When I travel, which isn’t often, I struggle to enjoy the journey. Over time I have discovered my travel challenges come from feeling disoriented. Part of the wonder of travel is being somewhere new and experiencing an environment that is different from home, but travel also obviously involves being away from our normal rhythms and routines. It is no surprise that along with wonder, travel brings a strange, disorienting feeling that can impede our ability to engage well.
I have learned ways of creating a sense of familiarity and comfort as I travel so that I can feel free to relax enjoy new places and experiences. Today I am sharing four ways I create space for change and practice hospitality on myself when I travel
Honestly anticipate your needs.
Ask yourself the question, “What do I need?”
Everyone has different needs, so this is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but knowing your needs and appropriately anticipating them makes a huge difference in how you walk through any given situation, including travel.
Personally, when I travel, I need plenty of sleep. I need coffee in the morning, sunscreen at all times, and comfortable shoes. I need to sit in the front seat of a moving vehicle to avoid feeling nauseous, I like to know how long it takes to get from one place to another, and I prefer to know the expected dress code of a given location or event. These aren’t complicated needs, but they make a big difference in how I feel, which makes a big difference in how I engage when I travel.
It would not serve me or my fellow travel mates to pretend like sleep, caffeine, or access to the front seat of a moving vehicle aren’t important.
Plan accordingly to your needs, and think ahead.
Ask yourself the question, “How can I get what I need?”
Knowing your needs is half of the equation. The other half is taking action. It is difficult to plan or think ahead without knowing what you need, so answering the first question (What do I need?) helps usher in the answer to the second question (How can I get what I need?).
With your needs in mind, it is your responsibility to figure out how to plan accordingly and think ahead to get what you need. Maybe, in my case, it means passing on the late-night after-party and going to bed early. Maybe it means communicating clearly to my travel mates that it would be helpful if I could ride in the front seat of the Uber. Maybe it means always packing sunscreen, googling to find the nearest coffee shops, and researching the weather to avoid packing mishaps.
I also apply this idea to airport needs. When my husband and I fly together, I communicate very clearly with him that I am going to check a bag, get an iced coffee from the airport Starbucks, and board the plane as late as possible. His needs are different from mine (he never checks a bag, doesn’t enjoy Starbucks, and is the first to board the plane), but we are both aware of what we need and respect the others’ ability to prioritize these needs. Clear is always kind, and we have learned that clearly communicating expectations, even small ones, helps us both enjoy the process.
Ask yourself, “How many times does it take to get good at something?”
I know it depends on the task, but in my experience it takes a long time for travel to feel second-nature and easy. If you only travel once or twice a year, it will take several years for you to get the hang of everything. However, If you travel weekly for business, you are going to be a travel rock star in no time, knowing all the routines and short-cuts like the back of your hand.
Because I travel so infrequently, when I take a trip I take notes on my phone so that I can recall what worked, what didn’t work, and what I wish I had done differently. When I am getting ready for the next trip, I refer to my past notes and am delighted to discover details I had forgotten that make small things go smoothly.
For example, a couple of trips ago, I wrote this note to myself: “A tote bag comes in handy at the pool. You do want to pack a lightweight robe. You don’t want fussy shoes. You do care about having an insulated water bottle. You don’t care about having your laptop. And always always always bring your travel blanket.” See? Easy, personalized, and so helpful!
Small, intentional steps like these are how I am beginning to feel more comfortable when I travel, but it takes time and practice. Which brings me to my last point…
Be gentle and kind to yourself and others.
Ask yourself the question, “How can I exercise kindness in this situation?”
Knowing that travel can be difficult, exhausting, and disorienting, resolve to treat yourself with the same kindness and gentleness you would extend to a friend. Of course you’re tired. Of course you’re out of sorts. Of course your patience is thin. Don’t add insult to injury by beating yourself up along the way. It will be okay. Take a nap, get a cup of coffee, and go for a walk. Reset and regroup, and refuse to shame or trash talk yourself.
In that same vein, everyone else is also experiencing a lot of challenges, so kindness to your fellow sojourner goes a long way. Screaming babies, delayed flights, lost luggage, horrible food, and tired feet make a grump out of the best of us. What if you were the smiling face, the encouraging cheerleader, the grateful passenger that added a dose of sunshine to a weary traveler’s day? I like to recall times when I was frazzled and at my wits’ end only to have a kind soul look at me with tenderness and offer a kind word or a smile. These simple gestures go a long way, and I want to be that person for someone else who is having a bad day.
I am curious. Do you experience challenges when traveling? And if so, how have you learned to manage and cope with them? I want to be the kind of person that embraces the adventure of travel, and as I continue to learn, I love hearing how you are doing the same!