“People come back from flights and tell you a story like it’s a horror story. They act like their flight was like a cattle car in the 1940s in Germany. That’s how bad they make it sound. They’re like, ‘It was the worst day of my life. We didn’t board for 20 minutes and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes.’ Oh really? What happened next? Did you fly in the air, incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero?” – C.K. (comedian)
Louis’ ‘rant’ ends with a rather confronting judgement of those that fit the above bill, but perhaps only offensive if you fall within the prescribed mould of being a ‘glass-half-empty’ kind of person. But, does he have a point? Is there any truth in his observation of those that travel only to return complaining about seemingly trivial mishaps. Like the coffee cups were only half filled, or I couldn’t understand anyone, no one spoke English, or I was refused permission to photograph in stores, or I couldn’t understand the menu etc.
We all travel for differing objectives, with differing motivations. But the operative word is ‘differing’. Is it just me, or do we not travel to experience The Different? Is the quest not in pursuit of being captivated? To marvel, to see and feel something different other than what is readily accessible back home. It seems almost redundant, but to feel something different, you need to do something different, so excuse my surprise when I hear first world grumbling, which diminishes the lustre from what is actually a privileged opportunity to explore the world.
Granted, logic and rational thinking isn’t always enough to change our emotional response to feeling disappointed with certain outcomes. But what if in that moment we chose to frame the picture differently? It is possible to deliberately override an initial emotional response with logic, by framing the same situation with positivity. In doing so, that deliberate mental act miraculously infiltrates our emotions, and soon our perspective is different.
Recently, I was stuck on a plane for 18 hours of, what should have been a 12 hour flight. Consequently I missed a connection, which then resulted in forfeiting $500au dollars through a nights accommodation missed, only to arrive at CDG airport at 11pm, after 27 hours of flying to then discover our luggage had also been lost. I promise you it is possible to laugh about it during the moment, despite the agony and inconvenience. It is possible to physical feel uncomfortable and tired, but to have your emotions in check and high spirits. How, you ask? By choice. Simply by choosing to remind ourselves that we are doing something different, deliberately to break from our everyday lives. By choosing to remind ourselves that we may have one day that is a complete fail while travelling, but 7 other days that are the best you’ve ever had. By deliberately focusing on all the positive people we meet, and not the one person who was incredibly rude. By reminding ourselves that while the food we eat may not be what we’re normally accustomed to, or more expensive than we believe it’s worth, but realistically there is nothing we can do to change that situation. The only control we have is our response to how we deal with it. And if you’re like me, when I’ve spent ten months saving and sacrificing for a dream trip, I refuse to allow myself to be bothered by something which is beyond my control. I choose to accept the culture, and climate that I find myself in. In fact I purposefully seek it out.
We can either embrace the culture or not embrace the culture. I heard it once said that every city has a heartbeat, and I couldn’t agree more. A heartbeat which is unique and distinctive, reverberating with life, this is what creates the ‘essence of a place’. Typically, this so called heart beat becomes it’s trademark. Why not set in pursuit of uncovering what that heartbeat is. The things that differentiate it from home, be it food, culture, transport, the dress code, language etc.
And as I type these very words, I hear my husband’s voice in my head, again, as we sat together in Venice drink coffee. Whilst we did find decent coffee there, I happened to be grumbling about mine at the time which wasn’t to my accustomed Australian standard. Many of us are used to milk based coffee with one third coffee and two-thirds steaming milk, with roasted (not percolated) beans, but I digress. Anyway, as I grumbled about drinking UHT milk, he sits drinking his coffee without milk for the very first time. Deliberately so. In a quiet, I’m wiser than you (yet not condescending) voice, he says, “Try it without milk. It’s how they do it here, and it’s what they’re really good at”. He was right, the part of Italy we were in had perfected over decades the art of specialty coffee without need for milk, but I had not let go of my coffee culture, and missed the opportunity to experience that part of Venice’s. So, now in England, it’s tea. And India, tea too. It’s been difficult to forgo my everyday life pleasures like quality coffee when travelling, but since having framed my ‘mental picture’ differently, I adopt whatever the traditional signature drink or plate is of that nation, or the social etiquette. I challenge you to do the same. Embrace the culture.