I hate to travel with gear but I love getting out of town.

Jana. Canon 5Dmk2. 100mm f2 lens.

I'm a worrier. If there is something to worry about I'm on it. Murphy's Law is my mantra and Worst Case Scenario is generally the tune my mind is humming as I go about my business. But few things get me into the butterfly stomach condition quicker than packing for a trip, and the first and last legs of a trip. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wound up like a rubber band for the whole adventure, just the parts over which I supposedly have control: Getting from the house to the airport. Getting from parking to the terminal with two large cases. Getting in line at the Sky Cap station and getting the little luggage tags I forgot to put on earlier into position on the cases while the Sky Cap gives me the steely once over while looking at my unorganized paper work. 

The anxiety notches down from 95% to 90% once the guys have accepted my bags, confirmed my boarding pass and sent me on my merry way. We operate at 90% anxiety for the portion of the trip that requires standing in the TSA line as it zigs and zags through the little rope barriers, putting all my pocket stuff and camera bag into the gray plastic boxes and stepping through the back splatter/scatter x-ray machine for my own personal, hands over head scan. 

Once I'm out of the ingestion process and I'm putting my shoes back on, getting my precious camera bag, and re-orienting myself toward the right gate my negative excitement levels ratchet down to about their typical 40-50% levels and I'm okay with that.

What's the deal with my decided lack of enthusiasm for the first lap? Well, part of it is engaging the timing of the whole process. I know with absolute certainty that the plane will leave without me if I don't get every part of the initial timing process correct. My brain works like this: "Hmmmm. The plane leaves at 4 p.m. and if there is a big line at the TSA check in it might cut things close if I don't pad the schedule with an hour. So that means I want to be in the big, squiggly line by 3 p.m. So backtracking from there I have to make sure I get to the Sky Caps with enough time to spare. Sometimes there are crazy lines for both the outside check-ins and the inside check-in areas. Like when SXSW is going on or ACL Fest or F1. I better give myself a half an hour to get through that part of check in so I plan on presenting myself to the Sky Caps no later than 2:30 p.m.

But then there is the complex calculus of how much time to give myself to get to the airport. The traffic lights in the main intersection of my neighborhood could be on the blink again. The last time I drove to the airport the main highway had a detour for road work and the line of cars going through the two lane, traffic light controlled, intersection stretched back about a half a mile. Then there is the very real possibility that all the ground parking and garage parking adjacent to the terminals will be full and I'll have to head to an off site lot and wait for their interminable little shuttles to get me back over to the airport. Better leave by 1:30 p.m. to get there with a generous buffer......just in case. 

And so it goes. Remember my trip to Berlin last year? My wife teased me for getting to the airport two hours early but I was able to find out that all of United's flights to NYC and on to Berlin were cancelled that day and I was just able to snag the last seats on a series of American flights by the skin of my teeth! Being early saved my trip and reinforced my neurosis. 

But the last five flights to Denver had me considering dropping my guard a bit. With light traffic everywhere and TSA pre-check status I got to the airport and through the process so quickly that I ended up cooling my heels in the gate area for two, long hours. 

If I'm flying with carry-on only the anxiety load is never too great. And if I am flying on an opened schedule I can be totally relaxed. But the worst component is always the luggage. I still remember last year trying to fit two, large Pelican cases into a tiny Fiat rental car... No matter how you pack lighting gear, stands, tripods and flashes you're going to have a big load to watch out for and transport. Even getting from baggage claim to the shuttles is a pain in ass. Not to mention the aspect of Murphy's Law which clearly states that the one thing the TSA will destroy or "lose" is the one thing that's not replaceable and it will be the thing upon which all other parts of your job depend.

I did try shipping stuff ahead which everyone here rushed to advise me as the best course of action. The shipping charges clocked in (round trip) at somewhere near $600. I might as well buy the gear a seat on the plane.

But I do have a solution for some of this. There's a Hilton Hotel at the airport. I'll just give up and get to my own, hometown airport a day earlier and I'll have at least cancelled out the roadway and parking travel concerns. (Not seriously considering this. This plan falls under:  hyperbole).

I wish for the slower pace of life that we enjoyed at the beginning of my career. I once did a cookbook for Texas Monthly Press that had me in all the major cities of Texas and I did it all in a little, un-air conditioned, Volkswagen bug. Leisurely driving. Seeing the scenes. Ice chest full of Gatorade by my side. Rest stops located strategically. La Quintas where you needed them. 

Sure, the car broke down once or twice but nothing was such a rush back then. We'd just use the phone at the gas station and tell the restauranteurs that we'd be a day late. Didn't seem to matter to them...

On the flip side of this whole mental health equation I absolutely love getting to new places and I love conferences like the one I'll be attending for the next three days. Lots of fun people, good food, straight forward event photography and all the usual trappings of staying in a nice hotel. Also, I love Denver. It's nothing at all like Austin and that may be what I love most about it. That and the altitude. Nothing beats the free buzz of being oxygen deprived for three whole days!

On another note, I thought I'd be calmer and more at ease when I finally got my amazing-blockbuster-rivetting-can't-put-it-down novel uploaded and published on Amazon.com but now I'm on pins and needles waiting for the first reviews...  I think I've chosen all the wrong careers for a person as nervous as me.

I wrote this novel to open up a new writing category: Photo Fiction. It's all about stories for people who love the practice of photography. Action/adventure/Photography. Seems natural. Hope you enjoy it.


Thabesn said...


Bassman said...

Completely share your anxiety around air travel. I used to travel muchly for business. Despite taking the same flights many times and understanding the traffic flows well, I always left more than enough time and always had a backup flight plan if I missed.

And I know people here in the New York area that spend the night before an early flight at the airport hotel near JFK or LGA.