There is that moment when it all goes south. You’re on the dream trip, it’s all you hoped and then, boom. An unexpected problem. You’re tired, you’re jet-lagged, and maybe a little insecure. When you’re with a partner, you may throw them the reins and take a break. (When you are with a partner, you may also say unforgivable things and end a relationship. It’s 50/50.)
When you’re by yourself, how do you make a comeback?
There are some tips at the end for practical help, but how do you stay in the game, be your smartest, and make the most of your trip?
When You Make a Mistake. Or When Someone Else Does. Things happen on a trip – a delayed train, an overbooked hotel, or in my case an opera called on account of a flood.
- Become your own cool-headed negotiator.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Take a moment if you need to – don’t take a deal or make a rash decision too soon.
Access your business-self and leverage your possibilities. Think of it as hiring that side of yourself to help the disappointed you. Be the gracious but experienced and no-nonsense traveler. For example, if the hotel is overbooked, consider what might give you priority as a guest. Are you a club member – did you book on a premium credit card? Did you correspond with a particular staff person at the hotel? If you need to be walked to another hotel – insist on understanding where they are sending you and the level of the room. You should get an upgrade at the new hotel. If a premium room is available, they can do that for a quick fix to your problem. When I approach this is a rational, collaborative way, staff can be relieved to have a way to please a guest. If this hotel is important to you, be gracious about what has to happen tonight but insist to know when they can get you back in – you should be in line in front of tomorrow’s guests. Save your own trip. (Then go to the pub next door and cry if you must.)
When Other People Are Jerks. It just happens. You walk into someone else’s bad moment. It can be hard to make a quick recovery. Especially if they are French.
Here is a secret weapon. Do something great for someone else. Something completely unexpected. The good that you create will diminish the disdain or rudeness of the other encounter.
In Edinburgh, I had just twenty-four hours for sightseeing on my way home from a trip in the Highlands. Everyone I encountered out in the rural areas was friendly and patient. As usual, back in the city, I got turned about on the city streets, made a few wrong turns, and asked the wrong group for directions. I left feeling like a stooge. Why did it matter so much? This was a limited time and I wanted to enjoy the city but I lost my confidence. So I bought a gorgeous slice of cake from a bakery (it was meant for me) but as I got back to the hotel, I was thinking how welcoming the desk staff had been when I arrived and how much random anger they must encounter. So I took the cake to the young girl that had checked me in a couple of hours earlier. I don’t know why but that cancelled out the bad experience.
When You’re Tired. On your first day or after an arduous or exhilarating part of the trip, you could be emotionally or physically exhausted. This may sound over-thought but if on the first night of your first trip alone, you don’t honor that and you have an unexpected come-apart, you begin to question whether the whole trip was a good idea. Just recognize what is happening.
Give Yourself a Break. First, if you are tired, disappointed, having trouble making decisions (because you are tired and disappointed), find home base. I take a journal, an iPad, a book or camera and set up somewhere that feels like I’m on the parade route. A café near the hotel or, if you have one, a hotel lobby bar, is full of possibilities. You’re close enough to your room so you don’t feel desperate about being out of energy but you’re still have a front row seat to (Paris, Istanbul, Memphis, San Francisco). When your body can’t take another step, but you can’t bear to miss something, this really works.
Nuclear Tired. If that doesn’t sound good, what would you do at home? It’s not against the rules on your own adventure to find comfort food, some imaginative takeout or a weird potato chip flavor only sold by Lay’s in foreign clime, and return to your room and the remote. Some hotels have a stash of DVDs at the front desk. I travel with a comfort-food-movie downloaded on my ipad just in case. Take care of you. You’ll be ready for tomorrow.
What You Can Do – Practical Tips
- Reservations. Copy all your confirmation numbers and paperwork. Keep a backup set in your luggage or emailed to your account.
- Money. I’m not an expert but if I don’t have cash or card problems, I can handle everything else.
- Prescriptions/Health. The hotel staff are great help if you discovered you left a prescription at home or you need to locate a doctor.
- Ask for help. There really is a sisterhood that extends beyond country and language. Even the most glamorous looking Viennese woman behind the hotel desk can recognize a girl’s last leg. Admit your having a bad moment and ask for advice.