I’m on a road trip from Barcelona to Provence today. It will take about 7 hours so the drive through vineyards and rolling hills has put me in a reflective mood. The various trips we’ve made over the years have left lessons for me, learned from getting there, being there and coming home. They’ve influenced my approach to the journey of life too. Perhaps you’ll find something useful here too. If not, book a trip, create your own – then please share with me!
Adaptability: One of the reasons I travel is to break free from all the things I just know have to be in my life and routine. I would not have imagined that I could just get out of bed and hop in the shower. No no no! Coffee with almond creamer first, please and thank you. But in Europe it’s not available at my normal 5:00 a.m. wake up time and in-room coffeemakers are not the norm. So, I’ve adapted. I hop in the shower. Turns out coffee is not a prerequisite.
Life lesson? When we get married or have children or face a divorce, lots of things which were just accepted as the norm aren’t part of life now. Solitude after marriage has to be planned for—but loneliness diminishes after you acquire a roommate. Divorce means you no longer have the partner you’ve done life with. But you learn to do without some things and add back some that you had given up for the sake of the relationship. All kinds of people and resources and love show up, often when least expected. Just as we adapt while traveling, we can adapt to unexpected life challenges if we choose to get on with it (jump in the shower). Stay open to change and be flexible. By the way, the coffee tastes so divine when you’ve waited for it!
Resourcefulness. I’m committed to using only a carry-on so you just can’t take all the things. Turns out I can get by with just one facial moisturizer. I’ve done just fine without serum syrups and lavender spray and eye creams. But at home? Yeah, it takes me awhile to get to bed. On one memorable trip, my husband tripped his way into a 2-week stay in the hospital in Dublin. This trip, we watch the curbs and hold hands more (better to catch each other if we get tripped up!)
Life lesson? We had to get resourceful during that experience. I mastered the Citi-Rail in Dublin and explored the city on my own. John had to deal with massive boredom and a roommate at times and accept help when he’s used to being robust and independent. But we also have confidence that we can be resourceful and do what needs to be done too. Or just use one moisturizer at night.
When resources are scarce or situations are tough, draw on your past ability to be resourceful and trust that yes, you can and will find creative solutions to problems.
Rely on the Guide and Maintain Independence too. This is our first real foray into seeing if we are tour people. It never looked appealing to us and standing in line is not our idea of a good time. But then an anniversary sneaked up on us in a year full of new situations and changes and we had no time to plan for foreign travel. Plus, we realized that actually, when we traveled on our own, there are always lines at the cathedrals and museums and theaters anyway! So, we took a risk and gave it a try. But we exercised independence in our choice of a tour group and chose one based on our goals. We want to see the important sites, but we also want to drive out to the countryside or just wander down the streets of the city and stop for a coffee at a little quaint café when we feel like it.
Life lesson? Choose the tour (or not) based on your independent big picture goals. I have friends who love to piece together their own amazing vacations, and time in which to do it. A tour wouldn’t meet their big picture goals. But so far, we’ve been happy. Our guide, a native from Barcelona, showed us where the locals go and the shortcuts to get there—and amazing restaurants, the ones that don’t show up on online searches. It’s a smaller group we’re in and turns out the guide often know how to get past the long lines and the best time to beat the crowds.
I see people do this in the chaos that is divorce when they remain laser-focused on the life they want to craft after their divorce, particularly with those who choose the collaborative process. They independently decide for themselves (despite cries for “taking the jerk for all s/he’s got” from some family and friends) that they don’t want to use an adversarial system and let things become bitter and ugly as we’ve all seen happen. But then they rely on the guidance of their team, including their divorce coach. They get the documents requested, they work on the parenting plan outline provided and they bring their best selves to their collaborative sessions.
Learn from Mistakes and Experience. Europeans don’t use washcloths. I guess the soap is sufficient. So, I’ve learned to pack one. That’s not the only thing I’ve had to learn by experience. I’ve overpacked and had zero space left to take anything home. Now, I leave some room. In addition, I’ve planned vacations with stops at all the sites and must-sees only to arrive home exhausted and in need of a vacation! Those mistakes taught me the important of baking in some downtime to follow my nose and just take it all in.
Life lesson? Just as travel often involves learning from mistakes, a big life change is an opportunity to learn from mistakes and experiences that brought you to this point. Analyze what went wrong and how you can take those lessons into the future.
There is more than one way to do life. I think it’s strange to have a mid-afternoon snack and wait until 9:00 p.m. to eat supper. No doubt Spaniards think it strange to go all afternoon without a snack and eat supper at 6:00 p.m. I expect water to be provided at a restaurant, usually from a free flowing pitcher with refills as needed. In France, you will be given, and pay for, a bottle of water – with or without “gas” (carbonation). And they will never understand why Americans are always in a hurry, asking for the check when the coffee is delivered as I did today. (Why are we always in a hurry?) In the U.S, smoking is not ever-present but in Europe, the outside cafes, so charming, come with smoke getting in your eyes. Lots of it. On the subway in Chicago, everyone has their AirPods in and phones opened, head down. In Dublin, you are likely to meet someone who offers to take you around the city the next day when she learns you are alone in the city with your husband in the hospital. True story. (And she was a professional tour guide on her day off. Unbelievably kind.)
Life lesson? Know in your soul that your way is only one way. There’s usually nothing inherently good or bad or right or wrong. It’s often just the way you do it. When your life gets turned upside down – which combining lifestyles with a new spouse can entail, which divorce always entails – remember that it might just be an opportunity to do it different. You might actually like it better!
This life we’re on is one big travel adventure with marvelous views and rain showers when you left your umbrella in the car, medical care, world heritage sites, and all kinds of new experiences in happiness and tragedy. Maybe some of the lessons I’ve picked up in my travels can help you navigate life challenges and with greater resilience and effectiveness.
Wishing you wisdom,