It may have appeared to those who followed along with my recent travels that I was experiencing the trip of a lifetime. Several people even stated that in comments to my posts here on the blog and on Facebook. But honestly, “It wasn’t.” Sure, the trip was great in so many ways, but in my opinion I hope to never experience a trip of a lifetime. That’s because I intend to keep experiencing trips that are amazing and hopefully better. Plus, even though I tried to be honest about a few of the challenges that popped up during our 90 days of travel, lots of things happened along the way that were completely unexpected. Isn’t that how it is in life? What’s the saying, “No matter where you go, there you are.” And I’d add to that, “No matter how well you plan or hope, stuff happens!” So, in reflection I thought I’d mention a few thoughts that could benefit us all (me!) when “stuff happens” in our future—regardless of when or where they happen. And if you have a few practices that work for you, I hope you share them in the comments below.
Of course, with all that said, I did do a lot of planning for this trip. In fact, I started over six months before we left. I did it because I happen to love travel planning. Plus, the fact that it was a three-month trip with LOTS of movement between three countries. There was too much to leave to chance. With that said, stuff still happens. Here is a bit of that stuff.
1) Even when you think your plans are perfect—things can change. Throughout our trip we were aware that airlines were cancelling flights and luggage was being lost. However, because we were staying put for so long, we refused to worry about things we could not control or time. So, two weeks before our return flight home we received an email about our flight saying the 1st leg of our three-legged flight home had been canceled. It would be impossible to make the other two flights. It might have been easy to panic—especially when flights the day before and several days after were also cancelled. What did we do? Rather than try to figure it out on my own (or even try to call) I got on an internet chat with Delta. And over three days and about 3-4 hours of “chat” I was able to rebook all three flights so we could get home. And yes, our luggage made it too.
Note to Kathy: Panic does no good. The first step is always to keep breathing then to accept the “isness” of the situation. Next step is to proactively take the best steps you can think of to repair the situation. Oh, and expect for things to work out. That always helps!
2) No matter how wonderful you think your home-for-the-night will be—there are too many unknowns to expect them to be perfect. I actually tend to pour over the reviews and offerings of several websites before booking but sometimes I am surprised—especially when staying in a total of eighteen different places! Like with the property in Maratea which from the website was stated to be a luxurious villa. While the view of the sea from the 2nd floor patio was absolutely amazing, the house itself was very dated. Of particular were the bathroom fixtures straight out of the 70s. Remember when dark brown was considered very trendy? To make matters worse there was a step down from the bathroom into the hallway that made every time you visited the bathroom a risk of breaking your neck.
Or don’t even get us going on “tight” parking spots (if there is parking at all!) dinky elevators with warnings to carry your cell phone and water just in case, or tiny Ikea kitchens making cooking a real challenge.
Note to Kathy: What to do? Be thankful for the good—and let go of the rest! Keep your expectations about any property you rent reasonable (and a good sense of humor!) Oh, and watch where you step when entering/exiting the bathroom in the middle of the night! And remember to have your cell phone with you at all times!
3) No matter how much you plan, chances are you will overlook something (REALLY) important. About halfway through our trip I realized that I had neglected to take enough of one of my (critical) prescription drugs with me to last the entire trip. Yikes! Unfortunately, after spending days on the internet trying to find replacements, I learned that my drug was not available in all of Europe. Double yikes! Then Thom made the radical suggestion that we have a friend back home ship (through Fed-Ex) the drug I needed. Oh, and did I mention you are not supposed to ship drugs to other countries? Thom’s solution was to put the pills into one of my books and ship the book. Yes, it did cost money (but far cheaper than flying home to replace them.) And yes, the “book” made it through customs and with the help of another friend in Italy, I was able to get my needed medication.
Note to Kathy: ALWAYS double check your medication before leaving the country! Plan for extra when something is critical. And be as creative as necessary when faced with a dilemma. Oh, and again expect things to work out even when it’s a “Yikes!” situation.
4) When something unexpected happens, ask yourself “What story am I telling myself about this?” For example, because we had rented a car, I spent a lot of time trying to find a place near the Amalfi Coast where we could park it during our stay. Plus, Thom and I like to have a view if possible. In addition, we prefer to stay in places that are somewhat open and not crammed in with other properties. I thought I found one until the directions on how to get there got VERY confusing. The owner couldn’t give me an exact address (should have been a clue) and said he’d meet us at a nearby location. When we arrived, we headed up a very narrow one-car road with LOTS of blind curves. At one point he asked us to pull over and said he would drive us the rest of the way. Hmmm… Sure enough, the rest of the road was even more narrow. And no, it wasn’t an easy stroll to and from our now parked car. We were up at the top of a small mountain with no access to the town or services.
None of this had been disclosed in the “summary” of the home so I was completely surprised and not happy. The landlord showed us around the house—and it had some great qualities, but parking onsite was not one of them. After he left, I was nearly in tears. How on earth would we be able to do anything, go anywhere or even buy food for dinner? The next day, we drove to a market and then attempted to drive up to the house ourselves, scrathing the side of the rental car. Again, tears were very close. What did we do? We asked the landlord to help us. We explained we needed transportation up and down the mountain and surprisingly he agreed. He came up three days in a row, drove us down to alternate transportation, and then when we returned, drove us home. It worked out even though I was originally convinced this was the worst rental possible.
Note to Kathy: If you use your imagination, even a bad situation can turn around. Of course, it helps if you have others to bounce ideas off and you are willing to be flexible. Our experience of the Amalfi Coast turned out to be great AND we ended up with a great “story” to tell about it. Remember to ask yourself what story you want to tell about what is happening and what is a different way to tell it. We might not be able to change the circumstances, but we can always change our story.
5) Stay flexible and have the confidence that if the situation changes, things will still be good. If I’ve learned anything as I get older it is that staying flexible when traveling is a critical skill. During our trip Thom first came down with a bad cold topped by equally bad allergies (not COVID). Unfortunately, that meant we had to adjust our schedule and even missed a planned/paid for tour.
In my case, I can down with reoccurring UTI’s (sorry if that is TMI) but those definitely changed our plans on several different days. It also gave us the opportunity to experience medical care (doctors, labs, pharmacies) in two different countries. In all cases we got the problem resolved but again, it did cause us to miss out on several planned activities and excursions. As anyone with medical issues knows, managing health becomes a priority over entertainment.
Note to Kathy: We are all stronger than we think and more creative than we know. After dealing with medical issues during my last two trips, it’s good to know that no matter what happens, there are good solutions everywhere. Are they inconvenient? Yes. But let’s remember that things can and do happen at home. Are they easier at home? Possibly. But Thom has a great anonymous quote in his office that says, “It is not the easy or convenient life for which I seek, but a life lived at the edge of all my possibilities.” In other words, I would rather be dealing with a few life issues during my adventures than stay home and just play it safe. Knowing you can get through challenging experiences no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing is a life-skill I hope we all develop during our lifetime.
I’m sure in the coming days I’ll come up even more ideas of what I/we can do when faced with the unexpected, but these are some big ones in my opinion. But what about you? Do you have a SMART tip that you would like to share? What has worked for you in the past? Remember, life happens either here at home or on the road. But how we deal with them (or flow with them!) makes all the difference.