We flew out of Baltimore on a 7 pm flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. Final destination Amsterdam, Netherlands. I deliberately planned this flight as a sleeping overnight flight. By leaving at bedtime I thought for sure that my children would sleep and wake up magically refreshed in Amsterdam…I know you can see where this is going. The children did sleep three of the five hours of the first flight, but when they woke up to enter the Schengen security in Iceland they did not go back to sleep on the second flight. Instead, they spent four hours making best buddies with an Icelandic farmer who had pictures of her ponies.
At this point, you are probably wondering what I did, but the answer is nothing. Gauging what is within my control versus what definitely is not is one of the most challenging parts of traveling. When we landed in Amsterdam I had some very irritable children that were then struck in the face with fierce cold and a very long wait for our bags. The result is the photo below, my oldest son falling asleep with his pack on next to the baggage carousel.
Adjusting Your Expectations
As Americans, we tend to look at Europe with eyes studded in gemstones. Everything about Europe seems glamorous because “only the wealthy can afford to go.” Europe is not as glamorous as we believe it to be. Actually, most Europeans are prone to believing the same about America because as Americans we live in a land of convenience. Most of Europe is without the conveniences that most Americans take for granted. Also, many Europeans do not think twice about what they are missing because it is the way it has always been. They have always been without certain amenities and therefore don’t need them.
As an American coming from a home that has things like a microwave, dishwasher, and dryer there was a learning curb for me on how to run a house well without those things. I was humbled and empowered, but FIRST I was made very uncomfortable. I had to find extra time in my day for things like hanging laundry. When a child was hungry after the meal had been cleared away, I had to re-dirty dishes in order to heat leftovers back up on the stove top. It was not easy if anything it was frustrating.
How My Comfort Levels Changed
Now, I find myself hand washing dishes because it’s the natural next step. I find myself wishing for sunny clothesline weather. There is an adjustment period when you travel. It is very possible to find places that accommodate those standards, but it is not the norm and definitely not an authentic European experience. You will also pay heavily for amenities like that.
Instead, I challenge you to make cost-effective plans that allow for a lot of learning. It will give you a plethora of stories to tell. Some of those stories are really funny now that I have amenities at my disposal again, but mostly I now miss the simplicity that is spending extra time caring for your things. It sounds silly, but you appreciate your belongings more when you spend that additional time caring for them.
Adjusting Comfort Levels
We finally made it to Denmark via train and then had two bus connections before we were dropped off at the beginning of a road leading through farming fields in a blizzard.
In this photo, you cannot see the snow blowing sideways. You cannot see the child in front of me crying nor can you hear my elderly grandmother cursing my name. There’s also a child on my back and one following me crying about his gloves not fitting right.
We are walking to house number 71, the first residence we come across on this road is number 4. . . This is the type of situation that I spent months researching trying to avoid. This photo was one of the scarier days. This was early on in my Euro trip and there was no food at our destination so I had to turn around in the cold and hike back to the nearest market in the snow.
It Doesn’t Always Go According to Your Plan
Sometimes, despite your researching efforts, the dots don’t connect perfectly. I was told the bus would take us right down the road from the hostel. It did not. I was told the weather would be a low of 54 degrees. It wasn’t. There were no taxis, no uber, no help to be found so we did the only thing we could and we walked. We were wet, cold, highly uncomfortable in a country where we didn’t even know the word for “hi.”
It all worked out, but that day I definitely had to do a few things that I never want to do again in the name of adjusting my expectations and comfort levels. Now, I can laugh hysterically at the entire experience, but only because we survived. This particular experience would begin the conditioning that I needed to withstand many uncomfortable situations in the months to come.
When Travel is Torture you Adjust and Overcome
As cliche as it sounds, there are very few things in this life that come easily and without discomfort. I am confident that many of you have done something that really really sucked in the name of getting the job done. Traveling is ALWAYS worth it, but if you are anything like me, you need to cut costs where you can. I could have rented a car. I could have hired a car and driver. I could have taken a $60 taxi, but I didn’t. Instead, I mapped out my plan and didn’t plan on awful weather and country roads.
Things happen. They will happen if you choose the adventurous route. That is part of the adventure. Adjust your expectations of what the world owes you and focus more energy on what it doesn’t and you will suddenly have lower expectations. You will also have a much better time if you lower your expectations. Enjoy the journey no matter the weather or road and get out there.