I dedicate this post to my dear friend Melanie. I am not the first to create a dedication to her–and probably won’t be the last!
“Next year I’m going to Cornwall,” said the English woman to her husband after we sat with them at a “hop on-hop off” bus site for almost two hours waiting for a bus that never came.
She was very upset that they had spent one of their few afternoons in Vienna at the wrong bus stop and blamed it on the tour company, the language barriers, and poor signage. Her solution was to plan their next vacation near home, where everyone speaks their language and the vacation would be easy.
I’m traveling with a dear friend Melanie and we travel well together because we both chose a different response. It was another learning opportunity–it wasn’t raining, our feet were tired, and we got a break, it changed our afternoon plans to cruise up the Danube, but we were fine with it. Plans change, and you can’t see everything.
Unless you have an amazing travel agent–like my friends Amy and Sheri–travel will most likely be messy. I highly recommend the book Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Livesby Tim Harford which is the antithesis to the magic tidying up book that was all the rage a few years ago. It’s the book for the rest of us.
In the book, he explores how messiness can increase alertness. How disorder can create resiliency and foster creativity. Brian Eno created the deck of cards Oblique Strategies to deliberately create uncomfortable situations that require the musicians to come up with new ideas. Miles Davis used similar techniques when creating the album Kind of Blue. For a web version of Oblique Strategies click here http://stoney.sb.org/eno/oblique.html
When life is predictable we become complacent. It’s comfortable, even beautiful, but there is no room for the creative process. How many times have you driven home from work and realized you had not thought about the drive once. Messy situations like realizing you’ve lost your phone or your boarding pass just as the flight is boarding train us to problem solve, be improvisational, and trust the process. Traveling to a foreign country, especially when you don’t speak the language, requires you to be alert at all times. You are seeing new things, learning about different cultures–past and present–tasting new foods and wines, hearing new sounds and traveling through strange terrain. You are alert.
Being alert is a forced way to live in the moment. I’ve spent many vacations hurrying through the current activity in order to get to the next, making sure I checked everything off my list. Or packing for the whole family, making sure everyone was fed and happy with little time for me.
This time I was blessed that my friend Melanie planned most of this part of my travel through Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. She did all the research, booked all the rooms and makes sure we arrive on time. Even so, mistakes happen and sometimes we are forced to punt. I’m so grateful to her for making this part of the trip happen. We spend a lot of time laughing and learning. We are fully conscious and take full responsibility for our mistakes and look at them as learning opportunities for the next day–or the next trip! For unlike the couple from England I will not go to Cornwall next year because it’s easier, but I might because it is beautiful.