Traveling as Lifestyle

Posted on June 20, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

We have been traveling for a long time–lots of travel. I have always been under the illusion it would diminish, but the last 30 years it has become our lifestyle. Once I moved into a regional leadership role on the field it became a necessity to fly to 15 countries from India to the South Pacific counseling missionaries, guiding strategies, formulating budgets and nurturing relationships with national partners.

As president of the IMB I found that travel consistently occupied 70% of my calendar. When someone asked me where I lived I would usually reply, “Delta Airlines…but I pick up my mail and do my laundry in Richmond, VA.” Staff joked that if I did not have a trip for several days, I would drive out to the airport and walk around just to feel at home.

Interestingly, travel never was the hassle it is for those who do not travel so frequently. I have been known to be at the office an hour before departure time, go home, pack, drive 20 minutes to the airport and get there just as the door to the plane was closing. Yes, I have also been known to miss a few flights. I finally worked out an agreement with the airline that if I was not there when it was time to depart they could leave without me!

Retirement has been some respite to an inordinate amount of time on airplanes. We have had the margin to drive to many engagements and enjoy a more leisure journey. But here we are again on an extended flight to Southeast Asia. We should have gotten used to flying half way around the world in our 23 years living in Asia, but the jet lag and travel fatigue was brutal. We were totally flip-flopping our body clocks with the 12-hour time change.

It was difficult to explain to our kids how we could leave Bangkok in the morning, fly all day, all night and all the next day and get to the U.S. the same day we left. Then on the return trip we would fly all day but when we arrived it would be two days later on the calendar. Crossing the international dateline somewhere out there in the Pacific can be confusing.

I recall leaving Auckland, New Zealand for a short flight to Samoa on Friday, but when I arrived it was still Thursday. I flew to Fiji on Saturday, only to find it was already Sunday there; I stayed through Monday and when I arrived in Hawaii it was Sunday again.

Fortunately, we became adept at sleeping on planes and in airport lounges, but had to learn to cope with jet lag. I found that re-setting the body clock is dependent on three things–digestion, light and dark, and avoiding stimulants. I usually fasted for 36 hours, not eating until breakfast time at my destination in preparing for trans-Pacific flights. I stayed up all night before departure so I would readily crash early in the flight, which was nighttime at my destination, rather than later and unable to sleep upon arrival. Just wearing blinders and simulating nighttime helped even when I could no sleep, but doing without coffee was the really hard part. Bobbye said I was just punishing myself beforehand and during the trip rather than after arriving and coping with the jet lag.

We just had to get used to waking up at 2:00 am for several days and nodding off in the middle of an afternoon meeting. This was definitely not good when I was leading the meeting! But as those of you who have had the privilege of going on overseas mission trips know, whatever you have to endure is worth it.

Nevertheless, here we are again on our way to the other side of the world. I forgot about that dateline, made hotel reservations in Auckland for Friday night but didn’t arrive until Saturday! It is good to be back home in our part of the world; stay logged in for the rest of the journey.

2 Comments on “Traveling as Lifestyle”

  1. C.

    The Robinson’s hope to see you in Sanur, Pak! Dua hari lagi di Bali, harus kembali Bandung hari minggu. I don’t even know if you’ll be in our neighborhood for those days… like the pictures!

  2. David Steverson

    Hi Jerry and Bobbye. I’ve always thought your goal was to get to the airport and be dropped off by the parking shuttle so that you could walk directly to the airplane with only a brief stop at security and then on to the gate where they would be waiting on you as the last passenger and you would walk on the plane and they would shut the door prior to your getting your carry-on in the overhead – that was a successful arrival for you.

    It’s good to see that you and Bobbye are still looking good – even asleep. Always good to see you – even if it was brief in Phoenix. David

Leave a Reply

More News