When you travel somewhere different, it opens your eyes to new experiences—not just in the touristy sense, but in the life-changing, why-didn’t-I-know-this-before kind of way that changes how you look at life. This is especially true when the trip that you’re taking doesn’t go quite right.
Every time I travel and run into some difficulties, I learn something new about myself and the world, and that’s why you shouldn’t dread those mishaps. Sometimes, they're more important than you could have ever imagined.
When I decided to pack up my Geo Tracker and drive to Alaska in my 20s, I did it sans passengers—and with little knowledge of just how much could go wrong with a car that you’re driving across the country. I soon realized, however, that there were always people willing to help me along on my journey. Any time I needed assistance, some Good Samaritan was there with a kind word or a handy wrench—talk about restoring your faith in humanity! In today’s cellphone world, help is mostly just a call away, but I’ve also found that just asking nearby humans for assistance—jumping a battery, getting directions when the GPS loses its mind—can not only get you on your way, but give you the chance to enjoy a nice conversation with a genuinely good person.
There’s nothing wrong with being spontaneous; it’s pretty much my modus operandi. But you can make your life a lot easier if you take at least a little time to research where you’re going, and make a rough outline of what you’ll be doing along the way. For example, you can travel Route 6 across the top of Pennsylvania, but there are a number of places where cellphone service is non-existent, so you need to plan your stops so that you don’t get stuck on empty. Since I am known for taking a road trip at the drop of a hat (or the mention of some kind of festival that I just can’t stand to miss), I always have my oil topped off, some changes of clothes for every kind of weather or hiking condition, a first-aid kit and DIY car items like windshield wiper fluid, Fix-a-Flat, antifreeze and an empty gas can. Oh, and your mother was right about always having gloves and a hat—you never know when they might come in handy.
Not every trip goes the way you want, no matter how meticulous the planning. Years ago, I went to Reno, NV, for the first time, not realizing that the area into which I was flying was pretty much underwater due to torrential summer storms. So I’m there with a new puppy, an angry boyfriend, and no way to rent a car since flights were being cancelled left and right and everyone was fleeing the area. While this was certainly not a good time, it was a great learning experience. Turns out you can rent a moving van, even if you have nothing to move but yourself! And once the sky cleared and the tears stopped, I was pretty proud of my problem-solving skills.
We’ve all been there. You’re tired, you’re miserable and you just want to go home. And while you may feel like throwing in the towel on a trip, sometimes you just have to power through. Drink a lot of water, try to eat healthy foods, and most important of all, keep a good attitude. While I won’t say that adversity is a wonderful thing, sometimes the most impressive thing that you bring home from a trip is the realization that you can handle anything the world throws at you, even if at the time the obstacles seem insurmountable.
The best people to travel with are those who can laugh when everyone else wants to cry. Maybe your dream vacation was more of a nightmare, but just think of the stories you’ll tell when you get back home. Don’t be that guy who yells at the airline attendant when your plane is delayed because of bad weather—be the one they upgrade to first class because you were nice and made their jobs easier.
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Freelance writer. Road tripper. Travel diva. Dog rescuer. Writes for food or kibbles and bits. Based out of Pittsburgh, PA, via Juneau, AK, Vanessa has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years, and has been published in many diverse publications,including GEEK, Recreation News, CATS, VFW magazine, the Antique Trader and more. An avid traveler, she always brings home amazing memories...and often more dogs. Follow Vanessa on her blog, Mood Swings and Other Things, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.
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