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Helen’s Travel Taoism – how to mentally overcome travel disasters!

March 11th, 2009 · 8 Comments

As queen of travel disasters, some close friends and family of mine have often wondered how I survive traveling alone, especially friends who know how disaster-prone and directionally-challenged I am. People really are curious HOW DO I SURVIVE?? How do I survive navigating in a country when I can’t read maps well and don’t know the language spoken? They’ve asked me in disbelief usually right after I demonstrate that I have the worst directional skills in the history of travel bloggers or my disaster-peppered history resurfaces and simply speaks for itself. My travel disasters have cost me time, money and embarrassment, but I’d also like to think that they’ve built character and taught me lessons too.



For the first time, I’m going to share with you my secret to surviving travel disasters and keeping your sanity when they happen…as long as you keep the travel-savvy image of me in your head, if it was ever there in the first place!



The secret? Mindset. I call it Travel Taoism.



I’m by no means an expert on Taoism, but one World Religions lesson from undergrad stands out in my mind. The lesson covered a Taoism principle about letting go and letting nature take its course. In doing this, everything will work out. Think of a river flowing and carving out new paths if it becomes hindered. Literally and figuratively, “go with the flow.”



While planning is one of the best ways to avoid travel stress, there are always unforeseen disasters that you simply can’t plan for. My favorite way to avoid travel stress is to embrace Travel Taoism. For me, I have to believe that everything will work out. I may not know exactly how it will work out at the time, but am comforted by the thought that it will work out. As long as there is no imminent danger (real danger and not a hair dryer short circuiting!), then I cut my losses whether time, valuables or money is lost, and I remind myself what a great story this will be once I survive it. Really, who retells a story about tanning on a beach…it’s about missing the plane, getting held up at customs or the bird that pooped on you while you were sunbathing that’s juicy material!



I’ve had my share of travel disasters. Memories flood my mind, like the time my accommodation fell through the morning I was leaving on a plane to Bangkok. Or the time I missed my international flight to Shanghai or the time I couldn’t board a plane to Vietnam because I didn’t have a visa. Or the time I left my purse that had my passport, money and all my personal keys on a bus in Kyoto. Or the time my luggage broke on the way to the train in Beijing. These all were disasters. But in the end, all was fine. I was naturally stressed at times, but mostly I thought to myself, “Here’s another one, I wonder what’s going to happen this time” and then internally smiled.



With a laundry list of other disasters under my belt, I’ve compiled a list of lessons and advice to pass along.



Helen’s Travel Taoism*:



1. Really embrace the belief that EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY
2. Keep humor and you’ll keep your sanity
3. Don’t be scared to ask for help; locals are a great resource
4. Think of what a great story it will be once you’ve survived it
5. Remember, it’s only money
6. Plan for travel disasters and they won’t be a surprise when they happen (seriously, I budget in time to get lost when I go almost anywhere :)
7. Stop. Take a deep breath. Hold. Exhale.
8. If you are alive and well, that’s ALL that matters.
9. Think of it as a challenge to put your creative problem-solving skills to the test
10. Be kind to the people around you even if you are stressed. They will be able to help you better if you approach them with a good attitude, and you want their help!
11. Stress leads to unclear thinking…you want to be able to think as clearly as possible when things go wrong. See point #1 again to not stress out.
12. Travel disasters build character
13. Learn something from the disaster
14. Accept the fact that you can’t control external situations
15. Given #14, you may not be able to control the situation but you can control your response to it
16. Proactively avoid bad situations
17. Keep a good attitude
18. Smiles go along way on the road…whether the road is less traveled or one you can’t identify because you’re lost!



Do you have any tips I missed or travel disasters you’d like share? Comment below!!



Hakuna Matata,
Helen :)



*Disclaimer: Planning and keeping your head on your shoulders and proactively avoiding bad situations are important. Having a plan B up your sleeve is good, but always be prepared for the worst, and know what tools you’re going to use to get you out of the situation (a phone call that requires you to know a specific phone number, credit card, internet, an embassy, a local’s kindness, etc.).

Tags: reflections · travel

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Erica // Mar 15, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks for this. Great tips! I especially like this one: “If you are alive and well, that’s ALL that matters.”

    Travel Taoism, that’s a terrific way to see it. I agree that one’s mindset is the most important thing ’cause with the right mindset it won’t matter if everything doesn’t go according to plan.

  • 2 Georgia Travel // Mar 21, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Really nice travel blog and quality content, thanks for sharing.
    Kind regards from Gudauri Hotels & Travel

  • 3 Jasper Jugan // Mar 21, 2009 at 8:04 am

    great tip! keeping this on my bookmark 😀

  • 4 Tudor Bran // Apr 1, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Pretty useful post. Thanks a lot!

  • 5 Simygirl // Apr 4, 2009 at 10:31 am

    How did u survive this one: “Or the time I left my purse that had my passport, money and all my personal keys on a bus in Kyoto”??? Great advice.

  • 6 marina villatoro // Apr 5, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Hey, great post. You definitely hit them all. I always, end my day with a huge thanks to the universe for all that i have. Once you start to see all the good you have, the bad doesn’t seem so disastrous.
    The Travel Expert(a) and an Expat with a Twist

  • 7 Helen Todd // Apr 13, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I like this tip from Marina: I always, end my day with a huge thanks to the universe for all that i have. Once you start to see all the good you have, the bad doesn’t seem so disastrous.

    And touche Erica: I agree that one’s mindset is the most important thing ’cause with the right mindset it won’t matter if everything doesn’t go according to plan.

    If you have any other tips, please share!!

  • 8 Travel Karma | Helen's Travel Corner // May 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    […] 3 from my Helen’s Travel Taoism – how to mentally overcome travel disasters post states “Don’t be scared to ask for help; locals are a great resource.”  This […]

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