Not Losing It While Traveling

05 Oct 2023

Be the breath of fresh air


As I write, I’m far from home, on my friend’s beautiful shady porch in the Italian Marche region, with a distant view of the Adriatic. It is heaven. Getting here, on the other hand, was a mixed bag. Recent travelers may have experienced crowded airports, delayed baggage, canceled flights, and plenty of frazzled nerves, our own and everyone else’s. I wish I could tell you how perfectly I managed when one of our flights was postponed, postponed again (and again and again), ultimately resulting in a missed flight to Rome. Dear reader, my behavior, albeit briefly, was less than stellar. Here are my tips for keeping a cool head. I’m sharing them to help you, and also as a reminder to myself, since we return in ten days. It’s quite likely that trip won’t be perfect, either.

First, remember that vacation is an adventure. One of my best memories is of a flat tire in Normandy. Did we arrive precisely on time for dinner with my husband’s delightful French family? No. Did we receive a bill, months later, for the tow and tire repair, even though we paid for the supplemental insurance? Yes. But we also enjoyed a delightful ride with a handsome French tow truck operator, during which I sat with him in the cab and my husband sat behind us in the rental car on the truck’s flatbed, making goofy faces at me. I told a joke to the driver — in French! — and made him genuinely laugh, a total win. And the extra cost? Well, that’s part of travel and should be anticipated.

Second, remember that your stuff is not your vacation. My luggage on this trip was delayed by a full week. This served as a nice reminder to pack a few necessities in my carryon, which I had. The lack of luggage also brought about a fun trip into a small Italian town, where my husband and I had a ball trying to communicate in Italian and buy a whole new wardrobe at a discount. I’m only sorry you missed my pantomime of what I needed in a swimsuit, mostly something that wouldn’t expose my entire bottom to a nation of people who’ve done nothing to harm me. Ultimately, I got to swim and didn’t worry too much about exposure. Ample amounts of sunscreen were also purchased, with extra care taken to make sure those parts that had never seen the sun were well covered.

Third, remember that being nice is often the best way to get help. When it’s your turn at the customer service counter, take a deep breath and remember that the problem was not created intentionally. And never take anything personally, because you aren’t the only one in this. There is approximately zero chance you were targeted personally, and the person in front of you has heard every complaint, all day, in a variety of nasty tones. Be the breath of fresh air. “Hi there. Thank you so much for helping me. If I sound frustrated, please know that I know this is absolutely not your fault and I’m hoping for a solution.” Then be nice. Make a joke or two, even if they’re silly jokes (but not long jokes, because time is of the essence). 

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, remember that you aren’t the only one on vacation (well, unless it’s a solo trip). Your travel companions are probably lovely, empathetic people. If one person is having a meltdown, no one can have fun. Try – and goodness knows this may be hard – to enjoy your people. Catch up during that long wait for the next flight. Take out the Bananagrams set you brought in your carryon. Tell travel horror stories. At best, especially if you’ve developed the story through retelling, they can be hilarious. (Let me tell you about the time I forced my husband to eat a gas station quesadilla on a road trip, mocked him when he started feeling sick, then spent four days in the bathroom myself. It’s hilarious! Well, now.) At worst, they serve as a reminder that you survived to travel again.

Will I return home on schedule, luggage and sanity intact? Yes. Well…maybe? But probably…sure. No matter what happens, memories of lost luggage and canceled flights won’t live rent-free in my head, as the kids say. I’ll remember cooking with my friend in her gorgeous Italian kitchen, lounging by the pool with a view of rolling hills, swimming in the Adriatic, consuming vast quantities of fresh fish and pasta, and following those meals with a nap on the beach under an umbrella. I won’t remember what I was wearing, because I made my companions swear not to take any pictures of me in this skimpy suit. Bon voyage, y’all. I can’t wait to hear about your next adventure.

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