Guest post by Elise Fee. Elise is a Life Expansion Coach who works with individuals who have a high standard of excellence and who are searching for grander possibilities in their lives. Is it your SITUATION that needs to change, or is it YOU? For more information about your possibilities, contact Elise here.
Your vacation: fun or stress?
You’ve been anticipating this vacation for months; you leave town in just a few days, so why are you frazzled and stressed? What happened to all the excitement and joy you had when you first planned your trip? Unfortunately this is an all-too-common and unnecessary experience for many travelers.
In our zeal to create the perfect vacation, we set our expectations high. Most of us expect, at a minimum, that the ideal flight will be available at the lowest price, the booking process will go smoothly and flawlessly, we’ll pack calmly and thoroughly, we’ll leave early and relax before our flight, the hotels and restaurants will be superb, the weather exquisite and picturesque (not too hot, not too cold, no rain), we’ll stay within our travel budget…. You get the idea.
And you know what happens next – something doesn’t go according to our expectations and then the stress creeps in. Then if something else doesn’t measure up, the stress heightens. I’m sure you’ve wondered HOW some people travel enjoyably, easily, and even maintain a sense of humor.
I’ll tell you how.
They expect that some things will go wrong. They anticipate challenges and surprises. They roll with schedule changes, restaurants closing early, and other unpredictable nuances. In other words, they let go of their need for their vacation to look a certain way and they open up to the serendipity of new experiences.
The good news is that this is an inside job – it’s all about altering your way of looking at things, adjusting your mindset and shifting your perspective. And it can be done anywhere (even sitting on the floor of an overcrowded, noisy airport – in fact, ESPECIALLY there!) Even better is that you can find relief from your travel stress even when you’re first learning how to do this.
If there were any downside to this (how bad could it be when I’m sharing with you how to enjoy your vacation?!), it’s that it takes practice to really master this way of thinking and to live this way on a consistent basis. So be gentle with yourself (just as if you were learning a new language); practice frequently; and enjoy the process.
One final bit of good news: as you may have already surmised, this skill can be used in any area of your life to reduce stress.
Let go of your need for things to LOOK a certain way. Instead, focus on how you want to FEEL, rather than the specifics of how the experience must SHOW UP. For example, get excited about feeling relaxed and pampered, rather than dreaming about a quiet beach and a margarita. Then if you arrive to find the beach is crowded and the drinks are watery, you can still satisfy your desire for relaxation and pampering by getting a massage. The result is you’ll end up happy, even when things don’t go as planned.
Accept things as they are. Stop resisting reality and you’ll stop stressing. For example, sure you wanted to get out on the 9 a.m. flight you booked, but it’s been cancelled and there is nothing you can do about it. Take a moment to breathe and then calmly look for alternatives. When you immediately let go of Plan A and are able to open up to Plan B (or C), you are moving with the flow of life; you are dealing with reality (instead of fighting it); and you will feel much better as a result. Begin to take pride in your flexibility.
Here’s an example from my own travel experiences: Abigail and I were traveling to Sicily to visit a friend for 8 days. We couldn’t be more excited! When we arrived, our bags didn’t. Not one of them. It turned out they were in Milan, and because it was the start of a weekend, no one expected the bags to arrive in Sicily for at least 4 days (yes, that would be a full HALF of our trip without all the necessities we had so carefully packed!).
Abigail and I unwittingly modeled the two ways of handling this unexpected news. I was quite calm and actually laughed at the situation, not worrying because I knew we’d have fun anyway. Abigail, on the other hand, was bereft. She couldn’t stop thinking about all the items she had in her luggage…that she HAD to have. She was beside herself with frustration and irritation.
How this played out
Our friend met us at the airport and we took a languid bus ride up the coast to where she lived in a picturesque village above the sea. We stopped at her place to freshen up before heading out to explore, and she generously shared her clothes and toiletries with us. What we couldn’t borrow from her, we picked up at the local stores. We were never without anything that we needed.
As Abigail began to shift her attitude about the situation, we found great fun in visiting our friend’s closet each morning, picking out what each of us would wear, what new scarf we would try, who would wear the sexy leather jacket this time, and so on. This became a big part of our Sicilian experience, and it no longer mattered that we were rotating clothes or that we had on the same shoes in all our pictures. Once we embraced reality and moved on to Plan B, our vacation was fun and exciting, just like we’d hoped it would be.
A funny footnote to this story is that when our luggage finally arrived on the 6th day (of our 8 day vacation), we still kept up the routine of sharing clothes. It had become an enjoyable and integral part of our visit. And today, it’s a key part of the happy memories of our trip.
For your next trip, take a bit of advice and don’t pack the stress. Stay open to whatever twists and turns your vacation brings you. And always remember to pack your sense of humor – after all, life is nothing if not an adventure.
Now that you know how to enjoy a stress-free vacation, where will you go next?