6 Travel Hacks From a Coffee-Making, Record-Setting Adventurer

You'll never be bored on a 16-hour flight again

November 27, 2018 9:00 am

During every journey, there is a moment (maybe on the hell that is Amtrak) when you wonder why you ever left the house.

So with a whole summer of potential travel headaches ahead, we sought advice from Todd Carmichael, the founder/CEO of La Colombe Coffee and one-time Esquire “American of the Year” … whose job sometimes entails 10-day pilgrimages to the most remote parts of the world.

He’s also the first American to make a solo trek across Antarctica to the South Pole (on foot, unassisted and unaided), lived for months in a sailboat and visited all seven continents, so let’s just say the man knows how to survive long and difficult trips.

Herein, his six pieces of travel advice for your more arduous excursions, holiday or otherwise.

Embrace boredom
Long flight? Travel delays? Just go with the flow. “I learned this from climbing — I’m comfortable laying on my back for a week in a tent, not moving,” says Carmichael. “That sounds boring, but what’s so bad about being bored? There’s no pain in that. Let your brain flatline! We try so hard to keep our brains from stopping — we fear it, but you’ll find it’s really not too bad.” (Bonus: Being bored may spark creativity.)

Take shorter but more extreme vacations
A week lying on the beach might be relaxing, but it may not make you feel better. Carmichael suggests… climbing Mt. Rainier. “You can make it a three-day adventure. Fly in, rent a car up there the same day, take two days to go up and back, and return from your long weekend climbing glaciers feeling like a superhero.”

For extreme travels, unleash “the beast”
Carmichael made his 39-day walking journey across Antarctica alone and sans modern conveniences (like a smartphone). “When you take your first steps there, your heart is pounding,” he says. “You’re doubting yourself, thinking, what the fuck am I doing? You’re in Western mode, and it takes a while for that person to recede and for ‘the Beast’ to come out.” The good news? “The Beast doesn’t need to be preoccupied and doesn’t know what boredom is. It doesn’t need earbuds or communication, he just wants to Go! Go! Go! Just feed it movement. It just takes the body awhile to get there, and you can’t make it happen. It just happens … but once one gives up, the other takes over. I actually look forward to that feeling.” (Instead of Antarctica, feel free to plan long hikes or other nature-y adventures.)

For longer travels, unleash … the tick?
It can take up to 10 days for Carmichael and his team to visit some of the more remote coffee-growing areas around the world. And yet, he’s never anxious. “There’s a skill that I learned from climbing — it’s called the tick,” he says. “Think of a tick; it can sit on a branch for months, waiting for its opportunity. Then it springs! Get in that mode. There’s a strength in that kind of patience. Also, if a bug can do it…” (Think of it like Puddy on a plane.)

Give up on discipline. Embrace patience.
“Discipline is just patience in disguise,” says Carmichael. “I didn’t have any discipline, even in Antarctica. That’s hard for me — look, put cake in front of me and say don’t eat it and I’ll eat it in three minutes. But say ‘wait four weeks and it’ll taste better’ … that I can do.” So, if you must, consider your trip a series of delayed gratifications.

Go somewhere you don’t speak the language
In 2000, Carmichael spent three months on the tiny, isolated South Pacific island of Nagigia. “I didn’t speak the language,” he says. “But as a coffee person, I was used to going to isolated areas where they don’t speak what you do and you better figure it out. If you have to draw in the dirt or act out what you’re trying to say to get your point across, you just do that. But you’ll get comfortable with it.”


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