I love my family and I try really hard to avoid travelling with them. Travelling with family makes me question my love. To be fair- travelling with anyone will sooner or later cause some degree of chafing and mild resentment. But by far the worst travelling companions are the ones tormented by travel anxiety. This creature is massively depressing and can cast a bleak shadow over the sunniest of holidays. Here is a list of common reasons why travellers fret, from which follows the more important diktat of why they should not.
Relax, the sights are not going to go away. The pyramids have been around for some gazillion years so it’s safe to assume that they’re not going to disappear the day you step foot in Egypt. If you couldn’t see them today, you’ll get to see them tomorrow. Or maybe the next time you visit. It sucks when a long-awaited, carefully planned travel experience gets thrown off course because some idiot started a riot, or the guys at the taxi union decided to go on strike or the weather Gods felt like messing with you, but those are one-off events that are most likely not going to happen. So stop wringing you hands in agony. You’re making everybody else anxious.
Tourist brochures paint a picture of your holiday which is as far removed from reality as the concept of world peace. It’s a chimaera. They created it just to get you there. Yes, that’s awful but get over it. You will have your picture-postcard moments, but they won’t be scattered at every street corner. So don’t go panting after the chimaera, brandishing your flyer and trying to find the scenery to match. Take off your blinkers and look around: in the midst of perfectly ordinary-things-just-like-how-we-have-them-back-home you can often spot something wonderfully extraordinary. It’s probably not the picture you’re clutching in your hand, but it’s sure worth an interesting tale to take back home.
You scrimped and saved and finally managed to cough up the dough for that cruise or that mountain expedition or the island resort. And it’s only reasonable to value your hard-earned money. But do you have to drag yourself out of bed to do justice to the breakfast buffet when your alcohol-riddled body is screaming in protest? Is it really necessary to avail all the complimentary facilities even if it means you have to race through your day? Must you shove toiletries in the locker seconds before house-keeping arrives? It’s a noble goal to get every penny’s worth but if you bend backwards and forwards and send everyone into a tizzy, you’ve lost the cause even before you start.
It’s fine to have a checklist of Landmarks-To-See but make room for the fillers too. Spot a pretty café? Linger for a while. It won’t trip up your sightseeing plans. On the contrary, the impressive monuments will spring to life when you colour them with local legends, traditions and way of life. It’s the best way to get into the skin of a place and make sure you’re not missing the wood for the trees.
Round Peg and Square Hole
If there’s one thing I loathe, it’s being hustled. And if there’s one thing all hustlers hate, it’s a dreamy, dragging their feet kind of person who enjoys long showers, invests much time in getting ready, cracks jokes over meals, pauses to examine every roadside stall and then looks flabbergasted when the watchman refuses entry because most museums shut by 5 in the evening and there’s nothing to be done for it even if this is your last day in town. This is what makes group/duo travel a highly volatile situation. An effective strategy to neutralize this is to count to ten before launching into a high decibel, shouting match in front of the alarmed watchman.
Ticking Time-Bomb Syndrome
Taking time off work is tougher than, well, a lot of tough things. Your bosses blanch at the mention of leave and pretend to turn temporarily deaf. Even when you win the battle of wits and cleverly negotiate a sanctioned leave, you are on tenterhooks till the time you actually get on the plane and the blessed air hostess asks you to turn your off phone and you finally feel free of the clutches of sadistic bosses. It doesn’t pay to get cocky though: on one memorable vacation I had to hunt down an Internet café in the backstreets of Bangkok to send off an urgent document. When you’re made to jump through the hoops like this every day of your vacation feels precious, the clock silently ticking away your numbered hours till freedom is compromised again. It’s enough to put anyone on edge and I call this particular affliction the ticking time bomb syndrome. Terminal cases- you can identify them by the hunted look in their eyes- are liable to jump at sudden noises, yell without provocation, snap at slow drivers, long lines, howling infants and generally create an air of nervous energy, which is understandable but ruins everyone’s holiday.
The most annoying anxiety-ridden travellers are the ones who treat a trip like a souvenir hunt. From start to finish, without a pause in the middle. Nothing too expensive, but not too cheap- I have to hand it out in office, you see? Can’t be too bulky, either, or how will I carry it back? Why can’t we just get a bag of Bounty from duty free? No, no.. that’s too impersonal, plus you can get it even in India now. We have three full days. C’mon, I’m sure we can find something! And while we’re at it we can pick up something for the house- nothing too expensive, see?
Hop, Skip & Jump
An itinerary is for your convenience; it’s not a timetable and it’s certainly not set in stone. It might be a list but that doesn’t mean you slip into your default mode of chasing deadlines and battling to-do lists. Remind yourself this is a vacation and you can be flexible with your schedule. Get an itinerary if it helps you sleep at night but don’t lose sleep if you skip a couple of bullet points.
As in life, so in travel, put things in perspective and you’ll be a much happier person. So the museum is shut that day of the week? Or you missed the local celebrity who dropped in at this café an hour ago? Big deal. It could have been much worse, anything from lost baggage to a stolen passport. Don’t sweat the small stuff or you risk missing the valuable stuff: those fleeting moments that dart at you from nowhere and vanish just as fast and the only proof you’ll have that they ever happened is the lingering feeling of being wonderstruck. Be careful you don’t miss those moments because you were too busy sulking.
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