After 15 months of being grounded, I am back on an airplane, literally writing this from 20K feet. I’ll admit that this is a bit weird, foreign and familiar all at the same time. If you are about to re-enter the world of travel, I hope these insights and tips help you make the transition that much smoother, less taxing and a bit more enjoyable.
1. Give yourself more time for the adjustment. Little things that used to take no time or were done with ease will take more time. For example, packing for this trip. I used to pack in minutes, in fact had my bag half packed with my workout gear, toiletries et al. This time the best analogy I can give is like writing with my non-dominant hand – I did it, but it took more time and felt awkward.
2. Be ready for surprises. Walking through the airport felt a bit like being in the show The Twilight Zone. Most of the stores have been shut down (at least in the airport I flew from!), emptied out and are being reused for storage for the few businesses that remained open. Word is that they will be reopening, but don’t expect all the conveniences you had before.
3. Travel planning…oh man, I did not miss that. Even though I have wonderful colleagues who help take care of most of this (yes, a very privileged place to be) I still needed to make decisions about all the options. Then there is the downloading of the ticket – I almost forgot how to do this! Hotels, frequent flyer numbers, Pre-TSA – feels like I was in a bit of fog, as if I’d been to a town a long time ago but don’t quite know how to navigate or remember where to get gas. All of these little things that I barely put much thought into – that used to be on automatic, yet now that I have to be very conscious of, kind of like learning a new skill and applying it for the first time – take more effort and mental horsepower.
4. Be gentle with yourself about the potential apprehension about being out in the masses and seeing people again. This one really surprised me. For instance, I am in a really full plane – the most crowded, congested space that I can not leave. While yes, we all still have to wear a mask while in the airport and on the plane (federal law at this point), I am strangely grateful for that. On the flip side, I am really excited to see my clients again, not just over a screen. It’s weird – I almost (and yes, writing almost so that my clients understand) feel a pang of the imposition to actually have to travel to see them whereas I used to not think twice about it.
The bottomline: what used to be an “unconscious competence” – not having to think about what I know – is now a small regression of a “conscious competence” – having to think about what I know. And I wasn’t expecting this. It’s okay, just a bit surprising and requires a bit more mental bandwidth and energy to navigate previously well-known territories. Right now I feel like I am a bit of a foreigner in a new city – excited to see the sites and needing some extra wiggle room to get around.