Everyone loves a vacation, but do you love travel days? You know, those days when you have to drive to the airport, go through lines, get on a plane, make a connecting flight, etc?
What if your bags get lost? What if you miss a connecting flight? What if sitting in a cramped airplane leaves you so tired, tight, and sore you can barely enjoy your destination?
The answer lies in learning to love your fate.
I just returned from a trip to the Canadian rockies. I'll carry those memories with me for the rest of my life: the breathtaking views, the clean air, the food (and local beer of course), the quiet moments in the company of my wife, freed from the pressures of our life back home.
However, nothing great comes without a "tax."
The travel days were long and difficult. Things went wrong. Flights were delayed. In the rush of the day, we went long hours without a nourishing meal. We couldn't find the rental car. I took a few wrong turns.
One potentially "crappy" moment stands out for me: sitting on the plane, stuck at O'Hare airport, waiting in a long line to get to a gate. Our connecting flight was inevitably going to leave without us. If we made the sprint, maybe we get on the flight, but no way our bags would make it.
We were not alone.
So many people had connecting flights, you could feel the panic in the airplane. An announcement was made to allow those with connecting flights leave first, and that was over HALF the airplane!
Even I was worried. We had an international trip planned, one that took the right timing and circumstances to get to our destination. Long lines for security, for customs, for the rental car. And now this?
Yet I remember taking a deep breath and asking myself a centering question I'm sometimes disciplined enough to find in those situations: what can I control?
I could not control or change our flight, our bags, our situation. All I could control was my reaction.
So I closed my eyes and found a measure of peace in the situation. I started looking for ways the delay could be GREAT NEWS (a stoic tactic called Amor Fati, or "the love of fate").
I came up with this list:
- If the trip were delayed and it weren't our fault, the airline would have to give us accommodations in a beautiful city like Chicago. We'd get an extra day of vacation!
- I was given an opportunity to practice resilience in a real-life situation. I was learning a lesson I could share in my newsletter or with other people. I'd enjoy relaxing in Canada even more knowing we had a tough time traveling there.
- I had additional time to read and write on the plane while we waited to get to the gate.
- Sprinting through an airport could be fun, kind of like recreating HOME ALONE in the actual airport where it was filmed.
When we finally got into the airport, a text popped up on my phone. Our connecting flight? Delayed. In this case, it was a relief. We didn't have to sprint or worry, and had the time to take a break and eat something.
We made it to Canada just fine. The trip was amazing, and my time in the Rockies is what I'll remember, not the mental and physical tax I paid to get there.
If you take anything away from this story, let it be this:
--Ask yourself "What can I control?" whenever you're in a stressful situation. (Hint: one answer is ALWAYS that you can control your reaction).
--Anything great, or fun, or successful, or memorable has a tax attached to it. Being in shape requires the difficulty of working out; building a business requires long hours and many setbacks; traveling to a beautiful destination requires the difficulty and unpredictability of the actual travel days.
The tax is inevitable, so be prepared to pay it. And if you get overwhelmed, remember what you can control.
Amor Fati. Love your fate!