Dirt in your skirt blog

How the Death Race Taught Me To Be A Better Traveler

Posted on June 27, 2012 by Margaret Schlachter

The Death Race has been over for more than a week yet still the lessons learned reverberate into all aspects of my life and I promise soon I will stop writing about the race after my last post reviewing all my gear from the race. But first this is about how the Death Race taught me to be a better traveler.

Lesson 1 – You Cannot Make a Line Move Faster

Monday afternoon we got in my car and headed to Burlington to catch a flight back to Salt Lake City. We arrived at the airport with about two hours to spare before our flight. I always err on the side of too early rather than rushing. Immediately I could feel the stress around me it started while waiting in line to check-in. The ticket counter people must have been hand writing out luggage tags because it seemed to take forever for the 5 people in front of us to check in. We patiently waited no rush on our part, but heard in front of us and behind us the buzzing of impatient customers. Lesson learned, you cannot make a line move faster just like you cannot make the slosh pipe move faster along the trail.

LESSON 2 – Nothing is in your control

Once we were checked in and at the gate we found out our first flight was late arriving. Weather had messed up much of the travel on the east coast. We sat and waited finally boarding the plane about a half hour late. Once or board they closed the doors and we proceeded to sit on the runway for almost two hours. All flights into JFK had been ground stopped. We weren’t going anywhere. Luckily the airline we were on had Satellite TV on board and basically I just watched TV, a luxury I do not have at home.

Because of the new bill of passenger rights after the two hour mark hit we turned back to the gate. They let anyone who wanted off the plane to sit in the terminal. We opted to remain on the plane and then were told it was going to be another hour at the gate. Finally they told us we all had to get off the plane and they were going to feed us dinner. Finding the plus in it all I was going to get a free dinner. We deplaned then less than five minutes after getting off the plane we were told we had been released and we had to get back on the plane and were finally going to JFK. (We could have been there by now had we driven) No free dinner, there truly is no such thing. They pulled some misdirection on us. It was as if the airline took a page out of Joe and Andy’s playbook. They gave you just enough hope to hold on but pushed many to their breaking points.

LESSON 3 – Your Situation Might not be as bad as you think.

As we deplaned in JFK we had been sheltered from the actual chaos this weather had reaped on the airline industry. It was not until JFK and the sea of people that we greeted us at our gate that we realized our situation in Burlington hadn’t been that bad. People were everywhere and it seemed almost every flight was delayed. The good news with a delayed flight is you actually have time to sit and eat at one of the restaurants in the terminal. As we ate we watched people run around, sleeping on couches, parents trying to keep children entertained. Our situation wasn’t so bad. We were two people traveling and didn’t have a deadline to be in Utah the next day.¬†We ate and relaxed then waited to board the next plane.

LESSON 4 – Breathe!

We had started traveling around 11:30am on Monday morning it was now just after midnight and the beginning of Tuesday. We were suppose to be in Utah already but still found ourselves in New York. Over the announcement we were told our flight would be boarding in a few minutes. We organized ourselves and got near the gate only to wait another 20 minutes for what I am not sure. Once on the plane we sat, it seemed like hours in reality it was probably less than a half hour. I was getting restless, my cool was wearing thin. This is when I had to remember to breathe and relax. Nothing we could do and nothing was in our control. We finally took off and throughout the five hour flight I did all the yoga positions in order to find the magical comfortable sleeping position in coach. Drifting in and out a few hours of sleep were achieved. This is something any Death Racer can relate to, the moment were you are ready to break, you step back take a deep breath then move on to the next challenge.

LESSON 5 – Compassion and Thanks

We landed, we were in Utah! As we got off the plane again we realized our delay was more than our delay it was many peoples delays. We stepped off to the plane just after 3:30am and found people all over the terminal waiting to board the flight we just got off of. They were sleeping in all corners off the airport, trying to find a few moments of relaxation of what can only be imagined as their own stressful experience. At that moment my heart went out to them. We had just endured our own travel nightmare and were at the end of the tunnel, these people were just beginning the process or in the middle of it. This is similar to in a race when you see a strong competitor go down and you know they could have gone further but whatever has stopped their journey.


It’s funny so many say it but it’s true. The lessons you learn while racing in the Death Race are really life lessons just exaggerated and compressed. You come out the other side a changed person not in a monumental way but it’s palpable. I could have written about this travel day as a hellish experience but it wasn’t so bad. It is one of the worse experiences I have had traveling but I have had worse. So really what the Death Race does in my opinion at least for me is it reminds you to stop and realize are these problems around you really problems or just unfortunate circumstances that will soon pass with time. In the end you are just playing a battle with the clock, who will you let win?