The one thing that can save a bad vacation
When we plan vacations we don’t think of bad vacations. We think of sunny skies, happy visits with friends and family, new adventures or the joy of revisiting favorite spots. We don’t often imagine things that can go wrong. And that could be a mistake that can cost you precious patience and happy memories.
My family and I just returned home from a trip that by some accounts was wonderful and also packed with crap we could have done without. Our patience was tested, as was our flexibility.
This trip started like any other, with dreaming.
It was turning cooler in Switzerland where we live, and while it’s beautiful here, it’s not my hometown. It doesn’t hold my memories or traditions and I started to crave a good old Michigan fall. I searched flights, a place to stay and our budget. Then I convinced my husband that he really wanted to go to Michigan in the fall, too.
I could almost smell the apple spice, see the orange bumps of the pumpkin patches and green trees with tips of purple and yellow. I craved the sound of announcers calling football games and sampling cider and donuts at the orchard. I wanted my girls to get this glimpse of my roots.
We booked a room at an adorable bed and breakast, the Millpond Inn, in a charming village close to my sister, where my mom had lived for a few years before she passed away. The streets are lined with historic homes, quaint small-town shops and reknowned restaurants. There is a park and library within walking distance. And there were lots of things on the village calendar during our stay. It would be perfect.
When vacations go bad
Our first week’s plans were shuffled with the weather, lots and lots of rain. By the end of the week our youngest developed a fever, but she was happy so we just tried to keep her out of kissing range of her cousins. We managed to find some indoor activities for everyone and spent some much-needed time with family.
But the second week hit like a hammer. Though the weather turned perfect, my daughter’s health was not. We’d just sat down to eat at the Taste of Clarkston when our 3-year-old had a head-to-toe allergic reaction to some unknown irritant. I said goodbye to friends we had seen for five minutes and sped off to the emergency clinic where the poor little one spent the evening getting poked and drugged and we were introduced to the epi pen.
A couple of days later, she woke with what we thought was strep throat. We were back to the clinic. Then back again that night with a reaction to her medication. Then again in the morning for more testing, and finally, on the day before we left, when she wasn’t improving, more testing, more drugs and a corrected diagnosis of mono.
She was a trooper. Drugged and eating her popsicle, I texted family, canceled plans for dinner, and had to say goodbye to everyone over the phone instead of in person.
I was so happy we had a better understanding of what was happening with our daughter. But there was a little piece of me, that selfish piece that no one likes to talk about, that was disappointed and a little sad that we were missing out on the rest of our trip — visits with friends and family, planned day trips, even just the relaxing fun pace I’d been looking forward to, the entire reason flew across the ocean to begin with.
How to save a bad trip
But the truth about vacations is that the days away are really just like any other day or week at home, subject to variables and the state of being human. We never know what will happen. Whether it’s flight delays, hurricanes or illness, it can all affect your vacation and often does.
The one thing that can save, or salvage, these times is acceptance. When we accept that we can’t control everything but we can control our reaction to it, we can change the dynamics of a tough situation. We may not get the vacation we’d hoped for, but we can accept that this moment is our reality and choose to stay calm and centered so that we don’t conjure up even more stress. And if you’re lucky you can find other ways to enjoy the time.
Will there be disappointment? Of course. I would have loved to finished our night with friends, had dinner with my cousins, gone to the craft show where my mom used to sell her jewelry, had our bonfire not rained out.
Put acceptance into practice
One way to prepare for acceptance is anticipation. Start before you get on the plane, or book your hotel, or plan your roadtrip. Keep your dreams of the perfect escape, but also remind yourself it may rain, you may not have as much time to do as much as you think, you may lose luggage or have other difficulties. Give some thought to how you might react to that. Practice, like an athelete, makes facing the real thing easier.
Make some back up plans–pick a few rainy-day activities and keep your schedule open and flexible. Be OK with not doing everything.
Come up with a little mantra for the times when things get disappointing. I used to say, when I traveled solo, “whatever happens happens”. I’d repeat it over and over again whenever I got nervous about canceled trains or arriving in a city without a place to stay. If you repeat this to yourself, quick and easy, you won’t be so moved to frustration when things don’t go as planned.
Remember, you will find a way around your situation, you always do, just like when you’re at home. But those changes don’t have to mean a completely wasted trip. Your trip may just end up being something you never imagined when you accept what you have to work with and find a new way look at it.
Think of any good things you’ve done and be grateful for them. Then start planning your next trip!