31 January 2012

Wanna Join My Mile-High Club?

Forty-eight pounds and seven ounces . . . awesome! It all fit with enough room for a 1-pound souvenir.

I'm headed to Turks and Caicos for my annual vaca with the fam, and am proud of another perfectly packed bag. After 10 years of flying from my new home to my home where I grew up, I've become an expert. It's kind of like a challenge: see how many tropical outfits I can neatly organize in a 30 x 26 inch bag with coordinating accessories and swimsuits, of course! You might assume that packing for an OCDite is more scary than soothing - and for some, it probably is - but for me, it's kind of like Tetris (which was obviously created by a fellow OCDite). It is satisfying and soothing to know that I am leaving with an impeccably organized case of gear, using each inch of suitcase space for items which are simultaneously suitable for both meeting the man of my dreams and diving for conch.

So the bag is packed and I'm ready for my journey. But the thing I will never enjoy about traveling - no matter how many times I do it - is embarking on the thought of mass transportation. I am not afraid of flying. I don't care if it's by ship, train or soaring through the air on a 747 - the thought of maintaining my space and systematic habits amidst hundreds of people packed like sardines makes my skin crawl . . . every time.

 We had an entire row to ourselves, which was great. However, this was the flight where the attendants claimed there were no blankets (see below), and it was freezing cold. (thus, my fetal position)

Here are just a handful of the undesirable encounters this OCDite has a hard time handling:
  • the guy who gets on the plane last and tries to shove his over-sized carry-on into my lovingly placed bag in the overhead until I'm certain, he's smashed my new sun hat!
  • sneezing passengers who have never heard of covering their mouth
  • chatty Cathy's who won't take a hint
  • travelers who step right in front of you at baggage claim when you've clearly placed yourself in that position for a reason, so now I can no longer see the carousel
  • dumbos who forgot to get that very important item out of their carry-on before they sat down and can't wait 15 more minutes until the regulated elevation to eat their snack, so they hold up take-off
  • the guy who pees on the seat when he obviously knows that's the ONLY bathroom for all of us for the next 9 hours!
  • the woman who rudely steps on your foot to get off the plane 1st even when she's seated 1 row behind me. I mean, unless you have another flight to catch, wait your turn.
  • the flight attendant who says, "I'm sorry. There are no blankets on this flight," when the first classers are clearly cocooned in airline throws. I'm cold!
All of this causes severe anxiety for me. And forget it; if I can't get an aisle seat, I am not getting on the plane. I will transform into the crazy guy from the 80s Twilight Zone movie if I do not have the ability to freely get out of my seat when I choose. It's like the worst claustrophobia you can imagine if I'm seated at a window or in the dreaded middle seat. If we're going down, I don't want anyone blocking my path to that exit, because they can't figure out how to get their seatbelt off. 

For my other OCDite friends who have struggled to stay sane throughout your travels, I do have suggestions or an organized routine, rather, that I have cultivated in order to provide myself a small sense of comfort so I don't elbow the large person beside me who is taking up half my seat.

I get into the navigation zone. I reach my seat and place everything I think I'm going to need during the flight in my seat pocket, so that there's no need to empty the contents of my carry-on and watch my favorite chapstick roll away while I dig for my Ipod. I always keep "airplane socks" in my carry-on, so I pull those out and put them on. (The blast of recirculated airplane air always seems to be pointed straight at the floor.) I dab lavender aromatherapy or whatever flavor I'm carrying at the time behind my ears, on my chest and in my hands, which is an instant mind easer for me. I carry essential oils and travel-sized mists on a daily basis, and they come in particularly handy when I'm flying. The aid in distracting my olfactories from a fellow passenger who must have forgotten deodorant before departing as well as that distinct airplane smell that is impossible to get out of your clothes. What is that? I shut my eyes and wait until the announcement of "it is now safe to use your portable electronic devices," and reach for my Ipod and choose my happy-place playlist. My happy place is filled with the Afghan Whigs, Peter Gabriel and Toto. How about you? And then, I meditate for the rest of the flight on how amazing it's going to be to lay on the beach everyday for the next week and I imagine how the ocean is going to sound when I'm falling asleep at night and how many lobsters I think I can eat in 7 days - until the flight attendant runs over my toe with her cart, and snaps me out of my vision, but thankfully, we're approaching our descent, so it's almost time to get off this vessel of germs.

I start to get excited, and this is why it is worth it for me to put myself through the trek of torture. I get to land in a place like Turks and Caicos where the bliss that ensues upon arrival far outweighs a pre-board panic attack.

Parasailing. I am in that parachute, and as much as I had my moments of wanting down, it was one of the more amazing experiences I've ever had.

Snorkeling. Peace out my undersea friends!
With these travleing tips, you'll survive your next trip with a little more zen, and you will be happy that you did. Bon Voyage!