I spend a lot of time on the road–ten trips covering 36,952 miles and 26 cities in 2013 so far–and my nomadic lifestyle often comes up in the context of “where are you from” inquiries. A frequent question is how I deal with being away for so long, always on the go, particularly given the unsettled nature that comes with living out of a suitcase. Having lived like this since July 2012, I’ve refined my approach to travel such that I’m not bothered by constantly relocating.
TripIt helps me keep everything organized, and I love the service so much that I pay for the pro version. There are two distinct advantages to TripIt Pro: alerts and the “inner circle.” The former enables the service to monitor my travel plans (flights mostly, with an occassional train ride) and inform me when things change. Their monitoring goes beyond just flight delay notifications by checking for changes in itineraries, which is especially handy when an airline changes a connecting flight; on more than one occassion, these alerts provided an early-enough warning that I could contact the airlines about rebooking flight segments I wouldn’t otherwise have made the connections for. The “inner circle” feature lets me identify specific individuals who always have access to trips in my account; without it, I’d need to manually share each trip with those who frequently wonder where I am.
In addition to my laptop and mobile phone, I also travel with an Airport Express and Apple TV. The former is especially handy when lodging only provides wired internet or for-fee wifi on a per-device basis. In both situations, I can easily connect my many devices to the available connection. The Apple TV affords me big-screen access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, and NHL GameCenter, in addition to the iTunes Store, so I can keep myself entertained and see a Red Sox or Bruins game regardless of where I am. The $99 each device cost me is easily justified by the savings on hotel internet and entertainment rental charges. I’ve also been careful to maintain tethering and an unlimited data plan on my mobile phone, ensuring almost universally that I can access the internet on the go.
Besides the electronics already mentioned, I’ve reduced the items I travel with to essential clothing and accoutrements. I’m not the type of person who needs much more than those things to be happy. Really, besides clothing and the electronics necessary to do my job, I require food and drink, neither of which it makes sense to travel with. Generally I can fit all that I need into a large duffle and my laptop bag, though my current journey (March 7 to June 3) takes me to places with widely-varying climates such that I’m carrying an additional bag of warm-weather things.
To minimize airport-induced frustration, I’m enrolled in NEXUS and Global Entry, which afford me simplified passage through US and Canadian Customs, as well as access to TSA Precheck. Together, these programs have enabled me to clear Customs in under five minutes, and airport security in as little as two minutes. In the latter situation, I’m no longer required to remove my shoes, can keep electronics and allowed liquids in my carry-on, and rarely endure security queues of more than a few people. TSA Precheck isn’t available at all airports, but most major ones in the US are in the pilot program, and the TSA is regularly adding new locations. There is a cost involved with these programs, in addition to an involved application process, but their benefit–for me–fully justifies the expense. Another fee I’m growing comfortable incurring is that for day passes to airline lounges. Being overly paranoid, I often arrive at the airport far earlier than is required, and lounges provide a quiet, relaxed place to get work done, charge devices, call family and friends, and generally unwind and avoid the madness that airport terminals often become; some lounges even provide showers!
Lastly, I enroll in the frequent traveler program offered by whatever hotel, airline, or train service I utilize. I never thought the miles/benefits earned would amount to anything useful, but the opposite is proving to be true. I’m lucky enough that my employer lets me keep the benefits earned, so I’m reaching a point where I’ll receive free or discounted upgrades on my preferred airlines. Oh, how I wish I’d enrolled sooner!
Without a doubt, the steps I’ve taken to make travel enjoyable for me won’t work for everyone, but perhaps something I’ve detailed here will prove useful. The efforts I’ve undertaken have brought me to a point where I’m in no rush to settle down and foresee being a nomad for some time to come.
What steps do you take to survive short- and long-term travel?