There’s a part of me that envies organised travellers.
Envies people who collect Miles when they fly, and then remember to use them. Envies people who arrive at the airport with enough time to have a cocktail or two in the lounge before their flight, and to Twitter the fact that they’re doing it. Envies people who remember to move their loose change from their pocket to their carry-on bag before they reach the metal detectors, rather than between the second beep and the cavity search. And above all, envies people who check out of hotels on time.
Part of me.
The rest of me loves travelling by the seat of my pants. I love the excitement; the devil-may-care-where-I-end-up-nextness that has lead me to have such a blast on this current trip. I love booking hotel rooms in the cab from the airport or, better still, in the lobby of the hotel. I love the feeling of making a flight with seconds to spare. And I really love changing all of my plans at the last minute and ending up in a completely different state, or country, than I planned.
And the thing is, whatever organised people might think, travelling like this can be a totally stress-free experience. There are really only three rules you need to follow, and everything else is a cinch:
Rule one: wherever possible, travel East to West first thing in the morning, West to East last thing at night. Reversing this is a diversion down the road to Madness.
Rule two: travel lighter – make sure your life can fit in a single, small, case and always leave one item behind every time you check out of a hotel room. This offsets the crap you’ve acquired during your stay.
And most importantly of all…
Rule three: always, always do your packing the night before you check out.
Check out time at my hotel this morning was 11am. So you can imagine, when I woke up at 11:15, how glad I was to have followed rule three. To the (weird) credit of the housekeeping staff, they had continued to observe the Do Not Disturb sign that had been on my door since I arrived and were – I kid you not – waiting patiently outside as I hurtled past them with my single – small – case at 11:21.
I’m in Starbucks right now, still trying to wake myself up, but tonight I will follow rule one when I travel East, to New York City, on the last train out of Chicago. It’s going to be another epic journey and, for reasons explained earlier, I’m really looking forward to 20 hours in a metal tube with a few dozen perfect strangers. The Lake Shore Limited service originates at Union Station so I’ll have my pick of the seats, both in coach and in the observation car. I have three quarters of a book to finish copy-edit-checking for my editor and half of Jack Kerouac’s ‘Windblown World’ journals to read. I’m not sure travelling gets any better than that.
It’ll be my last bit of near-solitude for a while – not only is New York full of indigenous buddies who I’ve promised to meet/eat/drink a bottle of wine and listen to records [sic] with, but Walshy’s in town too, so I can’t see me having much time to think, let alone write for the next few days.
Fortunately I’ve got a truck-load done while I’ve been here – broken the back of the new book, started to check the copy-edited manuscript for the current one and had an idea that may prove to be either the best of worst I’ve ever had. More on that maybe soon, possibly never.
Thanks to my communications-streamlining efforts, I now have the technology to Twitter from the train, so expect a stream of interminably dull progress updates along the way. If you’re my friend – by which I mean a) I know you in the real world b) you get the impression that I like you c) actually like you, not just pretend because you’re sleeping with one of my friends* – you should definitely follow me.