My first experience in the travel and tourism industry was in 1991 as director of leisure tours for a local travel agency. My job was to design and confirm itineraries. This was before the internet so the task proved to be an expensive one due to the high costs of international long distance calling. It took time, effort with an emphasis on voice tone; sounding professional and likeable over the phone. I learned to always smile when on the phone. It usually worked.
I became familiar with expectations of a great trip. I expected – more like hoped and prayed – for good weather, a friendly tour group, a professional bus driver, a clean and newer bus, for interesting stops, for promptness, for local tour guides to deliver, for good restaurant choices for there were no online reviews those days and deciding on a restaurant to visit in Mexico (my tour destination specialty) was not as easy as it sounds. I stressed for days prior to departure, I stressed as a tour guide during the trip and I stressed for days after returning home if someone gave us a bad review. A bad review nobody else would read but would certainly hear about. “Word of mouth” is the best publicity it was said then but the tongue, as the bible says, can be lethal. So I stressed.
For some reason I believed I had the power to make everybody have a good time. After a couple of years I realized we could deliver the most perfect tour and some people would still complain. I realized that no matter the situation, some people are going to be unhappy. I learned many things about life during my tour planner and tour guide days.
There was one time, during a tour to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, when rain poured over the city and the famous parades were canceled. We visited indoor attractions and most passengers made the most of the situation but several others demanded that we refund the money they paid for the tour. It was no use arguing that rain and the canceling of these parades was beyond our control as stated in the tour’s invoice. They complained this was the worst trip of their lives and for us an unfortunate experience to say the least.
On another occasion during the busy Christmas season in the San Antonio Riverwalk, the bus arrived early to give passengers plenty of time to enjoy the area and an early dinner before the boat parade began. Some passengers immediately noticed front row seating was limited, and decided to find a spot and wait there for 4 hours. By the second hour, even when able to buy food and drink to eat at the spot, their faces and demeanor were not those of jolly Christmas season travelers. Other passengers opted to make the most of their time, shopped around, enjoyed a nice dinner with wine and about 20 minutes before the start of the parade, headed to the crowded viewing area. On this tour, the passengers were retirees, so it did not take long before some friendly youngsters offered them their front row seats. It all worked out for everybody. The difference was the approach.
Stuff happens. It always will. It is up to us to make the best of life’s experiences. When I met my husband in 1997 I was this perfectionist tour planner and he was someone who took life in stride. He enjoyed life in a way I had never experienced before. He introduced me to full moons, bright sunsets and encouraged me to slow down. He was in the tour business and we became business partners.
We traveled to many parts of Mexico to discover new places and design new itineraries for our customers. Even for these trips I was putting together itineraries and scheduling appointments. My expectations were high but it turned out the best trips we enjoyed were those where we slowed down to spend more time at a restaurant listening to live music or opted to visit a museum when an appointment was canceled.
If by now you wonder what is the point of the story, the answer is to leave expectations behind. Book lodging, book a flight, get your car ready if going on a road trip, plan your wardrobe, make a list of essentials you will need, do some research on the places you are going to visit and even create a list of places you would like to see, but don’t stress over it one minute. Don’t leave the house with a load of expectations. Focus instead on the fact that you are going somewhere! and enjoy it one day at a time.
Letting go of expectations will surprise you to the point that like some friends of mine, head out without any lodging reservations. They stop when they are tired and refigure their trip each day. I am not there yet. Baby steps.
I recently posted about gratitude, and how its practice will make any moment a memorable one. If the weather did not cooperate and it rained on your parade – find something new to do and enjoy it for such a moment, even in the rain, is likely to never repeat itself.
During a trip to Paris my dream was to see the Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre. I had been waiting to see that for most of my life. I am an artist so it makes sense, but my husband commented on the incredibly nice weather and did not sound too thrilled to spend it indoors looking at “old paintings.”
Leaving anger, disappointment, and a tad of sadness behind, I decided to join him for an outdoor Parisian adventure on the double decker bus visiting Luxembourg Gardens with lots of time in Montmartre where artists like Picasso, van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Matisse developed revolutionary art movements. We savored French coffee at outdoor cafe’s in Picasso’s Parisian stumping grounds and even had time to shop at Galeries Lafayette.
It turned out to be the most amazing and unexpected day that was never planned to be that way. We certainly discovered the romance and glamour of the city if lights.
Leave behind expectations and focus on what is in front of you. Be flexible when unexpected circumstances arise and be mindful of others traveling with you. Adapt to potential inconveniences at hotels or crowded sites and go find your unique personal adventure. Free yourself from having to do what everybody else does and I can guarantee you will have the most amazing of experiences.
Post photo of me was taken August of 2020 during an RV trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico at the incredible Midtown Mountain Campground and RV Park.