Even if you think you planned every detail perfectly, you can’t control everything. On any trip, there are bound to be some unpleasant surprises, big or small, and the only thing you can do is react. So how should you react? What happens when your dream vacation becomes a disaster?
All the ways things can go wrong
Through no fault of your own, a trip can quickly become a disaster. You miss your flight, you lose your luggage, you get sick, you fight with whoever you’re traveling with, you get mugged or scammed or lose your passport. It’s actually more likely that your trip won’t go as planned than it is that it will.
Even if it does go off without a hitch, there’s no guaranteeing that you’ll enjoy it. Because you might hate the place you chose to visit. Plenty of people think Paris was overrated or that New York is too dirty and crowded. And those things can start to wear on your enjoyment of your trip.
The worst part is that all these things are largely out of your control. It’s impossible to know or predict or plan for everything. So when the worst happens, what do you do?
Well, here’s what not to do
Freak out. There are no situations that freaking out about can possibly improve (unless you’re in a haunted house, I guess). Don’t cry. Don’t lose your nerve. In all likelihood, those things will only make things worse.
Focus on the things that go wrong. You might not be able to control what happens, but you can control how you think about them. If your entire experience is negatively focused, you won’t get to appreciate the things that went right and the experiences you enjoyed. Your entire memory of a vacation will be tainted.
Let it ruin everything else. Being in a bad mood can make anything go from bad to worse. If you let a little hitch dampen your perspective, chances are, everything else will go downhill if it’s not perfect.
Let anybody ruin a place. Rude or dishonest locals or incompatible travel buddies can unfairly color the way you feel about a particular place. It’s not Ireland’s fault that you couldn’t stop fighting with your boyfriend. Enjoy your surroundings and leave your grudges at home. If your server was rude, then don’t tip him. But don’t be pissed about it the whole rest of the day either.
What to do when a vacation is a disaster
Laugh. I have a bit of a fondness for things that go terribly awry, because I find them funny. The trick is to learn to laugh while you’re still in the situation instead of a decade later when you’re developed a sense of humor about it. Anything can be funny if you think about it: annoying tourists, awful cities, getting a stomach virus and shitting your pants.
Ignore the bad things. The more importance you give to anything, the more that becomes the central focus of an experience. I just threw out my back the day before going to Malta. But my rickety ass still walked all over that island, stopping frequently for alcohol and rest. So the back pain wasn’t my whole trip. It was just a small hilarious and uncomfortable part of it.
Focus on the things that go right. Almost anything can make a trip worthwhile, so even if some things went wrong, there’s almost always something you can enjoy. For instance, I though Sofia was a dump, but the food was delicious.
Go with the flow. Sometimes the best thing about travel is discovering the things you didn’t know existed. If you didn’t get to do something, maybe it’s for the best. That frees you up to do something else that maybe you’ll enjoy even more. You have your whole life to be stressed and pissed off (that’s what work is for, no?). So when you’re on vacation, just roll with it.