si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

I’ve been on a dating site recently. Not with any significant expectations (I trust the universe to look after me), more just about “keeping the door open” and passing the time.

However, I noticed myself slipping into compulsive behaviour. Checking the site way more times than strictly necessary. And really, how often is “necessary” anyway? Once a year? Once a week? Once a day? Once an hour?

But I digress.

As with most forms of escapism, once I spotted it, I wanted to get to the root of it, and clear it out.

After I got quiet and focused in on what I was feeling and what my motivations were for constantly checking the site, I realised Dean Martin summed it up perfectly decades ago.


See, the real problem is, this concept is insidious. It’s everywhere.

How many films are there where a couple start out together, then breaks up and are happier being single at the end of the movie?

How many adverts involve someone being perfectly happy being by themselves?

Versus, of course, the exact opposite.

The media tells us, constantly, that we can only be happy if we’re in a relationship. That really, we only have value, that we’re only lovable if we’re in a relationship.

None of this is news to you, I’m sure. But holy crap, how twisted is that?

And of course, I realised this was exactly the rabbit hole I’d fallen into.

I had a whole raft of beliefs along these lines:

  • I need the love of a good, beautiful woman
  • I’m happiest when I’m loved – I feel I can kick ass and achieve anything
  • I have no value unless someone else values me
  • I’m not lovable unless someone else shows this by loving me
  • I’m somehow failing unless I’m in a relationship
  • I’m not important/don’t have value unless someone better than me loves me (whoa!)
  • I’m not attractive unless someone attractive/amazing wants me

… and so on.

You can immediately see how these beliefs both set me up for instant failure (default mode: unhappy, unattractive, unloved), but also are self-defeating. Why would someone else want to love me if I don’t love myself?

Of course, the good news is – as always – the hardest bit is seeing these beliefs.

Once you see them, you can very easily drop them.

So, just to be thorough, how can we get all of these beliefs to the surface?

What worked for me was asking myself questions like:

  • How would I feel if I never had another partner?
  • How do I feel about being alone?
  • How do I feel about being alone for the entire rest of my life?
  • What if no-one attractive ever wanted me again? (ie, I had to compromise or settle not to be alone)
  • What if I was never loved again?
  • What if I never experienced love again? (slightly different phrasing often helps)
  • What feeling will I have when I have this partner?

(then imagine, and feel these feelings as strongly as you can – to really dig everything up. Tapping 2″ down and across from the beginning of your collar bone (point 7) can also help you “tune in” to these feelings more strongly)

As well as these, there will always be the ever present feelings of “wanting or lacking love/approval.”

To some of these, you may feel a general, non-specific energy coming up. To some you may get specific phrases or beliefs bubbling to the surface.

To the non-specific energy, I’d recommend just letting the energy go – you don’t need to know what it is to get rid of it.

Specific beliefs or thoughts are pretty straightforward to dump too. Use whatever tools work for you. These days I tend to simply choose to let the belief/energy go, or let the picture go. You could also tap them out, etc etc.

Either way, once you can see/feel these things coming up you can easily drop them all.

Then, just go back to the questions, and keep going over them until you feel completely at peace. Completely at ease. Completely loving about being alone.

Take that, Dean Martin. You can be somebody, even if nobody loves you. Hello? Who should love us the most? US OF COURSE!

The paradox here is that when you’re in this state, you immediately become more attractive. Why? Because you’re dropping any sense of neediness or desperation. You become more loving. You become more centred and connected with yourself. Less pulled around by the vagaries of other people.

Which of course, makes you more attractive.

Hilariously ironic really, this life of ours.

Oh, and the dating site? Yeah. I’m now checking it 10x less, but more importantly, with a definite feel of “Well, this is very nice, but really, whatever.” Win.


    What Is Love?

    It’s a big question. What is love?

    For a start, the word “love” can mean a lot of different things. The ancient Greeks had five main types:

    • Philia – loyalty. Motivated by practical reasons; one or both the parties benefit from the relationship
    • Xenia – hospitality. The almost ritualised friendship between a host and their guest.
    • Storge – natural affection, like parents have for their child
    • Eros – passionate, romantic love, with sensual desire and longing
    • Agape – pure love. Soul love. For lack of a better description, God’s unconditional love.

    Mostly on this blog I’ve been talking about unconditional love, what the Greeks called agape. Why? Simply because this is a superset of all the other forms of love.

    If you have unconditional love for someone, it doesn’t matter if they are guest, child, an intimate or business partner – you’ll treat them as lovingly as (or more than) if you had only the first four types of love.

    Agape, unconditional love, is the deep root beneath all other forms of love.

    Ok. Well, that’s nice. Now what?

    I’ve always struggled to find a good synonym for the word love. How do we identify if we’re being truly loving or not? How can we look at it from slightly to one side, just to be sure?

    Up until recently I’d often described love as “unconditional positive regard.” However, this lacked something. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it wasn’t the whole picture.

    I could feel myself feeling unconditional positive regard towards people I knew that I still thought were complete shitbags.

    Then, recently, I was (finally, it’s amazing) reading Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. In there, I found the missing pieces of the puzzle.

    These pieces are: admiration and great respect.

    So now in total I understand that unconditional love means unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect.

    (obviously this may not be the entire thing, but it feels damn close. If it’s not complete, I don’t feel there’s very much to go.)

    Of course, as soon as we think about anyone like this, part of our brain will scream “Why the hell should I respect them? I refuse to admire them! They’re…” (etc).

    Well guess what? That’s us being judgemental. No matter how “right” we (think we) are, it’s not unconditional love.

    This is a tricky area.

    This is where Christians with their cries of “love the sinner hate the sin” start to slide – it’s still being judgemental.

    As soon as we say “this is wrong”, we’re sliding into judgement. It’s what makes it so insidious, and unconditional love so tricky.

    Think of the worst people you can imagine – typically something along the lines of a serial murderer, rapist, paedophile or Hitler. Or, closer to home, those that have harmed us in the past.

    Obviously these people have done some atrocious things. This is why they’re good examples. Because it’s so hard for us to unconditionally love them.

    If we put aside the rule of law (what should society do with people that commit atrocities), we can simplify this situation enormously.

    In terms of being (or not) unconditionally loving, what are we really talking about?

    We’re talking about how we feel.

    So, pick one of the cases above. What we’re doing by not choosing to be unconditionally loving is this: we are letting someone else’s behaviour decide for us how we are going to feel.

    In other words, we decide they’ve been awful, therefore we are going to hold negative (non loving) feelings towards them.

    We are giving our power away.

    Well, how silly is that?

    Surely we are the boss of us? Surely we decide how we should feel?

    Of course, there are people out there doing simply awful things. But why should we let them make us feel bad? Who gave them that power over us?

    Well, by choosing to be judgemental, by choosing to hold back from loving them (particularly when we feel they “don’t deserve it”), we did. We gave them power over us.

    So really, by choosing to be unconditionally loving, by choosing to give them unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect what we’re really doing is choosing to let go of their power over us.

    We’re choosing to feel as positively as humanly possible, no matter what they do.

    This is the ultimate power we have. As Viktor Frankl (who survived Auschwitz) said

    “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

    This is why unconditional love is so important.

    This is why understanding what love is is so important.

    Of course, if love as “unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect” doesn’t resonate completely for you – please do keep looking. I’d be most curious to hear your thoughts. I’m always eager to learn more.

    At this stage, this is the best I’ve found. It feels complete to me. Most importantly, when I think about applying that definition to people (or organisations) in my life I’m least likely to feel this way about, I feel challenged and uncomfortable. Which is probably a very good sign I’m stumbling in the right direction.

    Now obviously, the next practical question (and I do like to keep things practical, as much as possible) is what do we do with this information?

    Well, here’s what’s been working for me, it’s super simple.

    Basically, just imagine someone (or something) horrible in front of you. Then think the phrase “unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect” towards them.

    If there’s any part of you that disagrees with giving them these things, those are the parts of you that are holding you back from loving them completely and unconditionally.

    From there, you can simply let those feelings or thoughts go. Or tap them out. Or breathe them out. Whatever works for you.

    The key is to keep letting go of all the objections, arguments and generally non-loving reactions that come up in response to trying to feel unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect for that person (or organisation).

    Once you let go of all of these reactions, you’ll feel yourself naturally slip into genuinely feeling those feelings towards that person.

    In other words, regardless of that person’s behaviour, you are now feeling genuine unconditional love, agape (the highest possible way of feeling).

    You’ve stopped yourself (your emotions and energetic state at the very least) from being a victim of their behaviour. You’ve regained mastery over yourself.

    Now, I’m definitely not saying you should put yourself in harm’s way here.

    For example, you can cross the road safely (a very dangerous thing to do, statistically), but you can do that happily and at peace, or you can freak out and be full of fear. It’s completely your choice.

    For me, I choose unconditional love. I choose happiness. I choose peace. Oh, and I choose not to stand in oncoming traffic, human or otherwise.


      Surviving a Break-Up

      Relationship break-ups suck. There’s no two ways about it.

      They hurt.

      However, we have to get through them. We don’t (usually) have the freedom to hide in bed for six months (or three years) until all the pain goes away.

      So, what to do?

      Well. I’ve had a lot of breakups in my life. So I’ve learned a bit. I’d like to share what I’ve picked up along the way.

      There are two places all this pain we’re feeling comes from:

      1. OUR SHIT
      Things we’ve done (or didn’t do). Horrible things we’ve said. Things we should have done differently. Regrets and self-blame, in short.

      2. THEIR SHIT
      Horrible things they’ve said. Horrible things they’ve done.

      Once you are in a relationship for any length of time these things pile up. Breakups can take years to get over, if you wait for time to slowly heal everything.

      (This is also why I recommend healing everything like crazy while you’re in the relationship).

      You can understand why people so often just jump into something new (the so called “rebound relationship”). To distract themselves, avoid dealing with the pain, and so on. See also booze, work and all the other usual forms of escapism.

      Of course, this is kinda silly – you just take the same junk and pain with you into your new relationship. Which rarely helps.


      In terms of cleaning up efficiently, aka, getting over them and getting yourself back together, it’s easiest to start with our own shit.

      It’s much easier to forgive ourselves for past mistakes than to let go of perceived hurts by another. So, begin there.

      For a start, everything is in the past (as long as we’re not continuing to be horrible to our now ex). We can’t change it. So, the least we can do is let go of feeling bad about the mistakes we’ve made.

      Once we’re done with our own mistakes, and we feel peaceful and loving towards ourselves (regardless of how we feel about them), then we can get started on the harder side of things. Them.

      See, the trouble with breakups is, unless one person is a sociopath (or otherwise broken), both people generally come out of it feeling like they got the worse deal. The most pain. The most inconvenience. The shitty end of the stick.

      So, while we may think of four or five awful things we did wrong, we can easily think of dozens of things they did.

      But that’s ok. It just means their side will take a little longer to work through.


      Oh, I almost forgot.

      How to do all this?

      Well, as always, forgiveness is key. In brief: imagine them in front of you, and say I forgive you to them. Then, say “I’m sorry, please forgive me for all the things you did to hurt them (even if you have no idea what they were). Repeat until you don’t feel any emotional charge doing each of these things.

      Ok, that’s the fast bit.

      Now, start with all the things you did/said wrong. Take each item one at a time, focus on it, and just feel the pain rising. Usually, as this emotion comes up, there’ll be a physical component – we’ll feel it in our body, as well as the emotional/energetic component.

      Next, very simply say “I love you” to the pain, and let the energy/feeling/pain go. Say “I love you” and mean it. That’s really the key.

      You’re here to get rid of this pain, there’s no point being half-arsed about it.

      So, call up whatever’s happened, say “I love you” and let it go. Rinse and Repeat until done.

      You’ll know you’re done when there’s no more energy or emotion around the event. You’ll know you’re done when you feel peaceful or even loving about it.

      Yes, this is very similar to the simple meditation I told you about.

      Why should this be any surprise? We’re talking about being loving – the highest state of being – just in a very focused area, rather than your entire life.

      Once you can’t think of any other ways you’ve hurt them, you’re probably done.

      Next, work through the (usually larger) list of things that they’ve done to hurt you. Say “I love you” to each item and let the energy/feeling/emotion go. Keep saying “I love you” and letting it go until you’re peaceful and/or loving about it. Then move to the next thing, until you can’t think of any way they’ve hurt you that has any emotional charge left to it.

      Do the forgiveness thing again (both ways) and voila. All that crappy energy is gone.

      The last thing to watch for is any residual yet unidentifiable feelings. Often we’ll have just a general crappy aura towards them – without it being about any specific thing, or identifiable event. That’s ok – just focus on the feeling as before, say “I love you” and let it dissolve. You don’t have to vocalise the issue to clear it.


      Not everyone heals their pain. Some people continue to act it out, in relationship after relationship. These are also the kinds of people that have the same relationship, over and over, with different people. The same angry controlling partners. The same fights. And so on.

      So, what do you do if, mid-breakup, your ex is continuing to act out their pain towards you?

      For a start, forgive them for being a dick. There’s a thousand reasons someone may not be healing things or moving on as quickly as you are. Everyone has stresses and difficulties in their lives that are difficult to understand from outside.

      Secondly, there’s a secret to how relationships work. As we get to know someone, we build up a connection to them. For any relationship of any intensity or length, that connection can be very strong.

      Imagine there’s a cord, running from your heart to theirs. We have these (effectively) with every person we interact with. For someone we pass in the street it’ll be thinner than a hair; for our parents it’s the kind of thing you’d anchor the Titanic with; intimate relationships are somewhere in between.

      The thing with these connections is this: what affects them affects us.

      How is this useful? It means that we can heal them. Not of everything (we’re not living their life, and we are not the boss of them), just of their attitudes and the energy they send towards us.

      Think of it this way. Imagine this cord between you is an actual rope. If they twist their end up, we can untwist it from our end. Unless they’re aggressively and consciously retwisting it, it will stay healthy. Stay normal. Stay untwisted.

      So, regarding the relationship (which remember, requires both of you) whatever you heal from your end heals their end too.

      Remember, you’re not doing this for them; you’re doing it for you.

      So, Extra for Experts:

      Think about them. Think about something that is upsetting them about you (they’ve probably told you. Several times). Focus in on that feeling in them. How it would feel for them. How upset they’d be. Say “I love you” and let the tension/energy/feeling go. Keep saying “I love you” until all that tension is gone.

      If you think through all the things they’ve said have upset them, you can quickly go through and lift all this tension off.

      What you’re doing here is removing negative energy that’s being aimed at you. Yes, it will help them feel better (and thus treat you nicer), but really, it’s you being the boss of your experience, being the boss of your life.

      Now, depending on the intensity of the relationship, there might be a half dozen things, or (as happened to me recently) there could be a few hundred. It’s ok, there’s no rush.

      Some relationships I’ve come out of and been fine within a couple of days. Some have taken weeks. Some months or even years (before I had these techniques).

      Trust me on one thing though. This way? Forgiving and loving? It’s exponentially faster than any other method I’ve found.

      Better yet? What you’re actually doing is healing these issues. Which means when you do finally feel you’re ready to jump back in the saddle, you won’t be attracting the same kind of yo-yos into your life. Sorry, did I say that? I meant, the universe won’t need to bring you those same lessons, because you will have learned (healed) them already.

      You’ll move up. To someone so much better, so much more perfect for you.

      And until they do turn up? You’ll be peaceful, loving and much, much happier.


        What You Resist Persists

        Have you ever tried not thinking of pink elephants?

        It’s the oldest kid joke in the book. Why is it even funny? Well of course, because you can’t not think of something. Our brains just don’t work that way.

        There are ways around this, of course. The easiest way to not think of a pink elephant is to choose to think of (for example) a blue elephant. Or a pink swan. Essentially, fill our head with something other than the thing we’re avoiding.

        In general though, whether we’re thinking of something, or thinking of not something, the picture of that thing is still present in our head.

        Why is this a problem?

        To quote Carl Jung: What you resist persists.

        When we focus on something, we create it our lives. As Mike Dooley puts it, “thoughts become things.”

        Ever notice how people who like to bitch about things always have no trouble at all finding things to complain about? Their lives are mysteriously full of awful events.

        Happy people somehow have lives mostly full of things worth celebrating.

        This may look a little circular, but it’s no accident.

        Ancient mystics described it thusly: “As within, so without” (and “and as above, so below”).

        Whatever is happening inside us echoes out into the universe and is reflected in our lives.

        This is similar to how Australian Aboriginal traditions believed that dreams were real, and day-to-day “reality” merely the reflection of those dreams.

        If you’ve done any kind of spiritual self-work, then you will have seen this in action. No doubt everything above is already blindingly obvious to you.

        So where do the elephants come in?

        Because it doesn’t matter whether we’re thinking about something we like, or something we don’t like – we’ll still be creating it in our lives.

        Even if you don’t believe that this happens – by thinking about something you’re drawing your attention to it – so it’ll feel like more of it is occurring in your life.

        When you buy a new red Audi, suddenly you see all the other red Audis on the road. Just got a bob haircut? The supermarket will be full of them.

        Whatever your attention is on, you’ll see more of.

        So, if you’re hating something? In a perverse kind of way, you’re going to be creating (or at the very least noticing) more of it in your life.

        Which, of course, you’ll also hate.

        You can see how quickly this spirals downward.

        If slow people walking in front of you annoys you, you can be damn sure you’ll notice it every time it happens.

        If advertising drives you crazy, you’ll see how much we’re saturated in it.

        Thus, we end up more annoyed, feeling less in control, and thus focusing even more on the very thing we’re trying to avoid.

        There’s another layer going on here. I believe we’re here on earth to learn. To grow as individuals.

        When you hold strong negative feelings about something, the universe very helpfully brings that thing back to us, over and over, until we learn to let go of those feelings. We’re all on an upward journey to enlightenment. Aka, learning to give less of a shit about the little things. Learning to chill the hell out.

        If you have the same shitty relationships over and over again? It’s because you still haven’t learned what you’ve needed to learn (even if that’s just how to spot the warning signs of oncoming lunacy). All the talk I do about healing on this blog is really just because it’s by a wide margin the most complete and efficient method of learning that I’ve discovered so far.

        How do we break our vicious downward spirals? Very simple, really. Let go of our inner resistance. Let go of the frustration around slow people. Let go of the resistance to advertising. I’ve talked about this before, with regard to judgement (just another form of resistance) and anger.

        The more we are able to let go of these non-loving emotions, the better.

        Use any tool that resonates with you. EFT, releasing, meditation, breathing, saying “I love you”, dancing. It really doesn’t matter, as long as it works.

        Ideally, you want to get to the point where you feel genuinely loving (or at the very least peaceful) about whatever it was that previously was bugging you so much.

        When you’re genuinely peaceful then even if something does occur, it won’t bother you in the slightest. And voila, it’ll fade from your awareness.

        On a deeper energetic level you’ll also stop drawing these experiences into your existence (ie manifesting them) – but that’s a whole other conversation.

        Now, we can always wait until we’re feeling annoyed by something, but it’s much quicker to proactively go after this stuff.

        So, try sitting down and simply asking “Who or what am I resisting?”

        Typically you’ll be amazed at what pops into your head (if you’re quiet, and listening). Once you get better at it of course, you’ll be able to do it while on the bus, walking down the road, or bored at work.

        The more you ask the question and then let go of all the energy (emotion) you feel around each thing, the more peaceful you’ll become. And, best of all, the less you’ll be creating (and then upset by) these things in your existence.

        The more peaceful and loving you are about elephants, pink or otherwise, the less they’ll be in your awareness and the less they’ll be in your life.

        Whatever you resist persists. Whatever you stop resisting stops persisting.


          How to Fly Long Distance

          I’ve done a LOT of long distance flying.

          I’ve spent a chunk of my life in Europe, with family mostly in New Zealand. For the uninitiated this is typically a 26-36 hour flight (depending on the route and stop overs involved). I’ve had it take over 40 hours (that ONE time I wasn’t paying attention when booking flights).

          I’ve typically done this trip at least a couple of times a year. Except for that one time I flew to NZ, spent four days there, then back in time for work the following week.

          There’s something about sitting in one seat for 12+ hours, often, that gives you a lot of time to think about how the experience could be improved.

          Here are some things I’ve found that make it better.


          Before the flight


          Get everything critical laid out the day before

          This enables you to easily and visually check the obvious stuff (tickets, passport, itinerary), and make sure you don’t forget anything, but also to question “do I really need that.” If you’re flying, weight matters.

          Put deodorant in your carry on

          You might not need it, but if you do you’ll be super grateful. Also, if your bags get lost (it does happen) you won’t have to feel/smell like death until you can find a chemist.

          Tie a fancy ribbon on your hold luggage

          Around the handle is fine. Just something that makes your generic black bag look slightly different from every other generic black bag on the carousel. The only thing more tedious than having to lift your bags off yourself is having to lift many bags off because you keep accidentally grabbing ones that aren’t yours.

          Duct tape makes everything look old

          If you have expensive stuff, putting duct tape on it will make it look old and crappy. A sneaky trick I learned from an international travel photographer. It’s odd, but works.

          Put everything of value in your carry on

          As awful as it is, you have to assume that baggage handlers don’t care, and that everything in your hold luggage will be rifled through and possibly stolen. If your expensive gear is with you at all times, you can keep an eye on it. Otherwise? Good luck.

          Always keep your passport and tickets in the same place

          Don’t do what I did once – madly rip my entire suitcase apart in front of check in, looking for a lost passport – only to realise ten minutes later that it was in my right jacket pocket instead of my left. Oops.

          Always dress up for the airport

          Of course, “additional screening is random.” And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. I’ve travelled a LOT. The only times I’ve been really hassled at security was when I had surreal hair and was dressed for a festival. When I’m tidy? (usually black dress shoes, jeans, collared shirt, jacket). I get waved through. In fact, some of the times they’ve actually waved me AROUND security. Yes, so I didn’t get scanned at all. Go figure.

          Oh, as a bonus? Jackets have pockets. Always helpful.

          Get to the airport early

          Usual check in for international flights is an hour and a half. If I’m travelling by myself, I’ll typically aim for 2-2 1/2 hours (depending on how I’m getting there) or 4+ hours if I’m travelling with someone else (depending on the person).

          I’ve been on the way to an airport, with two 30+ kg suitcases and three hand carries, only to have a train we were depending on get cancelled. The next available train was half an hour. Fortunately, I’d planned to get there 4 hours early, so we had plenty of time and could relax and laugh about the whole thing.

          Travel can be stressful enough, and there’s nothing worse than getting on a long haul flight dripping in sweat because you’ve had to sprint somewhere carrying a giant suitcase. Get there early, be chilled, let everything be easy.

          Be super nice when checking in

          You may not have noticed, but often the person who checks you in will also be on the flight. It’s one of the ways that airlines save money. They don’t hire extra desk staff, it’s just one more job for flight attendants. What this means is they’ll remember if you’re a dick to them (or grumpy) when you’re checking in. The other thing here is – these people have HUGE power. Baggage allowance, which seats you get, how much they look after you on the actual flight, oh and yes, if you’re even ON that flight.

          All that aside, they have a hell of a job. Twelve plus hours, standing most of the time, required to smile and be super polite to often demanding, rude, inconsiderate people. Make a point of making their lives a little easier. It’s good karma.

          So, before you walk up, put ALL your internal crap to one side. Imagine you’re meeting an old friend, and do all you can to smile, connect, be loving, supportive and warm. And yes, this is someone who is “there to serve you”. Just do it, you’ll thank me, plus it’ll make you feel better – being loving always does.

          Ask at check in to be seated as close to the front as possible

          Generally they fill the windows first, front to back, then the aisles. If you don’t mind sitting in an aisle seat, then being in front of 50 or 60 sets of seats will make a huge difference to how quickly you’ll be able to get off the plane. Which in turn makes a huge difference to how quickly you can get through immigration (often the slowest bit of the post-plane exit). Also, forward of the engines is noticeably quieter than behind.

          If you can check in with a machine, do that

          It’s always faster than standing in a queue. Also, you can then choose a seat super far forward.

          Be nice to the security people

          Much like checkin staff, they have the power to make your life miserable (up to and including jail, let alone missing your flight). Sure, they can be thieving, under trained, unhappy people, but hey, they need love too. Also? In all likelihood they hate their job as much as you hate them doing it. They’re not all bad. They’re in a crappy position (if nothing awful happens, they’re “adequate”; if anything does, it’s their fault – there’s simply no win condition for them). Have some empathy.

          No matter how stupid the modern “security theatre” is (hint: very), you can suck it up for five minutes. Smile, be polite, do NOT joke – about anything, be loving. Then run away as quickly as you can. No, don’t run; walk briskly.

          When going through the xray, put everything from your pockets into your jacket

          First, it’s much faster than putting it all into the plastic tray. Once you’re through you can walk away, and empty your jacket pockets as you go. Secondly, it keeps your stuff safer. Much harder for someone to surreptitiously grab your wallet if it’s hidden. I’ve never seen (or heard) of anything like this happening, but often (say) if you’re pulled aside for secondary screening, all your valuables will be left in the open, without you being anywhere close to them. Might as well play it safe.

          Going through security, queue behind single business people

          They’ve done this a thousand times, they’ll have it down to a fine art. Try to avoid families (kids make everything slower) and old people (who generally move slower anyway).

          Charging devices in airports

          If you look around, you can usually find outlets to charge phones, ipads, laptops etc. They have to plug vacuum cleaners in somewhere. Be wary of officially provided phone charging stations. They’re probably fine, but these can be trivially hacked.

          Do not get onto the flight hungover (or worse, drunk)

          For a start, nobody working in an airport likes drunk people. However, even hangovers are bad. We get hungover partly because we’ve just filled our brain with neurotoxins and hammered the hell out of our liver and kidneys. A big part of it though is simple dehydration. If you’re dehydrated getting onto a plane, 12 hours of aggressive air conditioning is going to dry you out like crazy – which will leave you with jet lag from hell.


          On the flight


          Take a scarf 

          Air con on most flights is brutal. All that cold air swishing around goes right down your neck. Plus a scarf can double as a mini pillow if you’re trying to scrunch up into a corner and need more bolstering.

          Take ear plugs

          I can’t stress this enough. That background roar of the engines is deceptively loud. Good ear plugs make a HUGE difference in terms of quality of sleep. Plus, bonus, it damps down screaming kids, people who insist on talking while the lights are out, or, heaven forbid, those over-loud page turners (yes yes, fellow readers, I’m joking).

          Noise cancelling headphones

          These are more comfortable than ear plugs, and work better. Not a terrible idea to have your own headphones anyway, if you prefer your own music. Just make sure you have enough battery power to last the distance (plus layovers).

          Wear an eye mask

          Most (but not all) long distance carriers provide these, but it’s worth collecting them from previous flights, as this gives you a choice of the best one available. Or, if you’re fancy, go buy one of your own. Never underestimate the benefits of being able to control ambient light when trying to sleep (particularly if people have reading lights on, or the plane lights come on 20 minutes before you’re really ready to wake up)

          A neck pillow

          I’ve never used one, but I scrunch up pretty small. I know people who swear by them in order to support your neck while you sleep.

          Compression socks

          Haven’t used them myself, but they’re reported to both make the flight much more comfortable AND help reduce the likelihood of DVTs – although since the risk factors are still a bit in question, that may be hokum.

          Take an aspirin

          This only really applies if you have one of the dozens of possible “risk factors for DVT” – but it’s not a terrible idea to take one as a preventive measure. Aspirin just thins the blood very slightly, making it less likely to coagulate (glue together) and thus kill you (by having that glued up lump travelling up into your heart).

          Use the airline socks

          These aren’t always provided, but when they are, change into them ASAP (ie, before take off). Keep them on until the plane is taxiing towards the terminal at your destination. Why? A couple of reasons. First, feet sweat a lot, and having clean socks to wear when you land is always nice. Secondly, because you’re sitting still and at high altitude, blood pools in your feet, making them swell up. Shoes will get super uncomfortable (plus cut off blood flow). Letting your feet readjust to normal altitude first is a lot more comfortable.

          Move seats as soon as you can

          Once you’re damn sure there isn’t going to be any more passengers, that is the time to nab the middle row, shift rows, or generally just grab more space for yourself. You may not have paid for four seats to lie down in, but if you sit in one of the middle two of an empty four, you can be reasonably sure no-one will grab either aisle seat and voila – instant bed. But you have to be fast. Elderly Asian gentlemen can be surprisingly nimble at this game.

          Drink lots of water

          For a start, water is great. We’re 70% water, which means we’re less like a solid body with liquid, and more like a rather thick aquarium. Secondly, aggressive air conditioning (filtering 12 hours of 400 people farting) means air travel is VERY dehydrating. Dehydration is a killer. It also makes jet lag much worse (since your body needs water to work, so without it, it can’t help you heal as quickly). Lastly, drinking lots means you’ll have to get up and go to the loo. Hello? Exercise is better than sitting on your arse for 12 hours.

          I used to take a 2L bottle of water for each 12 hour leg – which worked great. Unfortunately these days, security theatre means it’s harder (and more expensive) to do this. In lieu of that, just drink as much water as you can and don’t be afraid to go to the steward stations and ask for more – they’ll be happy to give it to you.

          Avoid caffeine and booze

          As fun as it is to just get roaring drunk, your primary enemy on long distance flights is dehydration. Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics – which means they absorb water out of your body. Plus, the coffee on planes is usually pretty awful anyway, so you’re not REALLY missing out.

          My absolute all time worst jet lag has occurred on those long hauls where I’ve merrily guzzled coffee and wine at every opportunity. Not. Very. Smart.


          See: dehydration. Your skin will thank you.


          Regularly rotate your ankles, knees, shoulders. Just wiggle them all about as much as you can. Get up and walk about if possible. It’s important to keep blood flowing. This is why in hospitals, long term sedentary patients are regularly turned over by nurses. You don’t want to start getting the early precursors to bed sores just from sitting still too long.

          Be nice to the flight attendants

          It’s very simple. They have a hell of a tough job. Be loving. Be kind.

          Wet wipes

          Wet wipes are awesome. Basically, you can use them to “wash” any part of yourself that sweats. So, feet, groin, behind the knees, armpits, back of the neck, face. Anything that would otherwise be sticky and uncomfortable. Unless you’re able to smuggle a portable shower on with you, this is your best option.

          Two hours before landing, wash

          This sounds odd, but a couple of hours before landing, going to the bathroom and washing anything and everything (wet wipes!) makes a huge difference. Any later than that can be tricky as they’re often serving a last meal, or insisting you sit down for landing. Plus the queues get large as everyone tries to go to the bathroom at once.

          Airline travel can be pretty awful – airport dirt, all that sitting down sweating etc, but getting off the plane feeling even moderately clean can feel like heaven by comparison.

          Empty the seat pocket WELL before you land

          It’s too easy to get distracted by people pushing past, saying goodbye to a seat buddy, etc, and forget something you love (I’m so sorry gorgeous blue scarf, you will be forever Korean).

          Sleep as much as humanly possible

          I know there’s a lot of talk about circadian rhythms, syncing with the place you’re going to, etc etc, but trust me. Just sleep as much as you can. Once you land is a whole different story, but if you’re tired, it won’t help.

          I generally make a point of just generally burning the candle at both ends before a long flight. Then once I’m on I watch a silly movie and sleep for ten hours. It works super well.

          Don’t read a book

          Magazines are fine, since you can dip into them, but feeling like you have to power through a book will keep you awake much more, limiting your sleep. Movies are fine, since you can usually tune them out or sleep through them, but books force wakefulness. You NEED sleep.

          Sit with your legs apart

          A bit gross, but it stops you sweating as much “down there.”

          Going to the bathroom at night

          It can be tricky to spot which is your seat in the dark. So, leave something bright (your scarf or a magazine you brought with you) on the seat. Makes it all a ton simpler.


          When you land


          Unless you know the airport, always allow more than two hours on layovers

          I know it’s annoying sitting in an airport waiting for your next flight, but hear me out.

          First, some airports make you go out through security then back in again (LAX!), whereas some just sit you in transfer zones (Seoul). So, it could be a 15 minute journey through a single layer of security, or you may have to go through immigration as well. Ie, it’s impossible to predict how slow it could be. On top of that, often the simple walk between gates can be 20+ minutes, in a larger airport.

          Secondly, and more importantly, global warming is affecting air travel. It’s common and becoming more so for strong winds to affect travel times, meaning your incoming flight could be an hour late. If you’ve only allowed an hour to connect to your next flight, you’re going to be STRESSED. Stretching your legs in the terminal (or getting a beer) is a hell of a lot more relaxing than having to sprint from plane A to plane B.

          Once you’re off the plane, walk as quickly as you possibly can to immigration

          Immigration queues can be HUGE, and walking past the entire rest of the plane means you’ve jumped a couple of hundred places up the queue. If you’re super lucky, you might even be able to walk past an entire other plane that’s landed at the same time.

          Do NOT go to the loo before immigration unless it’s life-and-death. My lil bro did this once when we were travelling together. I sat and waited for him while the entire plane shuffled slowly past us *facepalm*

          When you’re going through customs, walk slowly and look tired

          This may be easy if you’ve just jumped off a 20+ hour flight, but it’s always helpful to walk tiredly and slowly through customs. They’re watching for suspicious behaviour. If they see you, say, excited and looking forward to seeing your friends waiting for you, they may easily misinterpret that as you being excited and looking forward to handing your drugs off to the dealers waiting for you.

          The only times I’ve ever been stopped is when I walked at my usual brisk pace, keen to get the hell out of the airport. Walk at grandma pace, it’ll take an extra 30 seconds, but possibly save you twenty minutes of nonsense.

          Ditch your airline baggage tags as soon as possible

          If you’re travelling on public transport it’ll be obvious you’ve got a lot of stuff with you, but you don’t need to advertise that you’ve brought it all from overseas (and thus it might include duty free booze and electronics, rather than just dirty washing for the nearest laundry).

          Stay awake until your normal sleep time

          Even if you arrive at 4:45am and you’re exhausted, try to stay awake until your normal sleep time. It’ll help your body get in sync faster, thus reducing jet lag. One tired day is much better than a week falling asleep in meetings and staying up all night. Even if you can’t make it right until evening, every hour you can stay up will help your body adjust enormously.

          Have a shower as soon as you can

          Get rid of all that travel dirt. You’ll feel a million times better, trust me.


          There’s a lot of things about air travel that are tiresome and stressful. However, it’s also quite exciting. Airports are full of people off to distance places. They’re like a nexus for adventure. A few relatively minor changes can make the whole thing fun, and certainly a lot less hassle.