Your attitude turns green as you look at your friend’s Facebook and Instagram pictures of their recent family vacation. There is an endless stream of toothy grins and “happy family” moments. You roll your eyes and inwardly groan. How is it that everyone else seems to have such perfect family vacations and yours seem to go wrong at every turn? Is there some magical travel fairy that casts some sort of good luck spell on other families? Did you not line up at the appropriate time to get our good luck? Now your attitude has shifted to blue.
Wait! Don’t give up! I can help!
Don’t let your attitude sour. The truth is travel never goes as planned. That is to say, unexpected things will happen. Consequently, if you are expecting it to be perfect, you will always be disappointed and stressed during your travels. In fact, I am sitting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee as we speak.
Here is a list of all that has gone wrong thus far:
- We had the wrong room. Our first room was not handicap accessible, and so we had to wait for a new room.
- We had a beeping dishwasher, and it ended up needing to be replaced. This meant having someone in our villa for several hours.
- We got the newbie waitress at our restaurant.
- We forgot to write down our villa number and ended up in the wrong building thinking our keys didn’t work. We even called security and our neighbors were convinced their key also didn’t work.
- I realized I didn’t have coffee for the morning.
That was just the first day! Day two is just starting! Without a doubt, I could have become annoyed, grouchy, frustrated, and let the tone or attitude of my vacation become dismal. Instead, I chose to make friends with the maintenance man and get recommendations for the best local food. We all had a good laugh about trying to enter the wrong rooms, and took the opportunity to laugh with our neighbors. While they were getting us a new room, we took the chance to get a glass of water and go to the restroom. With extending kindness and patience, our concierge brought us up, not just the standard hotel coffee, but coffee purchased of her own accord! In other words, try to find the best in the situation!
That’s just ducky. So, you are blaming my attitude for my plans not panning out?
Specifically, no. Your attitude is just one small piece of the puzzle! Anybody would be frustrated if their luggage was lost, their reservation cancelled without their knowledge, or to arrive and find out the villa they rented doesn’t even exist! No matter the positive spin you put on it to cope, the “stink factor” is still pretty high! Nevertheless, before we stay positive, we need to acknowledge the stink factor. Take a few deep breaths, calm down, and then find a solution that doesn’t involve any of the following: Tantrums, yelling, screaming, fit throwing, loudly complaining, threats, or any of that ugliness.
Ever hear the old saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?
Take note of how we Americans are typecast!
Let’s let THE Rick Steves spell it out!
The Ugly American:
- criticizes “strange” customs and cultural differences. She doesn’t try to understand that only a Hindu knows the value of India’s sacred cows, and only a devout Spanish Catholic appreciates the true worth of his town’s patron saint.
- demands to find America in Europe. He throws a fit if the air-conditioning breaks down in a hotel. He insists on orange juice and eggs (sunny-side up) for breakfast, long beds, English menus, punctuality in Italy, and cold beer in England. He measures Europe with an American yardstick.
- invades a country while making no effort to communicate with the “natives.” Traveling in packs, he talks at and about Europeans in a condescending manner. He sees the world as a pyramid, with the United States on top and the “less developed” world trying to get there.
- thinks the rest of the world is “ganging up on us” when our country (with Israel) is outvoted 172 to 2 in the United Nations.
- the classic ugly American question overseas is “how much is that in real money?”
The Thoughtful American:
The Thoughtful American celebrates the similarities and differences in cultures. You:
- seek out European styles of living. You are genuinely interested in the people and cultures you visit.
- want to learn by trying things. You forget your discomfort if you’re the only one in a group who feels it.
- accept and try to understand differences. Paying for your Italian coffee at one counter, then picking it up at another may seem inefficient, until you realize it’s more sanitary: The person handling the food handles no money.
- are observant and sensitive. If 60 people are eating quietly with hushed conversation in a Belgian restaurant, you know it’s not the place to yuk it up.
- maintain humility and don’t flash signs of affluence. You don’t joke about the local money or overtip. Your bucks don’t talk.
- are positive and optimistic in the extreme. You discipline yourself to focus on the good points of each country. You don’t dwell on problems or compare things to “back home.”
- make an effort to bridge that flimsy language barrier. Rudimentary communication in any language is fun and simple with a few basic words. On the train to Budapest, you might think that a debate with a Hungarian over the merits of a common European currency would be frustrating with a 20-word vocabulary, but you’ll surprise yourself at how well you communicate by just breaking the ice and trying. Don’t worry about making mistakes — communicate!
Ok, so you are telling me:
1. adjust to a better attitude
2. get over myself
Wait! There is a number three coming! Surely three things can’t be that hard, right?
Yes. I know that doesn’t make me popular amongst peers, but it sure does endear me to the staff and locals that I encounter on my travels. I assure you that it makes for an even better travel experience! We’ve gotten better parking places, expedited services, free tickets, and top-notch service. All of that as a result for just being kind? To illustrate, see the above where we were brought coffee for being kind to a new employee. We aren’t kind though to get things, but because that’s how everyone should be treated! I’m positive that we will still encounter a great number of inconveniences and unfortunate circumstances as we travel this big world. After all, we can’t control everything that happens to us. What we can control is our reaction to it! Safe travels friends!