Something that a lot of people don’t talk about is the fact that travel can be stressful.
Wicked stressful. Navigating an unknown city, often in a different language and culture, while carrying a 25 pound bag on your back? And all while trying to have The Best Time Possible? Because this is what you’ve been planning and saving for over the past six months and you are going to have a great time if it kills you.
Annnnd cue the meltdown in line to the Louvre.
Because most of us have a very limited number of vacation days, we put pressure on ourselves to squeeze joy out of every minute that we’re in another country. When I did my round the world ticket
, I remember being haunted by the feeling that I ‘wasn’t doing it right’ because I was having an awesome time, yes, but I also got lost a lot, got hit by a scooter, overslept on the train and missed my stop, had a former mental patient for a roommate and got a rash from the overnight bus in Vietnam. Seriously.
How to Make Travel Stress-Free
So please allow me to share some of the tricks I’ve learned to help one chill the eff out and enjoy the ride. Reducing travel stress is an art more of a science and takes changing your perspective while you’re traveling! Yes, you can travel with less stress!
Realize that everything is going to take longer and cost more than you thought
One of the biggest stresses when traveling is money. When reading about the prices of food and lodging in a country, it’s easy to add those two numbers together and assume that’s how much money you’ll spend in a given day. But then you get lost have to take a taxi back to your friend’s house. And you lose your return bus ticket. And the only restaurant that’s open has $17 entrees. It’s also possible (especially if you’re traveling outside of the western world) that your bus will break down, your captain will run on island time, or the roads have washed out now that it’s rainy season.
Of course these things are all hugely frustrating, but often unavoidable. You’ll be a lot happier and more relaxed during your travels if you leave some wiggle room in your schedule and budget.
Everything is just a matter of time and money
Oooh, that sounds rather ominous doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t everything in life just a matter of time and money? But especially when traveling, I think it’s worth remembering this. Putting your travel stress into perspective helps a whole lot. Snags in your plan are not a matter of life and death, nor do they have to ruin your trip. Your flight is delayed and you’re going to get in to Edinburgh two hours late? Just buy the phone card, call your friend and tell her you’ll get in at 11 pm, and take a taxi to her house. Whenever I encountered these problems I would repeat this mantra in my head “Everything is just a matter or time and money. I have all the time in the world and a credit card with a high limit.”
That $3 means a lot more to them than it does to you
You don’t need to create stress by bartering to get the absolute best deal when you don’t need it. Bartering is par for the course in many cultures and it’s something that turns many of us westerners inside out with embarrassment. Negotiation + confrontation = nightmare scenario for most women I know, myself included. I have two settings: “Please, overcharge me! I implore you!” or “You want $99? How about $3? No? You are dead to me.”
Of course, as foreigners we are surely being offered extremely inflated prices and shouldn’t accept the first number offered. However, I have seen westerners joyfully embrace the bartering system and spend 20 minutes haggling over a difference of 20 American cents. It’s worth remembering that the four dollars that you’re saving means a lot more to these vendors than it does to you.
The average yearly income in Bolivia is nine hundred American dollars. Just sayin.
Those beggars might actually need your money
One of the most unnerving and often frustrating things about traveling through developing countries is all of the poverty you will see. Being constantly hounded for money can really stress you out when traveling when you know you can’t fix everything. You will inevitably be asked for money several times a day – by women with crying babies, blind men, people handicapped by landmines. It’s really, really sad and really overwhelming. It’s also really easy to become immune to. Many developing countries have little in the way of social welfare programs so these people may have no other way of getting money.
A friend developed a method for dealing with this while traveling through Cambodia. Every day he would carry around the equivalent to 10 American dollars in really small bills. He would give out one bill to every beggar he saw until they were all gone.
Note: you have to be a little careful in an area with lots of beggars in one place. If they see you giving out money to one person, they will swarm you.
It’s easier to make money than it is to make memories
Money is a constant stressor while traveling for most people. But remember the reasons why you’re traveling in the first place! Now that you’re three weeks into your trip, maybe funds are getting a bit low. You find yourself eating a lot of bread and cheese and sleeping in the dorm room at the hostel instead of the double. When your friend suggests the $80 rappelling/black-water rafting/rock climbing trip
you balk. That’s, like, four nights of hostel!
Dude, do it. Put that shit on your credit card. If you were at home, you would not think twice about buying a cute sweater from Target and then getting dinner with your BFF – and that would probably run you the same amount. If you’re getting too wound up about money while your traveling, just think about what this money would translate to in your life back at home. New pair of Frye boots or sky diving? Swim with dolphins or one new tire for your car? Not such a difficult choice.
When in doubt, cry
When travel stress and things just get to be too much, sometimes you just need to let your emotions speak for you. Just as a smile is universal, so is crying. There are few people in the world who can look into the crumpled, messy face of a overwhelmed lady and not feel inclined to help. Or to let you off with a warning.
I really believe that everyone, the world over, is good at heart. You will be amazed at the things that people will do to help you when they can see that you need it.
Are you dead? Are you hurt? No? Then it’s not the end of the world
Travel stress can mount if you let it. It totally sucks to lose your passport or have your wallet stolen or for your luggage to get lost in transit. No arguments there. But all these things are temporary and repairable. They will make for excellent stories later on in which you will be featured as The Intrepid Traveler Who Went Through So Much But Still Had a Good Time.
How do you stay zen when you’re traveling?