Howdy all. I have written before about times I had lost my s&%t when overseas, although it was a while ago now, and I thought today I’d reflect on keeping your cool because I think it’s important because when we travel we represent the country we come from and also, you don’t want to make a bad first impression whatever situation you’re in. And if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, losing your cool could land you in a sticky situation.
The thing is with travelling, sometimes you are dealing with a bunch of things that are out of your hands. Being flexible and having the ability to ‘go with the flow’ when you’ve not really got any other options is extremely important. As you are in unfamiliar place (presumably) you are likely to find things less predictable than at home.
Going back to my experiences, my biggest meltdown where I was in a bank in Bobo-Diolosso in Burkina Faso. I still had malaria and for whatever reason the lady at the counter refused to cash my travellers’ cheques and I was stressed, sick and unable to swallow much. I was at breaking point, I didn’t know anyone in town and was slipping into proper panic attacks and not sleeping also. Today I can’t really remember exactly what I said or did but I suspect I may have channelled my inner John McEnroe. The lady behind the counter acted like I wasn’t even there and I must have been quite the scene I guess. I’m pretty sure I found a place within the hour that changed traveller’s cheques.
And so the point here is, although I admit to extenuating circumstances, there was a solution to my problem. A little patience and a few deeps breaths would have helped me at the time, but also remembering that if you think calmly about a situation, you will come up with your next step and be able to get through what looks like a tough spot. Losing your shit just makes a scene and is pretty poor behaviour too.
Having said that, sometimes you need a release. Maybe try screaming in the shower?
Most travellers I would say have gotten annoyed at something we probably shouldn’t have. Some people have unrealistic expectations, and some like things to be exactly the way they like it wherever they go. And I’m certainly guilty of the second one. I remember having a mini-melt down when my train to London arrived late and I missed my connection to the airport. And I think I let an expletive out when I spoke to the customer service guy – not directed at him, I feel I must add! But I was asked to calm down.
And as before, I got to the airport in plenty of time and didn’t miss my plane. And if there wasn’t another train, I could have always taken a taxi I guess – sometimes you have to fork out a bit of extra money when you are travelling. And so one big tip I have is always have a good amount more than you need for your trip, have a reserve for moments of emergency. And equally, use time to your advantage. Plan ahead. When you have a plane to catch at three, plan to be there three hours early not two, just in case you get held up.
The thing is when you’re travelling it’s sometimes hard to keep your ear to the ground and be aware of everything that’s going on. A strike for instance. A protest. Never work on the assumption that if nothing gets in your way, you’ll be on time. Take the time and presume that if nothing gets in your way you’ll be early.
Losing it when travelling often occurs because of a build up of factors. Take my Burkina Faso experience. I was sick, I couldn’t eat, I was basically alone, it was 40 degrees, and I was running out of cash. Now, the only one I probably could have done something about was the cash – I could have tried to change my cheques much earlier, I could have kept more cash on me. As it was I needed more cash just to pay for my room that night. Take that one factor away from me, and I probably wouldn’t have gone loopy in the bank. I could have kept my cool.
I’m not saying, now that I’m older, I’m better at keeping my cool. In many ways I am worse. But I also have the experience to know that there are things I can and can’t control. I can certainly look on things retrospectively and see my faults. My many, many faults. And I still get worried about the things that are out of my control. But I can sit back and run through the things that are in my control – preparation, planning, being early, knowing what I might be up against – and try to satisfy myself that if I at least did those things, whatever else is beyond that, I’ve been able to deal with before.
How about you? Are you a control freak like me when travelling? (not really sure how that happened… I used to book NOTHING in advance. Well, apart from flights). Please comment below – and May the Journey Never End!