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MCLEOD: Four things to make travel less awful

Growing up, I always dreamed about having a job that involved travel. More specifically, air travel.

My family didn't have a lot of money, so our vacations were limited to road trips, usually to visit extended family. But on the rare occasion that we flew -- in my case, going to visit my grandmother, who paid for my ticket, I got a glimpse of the jet set.

There they were, well-dressed, successful people hustling through the airport with their briefcases. They looked so purposeful and important. Oh, how I yearned to become one of them.

You know that expression, "be careful what you wish for?"

Earlier this week, as I sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes baking in the Atlanta sun, I wondered, "why did I ever think business travel would be glamorous?"

Complaining about business travel is what my kids refer to as a "first world problem." On the scale of human sufferings, worse tragedies have been endured.

Squeezing yourself into a center seat between two "portly" gentlemen who like to blab pales against disease and famine. But that doesn't make it fun.

After a decade of complaining about it, last year I did a reframe. I became proactive about making my travel more pleasurable.

Here are the four tips I've learned for making travel less awful:

1) Treat the journey as an experience

I used to view business travel through a utilitarian filter. The purpose of a flight was to take me to my client, so every decision was based on practicality. Now I take a different view. If I'm going to spend the better part of the day traveling, I'm going to make my choices through the lens of relaxation and pleasure. For every choice, small or large I ask, "what will make this experience more restful or pleasurable for me?"

2) Don't drive yourself

After years of driving myself to the airport and renting cars in strange cities, I now leave the driving to others. A car service may seem like an indulgence, but when you factor in gas and parking, not to mention at least two hours of your time, it becomes easier to justify. You arrive calm, confident and prepared. I use the time in the back seat prepping so that I can show up for my clients as my best self instead of my stressed self. Added bonus -- you can have a drink on the flight home because you're not driving.

3) Arrive early

Yes, I know it's a pain; I used to be the queen of last minute. But after years of dashing for a flight schlepping bags through the terminal, I've (finally) learned that getting there early reduces stress and sweat. If you wind up with a bonus hour to kill at the airport, you can make good use of it.

4) Pay for the upgrades -- even if you don't drink

I used to think that first class seats and airline lounges were for people who wanted free drinks. I've come to realize that having a comfortable place to sit and arriving fresh is not only a gift I give myself, it's good for my clients. Showing up exhausted defeats the purpose of making the trip. If I can pay 25 percent more, and show up even 5 percent better, it's worth it.

If you can't afford upgrades, create them. Bring a cashmere blanket, stock your bag with good snacks, create small pleasures; they have a ripple effect on your mood and performance.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of several books including "Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud."