If you love to travel and do it quite often, then you must have a hardy core and quick-thinking brain (of sorts). Cultural and language misunderstandings are the items Du jour oftentimes while out on the road. I can’t think of a time, when a trip went exactly as planned with no hiccups. They can be small hiccups, but they do happen. Furthermore, when you travel with children always expect a few snafus along the way and keep in mind that many people will be irritated by traveling families. Thus, when the inevitable hiccup or two do happen you must roll with and move on.
For instance, there was the time when we were in Italy on a private tour to Florence. We had a great set of drivers that were starting off their own business of transporting tourists about Italy from Rome. We had told them beforehand we had a four year old son and they came prepared with a car seat. My son was fully “potty trained” at the time. However, it was a long trip from Rome to Florence and there were not really many places to go off to the side of the road. When we road-tripped through Canada, we could just pull the car over and break out the potty chair. Simple and easy. In Italy, it was not as simple. We were traveling along making small talk and learning about the culture from a different perspective. Then I hear something. I looked down at my son and noticed a rapidly growing spot. Yikes. We went into combat mode immediately. Dug down and pulled up the back pack. Pulled out the extra set of clothes rapidly changed him into a pull up diaper and sealed the wet pants into a ziplock. We then sat him on top of an extra sweatshirt we had brought. We were able to do all this without the guys up front noticing. We should have maybe expected him to have an incident. Now while we didn’t we did come prepared with extra clothes, ziplock bags and a stable non-panic mode way of being. Yes, when traveling with a child expect literal sticky situations to pop up.
While on business travel, all sorts of things can go wrong. Basically name it and it has happened. For instance, three years back I was in Miami for work with a colleague. We were to meet up with a business collaborator in Little Haiti and then head to the Ft Lauderdale airport later that evening. We arrived in Little Haiti and parked at their cultural center. We toured said center and went for lunch. Upon return, we realized we had lost the keys to the rental car. We looked and looked. We even went back into the cultural center. No keys anywhere. We called for a tow truck but that got complicated as no one had a key to this particular car make and model. We were afraid of missing our flight. We kept our cool through it all. Eventually we found someone who could come tow the car to the Miami airport. Meanwhile, although we were in Florida, I called a New York City limo/car company and told them of my situation. They found us a local driver that could take us from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. They were afraid of two women hanging out at that particular corner at night so they worked on getting us the driver as quickly as possible. We made friends with the security guard at the cultural center. The driver came and off we went to the airport; arriving there with enough time to even sit down and eat. We had a grand cocktail to celebrate how we handled the lost key situation. It was all good.
Have you ever woken up at a hotel and wonder what city you are in? I have done that several times. It is definitely a bit discombobulating. Now, have you ever booked and gone to the wrong hotel? I have. I had to attend a particular small conference in Atlanta. There are like a hundred Marriott hotels there. I not only showed up at the wrong one but I booked the wrong one as well. When I asked for what conference room I should head to, the guy at the front desk thought I was a bit loopy. However, the situation soon got sorted out with a laugh and a smile. They helped me cancel the room (with no penalty) and book me at the new one. They offered to get me car to the other one. However, as a New Yorker, I could not stomach the idea of cabbing it for five blocks. Perhaps because I am an elite member I got the treatment that I did. Or perhaps it was because my situation occurred in the south where hospitality is a bit more grand. I don’t know. But again, keeping calm in the midst of it all (especially as it was my error) kept the situation from becoming a horribly tedious one.
Now, not all is grand in Atlanta, I must admit. During one particular business trip, my wallet was stolen the day I was to fly back home. I was quite distraught. The hotel called the police. Upon arrival the police acted as if it were my fault that my wallet got stolen. I kept thinking of how I would get home and how I now had to cancel all my cards and how would I get money to get to the airport. I really did not care for the female cop’s finger pointing. Mind you, I know other work colleagues that have had items stolen around that area as well. Anyway, my friends comforted me. I cancelled the cards; although one card already had $1000 in unauthorized purchases. Luckily, I had my passport with me in another bag. I also had cash in a hidden pocket in my travel backpack. Lesson learned from this situation: keep identity cards, credit cards and cash separate and in multiple places. I arrived home with no problem other than feeling a bit angry at the world. I did take solace in the fact that I had been unwittingly prepared.
I love road trips. I love them for personal vacations and for work trips. I love the open air and canvassing the highways. Unfortunately, there is bound to be an issue on a road trip. On one trip starting in New York City, we went through what was ostensibly a scene from “Night of the Living Dead” when a bunch of previously hidden homeless individuals came out of nowhere and started shaking and throwing themselves onto our car. We escaped but left behind a rear-view mirror. Later on, in Utah, we were surrounded by a group of mean-looking bikers. I was quite frightened. In both instances, the heart rate was up and there were sheer moments of panic. However, we were able to pull ourselves together, act and move quickly. The thing is to not lose focus and momentum. Keep moving forward. That is all you can do. Trying to reason with the individuals didn’t really help. If you are in the car, always keep the door locked and have a phone handy.
Now there are the moments when one becomes sick on a trip. It happens. It happens to everyone at one point. Within 12 hours of being in Egypt, I was throwing up and feeling miserable all around. I learned a long time ago that one should always bring Pepto Bismo and Tums on a trip. Doesn’t matter where you go keep them in your pocket. While you are at it, bring Benadryl as well in case you discover that you are now allergic to something. A few years back I was in Kentucky and had an early morning business meeting. I was feeling horribly and kept dry-heaving. I had to keep running to the restroom and dropping down to the floor. Luckily for me, I had a business colleague who can talk and kept the meeting going without a hitch. The business partner had no idea how badly off I was. Right after, we headed to the airport where I finally let it all out and felt better. There was no way I was going to miss that flight home. That has happened to me in the past where I ended up in the Emergency Room from food poisoning and had to get a doctor’s note to change my flight. Yes, you can do that if needed. That way you do not pay for a flight change fee.
Lastly, there are the times when something goes wrong and you are cool with that. A few years back, we went to Curacao to celebrate my son’s fourth birthday. We had a splendid time but the time had come to go back home and return to work. We were all packed and had returned the car. Lo and behold a hurricane hits the United States. All flights leaving the island were canceled for the foreseeable future. We were “stranded” an extra three days. We were able to stay in our same hotel room and we rented a new car. I felt horribly about missing meetings and worried about the accumulating work at the office. However, how I had to take a look in the shiny waters therein. The workplace could survive without me. Plus, I needed to have that ability to disconnect. We relaxed by the pool and went in search of a lighthouse. We enjoyed some newly mixed cocktails. I even worked a bit at my own pace and held teleconferences through Skype. When life gives you a hurricane in a situation like that turn it into lemonade. Eventually, we made our way to the airport and were able to get the flights home due to my expert knowledge of the Florida airport scene (car rental situation in Little Haiti in point).
There are bound to be sticky situations in life and on the road. What always gets you through them is a calm demeanor and quick-footed action. Always try to find the humor even when the situation is stomach-turning. A little laughter really does go a long way towards getting one out of a jam.