When It Hits The Fan

Inevitably, at some point, in even the best-planned trips, the shit will hit the fan.

Your luggage will get lost.  You will get lost.  You will miss a connecting flight. You will get sick. The person or people you are traveling with will drive to the edge of sanity.  Something WILL happen, and whatever it is, how you respond to it will largely shape how you will remember the trip.

I am speaking from experience on this topic.  If you can imagine it, it’s probably happened to me. I’ve traveled for nearly a week without new clothes thanks to a certain airline that will remain nameless.  I’ve gotten horribly sick, alone in a foreign hotel.  I’ve spent more hours than I can count waiting on the next flight to wherever, and I have been truly annoyed by some people I’ve traveled with – and in all fairness- I must admit, I am fully aware that I have done my share of annoying others.  Over the years, though, I think that I have come to realize how to handle myself a bit better when I travel. I’ve realized the connection between how I respond to a situation, and how that response will shape my memory of the trip as a whole.   I want my memories and experiences to be positive ones, and I want others to truly enjoy themselves when they travel.  So consider these annoyances that can come up on the road, and how to overcome them.


Whether you are traveling with one person or a group, or even (or especially with) family, at a certain point, the walls will close in, and they will drive you bonkers.  There is a great scene in the film National Lampoon’s European Vacation where the intrepid Griswold family is stuck on an overnight train.  After making their way through England and France and almost being killed by an angry mob of Bavarians after a misinterpretation of a traditional dance (watch the film), they hit their breaking point.  The family, so annoyed with each other, starts to intentionally do things to drive each other bat shit crazy.  It all, of course, leads to an enormous family argument.  I hate to admit it, but I’ve reached this point with my family and friends.  The best way to handle it is to start by taking a deep breath, calm down, and tell yourself to be positive about it and to let it go.  It’s amazing how quickly this simple check on your own perspective can turn the boat around.  If you are still feeling the pinch, remove your self from the situation.  Go for a walk, go to bed, or just take a nap.  Often these stresses come from being too tired to function and respond properly, and cause your mental state to be hyper responsive.  Try, as best you can, from lashing out.  This will only make matters worse, and will tend to make matters deteriorate further.


To deal with sickness, prepare ahead of time.  If you are going somewhere that would mean access to western medicine would be difficult to obtain, go to a doctor before you leave and ask for a prescription for an antibiotic.  This can help with stomach issues that may hit you, and if you do get a bacterial infection, it will mean you can start treatment immediately.  If you are in a western country, most hotels have a doctor on call.  You would be expected to pay the doctor if called, so have money to do so.  Never travel anywhere inside or outside of the U.S. if you cannot afford to pay a doctor.  Be sure you have all of the medications you will need before you travel, and that it is in the bottle that it came in from the pharmacist.  Sometimes, in an attempt to save space, I’ve seen people pour their pills into one pill bottle.  NEVER DO THIS.  You may know all of your medications by appearance, but the customs officer won’t and this looks highly suspicious.  Avoid adding to your headache.

Lost Luggage

The easiest way to start to deal with this is to pack “smart.”  In your carry on bag have your toiletries, a change of underwear, a clean shirt, a jacket, and possibly a raincoat.  If your luggage doesn’t arrive when you do, you will at least have a change of clothes, and you will be able to freshen up a bit.  After a long flight, a shower and a clean pair underwear can do wonders for improving your state of mine.  Also, it’s a good idea to write down the maker and size of your bag.  One of the first questions airline companies will ask you, is what type of luggage do you have, and a shockingly large number of people have no idea.  They say it’s “black” with a nametag on it.  This doesn’t really help. You should also always travel with the names and addresses of all the hotels you will be staying in, so that you can provide it to the airline.  More often  than not, your luggage will be returned to you in 24 hours or so, but in some cases it may take days.  If that happens, wash your underwear and socks in the hotel sink and hang them up to dry in your room.  I’ve also been known to speed up this process by placing damp clothes on the radiator in the room, but don’t go to sleep with them there.  If you are in a large town or city, ask around for a discount clothing store, such as H&M.  You don’t have to buy a new wardrobe, but you can pick up cheap underwear and socks, and you will always use them again.

You Are Lost

The most important thing to do in this situation is to stop moving.  It’s really hard to hit a moving target, so if you are looking at a map and can’t figure out where you are, stop adding to the problem.  Stop wandering around aimlessly, or pull the car over.  This will go a long way towards establishing your whereabouts.  If this doesn’t help, ask someone.  If you don’t speak the language, show them on a map where you want to go.  The odds are they can at least point you in a general direction.  It’s also a good idea to calm yourself down, and take a deep breath.  Remember, when traveling, experiencing the path to the destination is part of the journey.  Why not explore a bit.  Too often people (myself included) become fixated on the destination, and miss out on what can be found along the way.  I’ve run across some amazing markets and locations, only when I accidently stepped off of the most beaten down trail.

You’ve Missed Your Flight

This is never a fun situation.  It’s easy to become angry.  Maybe the weather was bad, or your connection wasn’t timed perfectly.  Either way, you are looking at a few extra hours and your plans may be shot.  Again, stay calm.  The best way to handle the situation is to be nice to the airline personnel.  The folks at the gate are not calling the shots about plane departures.  They are only relaying information.  However, they do have the power to put you on another flight, and to even allow you access to the airline lounges.  Handle them with kid gloves and big smile.



Categories: Thoughts


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