You’ve been planning your trip for months, possibly dreaming of it for years.
You’ve counted down the days until your departure.
You’ve shelled out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on airfare, hotels, and restaurants.
You’ve traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles by plane, train, car or bus.
You love who you’re with because they’re probably your family, lover, or friends.
You’re in one of the most beautiful, historical places that you’ve always dreamed of visiting.
And then…it happens.
You’re all in good spirits on the trip of a lifetime, and then you wake up with a kink in your back from the saggy, lumpy mattress. You just need some coffee, but you’ve overslept and have to run to the train station. You miss your train by seconds. You blame it on her because she took too long getting ready. You didn’t even dry your hair, so it wasn’t your fault. But she says you didn’t set the alarm, so it’s your fault. That feeling of blame comes rushing back, like the time when your brother framed you for breaking a lamp when you were five, and it just wasn’t fair! Next thing you know you’re pouting and pointing fingers like that five year old…and now it’s not really about a missed train anymore, it’s an existential crisis.
It’s bound to happen…or is it?
In one of my favorite movies, View From the Top, Gwyneth Paltrow sets off to become a flight attendant. Her trainer, played by Mike Myers, portrays a “Disgruntled Passenger“ (wait for it…it starts at the 1:20 mark). I love this scene because it cracks me up…and it’s not too far from the truth how dramatic and irrational some of us act when we get disgruntled (guilty!).
I think travel feuds are totally preventable (or can at least be minimized) with a little pre-departure communication.
Here’s how to avoid becoming a Disgruntled Traveler (DT):
1. WHAT PRESSES YOUR BUTTONS? Just as important as packing the right things is packing the right attitude. Before you step foot out of the country, have a friendly conversation with your travel partners about what pushes your buttons. Prevention is all about awareness. It’s like knowing the properties of water. If you heat it to 212F it will boil. If you knowingly press someone’s button, they will become a DT.
2. WHAT’S YOUR “SAFE” WORD? If you’re an 80’s kid, remember that game where someone would twist your arm with both of their hands…in opposite directions…until you cry MERCY! When sparks start flying, have a pre-selected word to cry mercy. My family and I decided we’re going to use “Belle,” our dog’s name, because who can be angry when you think of the cutest, most unconditionally loving soul you know?
3. ACKNOWLEDGE THE OTHER. Even with the safe word, some things might still need to be talked out. In Tuesday’s With Morrie (if you haven’t read it yet, it’s a short, sweet, must-read!), what really hit home is that all people want from others is to be heard. All of the crying, screaming, and dramatic displays of emotion are just a cry to be heard. So be kind to the other and listen without blame or judgment, and feel a real connection form. In this way, your relationship will blossom into something real.
4. LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE OUT OF IT. Try your best to hold your tongue and focus only on the issue at hand, rather than dragging up things from the past, like “you always…” or “you never…” because the present moment is not about that. (Maybe the incident is triggered by your baggage, but travel light, it’s much much more delightful and freeing).
5. LAUGH ABOUT IT AND GO EAT SOME GELATO. Because that’s why you’re on this trip after all, to have fun, right?!?!