Increase Your Travel Enjoyment by Learning Patience

People often talk about how they “love to travel.” However, most people don’t really love the process of traveling to a vacation destination—especially if there are children involved! Most of us like arriving at a destination and exploring new cuisines and landmarks, but find the long lines, canceled flights and hotel reservation hassles difficult to tolerate. This is especially true for those of us who tend to be a bit more on the impatient side.

Impatience crops up when you have an expectation that does not match the reality of the situation. You become frustrated with the check-in process at the airport because the picture in your head of what “should” happen is one where you walk into the airport unhindered by a single soul, walk directly up to the ticket counter, and are greeted by an agent who graciously whisks your bags away. Your expectations are unmet when the reality is that you can’t find a parking space in the crowded airport parking lot, there is a screaming child on the shuttle bus, an elderly couple walks slowly in front of you all the way to the ticket counter, and ten people are waiting in front of you to check baggage. Unmet expectations contribute to feeling out of control.

If you continue holding on to what “should” happen, your anger and impatience will grow the longer you are required to wait. While impatience may be your default when traveling, it doesn’t have to be! Patience is an essential travel skill, and it is a skill you can learn.

Set Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations begins when you create your travel plans. I have learned the hard way that it is important to over-estimate the amount of time it will take to do things like getting between connecting flights. I now make it a rule of thumb to always have at least an hour between connecting flights. This allows time to get off one plane and get to the next without being frustrated by people who are disembarking slowly or frantically stewing while waiting on the airport tarmac as the gate is readied.

  • When you make travel plans, be realistic about how long things will take. This is particularly important when traveling with children.
  • Build in time for unexpected diaper blow-outs, temper tantrums, and restroom stops.
  • Whether or not you have children, plan on a line that will take time to maneuver wherever you are going.

If there is no line—wonderful! You now have extra time to relax and enjoy yourself. However, building in this extra space creates an expectation that will help you remain patient if there is, in fact, a line.

Focus on What You Can Control

Most travel frustrations are around things beyond your control that you believe “ought” to be different. When waiting in line to check in at a hotel, its easy to be frustrated there aren’t more clerks or because the individual in front of you is moving slowly. However, these things aren’t within your control.

You do control your thoughts, your feelings, and your behaviors. By focusing on these things and reminding yourself that you can’t control the lady in front of you without her driver’s license, you will lessen your frustration.

It is helpful to rehearse the things under your control when in a situation that isn’t ideal. As you stand in line you might mentally rehearse: “I control my attitude. I can either be grumpy with the clerk or I can greet her politely and make her day a bit better,” or “I can’t control if she has her driver’s license, but I can take this time to make sure I have mine ready to go.”

This may sound easy, but in reality your mind will want to go back to the things it feels are “wrong.” When this happens, gently bring your mind back to focusing on things you can control and work to let go of things you don’t control.

Practice Gratitude

Your brain is cognitively primed to focus on the things that are “wrong” or creating pain in life. This natural tendency to focus on the negative steals the joy connected to the positive elements of the trip.

When something isn’t going ideally, it becomes especially important to deliberately focus on and rehearse things that are going well and things you are grateful for. You may have to wait in line for 40 minutes for the roller coaster, but…

  • You have the opportunity to be on vacation
  • You are with people you love
  • You are healthy
  • The line is moving, etc.

The gratitude game is something you can play as a family if you are traveling with children. Take turns finding things you are grateful for as the roller coaster line snakes forward.

Deliberately Relax

Vacations are intended to be relaxing and to release stress. However, this won’t happen if you don’t deliberately do things to help your body relax. If, despite your best efforts, you have taken a wrong turn and your GPS is now rerouting you, take a deep breathe, relax your shoulders, and shake out your hands.

Deliberately relaxing your muscles and breathing deeply and slowly can help decrease your impatience and destress your body. The thing about relaxation exercises is that most of them can be done anywhere. Use all those unexpected delays as spaces to practice breathing deeply and slowly or relaxing various muscles groups in your body.

By deliberately working to replace that idealistic schedule with a realistic schedule, focusing on what you have the power to control, practicing gratitude, and working to physically relax your body, you can successfully navigate unexpected delays and changes in your travel plans rather than allowing them to make you feel more stressed by your vacation than you would have been had you stayed home.

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