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Tips for Surviving Hellish Travel Experiences

This blog post was updated on October 29, 2018.

For those who believe travel to be one giant picnic on a deserted beach off the coast of a quiet corner of the earth, you have probably avoided hellish travel experiences thus far in your globetrotting career.


However, for travelers who have sat on 15-hour bus rides or crammed train cabins with stinky passengers, you know travel is not always a picnic. At the time, these travel experiences of getting robbed or missing a flight seem like the end of the world.


Even if you aren’t a redhead like me, you can blow your top and write the experience off to a place you hope to never see again. While these moments are unavoidable if you travel, you can improve them a great deal, without need for referencing Dante’s Inferno.


Find the story in the uncomfortable—When five stinky men piled into my train cabin in Italy, a train that was for the most part empty, I immediately began checking the time. I couldn’t wait to get out of the situation. However, in those stinky moments, I found a story. I discovered where these men where from, what they were doing, and the train ride strangely went by faster than just sitting in silence sulking they picked my cabin. If you can find the story in the negative or the uncomfortable, the experience can be memorable and even powerful, depending on whom you meet.


Grab a drink—When your plane is grounded due to an airline-wide computer glitch, as was the case with United a few days ago, you can scream and stew until you guessed it, your face turns blue. In the end, you are not all the better with hordes of passengers deeming you “that guy” and perhaps a revoked ticket due to temper. When there is nothing you can do, take the edge off with a drink. Even if you don’t drink the hard stuff, grab water or something carbonated to cool off. You’re not going anywhere after all with a poor attitude.


Put it in perspective—When I opened up my wallet at dinner in Belfast to discover all of my cash had been taken, I felt defeated. I ran to the nearest computer to vent to family back home about the experience. My dad put it all in perspective. At least something didn’t happen to you. When you are pickpocketed or the target of a scam while traveling, you can go over what you should have done a thousand times, but in the end, you just need to put it in perspective. It always could have been worse.


Don’t just sit there—If you are facing massive delays or the train ride that never ends, don’t just sit there and watch the time. Read a book. Pull out the computer. Find something to do or you will drive yourself mad with clock-watching. Time doesn’t pass while staring at the clock. Get busy or those long haul flights next to a “talker” will seem far beyond 10 hours


Be a third grader and always pack a snack—If you are trapped on a bus without a snack, your travel crankiness is probably too far gone to even be reversed. If you are traveling, either eat before those long days of travel or pack some snacks. Even if you are expecting smooth sailing, travel is unpredictable. You never know what might go wrong and if you are battling a hellish travel moment on an empty stomach, it may seem worse than it actually is.


Crack some jokes—Last summer I traveled to a part of Italy I had heard was so remote and beautiful, one few visited. Upon arriving there, I found myself at a less than comfortable hotel with less than idyllic surroundings. I couldn’t wait to leave, but instead, the town became an ongoing joke with my travel companion and I. If you make light of those disastrous travel moments, they can’t be all bad.


Flickr: denverkid

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