ARE YOU A DIFFICULT TRAVELER?
By Sarah H. Ellison, author of “Lessons from a Difficult Person: How To Deal With People Like Us.”
From better communication to handling detours, Sarah H. Elliston, author of “Lessons from a Difficult Person: How To Deal With People Like Us,” shares advice on how to not be a difficult traveler on Big Blend Radio.
We are creatures of habit and we all have our daily routines. Morning routines, bedtime routines, work, play and family routines.
When we travel, those routines are thrown up in the air, tossed around, and return to earth unrecognizable. In the B & B, the bathroom is down the hall and one waits one’s turn, only to discover that the bathtub may be in a different room completely and there will be a wait for that, too. Breakfast is served at a specific time in a new time zone and we find ourselves starving while waiting for the hour to arrive. Breakfast may not taste the same as it does at home. The bedclothes may be different and overly warm or not warm enough. The bed that we are used to is now higher or lower, bigger or smaller, too firm or not firm enough.
Are you a difficult traveler? Do you complain? Gnash your teeth? Share your discomfort? Do you sense that you are grumpy? Are you constantly comparing things negatively to “back home?” Or can you have a sense of wonder about differences? Which feels better?
Years ago, at the airport in Geneva, I discovered a group of Americans standing outside the entrance to the bathroom, complaining loudly. They were very worried. The sign had both a male and female figure it. On one door. Men and women were going in and out the same door. I was curious. I’d never been in bathroom for both genders and I thought it might be interesting. Upon opening the outer door, I found two inner doors, one for men and another for women. I laughingly reassured the group and all was well.
Before jumping to conclusions, as a traveler, relax and ask some questions.
On the same trip, I was surprised that my fellow American travelers thought tubes of mustard were strange and suspect. It looked like toothpaste. My parents loved this mustard so I grew up with it, and I confidently explained the packaging was normal but the mustard would be hotter than what they were used to. I felt like a self-assured traveler.
Imagine my chagrin when, hours later, I found myself sitting on my knapsack on the train because there were not enough seats for all of us in Second Class. I hadn’t known one paid for First Class to assure a seat. I felt stupid and angry. I resented my husband for not telling me. He didn’t want to pay the extra money. I wasn’t good company for a while. I grumbled. It took some time before I could enjoy the landscape through which we were riding.
I wasn’t actually rude to anyone but I wanted to be. I wasn’t as open to something different as I had hoped I would be. I resolved to feel good about the view and appreciate the differences in the countryside.
If you are travelling this summer, consider if you are a difficult traveler. Be open to differences. If you are in a foreign country, food will taste different. MacDonald hamburgers will not taste the same as they do at home and complaining about this only puts you and your servers in a bad mood. If you are still in the USA, you will find food is cooked differently in different regions. I remember being startled that French Toast is made with French bread in the south. It was a surprise but not unwelcome. Anticipate that food will taste different.
If you want to enjoy the trip, don’t be a difficult traveler. A difficult traveler is one who reacts negatively to differences. Often when we find something different, we become alarmed, maybe fearful, and it is easy to feel angry. An angry traveler is a difficult traveler and it makes us unhappy as well as those around us.
What to do? Expect everything to be different. When it’s not, you can be surprised.
How to be comfortable with all the differences? Examine your daily patterns and identify what items will feel familiar if you take them with you. Don’t rush out and buy everything new for the trip. Take clothes and shoes (maybe a robe or sweater) in which you feel totally comfortable and reassured. Make sure they are familiar so you can rely on something not being different. Change your current routines for a while – try experiencing the discomfort of change without a negative reaction. Take a different route to work, try a different process in the morning, maybe new restaurants and new forms of recreation. Learn a new skill and enjoy the discomfort of the differences.
When I was in Great Britain with my family, I was confused by their coinage system and frustrated that my son found it simple. I don’t trust my computation skills and I felt angry. Our solution was to create a game on the ferry ride to the Isle of Man: “Teach Mommy about English coins.” My husband and son tested me, making up different amounts of purchases and inviting me to make change. For encouragement, they applauded me for a wrong answer as much as they did for the right one. The other passengers were intrigued and got involved. They gave me hints and suggestions of memory tricks. We laughed often and I felt as if everyone was cheering me on. It worked. It was fun. I wasn’t confused on the rest of the trip and shopped with confidence.
Look at each experience as an opportunity for pleasure. Imagine the curiosity of a child and imitate that approach when things are different. Try out the reaction: “Oh, how interesting,” instead of “Ick; how weird.” Look for ways to make things a game, “How many differences can we find today?” Take pictures of your favorites. At the end of the day, write down “Which difference did you like best?” Collect them.
Instead of being a difficult traveler, have some fun by being a traveler who seeks differences. Enjoy them.
Sarah H. Elliston is the author of “Lessons from a Difficult Person – How to Deal With People Like Us”. She is a faculty member of the William Glasser Institute and is a workshop leader and trainer who is certified in Values Realization, Parent Effectiveness Training and Reality Therapy. For more about Reality Therapy and to read Sarah’s blog, visit www.SarahElliston.com.