The past few years of my life, traveling has been at the forefront of my goals and ambitions. East Coast for cement and trail trips, Austin for the same (and all the friends and nightlife the city has to offer), and random places in between for work or simply the experience. I’ve gone from practically hitchhiking to having trips fully paid for and every variation between those two. The style of trips may be different, but there’s always one constant–something inevitably goes wrong and that stress and anxiety that goes along with it always, for the most part, feels the same.
Traveling takes you out of your element and out of your comfort zone and for anyone, that can be a quick cause of distress. You’re not sleeping in your bed, you’re traveling on strange roads through strange cites–the list goes on. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen people run into and ran into personally is food. If you’re traveling, anticipate your eating situation. If you’re a picky eater…you might as well open your taste palate and mind, or seriously debate if the traveling life is for you. I’ve seen riders in modern day America stress about not being able to have a certain brand of fast food and be unable to nourish themselves at a grocery store, causing stress not only on themselves, but really killing the mood for the entire group. Face it, your favorite restaurant might not be around the corner in every small town or even big city you hit–you have to learn to adapt, enlighten yourself, and figure out a way to make do. Especially traveling in America, you’re more than likely to at least make do and energize yourself at even a gas station. The healthy heads can easily find Clif Bars, granola bars, and hell, even most gas stations even have fruit (albeit, low quality). But those types are hardly ever the ones to complain. For the others, a gas station has a plethora of shitty food comparable to a McDonalds or Burger King or Wendy’s, if that’s your cup of tea. There’s a 7 Eleven or some other corporate giant that has a greasy hot dog or microwaved slice of pizza sitting under a hot lamp. Find your niche, find what works for you, and make it happen.
Of course, another gigantic stress is in the case of plans not working out. To be entirely honest, my personal travel plans on the trip I’m currently on sparked the idea for this article. Yes, I’ve been less than kind to airline employees, and yes, I was in the wrong. These folks are really just doing their jobs and in hindsight, 9 times out of 10 there isn’t anything that either of you can do in a less than ideal situation. You have to learn to roll with the punches, adapt, and make do with what you have. Your flight got cancelled and you couldn’t make the arrangements you had for when you were supposed to get to the airport the next morning? Tough luck–but assess the situation as best you can, make a clear and concise decision, and play your cards right. At the end of the day, the stress and duress you’re feeling in your mind is entirely useless when the situation is that far out of your control. Clear, controlled, and rational thinking is going to trump an irrational and ill tempered decision every time.
A third and even more silent and deadly issue on the road that I’ve personally seen and certainly experienced is bringing personal issues onto road trips. Whether it’s a situation back home, money woes, girlfriend issues, what have you, these are your own problems and demons that you need to keep to yourself, conquer, and not spread to the rest of your group. If you’re bummed out about an issue that’s happening thousands of miles away, there isn’t really much you can do about it–simply enjoy yourself and the fresh experiences you have presented to you. You’re not going to remember your personal problems when reflecting back on a trip a few months or a few years down the line–you’re simply going to have less awesome memories of that trip from the time you wasted on trapping yourself in your head with personal issues.
To wrap this all up, most of the issues on the road lead to a lack of comfort. Find the little things on the road that make you happy or give you that sense of familiarity. Make little routines on the road. Maybe it’s walking to the corner store for your favorite cold one at the end of the day, maybe it’s bringing a soccer ball on the trip to muck around with while you’ve got nothing better to do. Just because you’re out of your comfort zone for a week doesn’t mean that you can’t make yourself comfortable and create little routines to make yourself feel relatively normal. And if you’re on the road, no matter what, there’s a good chance that you’re in an opportunity to have a hell of a lot more fun than 99% of the rest of the world. So take it for what it is, live it to the fullest, and relish it–slipping into a negative attitude isn’t going to make anything better for you, your friends, or your trip.