I’ve had the worst of the worst happen to be while traveling – and if you’ve read the blog for some time, then you know already, but for those who’re less familiar: I was hiking in the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico in the late summer of 2012, and when I returned, I came to find that everything I had with me was stolen in a smash and grab of my rental car. All of the cars in the block were vandalized and ransacked, and I was left with my first true adversity on the road, and while I handled it as well as I could, I was pissed off at myself, for not locking up my bags in the trunk or something – but to be honest, from the looks of the other cars, I don’t know if that would have done any good.
While there’s little room for recovery when everything you owned was stolen from you, and you’re only left with a mess of shattered glass in a country that’s native language is not your own, the true test of any longterm traveler is precisely how they handle a situation like that. There’s very little ‘troubleshooting’ that can be done in those circumstances, however, a full meltdown may hurt more than it helps – surely, I felt emotional, with a hint of rage for a moment, before my head snapped back into the game.
When the worst happens, breathe, and let things slow down, because when you take the time to process the situation, you allow yourself to gather your thoughts, control your emotions, and to plan your initial reaction. While it’s okay to react (but not overreact) with emotion sometimes, you don’t want to alienate anyone else in the meantime, especially a person who may control the fate of your trip – for example, like a booking representative of an airline or an accommodation. Because in travel, like most of the world, stereotypes and preconceived judgements are very much alive, and the moment you confirm a particularly more negative connotation, you’e already lost the battle. Remember, you’re as much a representative of your own country, as the people you meet abroad.