There are a lot of things in this world that are out of our control. Taxes. When our car battery decides to die when we’re absolutely sure we didn’t leave any lights on overnight. When we book a place to stay, our flight gets delayed, we can’t get a hold of the hostel to tell them and we lose our bed (or nice room at a hotel, whichever you travel!). But I’ll tell you something, sometimes the universe intervenes because there’s something amazing waiting on the other side of the chaos.
I say chaos because let’s be real, getting stranded somewhere without a place to stay, feels like chaos. Realizing you left your passport at the hostel and knowing you have to go back but there’s no way you’ll make your flight, feels like chaos. Finding out the hostel dryer is broken and your clothes are still soaking wet when you go to get them in the morning, feels like chaos. But honestly, there’s a secret about chaos that will give you unbelievable peace of mind if you can remember it amidst the chaos – it will always pass, like any feeling, and whatever is happening is happening for a reason.
Okay, this girl’s spouting clichés at me…I know, I know, but I promise it’s a mantra that’s gotten me through a lot of difficult travel situations (and honestly plenty at home too!).
If you’ve read my blog, Finding Home, you know that through a series of unexpected events I found a home in country whose name I’d never even said out loud, and met people who changed the course of my life. And it all happened because I misread a tram schedule.
I had been staying at a hostel in Amsterdam in November, the off season, and typically I only ever booked a day or two at a time in any given hostel (a much easier task in the off season). If you want to learn more about my reasoning for traveling this way, check out my blog, Find your Travel Style – and own it! This time though I went to book in another night and the hostel was booked. I was surprised and felt a little frantic (mostly because I’d gotten very comfortable at this hostel) but I just did some HostelWorld-ing and found another place only a couple tram rides away.
So I packed my bag, spent the day with some friends and when I left made a plan to meet up with them all the next morning. Well, the best laid plans right…(sorry, I couldn’t help but throw one more cliché at you!). Needless to say, I missed the groups planned leave time. My first feeling of chaos was frantic, shoot I’ve missed the tram, now I have to figure out a different one to take, or wait for the next, or find a bus schedule. (I should disclose I didn’t leave much leeway time for myself and the scheduled meeting time at the hostel…punctuality was not a skill I got any better at during my travels). So after frantic, I started feeling guilty, because I’d had no way to contact everyone and tell them I was going to be late. I could just picture them there waiting and trying to figure out how long they should wait and what might be going on. The third feeling was frustration, at myself for messing up the schedule, at the hostel for not having a bed the previous night(which rationally I 100% knew was my fault and not theirs), and especially at the fact that I still wasn’t at the bloody hostel.
But I want to point out again, those were all just feelings, and they did pass.
When I got to the hostel and everyone had already left, my final feeling was disappointed. I was pretty bummed that I’d missed my last afternoon in Amsterdam out with everyone. But, as I think any traveler will tell you, one of the most useful skills you can have when traveling is to be able to adapt to things changing and to be able to roll with the punches. So instead, I decided since my train left that afternoon and I loved that hostel so much, I’d just hangout there and meet new people while I waited. One of those new people was Kyle, one of the owners of The Drunken Monkey Hostel in Zadar, Croatia, the place that would touch my soul and change my life in ways I never thought imaginable.
What I’m trying to get at here, quite honestly, is that S#$& happens. But it’s all about our mentality when forging through the chaos. First, remember that it’s only temporary. The chaos is just a culmination of a lot of unsure feelings that, while terrible at the time, are not permanent realities. Feeling disappointed will pass, because the reality is that you can make the best of the new situation you end up in. Feeling guilty will pass, especially when you realize the reality is that people are generally pretty understanding. The feeling of frantic will absolutely pass, because eventually you will get on the right train and be on your way. And you will only be frustrated with the situation until something comes along to take your mind off of it (and usually when you’re traveling that something is pretty exciting!)
When you’re stuck in a situation that feels like endless chaos, especially when you’re traveling, just remember, it’s not endless, it happens to all of us at some point, and, most importantly, maybe this is all happening for a reason that we don’t yet know, a reason that will eventually lead us to one final feeling – grateful. Grateful for the chaos that led us here.