Friday, July 15, 2011

Lonely Planet: Unpacking Pre-Flight Rituals

Getting some help packing for Spain - sadly, the little guy (a gift from Matt!) had to stay behind

I read an interesting article earlier this week on the subject of pre-flight rituals and the role they play in our travel plans. The article came from Lonely Planet (surprise, surprise), and discussed the results of a poll they'd posted a few weeks ago. The poll turned up some interesting and unexpected results (apparently one traveler always indulges in a good old American cheeseburger before leaving the U.S., while another watches Fern Gully to guarantee safe travels) and a few more common choices (9% of those surveyed like to touch the plane before boarding, while 7% never take off without their good luck charm), but what surprised me the most was the realization that I don't have a single travel ritual. Not one. In all my years of flying, I don't think I've ever approached a flight the same way twice!

Oh sure, I always seem to pack at the very last minute, I'm careful to double-check the essentials (passport, phone, money, chargers, etc.) before heading for the airport, and I also say a prayer or two before any undertaking, but I don't have that magic little gesture, act or idea that signals the beginning of an airborne adventure.

I'm not an incredibly superstitious person so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. In fact, this is probably a very good thing - I once watched the maritime disaster-movie White Squall the night before embarking on a two-week, tall ship cruise of the Atlantic. This would probably be enough to make even the most mildly superstitious individual break a sweat - and you can't get much more superstitious than a sailor - but thankfully the trip went off without a hitch and I returned superstition- and ritual-free.

Even though I don't have one of my own, I can understand the appeal of travelers' rituals. There's something comforting in the repetition of an action - especially if it's a pleasant action like ordering a cheeseburger, watching a favorite movie, or packing a bag of Skittles. Then, too, there's the positive mental reinforcement that comes from repeating something associated with enjoyable past experiences. Perhaps touching the cool skin of the plane reminds you of your great trip to the Bahamas last year, or a steaming chai from the airport cafe recalls the first time you jetted off to Europe. Indulging in rituals also primes us for the experiences ahead; listening to your language tapes after take-off creates anticipation for the adventures that await, while tuning in to a favorite song provides a soundtrack that will recall this moment, this trip, for years to come.

Do you have any travel rituals? If so, what are they and how did they start? If you're like me, perhaps we should join in the fun and invent some!

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