I am packing up my things in the lounge, ready to head for the gate, when I receive a text message saying the flight is delayed. As my blood pressure starts to rise and I start to worry about my connecting flight, whether I have enough time, I think back to the travel advice I received from my dad the first time I was heading to Europe.
At seventeen, I was lucky enough to be selected as one of about thirty students from Indiana to spend a summer studying French in France. Until then, I hadn't traveled by plane very often; my dad flew often with work and didn't consider any trip involving a plane as vacation. As a consequence, we had only flown about twice before that, once to Philadelphia to visit friends, and once to London (where it was definitely impossible to drive).
My dad wrote me a letter to read on the plane, and it contained such good advice that I carried the letter with me for many years of travel. Now, more than twenty years later, the letter has fallen apart, but the main message was clear: in travel, especially air travel, many unexpected things can happen, and I can choose how to handle the stress.
He reminded me of the serenity prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,Courage to change the things I can,And wisdom to know the difference." He encouraged me in the circumstance of inevitable delays and problems, to be part of the solution, not the problem.
In my years and nearly million miles of travel (unfortunately spread among too many carriers to get the nice card!), I repeatedly come back to this thought and use it to control both my anxiety and emotions.
In many ways, travel is an activity without a lot of control. For a type-A, control-freak personality, that brings a lot of frustration. However, when you learn to control yourself, to control the things you can, it generally leads to a better experience for all involved.
It is easy to get angry at the gate crew, easy to blame them for the inconvenience and stress caused, easy to take the frustration of an accumulation of not only the delay, but all the other bad things that have happened earlier that day, that week, or even month (I am great at holding a long list of grievances inside, just ask my husband).
In my early years of traveling, I did this a time or two. I was stressed. I didn't know how I was going to get where i was going on time. I usually remembered my dad's sage advice guiltily afterhand, always with a result of not getting any further and usually was hated by the airline staff.
As I grew older and wiser, I could follow his advice more. By keeping a calm demeanor and saving my fights for when I really needed it, I could almost always fix a reasonable outcome. I have been able once to have a charter plane fly my parts for no extra cost. I have been able to have my luggage removed to drive across Texas to still make a Launch Readiness Event in Mexico on time.
However, I have never been able to make a plane take off just for me, in the time that I want and when I need it. I have spent nights in airport hotels, some nice and convenient, some not so nice. I have had hours in airport terminals I never wanted to visit. In the end, that is part of travel.
I have seen a lot of fellow passengers knock each other down, berate and humiliate the ground staff for something that is not even remotely under their control or fault.
Now, I just switch on Spotify and blog a little.... Think a little who you are. Are you part of the problem, or the solution? Or just lying low and enjoying a few minutes of extra time?