For those of us with insatiable wanderlust (myself included), it’s hard to stay in one place for too long. We get restless, and the world calls to us. We’re tempted by gorgeous photos from our fellow travelers and spend our free time researching the price of plane tickets. In other words: the struggle is real.
But the problem with gazing into the Instagram shots, Facebook statuses, and blog posts is that they rarely illustrate the unglamorous side of traveling.
Sure, we’ve all read a blog post or two about something that went terribly wrong on someone’s trip, but usually there’s an ultimate lesson involved or a takeaway for readers. These posts rarely describe how truly uncomfortable some traveling situations can be.
No matter how fancy and fantastic your trip or carefree your attitude, there are some things that just suck.
Not that this should ever make you feel ungrateful for traveling and seeing the world. You’re still allowed to be upset that you’re stranded in an airport for 12 hours after being awake for 30 hours already.
But there’s a difference between wallowing in it and making the best of an awful situation.
Have you ever gone on a trip that was perfect in every way? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say probably not.
The unglamorous side of traveling isn’t always being stranded in an airport, getting lost in the middle or nowhere, or having your passport stolen, though. Sometimes it’s small and simple frustrations that make traveling truly unglamorous.
It’s challenging to live out of a carryon for two weeks, and it’s certainly not interesting to have cornflakes for breakfast three days in a row because it’s more affordable. These things are surely not “Instagram-worthy” and are, at least mildly, frustrating (especially if you aren’t fond of cornflakes). But I really don’t think you should let it get you down.
As my friends Michelle describes it, “the travel grumps: due to long and exhausting nature of travel, one is subject to be irate and on a very short fuse.” I honestly couldn’t say it better myself. Travel exhausts and frustrates you in new ways that you aren’t used to dealing with, and it can be hard to cope.
Here are some steps you can take to get through frustrating moments while traveling:
Be flexible and roll with the punches.
When I’m traveling, I’m always willing to put up with more situations that I would find irritating in my day-to-day life. An hour wait at a restaurant while on vacation? Sure no problem. An hour wait at a restaurant on a normal Tuesday? Let’s go somewhere else.
Is it fun to wait for an hour for food? Not really, no. But it’s usually worth it. Take a second and step back, think of where you are, think of the company you’re in — are you happy? Is there anything you can do right this second to change the situation? If there is, do it. If not, try to distract yourself until you aren’t focused on it anymore.
Give yourself time to relax.
I can’t stress this enough. Traveling is exhausting in so many ways and you need time to rest your body and mind. You’re already being subjected to a new schedule, and late nights coupled with early mornings means that your normal coping mechanisms are thrown completely off. Build some time into each day to help you unwind and have some semblance of normality when you’re away from home.
Don’t plan too much in one day.
This lesson took me awhile to learn, because after all, you’re on a trip to somewhere you don’t normally have access to, it’s only natural to want to fill your days with as much as you can, am I right? But trust me, you will be much happier and less stressed if you only schedule two to three activities per day.
Planning your trip this way gives you extra time that is already built into your schedule just to relax during the day and avoid rushing from place to place. It’s also good to have extra time built into your day just in case something does go terribly wrong.
Don’t romanticize traveling too much.
Traveling isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, and it’s only going to frustrate you to set your expectations as if it were. Remember, those fabulous pictures from Instagram aren’t usually captured at random, they take some planning, set-up, and a careful eye to turn out the way they do.
Try to accept each moment and experience for what it is, not what you wish it were.
Keep a positive attitude and push negative thoughts away.
Whenever you feel like complaining, push it away. Change your thoughts and your words. Feeling particularly negative about something? Don’t voice it, but say something positive about the situation instead. A negative attitude won’t change anything for you (and in many cases, will probably make it worse), but channeling positivity will help make the situation much more bearable.
In the end, traveling is an incredible experience, even if it does come with minor inconveniences.
How do you cope when you’re away from home for an extended period of time?