Are You Stressed, Rushed, and Aggravated?

Walking Through Airport

“Meaning is not what you start with but what you end up with.” ~Peter Elbow

As a boy, I had a romantic notion about having a job where I traveled for business. It sounded so important and stylish. I liked the idea of dashing through airports to my next big meeting.

I thought it meant that mine would be a wider world. And so it was.

Be Careful What You Wish For

As often happens, what you think about comes into being. I found myself on my very first “business trip.” I was going to the exotic location of Moline, Illinois.

In my fantasies I was thinking more along the lines of NYC or London, but hey, it involved an airplane. Actually, it wasn't even a jet; it was this very loud, somewhat cramped prop plane.

So a couple hours later, after flying at a surprisingly low altitude and slow rate of speed, I had traveled from a semi-rural location with corn and cows to…another semi-rural location with corn and cows. It seems my dreams of importance and style were still in my future.

Dashing Didn't Turn Out To Be So Dashing

My life and work continued down this same path, so occasionally schedules were tight. Once, I remember literally running through an airport so as not to miss a flight.

It looks good in the television commercials but let me tell you, running in a suit and tie, toting a briefcase and an overnight bag isn't so sexy. It's more sweaty and disheveling. I must confess, I felt less than debonair.

The Illusion of the “Good Seat”

Every flight (and there were many), I vied for a good seat with the rest of my fellow business travelers. I gloated over my exit row seat or my aisle seat. I glared enviously at the first class passengers, already seated with their complimentary mimosas.

When it came time to disembark, I leaped to my feet the moment the “Remain Seated” sign went out. I mean, you're supposed to. At least you must be, because that's what everyone else was doing.

I told myself it was important that I leave the plane immediately. After all, I had pressing business. That's why I'm flying.

And Then I Woke Up

This dream of being a business traveler turned out to be not so dreamy after all. Traveling is a hassle with the hotels and cabs and parking garages and strange cities and expense reports. Airplane seats are tight and fellow travelers are sometimes surly.

This isn't what I signed up for. I started to wonder about the ground rules I had assumed regarding flying for a living.

Questioning the Unstated

What is a good seat? I'll tell you. There's only one on the plane: it's the one the pilot sits in.

The rest of us, no matter where we sit, are getting basically the same experience. Once I accepted that, I have never had a bad seat.

What's the rush to get off the plane? When I wait until everyone else has cleared out around me, it is far easier to collect my things. I don't hack anyone else off by getting in their way to rush off the plane either.

I generally go for the window seat now, not because I prefer it particularly. It just means I am not in any hurried person's way when it comes time to deplane.

This leisurely attitude means I spend perhaps 10 more minutes aboard if I am seated near the front. If I am seated near the back, it costs me virtually no time at all. And I still get to the baggage claim area before my bags.

I get to airports early. I check in and kick back. Did you know they put bars in airports? I find this highly convenient for this back kicking.

I pack light. I generally travel to places that sell just about anything I regularly use. I have found that even developing countries have food and toiletries for sale.

Sharing My New Found Travel Ease

Once I found myself on an overbooked flight. Five people were in front of me in line trying to get boarding passes. As each one of them in turn berated the gate agent, all she could do was apologize and say she couldn't give them a boarding pass at this time.

When it was my turn, I saw her steel herself for the next verbal assault. But I figured something out as I stood in line: berating the poor lass wasn't resulting in a boarding pass for anyone.

So I just said, “Tough day, huh? Listen, if you can get me on this flight I would really appreciate it. Just do the best you can.”

Five minutes before they closed the jet way doors, she called one name to give out a single boarding pass—mine.

I wanted to throw a fit as much as the next guy as I stood in line. But what would be the point of ranting at the last person who could help me who, incidentally, was not responsible for causing my problem?

I didn't see one glimmer of recognition out there amongst those envious faces of the grounded either. They all had the same chance as me and they had it first. We make our own reality. Own it, or don't.

The Traveler, Well Seasoned

The bottom line is this: air travel, or anything else, is what you make it. I got to live my illusions until I decided they no longer served me.

I have a far different experience now, even though the external details remain basically the same. I have no stress and I get where I want to go when and if I have a notion to go anywhere at all.

I am a fan of destinations, but the journey happens too. While I may not have always taken the road less traveled, these days I always choose the travel encounter less experienced.

Photo by plantronicsgermany

About Kenneth Vogt

You know how many small business owners have lots of ambitions but can’t seem to get clear about how to turn them into reality? Kenneth teaches them how to make their ambitions real at

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  • Razwana

    Kenneth – I love this post on frequent flyer lessons! I too followed the same pattern of rush, rush, rush at an airport when travelling for business or otherwise. It didn’t take long to realise that stress, all created by me, as not worth it.

    Whereas you arrive at the airport early, I try and time it so I spend the least amount of time possible before boarding. Yes, sometimes this means long queues at security, etc, but I don’t stress about these any more.

    Whether I am stressed or not, I always make my flight. So may as well choose the latter !!!!!!

  • Rebecca

    While I appreciate this post, I am from the “exotic area.” It’s Moline, Illinois. Not Iowa.

  • Liz@lifedreaming

    I love getting to airports really early – no lines of people and I get thru most security pretty quickly. I enjoy wandering the shops and then having a meal and a nice glass of wine before getting on the plane.

    Like you, I wait until everyone has gotten on the plane before I do – no hassle and the plane isn’t going without me. Same goes for getting off the plane.

    I feel the same way when I’m in a line at the store – take is easy, breathe, and I’ve even gotten into nice chats with people.

    Speaking of grocery lines – I LOVE letting people who only have 1 or 4 things go ahead of me. It takes no time and they are delighted – send a nice buzz in the place and people smile and relax.

    We really do have a choice about the way we decide to act and feel in every situation.

    That’s really powerful.

    p.s fields and cows sound exotic to me. Some of my first plane flights were in 4 seaters as I was flown into outback communities in Australia. Nothing like a strong crosswind and a wobbling plane coming in for a landing to help you appreciate life!!

  • Diego Monteiro

    Lol, true that

  • Brandon

    It is Illinois, not Iowa, as Rebecca also stated.

  • Charan

    What I got from this post is, can I still travel without expectations and still be in action…

  • Kenneth Vogt

    Well, I owe you a mea culpa. Moline is of course part of a four city quadraplex that crosses the Iowa-illinois border.

  • Kenneth Vogt

    People often link action and expectation. How discerning of you to recognize that no such linkage is required.

  • Kenneth Vogt

    I will continue to fall on my sword for that one. I just emailed Lori to have her fix it.

  • Kenneth Vogt

    Amen on that wobbling plane comment. 🙂

    I love the idea of giving people cuts in the grocery line, thanks for sharing that!

  • Kenneth Vogt

    When the TSA in the US was trying to figure out how to handle their increased scrutiny, the lines got longer. Lots of people in line would stress out. But in Oakland, CA they we walk through and call out “Does anyone’s flight leave in the next 30 minutes?” If yours did, they brought you to the head of the line. After that, I always arrived less than 30 minutes before my flight because I could walk right in…

  • David Goettsch

    Interesting post Ken! It’s so strange how you can get life lesson from just about any experiences in life when you know where to look. You laid back attitude about flying is pretty much the way I have started living my everyday life, one step at a time. No rush, just let things fall into place and don’t worry. I’ve learned that worrying and stressing don’t do anything to help you and they make the journey miserable. Just riding the wave can be fun. I once turned a delayed flight into a sushi dinner, instead of stressing, I treated myself! Thanks for the advice!
    Dave @personalgrowthproject

  • Daria Sinclair

    Nice post, thank you! Really enjoyed reading it. My childhood memories of air travel are filled with stress, worry, running through airports and generally Being Late – my mother has an atrocious understanding of time planning! Now I’m driving my husband nuts by insisting that we get to the airport early! But then, we never have to hurry or miss a flight, and there is time to buy a bottle of water and stretch legs before a flight. I book seats in the back part of the plane – sometimes you get lucky and it’s empty, so you can actually stretch out properly (planes are always filled from the front). Always book a ‘special meal’, airlines have a dozen varieties, it’s actually quite fun! That way you get fed before everyone else, and can relax sooner. Change into thick socks on the plane, to use as slippers. Over the last few years, we’ve also learned how to travel light – a carry-on luggage bag and a small messenger / handbag, nothing bulky, nothing heavy, nothing awkward or restrictive. Use hotel toiletries or buy small bottles of shampoo etc. when we land, to get around restrictions on liquids. This has honestly changed my idea of travel – while everyone else scrambles out of the plane and runs to wait for their luggage and then stress out about the mega-queue to the immigration desks, we just stroll off at our own pace. 🙂

  • growthguided

    Great post Ken

    I love this point, “What is a good seat? I’ll tell you. There’s only one on the plane: it’s the one the pilot sits in.The rest of us, no matter where we sit, are getting basically the same experience. Once I accepted that, I have never had a bad seat.”

  • I love this! What’s more irritating these days than air travel? And yet through your stories it’s so clear we can decide to change that experience. Thank you for sharing such specific and beautiful examples.

  • RandyH

    I’ve started living my life exactly the same way Dave… everyone should visit PERSONAL GROWTH PROJECT and get great ideas on doing the same thing! Life is good! Peace

  • Kenneth Vogt

    I was on a flight once that left London for New York, flew for two hours and then turned around. I ending up in a great London hotel, had a GREAT meal, and had every excuse for taking a day off. Events only have the meaning you give them.

  • Kenneth Vogt

    I am convinced I could fly to the moon with just a rollaway carry on and a laptop bag. Why lug all this junk over heaven and earth?

  • Kenneth Vogt

    Yup, even the copilot has no better seat than me. In fact, he still has to be at work…

  • Kenneth Vogt

    Every experience has only the meaning we give it. I can’t worry about the fact that one crazy guy that Al Qaeda even wants to disown couldn’t manage to set his shoe laces on fire and now I have to take off my shoes at the airport. So what? Shoes off, shoes on…off to the bar.

  • Daria Sinclair

    Exactly! It does help that most of our holidays are in SE Asia, so everything is very cheap (for us, with Aussie dollars). So if we are missing anything, it’s easy to buy it. Too bad we have to drag it home then, though 😉

  • Kenneth Vogt

    Ah but you don’t. There is always 1) sell it; 2) give it away; 3) throw it away. We have more options in most cases than we give ourselves credit for.

  • Guest

    True 🙂 I was thinking of stuff like an extra t-shirt or two, or a new pair of Converse shoes (about $100 in Australia and $5 in Asia. Probably a rip off, but who knows or cares. Keds are keds) Just have to leave enough space in the bag / remember the weight limit for contingencies. Getting better at that, too.

  • Sidney Jacobson

    TRUE. Business Travel Sucks. No Personal Boundaries. Difficult Travel Procedures. 16 hour work days. Its not wining and dining, its boot camp.

  • valav

    thanks for this. i dont travel often but i can apply this rational to parenting. now that i got my wish to be one it is not as fun as i had envisioned it to be. lots of stress, hurrying ect. i will try to slow down and have that fun that i really wanted and try not to worry about much else.