I love to tell stories. Some of my best travel stories actually came out of some of my worst travel experiences. Many of the greatest travel tales I have to tell have been the result of a wrong turn, a missed connection or just plain getting lost.
I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “The things which hurt, instruct.” I love that quote because it reminds me that sometimes things don’t go exactly the way we may have planned. Life has a way of just happening. We can either let it happen to us, or we can take control of our response to whatever situation we’re in, and make the best out of it. I’d like to believe that that’s what old Ben meant. Things that don’t go our way (or even hurt us) can also instruct us. Maybe that’s what he was thinking after getting hit with that first bolt of lightning. Just guessing.
This is one of the ways that travel is a huge life lesson.
When we plan to travel, we usually start out with this idea that we are going to experience the perfect trip. We may plan out every detail of our journey. Every single step may be mapped out (for some of you maybe literally mapped out). We wake up from that dream quickly when a flight gets delayed, canceled or worse diverted; when we show up to our hotel in a city or country that we’ve never been before and they don’t have our reservation. The idea of a perfect journey can seem to disappear when what we’ve mapped out, doesn’t pan out.
Now, I love planning my trips almost as much as I love taking them. Knowing where I am going and how I’m getting there is a big part of my travel experience. And just like most people when things don’t go as planned it can be a little frustrating.
As an example, earlier this year I went on a business trip to Australia via Chile (don’t ask) that traveled over Father’s Day weekend. My son met me in Santiago to spend the weekend on Easter Island. It was an amazing trip. I flew over 31,000 miles, connecting in at least 10 different airports and had an experience with my son that I would never trade. It is one of my favorite travel stories from this year. When I think about it now I recall there were missed flights (3), lost baggage (went to Tahiti) and one flight that actually turned around in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to go back to Chile (sick passenger). But here’s the thing, I don’t see these little issues as obstacles. Yes, I may have missed a flight or two. Yes, I may have not had my own socks for a few days, thanks to the lost luggage. But, I had a story that I never could have experienced in any other way. In turns out that these little obstacles, these little wrong turns, where actually part of the journey.
What happens if we start viewing our obstacles as opportunities? You see an obstacle as only an obstacle if that’s how we see it. It’s within our power to decide, yes decide, how we respond to things that get in our way. So, things that happen “to us” become just things that happen. A missed flight is now time for another drink in the bar. Lost baggage is now a chance to go shopping in a different country. And if you do it right, a bumped hotel room is now a chance for an upgrade.
My point is that in life as in travel there are no wrong turns. Go ahead and make your plans, map out your journeys, try to know the path ahead as much as possible. No matter what happens, always take the road in front of you. Everything might not go as planned, but that’s part of the fun, if you let it be.