by Elizabeth Delaney While I thoroughly enjoy opportunities to take my music from place to place, I'm never able to totally escape the anxiety of watching my guitar go down the conveyor belt to be loaded onto an airplane. There are some places to which it's better to fly than drive. So I breathe a quick prayer that all will be well and try to focus on something else -- some good reading material, maybe journaling, a word search or whatever. But stuff to do is only one small aspect of really enjoying the opportunity to take your music to the masses. Being organized and prepared are, in my opinion, key elements for the traveling musician who wants to eliminate as much frustration as possible and enjoy the experience. And I don't know about you, but when I'm relaxed, I always sound better. That being said, here are a few ideas that will take some of the turbulence out of your travels.
The Right Stuff
Instrument case - For those of us who want to bring our own instrument (as opposed to, say, a pianist) an instrument case that's durable, easy to carry, and as weather resistant as possible is a great start. Some will automatically think hard shell case. And if you don't have to carry it around much, that is one very effective option. However, if you're like me and don't have your own roadies (yet) you might look for something with a shoulder strap that's less heavy. Keyboardists may like to have a rolling keyboard case -- especially if you use a full sized keyboard. And such an item can be found in a mainstream music store for a reasonable price, or online.
Packing your music - If you'll be using music (as opposed to memorizing it) it's a good idea to pack your music in your carry on and not your luggage. That way, if your luggage gets lost, your music won't. I think most of us have had that nightmare about being on stage but not being prepared.
Equipment compatibility - Find out if your equipment is compatible with their sound system. If you're going to be in a foreign country, you may need an item or two that's different than what's used here, depending on the country. In some cases it may be as simple as purchasing an item called a power converter or adapter, which can typically be found at a mainstream electronics store.
Those thousand little extra things - This may seem obvious, but I'll say it anyway. If you play a stringed instrument, make sure you bring an extra set of strings (and extra picks for guitar players) because replacements can sometimes be difficult to find in a different city and especially in a foreign country.
Being Mindful of Your Health
Time zone blues - The more formal name for this would be jet lag. While it can't be escaped, there are ways to diminish its effects -- even while you're in transit. And these tips will even apply if you're making a particularly long drive -- like four hours or more (one way). While a person can drive for four hours and still be in the same time zone, (depending on your location) driving for an extended period of time can still cause plenty of fatigue to set in. The best way to combat it, as simplistic as it may sound, is to drink plenty of water (at least two liters) and take a multivitamin each day.
Other natural helps to consider - Echinacea and Ginkgo Biloba are natural herbs, which can be found in most health food stores. Echinacea can be helpful for boosting your immune system, while Ginkgo Biloba can enhance energy level and focus. I like using vitamin C and vitamin B complex (more specifically, raw vitamin C and raw vitamin B complex) each day. Vitamin C gives my immune system a boost for fighting off colds and the flu, and vitamin B complex helps with my energy level and nerves. The raw version can be found in most mainstream health food stores.
Packing your stage clothes and street clothes - On those occasions when you'll have the opportunity to pack your bags, rolling clothes (as opposed to folding them) takes up less space and reduces wrinkles. And if you can stand wearing polyester, that's what packs best. Although jeans pack relatively well, too.
Garment bag as an alternative - If you're driving, a quality garment bag is worth the investment. I personally find my garment bag (which has a shoulder strap and lots of zipper pockets) to be less hassle than a suitcase if I'm driving somewhere.
Comfortable walking shoes - These are a must. Especially since you may find yourself needing to move rather briskly through the airport. It's not uncommon for an airline to decide (seemingly arbitrarily) to change a person's flight -- or just cancel it altogether. But I will say this in their defense: they are typically very helpful when questions are politely asked.
Comfortable travel clothes - Whether you're flying or driving, you'll want to wear comfortable clothes and shoes for travel.
Water for your flight - Being in the air will dehydrate you, so bringing water on the plane is a good plan. However, it still has to be purchased in the airport after the security checkpoint. And don't forget spare funds for snacks, or for toll roads if you're driving.
Staying in touch - If you'll be gone for an extended period of time, (like more than three days) it's a good idea to keep in touch with loved ones. Whether e-mail, text messaging or cell phone, keeping in touch helps to relieve the loneliness and stress that often comes with travel when you're performing. If you're married, it can be a good idea to call home each day or evening if your spouse can't come with you. And the wise musician will make sure to work through and resolve any relationship issues long before ever walking out the door.
The above things are just a few of the things that I have learned along the way. Still, it seems that I learn something new every time -- which makes the experience even more enjoyable when it comes my way!