Travelling isn’t always perfect. It isn’t always luxurious, and plans don’t always go off flawlessly. If there is one thing that I’ve learned through my travels, it’s that you are in charge of only how you react to situations, but have almost no say in the situations themselves.
To say that unfortunate things happen when you are travelling is an understatement. This past Christmas, I was stuck in the Chicago airport thanks to an unfortunate weather advisory and a broken plane. I was happily heading home from Miami on Christmas Eve, excited to reconnect with my fiancé after a week apart, eager to share all the stories of my cruise ship adventures. We were two hours or so out from Fort Lauderdale when an announcement was made that our autopilot was broken and because of bad weather in Chicago, we wouldn’t be able to land there without it. We’d have to turn back, land in Orlando and wait for a new plane. It was at this point that I did the math. With an hour flight to get back to Orlando, time to land and get a new plane, I knew I wouldn’t be making my connecting flight in Chicago.
When I landed in Orlando, I was calling home, searching flights, trying to figure out any way I could get home that evening, but I came up short. That is when the panic set in. There were no more flights out of Chicago that evening and it looked like the rest of them would have multiple layovers or would get in after nine in the evening on Christmas day.
Here’s the thing about flying – there is only so much an airline is willing to do. Some airlines are better than others and some airlines drive you to send sixteen angry emails regarding the way they handle these sorts of situations. But I digress. The point is, that at some point you must decide what is most important to you. Do you spend more of your precious earned money to connect elsewhere? I thought of booking a flight home to Toronto to spend Christmas with my parents or simply flying back to Miami to lie on the beach. I was spiralling into a panic that was going to ruin not only my Christmas, but the memory of my holiday.
What I have learned, time and time again, is that sometimes, things just don’t go your way. Sometimes the cold is so dangerous that the airport staff can’t load the luggage onto the plane. As a result, you have to get de-iced twice, causing you to miss your connection in Hong Kong, so you hang out in the airport for 9 hours with a Mom, Grandma and two kids you just met who also got stranded. You have a nap and by the time you end up in Australia you’ve been travelling for around 50 hours.
Sorry… where was I? Right – attitude – the only thing you have control of when travelling. So, back to the Chicago Airport on Christmas day. I knew almost everything was out of my control, except my attitude itself. So, I wandered the airport – the entire airport – for hours. I documented the people and the decorations. I eavesdropped on conversations and people watched, happy to know that I’d be home soon enough and happy to know I had the opportunity to even get stranded at an airport over Christmas. And to be honest, the airport was a pretty cool place to witness Christmas; with music playing in the halls and a gentleman singing Beatles songs near the food court.
There is an obvious reason for trying to make the best of a bad situation when it comes to travelling. You don’t want to let things beyond your control ruin something you’ve been so excited for. However, keeping your emotions under control and looking towards the positive is always easier said than done. So, how then do we adjust our attitude in the unfortunate moments of travel? I’m not going
to say there is one definite answer to that one. Maybe your way to deal with a delay is hitting the bar or a delicious restaurant. Maybe you’ll talk to the person next to you and make a new friend. Maybe you’ll wander around and enjoy the sites of the airport. But for me – I remind myself two things. One; The Terminal was just a movie and that eventually I’ll get to where I am going. Two; I’ll have a story.
I’ve taken close to 30 flights in the last five years and only the extreme delays and hours of being stranded are ever remembered or mentioned again. No good story ever starts out with, “Hey, remember that time my plane boarded on time and arrived on time?”
Unfortunately, it isn’t only flights that get in the way of a good time. One thing that I struggle most with is the idea of losing luggage. In fact, it might actually be my greatest fear when it comes to travelling. I will always remember a friend I met on one of my holidays travelling Europe whose luggage never arrived in London. This would be bad enough; however, we were on a bus tour which only spent a night or two in each city. It was never long enough to have his luggage sent to us. I’d like to say that after two weeks he finally got his suitcase back but to be honest, I don’t remember anything but the same red shirt worn day and night. To be fair, I imagine he was probably the happiest traveller on our trip since a lot of our stops in Europe required us to lug big heavy bags and suitcases up several flights of stairs and down endless hallways. With that being said, I’m still not about to volunteer to have my luggage lost.
Flights and luggage are bad enough, but there is something even worse – a traveller’s worst nightmare that has plagued me not once, but eight times. There is a curse I have that has become more of a joke every time it happens. Jungfrau Mountain in Switzerland, Wallaman Falls in Australia, Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, The Three Sisters in Australia, The Going to the Sun Road in Montana, the Crater Lake in the Galapagos Islands and Cotopaxi in Ecuador have all been fogged out when I went to see them.
Now, I understand that I have no control over the weather. This is not where my frustration lies. My frustration lies in the number of times the weather has gotten in the way of my bucket list. I can’t say that it gets easier to be rejected from these spectacular landmarks and unfortunately, I can’t say it won’t happen again. So, make the best of a bad situation and take your photos anyways. Have a peak at the bottom of the article to see my photos of fog and cloud! Try not to get too jealous. I know they are impressive photos that will spark that good ole’ travel bug.
Travel is a universal love. In theory, it’s fun; it’s ethnic food, wild photos, new friends and cool stories. But every once in a while it’s missed flights, weather delays, lost luggage or unavoidable disappointment. Even if you are standing on the top of Europe, looking at the gaping white nothingness that should be Jungfrau mountain but instead is just clouds and fog, even if your boat can’t make it to Haiti because the oceans are too rough and even if you climbed 200 steps to see a crater lake only to be disappointed by low hanging cloud, take a moment to remember you are still travelling. Take a moment to remind yourself that even though the situation sucks, you’ll survive the day with a unique story that can one day be laughed about. After all, when travelling, you have a choice to make the true beauty become the journey, rather than just the destination.
Emily Wilson is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. She was born and raised in Ontario and lived in Australia for a year and a half. Emily has visited 33 countries and will share some of her experiences and advice for globetrotters of all ages.