare at your still-empty-save-for-The-Body-Shop-Satsuma-shampoo suitcase and wonder what the hell’s wrong with your neural pathways and peptides that they can’t seem to muster up this one single act of charity.
Step Sixteen: Go to the office. Work. Dread packing. Dread leaving. Wonder if the chain letter email you deleted this morning is causing this new headache.
Step Seventeen: Get home late and turn on the Weather Channel to watch the travel forecast. Become inexplicably engrossed in an episode of Storm Stories in which a guy named Travis films himself and his girlfriend Jeannie getting pummeled by a tornado in their home while the rest of the neighborhood evacuated hours ago. Wonder how the camera is still working so well 25 minutes into the show even though Travis is trapped in rubble up to his neck.
Step Eighteen: Go to bed. As you’re turning out the light, say, “My plane doesn’t leave til 10. I can pack in the morning. All this planning stuff is for amateurs. I’m a pro. I’ve done this a million times. I’ll just wake up a little early.”
Step Nineteen: Don’t wake up early. Wake up late. Swear at your alarm and your peptides. Swear at Wayne Dyer. And pack everything. Summer sweaters, winter sweaters, summer pants, winter pants, summer shoes, winter shoes, pieces of the Barbie townhouse elevator…
Step Twenty: After the ticket agent weighs your luggage and shames you with his stare, pay the $25 “you-packed-too-damn-much” fee. Remain dignified as he carefully (and not without a good deal of drama, you note) adheres onto your suitcase a big red sticker that says “HEAVY” and portrays a stick figure throwing out his back while lifting your suitcase. Remain even more dignified as the ticket agent calls over a former linebacker to lift your luggage onto the conveyer belt.
Step Twenty-One: Walk through the airport in a post-adrenaline-rush daze. Muster up enough energy to glare at the savvy businessmen who whisk by with all of their travel belongings packed in rolling cases the size of a Triscuit.
Step Twenty-Two: Order a Grande — no, better make it a Venti — macchiato and take it to the gate area. When you arrive to the gate area, set your intent to do it better next time by saying aloud (with conviction and purpose), “God, I can’t stand traveling.”