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The Organized, and
Well Mannered, Traveler
by Jill Ellen Shankar

When traveling these days, have you ever noticed the difference that a stranger's smile makes in that moment's mood?

On the flip side, being treated rudely is just no fun. The fact is that courtesy is the one currency of which you can never have too much.

An important part of the travel experience is our interactions with our fellow voyagers. When we meet friendly, relaxed, peaceful folk, the pleasure is everyone's.

Freed from nasty remarks, contorted countenances and the more aggressive shoving while in line, humans connect remarkably easily.

Consider this conversation that I had recently while traveling in Arkansas:

"Dang, the Feng Shui in the Garden seminar is next week, not today. Did you think it was today too?"

"Yep, I sure did."

"I'm especially disappointed since I won't be able to make it next week."

"Same here. Did you pull up in that car with the Ohio plates?"

"Yeah, I'm from Cleveland, Ohio."

"Really? Me too. Where in Cleveland?"

"Cleveland Heights."

"Really????? Me too. My family still lives there, on Coleridge."

"Really???????????????? That's the street we live on!!"

And so a friendship is born. Coincidences like these occur all the time when you're out and about, and the resulting surprises fill us with joy and comfort.

Sadly, stressed travelers are too blind to see this, let alone experience it. Considering the myriad checkpoints and counterchecks that we must slog our way through, crankiness seems easily justifiable.

All at the same time, we must worry about our body temperature, hold our pants up while our belts proceed through the X-Ray machine, maintain eye contact with our belongings as they sit unaccompanied at the end of the chute, stand spread eagle and shoeless while submitting to the wand, and so on.

Whose last nerve wouldn't pull taught, threatening to snap at any moment? This, friends, is precisely why we need manners-to help ease the tension, for the good of all.

Easier said than done? For sure. But worth the effort. Organize, don't antagonize!

Here are a few practical tips that will help relieve the pressure so that you can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  1. Manage your time. Make sure you have plenty of it to get through check-in and security, visit the restroom, eat a snack, make your phone calls (quietly please!) and read People Magazine at the gift shop.

    Hostility leaps to new heights when your plane is due to take off and you are still getting dressed at security.

  2. Manage your stuff. Create a sensible home in your bag for your keys, tickets, identification, medicines, glasses, cell phone, and everything else you bring along.

    A good rule of thumb is to put things you access often, like your tickets and ID, on or near the outside of your bag, not strewn about in your pockets. The extra few minutes it takes to think this through save you from the panic and wasted time associated with searching for misplaced objects.

    Should your bags become unpacked during a security check, take a moment (which you can only do when you manage your time, see # 1) to put everything back in its proper place.

  3. Manage your load. Bring along only what you can carry yourself, except under unusual circumstances. If this means wearing each outfit more than once, so be it; pack what you love!

    As a bonus, traveling on the light side is a form of protection from thieves of all sorts, as they tend to target people who are immobile, distracted or otherwise disengaged from their stuff.

    In addition, the less you carry with you, the more energy you have to be sweet, amiable and appreciative of your new experiences.

  4. Manage yourself. Anticipate your needs and tend to them. If you get headaches when you are hungry, bring along a snack. If you get impatient when waiting in line, pack interesting reading materials that you can peruse while standing.

    Learn to breath deeply and calm yourself down when you feel your heart racing, because you are just the first, but most important, in a long line of victims.

It all seems so simple, being the pineapple of politeness. Guess what? It is. You cannot control your environment, other people or the weather, but you do have authority over yourself.

Use this muscle well. Alas, courtesy is the one currency of which you can never have too much.



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Jill Ellen Shankar
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