December 21, 2010

Stress Travel

If you travel for a chess tournament, you know it's often not quite the adventure that some may think. The surprises, inconveniences, and delays can be "interesting" when you're on vacation. But with business travel, you need to focus on being productive – so typical travel discomforts can often seem worse, because you're also dealing with business pressures.

If you travel frequently, you may have a high tolerance for the stresses of constantly moving around. But for many of us, the demands of traveling for chess competitions cause anxiety, frustration, exhaustion, and often low level physical illness. If your flight is delayed, if you have a flat tire while driving, if you're so tired that you can't think – then your hopes of playing successfully can disappear.
The good news is that there are several ways to ensure that your travel will go as smoothly as possible, allowing you to concentrate on your chess goals:)

Stay calm and figure out plan B:

Some situations are beyond our control and there is nothing anybody can do about it. This comes mostly into play when we travel by plane or train. We can't do anything about delays or cancellations. It is completely out of our hands. But what we can do, is assume from the very beginning of the trip that this can or will happen and recognize that we can't change it.

With some of the following little tips in mind, your travel should be smooth. And remember, you just have to accept the things you have no control over and make the BEST out of the situation. There is always a way to get where you want to go and be stress free.

1. Don't Expect Perfection: In a perfect world, there would always be shiny weather, kind and polite waiters, exceptional health, and blissfully tranquil accommodations. Much as we might desire these elements to be in place, the reality is that there will always be freak rainstorms, grumpy servers, gastrointestinal disorders, and rooms that are right next door to a screaming couple with screaming kids. Unfortunately, the people we tend to blame for these travel malfunctions are those with whom we are traveling, thus making a bad situation even worse. If you start out with the assumption that Weird Stuff Will Happen, it won't be as alarming a surprise to you when it inevitably does. Leave the crumbs alone and focus on the big cake - roumanian saying:)
In other words: concentrate on your games, the rest is not as important as your tournament.
I don't know about you, but lately I always have this "luck", to experience a lot of inconveniences. Let me tell you a story:

Once I had to travel with my previous chess coach and two other chess players for a tournament in Hungary. We took our train from Roumania and around midnight we were supposed to reach our destination...we were comfortably sitting in the far so good, but then suddenly we see the name Balaton and something, which we thought it was our destination! 
We quickly grabbed out luggage and in the last second we managed to get out of the train. What a relief! Yes, we did it! But than...we realized that we are in the middle of nowhere. We slowly go towards the train station (which was closed during the night) and look on a map. Than we check our official papers, look again on the map panick! This is not our destination!
If we would have done our homeworks...we would have known that there are at least 10 destinations with the name Balaton around their famous Balaton Lake.
What should we do now? We start checking for the next train...great! It was supposed to come next day in the morning:)) And this is not all: it showed that it doesn't stop in our train station but in another one, 3 km away from there.
Ok, we have to reach that train station. But how to do that??? Not even one person on the streets, no restaurants, no lights, nothing!! (You should know that I was only 12 and mobile phones, internet were not as popular as nowdays:) We felt like we were in the twilight zone:)
Than we thought: 3's not that much and if the train stops there, it means it should be a bigger station, civilization, hotels etc. It was damn cold that night and the idea of dragging our suitcases for 3 km didn't seem to be that awful.
So we start moving, following the railway of course:))
Finally, completely exhausted, here we are: the famous station from where we could take the morning train. Do you think it was different from the previous one? Well my are wrong:) All the same: no people, no hotels, no lights...only darkness, it was cold, we were tired, hungry and depressed.
Waiting in Budapest's train station,
 with a different occasion:)
We couldn't enter the train station, to wait on a chair, because, as expected: it was closed during nighttime. We explore a bit the surroundings...nothing at all! It's almost 2 AM...5 hours to go until our train arrives...the hours are going so slow: minutes, seconds, nanoseconds! Time takes a different dimension when you're waiting:)

I remember I started running to get warmer, but after a while, I got tired and had to stop:) Another method we used: we drank from our coach's alcoholic drink, 40% alcohol - a tipical roumanian a 12 year old, you can imagine how much I enjoyed it, but it helped, for a while. 
And than again we were freezing...until I discovered an old phone cabin, were me and the other 2 players (coach sacrificed himself, not enough room for 4 people) found shelter. It was ok, for 20 minutes only, because the wind was so strong and the cabin was not fully closed: our legs were still exposed to the wind and also, how long can you be standing without taking a sit?!
We went out of the cabin, explored again the surroundings and took the decision to sit on a wooden porch of an old house that we discovered, sitting like penguins to get a little warmer. You can picture us sitting like that...when suddenly, one of my friends kicked me and told me: Alina, don't want to scare you but...take a look up! Of course I look and I see two heads and 4 eyes staring at us! There were 2 men, of course not speaking English, and no matter how much we tried to speak with our hands, they left:(
We decided to go back to our coach and luggage, who, meanwhile, discovered 3 abandoned chairs...and we were 4 people:) But ok, why to complain?! It's better than nothing, especially because we also found an abandoned toilet: yes! No wind in there! (No comment about the smell) So we took our chairs, went into the toilet and waited there until the morning when our train arrived.
And I took the first place there, with 8.5 out of 9 games:)

Conclusions: I will continue with the tips list

2. Even in the worst trip scenario, you can still play a great tournament!

3. Do Your Homework: The more comfortable you feel with your destination, the more relaxed you will be in maneuvering your way around it. Buy a travel guide, look at a map (or two:), and learn a couple of polite foreign phrases. Maintain a positive attitude that this will be an enriching experience and you will come away worlds wiser for it.

I came up with the following advice after years of experience, it really helps:)

4. Make your luggage with one day in advance! - in this way you won't be over-stressed, running from one place to another in the day prior your departure. You will still have time to think if you forgot something.

5. Keep an Open Mind: While it goes without saying that there's no place like home, it doesn't necessarily mean that home is always right. Whether you’re traveling across the country or around the world, you can work yourself into an unreasonable state of stress by trying to get everything and everyone to conform to your way of seeing or doing things. Relax! Home will always be right where you left it. In the meantime, enjoy the diversity the universe has to offer and be thankful for the time and resources to experience it firsthand.

Your turn: Do you have a traveling story from your chess tournaments that would make us feel as not being the only ones with badluck?!


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