Travel, whether for business or pleasure, can be one of the most rewarding and beneficial experiences a person can have, regardless of career status. It can inspire creativity and build a network. It can also be terrifying.
I became fascinated with travel at an early age. I grew up in a small, freezing cold, dreary town in Connecticut. When I learned that I could hop on a plane and be in hot, sunny, beautiful Florida in only a few hours, I was bewitched.
When I was 14-years-old, I was ready to take my dream trip -- a flight to Australia. With my flight booked and my bags nearly packed, I was told I needed to see my asthma doctor before flying as a precaution.
It did not go well. She said, "You're going all the way to Australia? You know that's a 27-hour flight. You could have major breathing problems on the plane because the cabin is pressurized."
Needless to say, when we arrived at JFK Airport for our trip I had a full-on anxiety attack. I became so afraid of flying that I couldn't take any trips for the next few years.
I ended up going to college in California and got hired as an admissions officer at Marymount College after graduation. One of my new responsibilities was to travel to other states to promote the university. It was a struggle but I had no choice; I had to get over my fear.
I started by flying to close destinations. I found comfort in knowing that I could find alternative transportation should I need to. I also treated myself to a little souvenir each time I made a trip.
Little by little, it got less scary and more routine. I eased into taking longer trips by keeping my goals for my career in mind. I knew I had people counting on me and I had responsibilities to uphold.
The more I flew, the more I noticed that even though I arrived at the airport extra early, I still had to stand in a seemingly endless line to check-in. I was often seated at the back of the plane in a cramped middle seat. The food was bad and my luggage was often last to come out.
I looked over at business travelers who showed up an hour before the flight, cruised through their no-wait check-in counter, waited in a private club room, sat in comfortable seats, ate gourmet dinners, claimed their bags first, and accrued mega-miles for their travels.
I was so frustrated, envious, and determined that I decided to observe everything and pose questions to everyone -- including travel agents, flight attendants, captains, and any frequent flier I could approach.
And guess what? I learned that flying is a game and suddenly the rules of the game emerged. I learned thousands of tricks of the trade just by talking to people.
I also learned how other people cope with their own travel anxieties. By chatting to people, I felt a connection to my fellow travelers. The experience became less daunting and more like a social opportunity to learn (and grow my business).
I wanted to share the knowledge I was acquiring so I emailed a few friends who traveled often. My first emails told them what numbers to call so they could earn double miles or points. Their responses would fuel and inspire new questions and topics of curiosity.
Each week I got more creative, adding new features like tips, videos, and helpful travel websites. My list grew and grew. I got emails from people I didn't even know, asking to be added to the distribution list. When my list reached 500 recipients, I decided to make a website. Now I have 10,000+ views per week.
I felt there were many helpful, cool websites out in cyberspace, but not one of them had everything I needed. I had so many travel bookmarks and favorites that sometimes even I couldn't find what I was looking for. So I laid them all out, organized them, and voila: The Johnny Jet Portal.
The website was designed to point travelers to everything the web has to offer. It doesn't matter if you travel five days a week, or once every five years. This site is for everyone. It has become the "first stop" for thousands of travelers.
Those who contribute to Johnny Jet share my vision -- and I share theirs. Together, all of us get the inside scoop on how to do travel economically, comfortably, efficiently, and with plenty of style.
Here are some of the most important lessons I've learned:
1. Face your fears. After the panic attack, I never thought I'd fly again. But if I hadn't gotten that job and had to face my fear, I likely would've never become the person I am today. Life has a funny way of working out sometimes.
2. Focus on the purpose for challenging your fears (and treat yourself for it). Your entire perspective can change. Those little souvenirs, whatever they may be, remind you of how far I've come.
3. Chat to people. Communication will help you feel more connected and can be an excellent way to learn. Talking to people is how I learned how to travel well.
4. Stay curious. Making observations and wondering how and why things work can drive your passions to another level.
5. If it doesn't already exist, make it. There's a very good chance that someone else will be interested in it as well. In my case, several people were interested in the art of travel which eventually grew and grew.
6. My last and most important piece of advice is this: always be genuinely friendly to everyone. That includes ticket agents on the phone, gate agents, supervisors, porters, security, and of course, the flight attendants. Even if you don't interact much with them, I guarantee they appreciate your kindness.