Traveling is mentally straining. It doesn’t matter if you are going on a bonding road trip with the family or flying by yourself to Iceland to protest the cancellation of Lazytown. Everyone handles travel differently. Some people start packing a month before they even have to leave while others wait until ten minutes before and hurriedly flail everything they can reach into a too-small bag and run out the door (usually to slap their forehead five minutes later and groan because they forgot all their underwear). Regardless of your method, there is a certain level of mental strain on all of us.
As I write this, I am five days away from a two week trip to Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey. My first destination is Izmir, and to get there will be five, count-em, five flights over a period of 25 hours. To go on a trip like that requires not just a lot of logistical preparation, but mental. Here is a checklist I keep at the front of my brain any time I have to go through the travel gauntlet.
- It’s Going to Hurt
I figured, why not just jump into the gritty part of it all. There will be pain. Just prepare yourself for it. If you are a dad like me with toddlers who can barely carry their own diapers, you haul it all on your back, luggage I mean. And I’m not talking about just us men either, my wife has carried enough baggage for our kids to leave bruise stripes on her shoulders.
I can already hear the more experienced travelers saying, “I give my kids a Zip-Lock bag, and anything they can fit in there they can take, otherwise it stays home! Why don’t you try that travel noob!” Yes yes yes. I get that. Thank you for your wisdom. Unfortunately nobody told me that the first time I traveled with my family. Just me, my wife and son, and thirteen bags for a two month trip. So this part of the article is more for Alan of the past and any future parents doomed to suffer the fabled “first family outing baggage”.
It isn’t just about baggage either. It’s about your wallet ($10 for an Egg McMuffin at the airport!). Your knees (Driving 5,000 miles starts to ache a tad). Your sleep (They are called red-eye flights for a reason). Your stomach ($1,200 later and a 15 hour flight and the airline meal is saltines, and a quarter of a sandwich with so little toppings you may as well just put it on a salad and pretend it’s a crouton, along with a thimble of Diet Coke).
Triple Check Your Checklist
Part of mental preparation is confidence and the peace of mind that comes with the wonderful checklist. If you don’t already have the app, Wunderlist is a great free one that can help. Don’t just check one time though. If you do that you will end up doubting yourself later on. I know I do, especially with things like travel money, passport, fake mullet, fake dog poo, the usual most important stuff. Knowing without a doubt you have everything with you can take a lot of the stress out of the trip.
Things Are Going to Go Wrong
Here’s the deal with this one. Things don’t always go wrong. As a matter of fact I have never had a bag go missing from a flight. I’ve never had my car break down on the highway in the middle of nowhere while the man with a hook for a hand is shuffling toward me in the moonlight. Overall my travel experiences have been great.
I have had my share of being delayed overnight (and put up in sweet hotels by the airline with free steak dinners), I’ve had souvenirs break and found myself vomiting into a clear plastic bag on a bus from San Jose, Costa Rica, to David, Panama, an eight hour ride, and oh so much more.
You know what though. You can ask the people who travel with me. Very rarely have I ever gotten upset or lost my temper. I’ve never yelled at anyone or shaken my fist at the heavens. The reason for that is because whenever I travel, I always go pre-prepared with an attitude that if anything goes wrong, it will work out in the end and I will be okay with it. If my flight gets delayed and I miss a meeting, unlike in the movies there is actually a good chance the person waiting on the other end will understand and reschedule. Unless I’m going to miss the birth of my child or something, there is no reason to get upset. There is nothing that can be done, and even if someone is to blame, I can’t change it so what good does it do to throw a fit over it?
Therefore, when you are going on your wonderful trip. Things will probably be fine, but in the case that you do have one of your bags sent to the Himalayas while you went to Jamaica, don’t let it get to you. Shrug your shoulders, laugh, and just think of it as something that will make a great story when it is all over.
Decide to Have a Good Attitude
This goes hand in hand with knowing things will go wrong. Let me make a suggestion. I know that our natural reaction to people making mistakes or being jerks to us is either, “I have my rights!” or “I’ll make that lady wish she never messed with me. She’ll be out of a job by the end of the week!” How about we go against the grain and make a decision to be friendly even when other people are not. I can’t tell you the hundreds, nay, thousands of times people have cut in front of me in line, cut me off in traffic, stolen my seat on an airplane and asked me if I “would mine switching because they need the window,” and countless other rude things people do.
I know they are thinking they have a right to this or that, and I’m just some faceless stranger they will never see again. The truth is though, I feel sorry for those people. Because rude travelers never really enjoy their travel experience. If you are one of those people I can already hear your remarks. “I do so enjoy it because I get what I want. Who cares about you? I paid for my seat, so I should get to sit at the window if I want to.”
I get that, I really do understand, I paid for my seat too, but people who have that kind of attitude never truly enjoy their travel because even though they get what they want, they do it with inner anger and bitterness, and a selfishness that is really just self destructive. I would much rather smile back with peace and happiness in me, let you have the window, and enjoy my flight rather than being defensive and causing a fight that is only going to make us all have a bad day.
So let me give you this challenge. Even if someone else is a jerk to you on your trip, try being nice back to them. Aside from simply being a better person and more respected for it (despite what the jerks want you to think), you actually will get much better customer service and usually better stuff for it.
I recently bought an iPhone on eBay and had some questions about it. At first the seller was a bit standoffish, but I was friendly in return and thanked him for taking the time to answer. In the end, he sent me an extra charger, several months of Apple care, the original box, and a case, none of which were included in the sale.
5. It Will Be Worth It
Always keep your eyes on the prize. That is a great saying to keep in mind when you are on the road. You may be aching now, not be treated like you think you should be, spending $10 on an Egg McMuffin and have bruises on your shoulders, but it will be worth it when you get there. There is nothing quite like reaching the end of a long trip and getting to see the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall or the Grand Bazaar. It may be a long time coming, but it is all so worth it.
In closing, I love to travel, it’s something I’ll probably never stop doing but it pays to be prepared both mentally and physically.
How do YOU prepare for a trip? Share with us in the comments!