Business  trips can be stressful, and that's even if you do have an ample supply of coffee.

There are so many unknowns--will the flight arrive on time, will you find a cab, did you forget to let your business partner know how much you hate early mornings meetups? If you're like me, there are multiple scenarios flashing through your brain, maybe because we all have an innate desire to do our best and make things run smoothly, even when it comes to the hotel check-in process and a snotty clerk.

Lately, I've taken a break from travel for a bit but I'm heading out on another trip soon, so the topic is fresh on my mind. Over the past few months, I've read about how the brain goes into a command-and-conquer mode when we travel, which explains the adrenalin rush and then the resulting mental comedown.

I've also started reading a book by Herminia Ibarra, a professor in France, who has suggested an interesting leadership trick based on science. She says, if you act like a leader you will become a leader. Simple, yet profound. She says experimentation is key, not constant self-analysis. It made me think about a technique I've used that helps me with travel, and how it ties into some brain science as well.

My trick is to treat every single business trip like I'm visiting my own hometown--in my case it's Minneapolis. You have to pick your own hometown or the city you know best; I'm not saying everyone needs to move here. And, those who moved around a lot growing up have the advantage of not having a "norm" and can adjust easier to travel.

I grew up in Minneapolis and know the city like the back of my hand. At the tender age of 16, I used to drive every day all the way across Minneapolis to St. Paul where I went to high school. I would never do this, but I could drive on some of the interstates with my eyes closed. It is not stressful. In fact, it's downright enjoyable because my brain is seeing the same comforting locales--the bridge over 35W, the water tower near Bloomington, the fishing spots I've visited countless times. One of the most stressful parts of travel is the unexpected, the train that skips a stop on the way to downtown San Francisco or the major construction project near your hotel. You go into a light version of flight-or-fight mode. (By the way, scientists have now added a third element to that response, which is freeze.) You react and hope for the best.

When I travel, I imagine things a bit differently. First, I think about the airport as basically the same as Minneapolis with more gates.I picture the transportation system the same way. I imagine how, missing a train in my hometown would be a cause for celebration because I'd be able to explore the station and maybe snap a few photos of Elk River. It's all about picturing how things in the new destination are not at all stressful, that people live there and work there and know every street corner as well, that living there and visiting there are remarkably similar except for the address on your driver's license and maybe your accent.

Stress doesn't have to be such a major part of travel. You tell yourself: It is not a major part of visiting my hometown or where I now live, and there doesn't need to be such a major drain on my thought process because that never happens when I go to a football game. You mimic the attitude of being relaxed and low-key about visiting your own town, of knowing where everything is and how to find a destination even without a GPS, and then eventually you start seeing any trip as nothing but a puddle jump across town with better food.

I'm curious if you try this technique, which is really about what you tell yourself about any upcoming appointments and activities. It's a thought process that then involves an attitude adjustment, and over time, it teaches you to relax and enjoy the journey.

If you try it, drop me a note and let me know what worked and what didn't work.

Published on: Jul 11, 2016
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