Monday, April 6, 2009

Tomorrow is Another Day

No matter how much you plan, no matter your best intentions, if you travel, someday, somewhere, something is bound to go wrong. You'll miss a flight, or get lost in a new city, or lose something of value, or get sick; the possibilities are endless. Merde happens. Like most travelers, I have a regular encyclopedia of experiences that were none too pleasant at the time. Is it just me, or do mishaps seems amplified in stressfulness when they happen while traveling? To ease the pain, there's something that everyone tells themselves while living through an unplanned travel detour: this will be really funny tomorrow.

Though difficult to believe at the time, I've found this statement to be largely, incredibly true. The stories my friends and I tell over, and over, and over again - the ones that get bigger and better and funnier each time we tell them - are the stories of events that totally sucked at the time. With the luxury of distance, disasters are the best on-the-road stories a traveler could hope for. The time my friends and I booked an early morning train from Cannes to Strasbourg, all separately missed our alarms, frenetically scrambled to get to the station with seconds to spare, had to leave one person behind at the station because she forgot her passport (which we needed to be able to use our eurorail passes), and spent the long ride north comforting yours truly who was so distraught she spent almost the entire first leg of the ride in the shaky, disgusting train bathroom getting sick, has turned into one of our favorite laugh-generating "remember when?" stories.

Why do travel disasters make for the best post-travel stories? Is it because everyone loves a tragedy, or at least one that eventually turns out ok? No one was every seriously hurt during my travel mishaps. We all survived, and if anything, came out stronger on the other end. Maybe it's because these events are sort of a badge of honor. Later, you can say, "yeah, I was practically hugging that toilette on the train, and I lived to tell the tale!" Or, "yeah, I stayed in a really bad hostel, it was awesome!" Of course, you weren't laughing at the time. You were freaking out, overly stressed, frustrated, or angry, or scared...and telling yourself it would be funny tomorrow.

13 comments:

Karen said...

The only travel mishap I had was when taking the train solo from north of Paris back to the city one evening. The train was stopped outside of Paris for a long time for reasons unknown to me then, and I was alone on the upper deck of one of the cars. There was finally a frantic announcement in French that I could not understand, so I stood by the open door trying to figure out what I should do. Suddenly a man came up behind me, lifted me by my armpits and set me down onto the platform. When I finished my "what the heck are you doing" tirade, he begged my pardon and gently explained that the train was being evacuated due to some trouble, and if I did not get off, I would be going back to the police station with it, and he assumed from my deer-in-the-headlights look that I didn't understand the announcement. End result was a delightful conversation with a new acquaintance on the next train back to the city.

Greg Wesson said...

Why do travel disasters make for the best post-travel stories?

I think it is because you either play them for laughs or chills, and I think with horror and comedy it's easy to get an audience engaged and understand the emotions of the events.

Trying to express more subtle emotions like awe, gratitude, peacefulness or well-being are just a lot harder to do. Plus, I think a lot of people think you are bragging when you tell stories when emotional themes like that.

Karen said...

Why do travel disasters make for the best post-travel stories?

It also adds to the uniqueness of your travel, perhaps a memory that keeps that trip fresh in your mind longer. Every such disaster is a new adventure and experience.

Tanya said...

@Karen, Great story! Meeting new people can be a great consequence of travel disasters. The passportless friend who got left behind in Cannes ended up making friends with someone with whom we still maintain contact, and it wouldn't have happened otherwise.

@Greg, I think you might be on to something there. The "how was your trip" question is difficult to answer with tales of awe or gratitude, and I do usually skip those stories for funny or disastrous ones.

Adriana said...

the best thing in life is to have stories to tell, that's why i love to live uncommon experiences, particularly the ones that make me grow somehow and value the things I have...
couple weeks ago my bf and I went camping in the desert in Egypt - in the middle of nowhere... sleeping under the stars, eating bedouin food- but not all is pretty and romantic - peeing in the middle of the desert and almost 2 days without showering... hahaha but we loved it! ;)

Anait said...

I am the Queen of travel disasters. Last year, before leaving for Europe, I lost my wallet---literally, a half hour before the flight. Thankfully, my cousin was coming on the trip with me and had enough funds to cover us both. The two weeks that followed were a whirlwind of things breaking, plans getting messed up, reservations not going according to plan, train strikes, getting lost, etc.

Now, a year later, I can look back and laugh at everything (although losing a couple of hundred Euros in cash was NOT funny at the time). And honestly, those two weeks were the best weeks of my life!!

p.s. I've been meaning to email you for a week now, I promise I'll get to it this week...you were right, I may be doing the assistanship program :)

Lola said...

Sooo true! Great picture too.

annecychic said...

Tanya,
I just wanted to let you know there is an award for you on my blog. Nothing formal or fancy, simply something to recognize your blog. I enjoy reading your writing, and wanted to pass the award along to you.

Tanya said...

@Adriana, That definitely sounds like a lovely way to spend a couple of weeks.

@Anait, Yes, do email me if you think you're going to be participating in that program!

Zhu said...

Yep!

Been there done that... I call that "travel mistakes giving right to bragging".

All the transportation problems (being stuck 30 hrs in Montreal airport is one of my favorite one), the "if I had known" stories (I wouldn't have walked that street and I wouldn't have been robbed in Panama!) etc. are the best memories... afterwards!

Tanya said...

@Zhu, Ah, transportation. This always seems to be a tricky area for me too. Getting fined by the Czech metro authorities, yelled at by a Spanish train ticket controller, almost crashing my velib into a car on Bastille Day...the list goes on!

Mark @ TravelWonders said...

Paul Therous said "Travel is best only in retrospect". Seems to be very true. Locked in a train in Stockholm, arrested in the Congo, walked into a drug deal in Brussells and was chased for > 2 kms and several others. Today they make for good stories.

Tanya said...

@Mark, your travel disasters make mine look like child's play!