Did you set a goal of traveling more this year? Or were you lucky enough to score some choice writing workshops around the world? (I don’t know ANYONE like that) Or perhaps you want to reconnect with friends or family at some point. Whatever the reason, you’ll find yourself on a plane. And while flying isn’t as rough on the body as driving for days and days, it also isn’t as comfortable as – well, NOT traveling. Especially considering the budget of the average writer. But that doesn’t mean your trip needs to start off on miserable footing. If you make some reasonable preparations, it can be a pleasant experience. One you may even enjoy.
Gone are the days when flying was a free-for-all. (No, seriously – people got away with everything from smoking to visiting the cockpit) While plenty of modern improvements have come along, the airline industry has also stripped away “privileges” people once had. Like leg room. And headroom. And elbow room. (I won’t even touch on the whole issue of paying for a drop of water to prevent dehydration) And if you don’t walk aboard that plane prepared for your flight, you’ll limp off at the other side in a bad mood.
(Trust me on this one)
And the first realization you need to make is that your personal space will shrink. A LOT. We’re talking smaller than the average desk chair – especially if you tricked out your office with the proper ergonomics. You’ll lose a good two inches and all the comforts you’ve come to rely on. Something you need to prepare your body for. And that goes double for everyone with an invisible illness.
So rule #1 is to skip the strenuous workouts the last few days before your flight. Sure, it SOUNDS reasonable to wear your body out and get in some exercise since you’ll be sedentary, but it’s a trap. That forced immobility is the perfect time for your body to CRAMP. And all the aching and soreness you stored up will come out when you’re trapped in the confines of a plane chair. With no room to stretch out or relieve the pressure. Leaving you no option except to bite your tongue and then hobble around like an invalid once you land.
Assuming you can even move at that point.
Opt for yoga or light stretching if you feel compelled to work out. This will do more for your body than slinging around weights or tackling the elliptical. It will calm those muscles down, too, and make you more comfortable as you’re forced to sit for however many hours. And then DON’T sit immediately before your flight. Walk around and keep yourself in motion. It will make that flying time easier to handle.
Can you sleep on a plane? Good for you. I can’t. The angle of the seat isn’t comfortable. (I’m tall, too, so I spend my flights with my knees jackknifed into the back of the seat in front of me to prevent that person from leaning back and trapping me)
And what are the odds they’re going to show a movie you want to watch? That’s right – nil.
No, you need to anticipate that you’ll be on your own for entertainment. And what does that look like for a writer?
- Writing materials
None of which are light. All of which you absolutely can’t live without. But you’re limited to ONE carry-on item and ONE personal item. (Never mind that it seems like everyone else has 50) And there are size restrictions on both. (Again, discount the fact it looks like some people are walking on with full-size suitcases)
Oh, and you probably have other items you need to include in those items. Like medication. So how do you pack (reasonably) to ensure you can bring your writing materials aboard?
First, if you have access to the technology, put your books on a Kindle or similar device. I know, I hate admitting the need to leave your beloved book smell behind, too, but it saves on space and weight. Without sacrificing how many you can carry. And don’t forget that libraries these days have reading apps, too!
Second, decide in the beginning whether you want a notebook or laptop; don’t bring both. (Feel’s like Sophie’s Choice, doesn’t it?) You’re trying to maximize your space, and there’s no need to bring both (well, other than having one in your checked bag). And remember, you can always use the Notes feature on your phone if you need to scribble something down at a random moment.
Third, CHARGE YOUR ELECTRONICS! You don’t want to be flying for 30 minutes and run out of battery. While you’re packing the night before, plug everything in. Including any backup batteries.
Flying With “Friends”
Airlines are money-making industries these days. If they could find a way to charge you for the pressurized cabin, they would. So it’s not really surprising that you now have to pay for the sustenance they used to offer gratis. And while it’s tempting to say you’ll ignore all those food smells wafting around the cabin, your stomach isn’t going to agree with you. Nor do you want to end up flying with a miserable body.
So you need to come prepared with snacks. And WATER. (Soda will only add to your dehydration)
You’re already juggling your precious personal item and carry-on (and ticket and ID), so you don’t want to add a takeout bag to the mix. Trust me; you’ll end up dropping something. (Usually the food) Having granola bars, trail mix, or crackers squirreled away next to your medication or stuffed in your hoodie pocket works much better. And empty water bottles sail through TSA. Then you can fill them on the concourse and hang the bottle from your bag without a problem.
Voila! It can sit in the seat’s pocket in front of you – always within reach.
It’s like having friends around you, and it keeps your stomach from grumbling the entire flight. Without shelling out extra funds in the process. Plus, if you have a touchy tummy, you won’t worry about reacting to whatever the airline is serving.
Because the last thing you want to do is end up sick while flying.
Getting Inspired While Flying
I used to HATE flying.
It’s sheer torture for tall people. The seats aren’t designed for our comfort. And the person in front of us ALWAYS insists on slamming back on our legs, pinning us in place. It took me years to figure out how to wedge myself in place to prevent that from happening. Which results in severe cramping and muscle spasms. (I always seem to sit near people who don’t care when I ask them not to do so)
But as I always fly with my headphones, I kept finding new ideas filling my brain. And I was rarely prepared to handle them. I’d step off the plane and immediately have to scramble for a notebook shoved in the depths of my carry-on – buried under others in the overhead compartment. Or I’d get home and have to transfer notes scribbled on the napkin.
So I learned to pack with the INTENT to write.
And I stopped separating myself from my carry-on. I made sure I could always keep my notebooks within easy reach. Or I bit the bullet and started taking my laptop with me. (Though typing in tight quarters takes some getting used to)
I also kept food WITH me, so I didn’t have to starve (running to make connections) or grit my teeth paying for a sad chicken sandwich. It made for better flying with my body. Which meant fewer complications on arrival.
And now? I don’t mind it as much. I mean, I’m not going to RECOMMEND it to anyone or anything, but I can handle it.
And if you make the proper preparations, you can, too!