Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beyond the Kit: Survival on the road

I've been lucky during my career to have not spent too much time on the road. But even those short tours and relatively few nights on the road have taught me a thing or two about how to stay healthy and sane while away from home. Here are a few things I think will help. Please feel free to join the discussion by making a comment below.

While actually traveling, be mindful of the need to stop. There's always somebody who needs to take a restroom break, and everybody can use a few minutes to stretch, get fresh air, etc., so plan in a quick stop - even 10 minutes can do the trick - at least every 2-3 hours.

In addition, it's smart to have some agreements as to what's okay in the car/van/bus. This especially applies to food and drink, smoking, listening to music and watching movies. Also, even though it'll use more fuel, it's always more comfortable to travel in a larger vehicle.

For lodging, get the best place you can afford, and if possible, get a room for each person. Everybody will rest better in their own space. If you have to share a room, make some agreements before you get there. A smelly, noisy, annoying roommate will not only kill your sleep, but may lead to other problems in terms of band chemistry. Not kidding, a high priority should be placed on maintaining good relations, and you need to think about that before you room with somebody.

That being said, make sure you're a good roommate. If you have a an iPod/Pad, laptop, or other noisemaker, use headphones! Turn the TV off at a reasonable hour, don't hog the bathroom, don't make late night or long calls in the room, and just generally follow the golden rule*. It may seem overboard, but be overly courteous. Think about things like room temperature, your sleeping clothing (ahem...), who takes a shower first, when you get a wake-up call, and on and on.

Get some sleep. As much as possible, go to bed and get up at the same time you would at home. You'll be more tired on the road than you are at home, so make sure to get adequate sleep - 8 hours should do it - so that you don't compromise your preparation or performance due to fatigue.

Get a little exercise. If you normally work out at home, do the same thing on the road. You can get out and jog or walk, and most hotels have some sort of fitness room or a pool you can use to get your workout in. Even if you're not a regular exerciser, get out on a walk if you have the time. That can also help you to...

Take in the locale. Almost everywhere I've traveled to play a gig (outside my home state) has been a place that is new to me. Take some photos, visit a point of interest, catch a show (aside from the one you're playing!), and try the local cuisine. Speaking about food...

Eat smart. Just as you'll be more tired on the road, you'll also be prone to overeat. Enjoy your food by going slow and savoring each bite. Few things make performing more difficult than feeling sick, bloated or uncomfortable due to, uh, gastric distress. So be careful and prudent in your food choices. View it more as fuel than fun, and you'll be on your way.

Get some solo time in. No, not on stage! That's between you and your bandmates. But you should make sure you have at least some time on your own to think, relax, regroup and blow off steam. This, almost more than anything else, can keep you from losing your sanity and focus on the road.

Lastly, try to make your pre-show routine the same each night. Whatever it is you do before you play, do the same thing before each show. This includes load in, set up and soundcheck, and any warm ups you may do. No matter where you play, the stage should always feel like home. Take time to make sure it all feels good before you play.

This advice is, of course, the best case scenario. But if you can get most or all of this right, your tours and trips will be much more enjoyable and musically rewarding.

Happy traveling!

*For those who need a reminder, "Treat others as you would have them treat you."

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