How to Cope When the Travel Gods Take Over

Looking up at the flight departure board, my brain refused to believe that the flight I was getting ready to board was not on the board. I kept looking, as if it would magically appear if I looked hard enough. But eventually I had to admit, it's just not there.

No matter how hard we try to control our travel plans, there are times when the travel gods take over and say, "No, you're not doing that."

It can be infuriating or frightening when that happens, leaving us feeling overwhelmed. I hate that feeling because it paralyzes me.

When my flight to Suriname did not appear on the departure board, I was sure I must have made a mistake and I just needed to figure out what the mistake was. Did I have the wrong time, or the wrong day? Having determined I was in the right place at the right time, I found an airport employee to ask. His response was, "No flight today." No explanation. After contacting every person I could find, the reality was that the flight was not going to come that day and they weren't sure if it was coming tomorrow. The travel gods had pulled the rug out from under me, leaving me standing in the airport departure lounge, stunned. I had checked out of my lodging and people were waiting for me on the other end.

It was clear that my plan was derailed and I was not going to Suriname that day. So now what? I could not continue to stand in the departure lounge looking up at the board.

It's perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed, to feel paralyzed. However, at some point you need to take back the control and make decisions to get things back on track. The first step in doing this is to make a list of what needs to be done:

  • book a new flight

  • contact the airline

  • find a place to stay

  • contact friends on the other end

  • Find a quiet place to be able to think

Second step is to prioritize the list. What must be done first? If you think about all of it at once, the situation will continue to be overwhelming. By prioritizing, one item at a time can be focused on. Focusing and successfully executing the first item will reduce the chaos and begin to give a sense of returning control.

In my situation the top priority was to get away from that departure board, to find a corner to sit away from the noise and people, to take a breath. This is really important, removing yourself from the immediate stress. Now I could move forward. As soon as I move forward, I start to take control.

  1. Contact the airline - find out when the next flight was available

  2. Book that flight

  3. Contact friends on the other end to let them know the change in arrival

  4. Find a place to stay for the night, or until the next flight would depart

  5. File a claim for the canceled ticket

As each step is resolved, the situation is less overwhelming and a new plan starts to form.

It's ok to freak out at first. Travel is already stressul, so when the travel gods pull the rug out from under us, it is truly overwhelming. But ultimately you need to take back control and the way to do that is to

  • get organized,

  • list the steps needed,

  • prioritize the list,

  • and then focus on just one at at time.

Take that, travel gods!