A Short Guide To Happy Travels
When it comes to travel, there seems to be an
overblown absence of optimism. Critics' and naysayers' predictions
of doom bombard the papers, TV, and online media. It seems that much
of the world expects the worst from its travel infrastructure, and
its experts focus exclusively on the faults. All this sets the tone
that travel is a hopeless ordeal. That being said, is travel really
that bad? Or, is a truly enjoyable travel experience more a state of
I know many people who are
consumed by nostalgia for the "good old days" of travel, thinking it
was somehow less stressful years ago. Yet, let's not forget that the
"good old days" meant exclusiveness. Today, there are many travel
options that make it more affordable than ever; plus, it's become a
lot safer than in the past.
For example, it's easy to find
fault with airlines and take them for granted too. Call me
Pollyanna, but what impresses me most about airlines is not what's
wrong, but what's right. Air travel is a complex process that is
accomplished so expertly that few of us appreciate the difficulty
involved. When you think about it, it's amazing that thousands of
airplanes can transport millions of passengers a day; most without
For some, travel has just become joyless, and it's
time they've looked on the bright side. People often spend too much
time finding fault with the most trivial details—from eating barely
edible airline food to enduring a Turkish toilet. My last vacation
was far from joyless; it included several flights (the planes didn't
crash), a cruise (the ship didn't sink), and a stay in San Francisco
(there was no earthquake). Sure, there were occurrences along the
way that tested my patience and fell short of my expectations.
However, the joys of watching my kids frolic on the beaches of
Mexico and the sheer pleasure of sitting on my cruise ship verandah
watching the sunrise over Los Cabos far outweighed those minor
Going With The Flow
easy to get caught up complaining about things while traveling. But
if you let it, being bombarded by minor frustrations can eventually
take its toll on your mental and physical health. As anxiety levels
rise, the body reacts by tightening the muscles, speeding up the
heart rate, and raising the blood pressure. And being continuously
negative can only make things worse. The best way to reduce travel
stress, and its effect on you, is to keep a positive attitude and to
divert your attention from it.
When you travel, it's wise to expect the
unexpected and to plan accordingly. This will help take the stress
out of situations that are out of your control. The following is a
list of coping skills:
- Take personal comfort into your own hands: Bring things
that ensure personal comfort—comfortable clothes, a pillow, a
blanket, a CD player, a computer, reading material, snacks, games,
etc. Distract yourself by doing something enjoyable and
- Get Real: Look for the plausible explanations for
travel setbacks. For example, think: "The flight was truly late
due to a mechanical problem," rather than "The flight was late to
make my day miserable." Ask yourself: "Do I really want to fly on
a broken plane?"
- Form a mini-support group with one or more fellow
travelers: Share and consult with each other on whatever
problems you encounter together. Most of the time, you'll end up
having conversations that are completely unrelated, which can be
enjoyable and make the time go much faster.
- Have a sense of humor: The act of laughing, even if it
is forced, tends to improve your mood and enhance your ability to
come up with creative solutions to your problems.
- Accomplish something: When snags arise in your travels,
try to accomplish something you've been putting off. Read that
book you've brought with you, or write that long letter to that
special someone. Afterwards, you'll feel a sense of
- Count your blessings: One of the best coping skills
optimists have is their ability to remember all the good things in
their lives. Think about your blessings. When things appear to be
going wrong, remind yourself of what is going right.
- Use bad experiences to your advantage: Researchers at
the University of California at Davis asked 2,000 people about
dealing with trying times. The study found that most individuals
were able to salvage something positive from a rough experience.
Most thought their experiences made them better able to cope with
other problems that came along.
Being optimistic helps to divert our attention
away from travel frustrations. When you are an optimist, you're more
concerned with problem solving than with useless worrying, anger,
and stress. I've learned that the journey can be as, if not more,
fun than the destination. Enjoy the journey no matter what; and
remember, it's your choice.
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