I am currently in the air somewhere over the Atlantic sitting in Virgin economy class (not my idea of a good laugh but a 'boot strapped' budget requires a boot strapped economy style, turn right as I board approach.) I am on a packed plane, about to be away from home for just 3 nights, most of those around me are trying to sleep. One of my Gate8 bags stays with me, I am not paying an additional £65.00 just to check for convenience both pieces in. I smile to myself as I make the choice to take my samples, brochures and presentation materials with me taking the risk of losing my knickers in the check-in luggage lottery. I sadly with previous repeated experience know already I will be kept waiting painfully in US customs at JFK where I will be treated just one step up from a sheep due to run the gauntlet before the slaughter house. I can only dream of the time when someone in the US works out that angry arrivals for the tourist trade does not exactly enhance the welcome to the Big Apple.
Talking of which, thank goodness for Pret at airports. Even that part of the travel experience has improved, I can literally buy decent un-battered fruit, not the hideous barely edible offerings of the past when I was at boarding school and spent endless hours people watching at airports. Time was nothing like as precious as it is now. Now I time everything, I work relentlessly to be efficient and effective, to manage my time in all the ways possible to maximise what I can achieve. I lead a very charmed and exceptional life and I intend to make the most of it.
I like functional things, I like routine, I want a place for the important things and I allocate time with consistency of approach and planned outcomes in everything I do. I literally time manage and get a kick out of conquering lots more than others even attempt. I need less sleep, I enjoy being fit and finding time for healthy activities and I want to spend quality time with my family, albeit I have to be disciplined and planned about that to the point that I am indeed annoying. I know that but the habit and enjoyment out of the way I compartmentalise, spend time with people and squeeze the most out of each day contributes a great deal to my happiness. I am not a control freak, indeed I trust in others a great deal. I like to be effective, I choose the way I behave like every other person, but I suspect I am greedier about what I want out of life. I do see life as a competition and I do want to be one of life's winners in the happiness stakes.
So I board, even that was not a terrible experience albeit 39F is not my idea of a great seat trapped one in from the aisle and feeling a bit hemmed in this is where I wish someone would build planes like submarines with sleeping bunks, now that I would pay a premium for.
As a child I did I love plane travel. I relished the food tray which I now avoid and I used to have enormous fun travelling back and forth with a mob of other expats to boarding school. Time was less valued then. Now all my investments, and so much of what I do has time relevance, I am far less relaxed about the barriers and gambit one has to all too often queue to overcome.
Planes are wonderful for no incoming emails, a time to clear the decks without distraction, a review of my notes from all most previous meetings and even the bravery to check the previous things to do lists which became overwhelmed and re-scripted without task completion. I like the process of boarding and whilst waiting to board reading through the magazines and papers I never have time for.
Today, I am travelling for a press launch for Scentered.me and reflecting on the how far improved the travel experience has come. Today ,I tubed to the airport, hot but easy, un-delayed and inexpensive, I walked straight to the check-in desk at Virgin, had to check-in a single bag and was in the shopping zone through customs within minutes. This nearly never happens.
I barely waited in the queue for airport security, my pre-packed toiletries bag (thanks GATE8) allows me to be very organised and swift through inspection. I childishly relish walking past those getting organised with annoying plastic bags, I love simply detaching my easy to access clear toiletries pouch into the tray and walking on through the x-ray arch. Extraordinarily, I was not frustrated by annoying families unpacking their entire belongings to take out stupidly packed toiletries of the wrong sizes and even the x-ray machine smiled on me allowing my bag through with my Scentered portable mood therapy balms to remain in my handbag.
I was flying at 4.05 Saturday afternoon. Is this how I got lucky? The airport was packed, mostly tourists I think, barely a business dress person in site, perhaps this is the secret? Usually I travel at that hideously early hour, where long lines and endless queue grind me down into the travel automaton that I had once become. Indeed, I rather like the idea of a short trip to the US, I know it is the summer holidays and the children are sometimes bored at home but we are soon to holiday together and these few days of ferocious work load will allow me to clear the decks and take a proper disconnected break. I earn the right to completely switch off and I have a world-class support team of people more than capable of running the show in my absence. If I do not, then why am I employing them?
On reflection of the airport that was busy, I can only remember thinking of one improvement needed to improve Heathrow Terminal 3 Departure signs should be on a swivel. It is annoying as I get older and poorly sited how often finding a chair facing the departure signage for Gate is not easy but otherwise I have literally no complaints. I do not sue the lounges, I am never in the airport area long enough to bother, indeed I have this childish approach to timing my trip to perfection where I can literally get out of customs, buy my coffee (a US flight requires coffee so I work for as long as my computer allows me) and then I march on I hope straight into boarding without barely breaking stride. I see others like this, heads up, striding out, angered by those silly people whom block my passage on the travellators.
By the way, as an addition to this.I have also just had THE MOST amazing experience. US Customs at JFK has introduced machines to automate the clearance process and it took me precisely 7 minutes to get to the baggage area. OMG this must be a dream trip. I seriously booked a flight 2 hours earlier expecting the usual 2 hours of torture waiting in line in the US customs hall that is progress to celebrate indeed. Of course I had to wait 33 minutes to get my case but you cannot have everything. I had a cool ex-footballer taxi driver (always try and chat to these guys when travelling they know what's happening with the economy.) and managed to network with that bloke to meet a world-class footballer if that works the trip has really been worthwhile . You never know where you might meet the missing link.