Debut Author Lessons: Surviving on tour

Tour can really count as conventions or book tours. The thing is that as an author you will probably wind up traveling a lot.  It can be exhausting, even when everything goes right.

Back in the day, I spent five years touring for a living as a puppeteer. I found that the same tricks I used on the road for puppets work when I’m traveling as a writer.

Here’s what I pack so I don’t die on the road a painful, exhausted, and dehydrated death of dying.

Pack tour food.
This is healthy snack food that can double as a meal in a pinch. You will get hungry on the road, even in a hotel, and the temptation will be to grab the nearest thing available which is usually junk.

Food that travels well:

  • Apples
  • Bagels
  • Snack bars (read the ingredients and calories before settling on one)
  • Dried fruit
  • Rice crackers/cakes
  • Nuts
  • Trail mix (read the ingredients and calories before settling on one)

If it is going to be a really long haul, taking a small softside cooler that can hold cheese or leftovers, will be handy. Usually don’t need anything larger than a thermal lunchbag, which can tuck in your carry-on bag.

Pack Utensils
The number of times where I needed utensils was surprising.  It’s everything from having a yogurt cup with no spoon to just getting tired of all the plastic.  I carry a utensil set from To-Go Ware with me.  Actually, I’ve started carrying this with me all the time, along with a cloth napkin. It’s surprising how useful these are.

Buy a reusable water bottle and keep it with you at all times. If you are uncertain about the water quality, there are a number of bottles that will filter for you.  It’s very easy to get dehydrated while traveling, particularly at conventions where so much of the action happens in the bar.

Eye mask and ear plugs
You need your sleep and there’s no telling what the environment will be like. Start sleeping with them a few days before leaving home so they seem familiar by the time you hit the road. This is particularly handy for grabbing a nap.

Pashmina Shawl
Easier for a girl than a boy, given unfair gender breakdowns, BUT, they fold up very compactly and are good for when places are colder than you expect, or for napping on the train/plane.

Quiet Time
Even if you are an extrovert, plan some quiet time into your schedule where you can be “off” for awhile.  Part of why touring can be so exhausting is that you are essentially performing the entire time you are in public.  Make sure to plan some time for just you.  Hot baths are often a way to get this because everyone seems to recognize baths as sacred.

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5 thoughts on “Debut Author Lessons: Surviving on tour”

  1. A bath is always a good idea when on the road. It’s amazing how grungy you can feel
    after just sitting for hours.

  2. Truth to the Quiet Time comment. I’m a frequent speaker at technical conferences for my speciality (beginning from when my co-authors pulled me on stage during their presentation on our book) and I find the whole process to be very demanding. I can socialize and interact with attendees and peers, but doing so requires 100% focus and energy and after a day, I’m exhausted. Building the time into my schedule to practice karate, read, or just soak in a tub — anything where I can turn my focus back inward and shut off the flow of energy to external entities — is key for helping me get a good night’s sleep and plunge into the next day.

    If I don’t do this, I can go for maybe a day or two, and then I crash massively. When I was doing roadshows my first of couple of times, I’d get sick on the third or fourth days. Simply changing my time allocation to make Quiet Time a priority was the prime factor in helping me learn how to avoid running myself down.

  3. One good night’s sleep follows a hot shower just before bed. Don’t dry off. Just get under the covers quick as you may. You will relax. You will sleep. You will wake dry in a dry bed and very refreshed.
    Problem is hair, maybe. So don’t get your head wet.

  4. Good advice! I like how the utensil set includes chopsticks. I attended an all-day business meeting once where lunch was brought in — pizza and Caesar salad. But no forks. However, two Bic Round Stic pens work quite well as improvised chopsticks…

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