How Do You Handle A Bad Trip?

I’m usually a pretty optimistic person; I annoyingly try to “look on the bright side” and “go with the flow” and all of those other trite sayings that nevertheless really DO help me “roll with the punches.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist one more!) But everyone has a bad day now and again; you know, those days where you wake up late and spill coffee on your shirt and slam your finger in a drawer, all before lunchtime.

As much as I wish bad days only happened during humdrum, everyday work weeks, they can strike at any time (cue ominous music), even when you’re on vacation. I’ve talked before about how I can be a crazy obsessive planner when it comes to trips, so it drives me nuts that I can’t plan for or anticipate a bad mood or (yikes!) a bad vacation.

So many things are out of our control, and those things can quickly turn your dream vacation into a nightmare. There could be unforeseen delays, like a traffic jam or delayed flight. There’s the weather, which, depending on where you’re headed, could be more predictable (or change from hour to hour). Anything from bad moods to bad service, arguments to annoyances, stress to sarcasm, can influence how you feel on (and about) your trip.

But just like you embrace your good fortune when you get perfect beach weather for a week straight, I’ve learned that you have to accept your misfortune, too. It sucks. Oh man, does it suck. But it’s a part of traveling. It really is true that the only thing you can control is your own response (to situations, to people, to anything). So you can decide to let setbacks and inconveniences set the tone for your trip, or you can make up your mind to try to make the best of things.

Now, “making the best” of something doesn’t always mean walking around smiling like an idiot and shrugging things off. “Making the best” could be something like embracing the fourth-straight-day of rain by buying yourself a souvenir umbrella. It could mean trying to get out of your own bad mood by cheering up your companion (maybe if you act happy, the better mood will come and you won’t have to act for long). It could mean throwing out your carefully planned schedule for a day of spontaneity. “Making the best” is sometimes just trying to salvage what you can from miserable circumstances.

Stressful situations are everywhere, and unfortunately they don’t take vacations. But I always try to remember that I’m lucky enough to be doing something that a lot of people wish they could do: travel (you’d be surprised how many people would be thrilled just to leave their town, or their state). The perfect vacation doesn’t exist; it just doesn’t. Most of mine have been a balance of idyllic days, like exploring a tiny German village in the Alps, and days when everything seemed to go wrong (I’m looking at you, Salem, Mass, and your inexplicable traffic patterns). But I’ve learned something from every adventure, good or bad. Sometimes the lesson is as simple as getting practice in the art of looking on the bright side. So learn to love the bumps in road; they might even become the most memorable parts of your journey.

How do you deal with a less-than-perfect vacation?

See what I’m saying over on twitter, @StephSpitler

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