When the majority of us travel, we like to have a scheduled to-do list handy of what we'll see and where we go and —most importantly— where we'll eat.
And while that sounds like a good idea, the bad thing about that is that our adventures have a funny way of derailing themselves along the way, which can have the potential of hugely stressing us out. To avoid that, the trick is you need to come into your trip with the plan of not having a plan.
Things get rearranged, mistakes happen, tires get popped, trains get delayed, and sometimes it's going to rain even though clear skies were promised. And that's all part of the fun. It might sound hella stressful, but trust me when I tell you with every mishap that happens, you've got a chance for a new adventure. All you have to do is stay relaxed, flexible, and willing to go with the flow – from plays being closed to missing your bus, it can all be worked out.
Below are seven ways to not freak out when everything goes wrong while traveling.
1. When the Weather Is Complete Crap
Say you've got one day in a city and you're all excited and ready with your travel book and sticky notes, when the sky decides to throw a fit and rain. Oh, man. Now you're at a cross roads: You can A) either throw an equally big snit and let it ruin your whole day or, B) you can make the most of it.
If it's raining, buy an umbrella. If it's the winds that are bothering you, pop into a store and buy a hat and scarf really quickly. Why would you let an easy fix like that completely bum you out? Then, find the opportunities in the weather turning on you. Notice how different the city looks with grey skies and wet sidewalks; take it as a chance to visit museums you weren't really planning on popping into; make a cafe crawl where you go from one coffeehouse or bakery to the next, sampling your way through the most interesting pastries. Or do a historic pub crawl, where you find the most interesting bars in your area and try to imagine them as they used to be. Whatever you do, just find a new game-plan. It'll be just as fun, I promise.
2. You Miss Your Train To Your Next City
Whether you showed up late or didn't know you were supposed to buy a ticket ahead of time, knowing you missed your train could be enough to make you slide into a sulk. But instead, look at it this way: You have an extra day in the city. If it's the one you've been staying in, find something out-of-the-box you haven't tried yet. For example, when I was stuck in Dublin for one extra day, I looked up all the places James Joyce has been reputed to hang out in and made a tour out of it, sampling pints of Guinness and plates of fish and chips along the way.
Or if it's a connecting city, now is your chance to go somewhere completely new. Try the local food, find the town square, people watch from a flight of stairs, take it as a chance to sit in a cafe all day and read your book – you might not be on schedule, but you're still on your adventure.
3. You Get On A Train, But It's The Wrong Train
There's nothing quite like that five-second panic that hits you when you realize you've messed up. And not only did you mess up, but you have no idea where you're going. But remember: This can be easily fixed.
You can either get off the next stop and arrange for a proper ticket, or you can just stay on board and head towards a completely new city that could actually maybe even impress you. If you get back on track later that day or later tomorrow, in the end it'll iron itself out. Just be flexible and you won't feel the panic.
4. You Get To Your Destination And There Are No Rooms Available
One time I came to this small town in India at two in the morning and found out there were absolutely no beds available in the whole town; everything was booked solid because of a festival later in the week. In the middle of the night and with a heavy backpack on my shoulders, that was slightly worrisome.
Two things could have happened to me that night: 1) After wandering a bit more, I came across two other backpackers that heard that someone was willing to rent a mattress on their rooftop for the night (which, excuse me, sounds amazing. Can you imagine getting to sleep underneath the Indian sky?) Or 2) I could convince my way into a spare room somewhere, if only I haggled. If the whole village knew there were absolutely no rooms available, they weren't going to let some lonely traveler sleep on the streets. A couch would be offered or a bench, but in the end you'd have a room for the night. (Full disclosure: I did the haggling bit. And I've regretted it ever since because that roof story would have been so, so cool.) Either way, it all works out.
5. A Tire Pops, Or Some Other Annoying Mishap Happens
When I was in Scotland, my cousin and I were driving through the highlands when we accidentally ran over a very pointy rock that proceeded to pop two of our tires. Two, it turned out, very expensive tires. To fix it cost a pretty penny, our car rental place refused to pick us up because we were too far away, and we were told it would take a couple of hours to get the correct tires and fit them on. Basically, our whole day was a wash and we were out a big amount of cash.
For moments like those, you just have to grit your teeth and admit it sucks, but there's nothing you can do. Sometimes you get a bad hand and you have to pay, but while that's going to put you back some, you can at least enjoy the time you have during this hiatus. So we found out there was a village about a kilometer away that seriously looked like something out of a Grimms fairy tale. Mountains peeked over rooftops, homes looked like they were built out of gingerbread, and I was ready to see a wolf with a red cape come around the corner any minute. My credit card took a beating, but at least I still did something beautiful with my day. Like I said, it sucked, but we all know that set-backs happen like that in life. It's up to you if you let them crumble your whole trip.
PS: Here's how that town looked. Say it with me now: SWOON
6. You Show Up Somewhere, And The Place Is Closed
Arg, the frustration. Especially if you went especially to that city only to find the thing in question is closed. While that could make you want to beat on the doors and tear your shirt all Stellaaa-like, you could find the silver lining in the situation. Which is, you could do something completely different. See what other gems the city holds and do those instead. It's rare that a town only has one thing to visit – at the very least it has a medley of interesting restaurants and coffeshops to sample your way through, and at the most it has something else monumental a tourist can visit. Get on your phone and discover what those things are – remember, a curveball like that is just a chance to go explore something different. Chin up, and enjoy the ride.