I previously wrote about how a long trip begins from Seattle. I didn’t have a car there either, but public transport required a high threshold of patience and pain. In Seattle it took up to two hours to begin a trip, which was especially interesting when the first flight was at 6:00 a.m.
From my new hub in Portland, much of the process is the same – except I don’t have to leave two hours before I need to be at the airport. Since I often take early flights that connect to L.A., Dallas, or the East Coast, this is good.
The night before I leave, I pack the bag according to this imprecise list (cat not included). It doesn’t take very long, but before a big trip, I take some extra time to make sure I’ve got what I need.
Sometimes I get greedy and try to pack the bag too full. This is always a mistake at the outset – better to go out with a bit more space. It’s not that I buy a lot of stuff along the way, but my packing gets less orderly as I go from stop to stop.
Public transport being improved in my new city, I can now walk directly across my street to the bus stop. The bus comes every 15 minutes and takes me to the train station in 10 minutes; the train deposits me directly at the airport 15 minutes later.
Total cost: $2.00. Total time: 40 minutes if I time it right, one hour if I need to wait for the train.
For two weeks I’ve been trying to reissue my round-the-world ticket to account for the fact that I’m going to Saudi Arabia instead of Sudan as I had planned a year ago. The change is easy to make over the phone, but then the physical ticket needs to be reissued at the airport. Since it’s a paper ticket, in this case reissuing means rewriting. The rewriting takes a while – we’re talking 16 flight segments that need to be carefully copied out by hand – so I left my ticket at the American Airlines counter while headed out to Utah recently, and arranged to pick it up the next time I was at PDX.
It turns out that I forgot to leave one of the flight coupons and a copy of the original itinerary, so on the next stop (back from NYC), I drop off the additional documents. On the third trip to the airport a few days later, my ticket is waiting for me. Awesome.
It takes 20 minutes to process the payment for the routing change, and there is some confusion – but compared to other experiences I’ve had, 20 minutes is nothing. I switched most of my flying from Star Alliance to OneWorld in 2008 after a frustrating evening standing at the United ticket counter in Seattle for nearly two full hours waiting for a change to be processed.
Anyway, this reissue goes well, but later that day I get a call – the AA rep forgot to validate the ticket, which only takes five minutes but needs to be done before I can travel.
Which Brings Us to Today
This time, the flight leaves PDX at 6:00 a.m. Anything that departs at 7:30 or later works nicely with the bus and train combo, but for a 6:00 a.m. departure, I need another plan. This time the plan is to rent a car through Priceline for $14 ($22.50 with tax) that I pick up the day before.
On Sunday I get up at 4:15, download my mail to Gmail Offline, grab the bags, and head out. I drive to the airport, refuel the car on 82nd street, and return it at the Avis counter.
I get a Delta boarding pass from the kiosk and look at the long line of sleepy people waiting to check their bags. Before heading through security, I stop off at the AA counter yet again. It’s 5:15 a.m. and no one looks especially happy, but someone validates the ticket and gives me a boarding pass for the Miami-La Paz flight tonight. I take the express line through security and head to the D gates.
Traveling itself is great, but I feel anxious almost every time before I leave. A few days before departure, I start to feel overwhelmed at all the things that are left undone. I intend to get ahead on my writing, and it never happens. I intend to have all my reservations made, and I always end up doing it as I go along each week.
The more I travel, the more I realize that this kind of pre-trip anxiety is just part of how it works. I don’t love it, but I try to come to terms with it. Now that I’m more experienced, if I didn’t worry about something before leaving, I might worry – in other words, I’d think that I was taking it all too casually.
I run through a list of things in my head and try to identify the root of the problem. If I feel like I’ve packed everything, if I know what’s happening for at least the next few days, if I’ve thought through the upcoming challenges over the next 10-14 days (uncertain visas, overland trips, floor-sleeping, etc.), then I gradually realize that the anxiety is not related to anything specific.
Eventually I find peace, but it usually comes after I leave. If I’ve done things right, something changes on the first connecting flight. All of a sudden I feel alive, in a sense of being wide-awake that doesn’t come from coffee. This is why I do this, I think. Some people take drugs, I take Delta flight 1510 with non-stop service to ATL.
I fly to Atlanta, Miami, and La Paz, Bolivia where the trip officially begins. Hello, South America. Nice to see you again.
[Travel note: I work from wherever I am in the world, but comment moderation and email response is frequently delayed when I’m traveling.]
Portland Max Image by Beej