Road Trip Attitude Adjustment

Monday, 8:50pm
Reno, NV
Road trip.” Otter and Boon, harmonizing (“Animal House”.)


You ever try packing for 10 days using only one carry-on bag?

With no chance of a laundry day?

Plus, I gotta look presentable, on stage, at a big seminar mid-way through the tip. That means slacks, dress shirt, coat (though, the concept of wearing a “coat” in South Carolina in late June kinda boggles the mind).

(On the other hand, have you ever been in Vegas in the summer — 110 outside in the shade — and freeze your butt off in a casino cuz they keep the a/c cranked up to “Polar”?)

My little suitcase has put up with trips like this for twenty years now. Until the seam burst or the wheels come off, I’m keeping it, too.

I like used stuff. Especially when I’m the one who’s used it. In the old days, you took pride in plastering your suitcase with travel stickers (Cairo with the pyramids, London with Big Ben, Paris with the Eifel Tower) — every one a testament to your willingness to get out and engage the world.

Nowadays, the best you can do is keep the little elastic bands with airline names on the handle. (I had a Pan Am tag on this carry-on until a few years ago, when a heartless baggage handler finally nicked it.)

Your main badge of honor now is, literally, the condition of your bag. The more wretched, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Sure, the zipper handles are gone, but it still seals up tight. I’m amazed at the resiliance of that little bag… it’s hauled and protected big wads of my gear, faithfully and without complaint, and survived world travel.

Good on ya, little bag.

Hey — I’m a veteran road warrior.

I learned all the tricks long ago (roll your clothes tight, don’t fold ’em when packing… hang wrinkled shirts in the bathroom and take a super-hot shower — the toasty mist will straighten everything out, though you gotta avoid getting anything actually damp or you’re screwed… stick to stuff that coordinates with black… stay away from white, which will look dirty before it actually is, while darker colors can actually be worn in romantically-lit rooms days after you’ve sloshed marinara on them… and the big one: Remember, if you’re gonna be in civilization, you can buy anything you forget to pack.)

But the main trick that has helped the most over the years… is all about attitude.

When you find yourself dreading travelling, then, dude, you’re jaded. Time for an attitude adjustment.

Shake off the irritation at the abysmal conditions of airline travel… get over your spoiled notions of what a hotel should be… and get your nose out of your cell phone long enough to realize that you’re on a friggin’ ADVENTURE.

The world abounds with stories all around you. Even wandering through the next state over offers all kinds of new experiences (the cuisine in Phoenix, for example, is sometimes radically different than Reno).

Well-rounded people who seek to live with gusto embrace travel.

As a marketer, it’s an opportunity to get out of your box, and rub elbows (literally, in coach) with the people who buy your crap.

You want something good to read? There are multiple non-fiction works that focus on how people travelled in other times — like, for instance, the Middle Ages.

In Europe, people travelled a LOT, which often surprises modern day spoiled trekkers. Journeys by ship were dangerous (pirates, weather, disease, falling off the end of the world) and months-long, caravans required a year to head out and come back (and you might never know what happened to them, once they went missing), and just going from one city to the next on horseback entailed all sorts of gnarly skills. And danger.

And it took a long time. You needed skills at managing your boredom and the lack of instant gratification.

And yet, people did it. It’s in our genes. You only get home-bound and agoraphobic when something knocks your internal gyro off balance.

Our default position… is to get out of Dodge, and go see what happens.

If you were to explain how you’re travelling next week to the East Coast, say, to someone just two generations behind us (early part of the 20th Century)… you would blow their minds. Jets, airports, taxis, hotels, a/c, ice machines, TV, wireless Web access, cell phones… except for the Transporter (damn it), we’ve got Star Trek beat.

Sure, it’s exhausting, and people are rude, and the TSA is staffed with morons following moronic rules. (We’re still the only country required to remove our shoes to get through security. I hate the politicians who like to keep people’s fear buttons tweaked, just so they can stay in power…)

But you’re going somewhere new. Or at least different than your home digs.

All sorts of new stuff could happen.

Over my career, the most exciting opportunities and advancements and “Eureka” moments… came while travelling.

No guarantee you’ll have a good time, of course.

But “adventure” isn’t necessarily about having a good time.

It’s about engaging the world, and testing your wits in new environments.

I try never to forget that. Cuz it’s so easy to get irritated, and moody, and bored when you’re sitting in an airport waiting for delays to resolve, or negotiating some disaster or other like lost luggage or lost reservations or just being lost. (I almost took the wrong plane, once. Before the current double-checking obsession, of course. The stewardess — that’s how long ago this was — mentioned the city the plane was headed, which wasn’t where I wanted to go, and I scrambled out the door just before they got the door closed. Sometimes, I wonder how different my life would be today if I’d stayed on that plane…)

Anyway, I’m off.

I’ll try to report here from the road, if anything interesting is going on.

Joke. I’m joking.

I expect the adventure of a lifetime to unfold over the next week, unpredicted and without warning…

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

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  • Hey John,

    I still remember when I was a small boy (not a fully grown kid) that Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Tehran – there were more passengers than seats in the plane, so some people sat down on the floor and I thought that was great fun.

    (But I’m not sure if I remember that because it happened or because I had quiet a fantasy…)

    The best travels I had were always where I had the least money – sleeping on the beach, under restaurant tables, making friends who took me in, pairing up with a dog, using busses, not taxis.

    (I felt like in a Charlie Chaplin movie).

    I met this fat guy from Hungary when I was in Greece – he was a painter and had his car STACKED full of his paintings and slept on the front seat.

    And lots of other great people – their names now all faded in my memory.

    There was more poetry in just one of these days than in all the books I’ve ever read.

    I also had the five star convenience once, staying in a former palace-turned hotel (the Kempinski in Istanbul).

    The only reason why I would wanna go back there is the food and the heated pool at night. But the food alone is worth going through the trouble of getting rich.

    Talking of attitude – I think I’m pretty much blessed with that. Do I enjoy being served 14 hour old food on a seat that’s too small? Nope, not exactly.

    But I keep things in perspective (sometimes, that is). Even if you don’t move in time and just compare how we are doing compared to others… who have no electricity. No clean water. No meat (maybe twice a year). No education, no this, no that (we’ve seen it all on TV).

    So, what do I think of the lady who’s getting all puffed up when the plane is delayed 2 hours?

    I just watch and enjoy the show.

  • John,

    “I’ve always wondered , how do they steer the train?” My new college grad (NCState) Amtrak seat companion taught me a lot about travel. I look forward to every trip to provide at least one eye-opening moment. I hope I as able to add something to her education as well.

    24 hours by air coast to coast, or 2 days by train from Fort Lauderdale to NYC, can certainly turn you off travelling farther than the mall. Unless you’re collecting for the story bank (and aren’t going to miss the wedding.)

    And then there’s the time I was the only passenger on an RJ from Cinci to NY – no interesting companions – but a terrific 2 hour nap.

    Happy trails.

    BTW How about twitter to give us a blow-by-blow?

  • Ken Calhoun says:

    That’s a good tip about having an attitude adjustment for travel, getting in a more positive state of mind. I’m intensely agoraphobic now and hate all kinds of travel. Heck nowadays I drive less than 5 miles a week. Though I used to fly all over the world and travel constantly, as a consultant to many companies.

    I suppose as one gets older, one’s sense of adventure in the physical realm diminishes, though the mental journey expands exponentially. Books, the ‘net and educational dvds provide a great place to spend much of one’s life.

    But it is healthy to get back on the road; we just got back from Vegas again and despite the heat we had a blast….so the key is taking nonstop flights when possible, always have carryon and no checked luggage, hire cabs to take you everywhere, and relax and enjoy the ride.

    To success,


  • Damn, John. I have been bitching about travel soooo much for the past few weeks. I didn’t think about it as being jaded, but okay…I can absorb that. I definitely have a bit of a prima donna attitude about it of late. Thanks for jerking me back into reality.

    Travel is always going to be a part of my life. (I prefer to go to fun places like Ireland and Italy, but that ain’t always what ya get.) So I’m going to deal with it. Appreciate the head smack.


  • Brian Clark says:

    Hey man, good to see you made it home! It was great meeting you and hanging out at dinner. Shoot me an email when you get a moment.

  • jamal says:

    Great spot John. Brought some flight adventure memories back.

    You said “We’re still the only country required to remove our shoes to get through security”… wow man, I had to do that a couple of times
    in Dubai.

    Was that a hassle. Now I wear sports shoes every time I travel there
    just to avoid knocking off those metal detector gates and having to
    take off my shoes (I had to take off my belt once as well).

    Talking about adventure not having to be fun; one trip that tops it
    was when I got an instant crush for wakeboarding mid-week (been
    off the water for months at that point)… so I searched regional
    spots… located one near Dubai… same day convinced my brother to tag along… got the tickets next day…
    and in 3 days we were on the plane for a “1 Day Trip”
    Off the plane, rented a car… off to the water spot, wakeboarding then jumped into the pool… changed into dry clothes and back to the airport.
    And to end it all, the flipping return flight was delayed for 4 hours! We almost passed out at the airport from exhaustion. (yet well worth it)

    Wish I could do that more often ‘-)

    Yet, here’s the question that bugs me to pieces (more like pisses
    me off); how come planes never get faster. I mean technology’s developing so dam fast, yet it takes me 7 hours to get to Thailand (wish it could take 2 hours so I could be there every month)

  • The Bad Blogger says:

    John I miss your mini tutorial #2 of your Marketing Rebel “Strategy School, do you mind sending me the link again, sorry for the trouble as I accidentally deleted in my mail… Thanks in advance…

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