On Traveling: With Resilience

by Beth Whitman (January 21st, 2013)

yogaThe name of a book caught my attention recently, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back. The theory is that some people, organizations and cultures bounce back easier than others because they’ve learned to be resilient. According to this book, resilience is the ability for something to “maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.�

I’d say travel is a pretty dramatic change to our usual circumstances. But not everyone handles this change very elegantly.

When traveling, we’re (mostly) stripped of our identity – that who we think we are. We carry with us a small number of items we identify with: a few changes of clothes, our camera and perhaps some other electronics, and a quart-size bag of toiletries. Down to the bare essentials, we can easily be off our game, out of sorts to a certain degree.

Add to that the stress of traveling to a region we’re unfamiliar with – regardless of whether it’s Middle America or the Middle East – and you’re creating a perfect storm that could turn into a potential disaster. Well, perhaps that’s being dramatic. But certainly the elements are there to create an environment of high stress.

So what can one do to reduce the stress level and be a happier traveler? Well, learn to go with the flow. Be flexible. Be resilient. Accept the situation at hand and control the only thing you can – your thoughts and your actions.

Much of our frustration, whether at home or abroad, stems from unmet expectations – whether related to our partner, colleague, the line at the coffee shop or an expensive meal out. If any of these fall short of what we had hoped, we’re annoyed. And the truth is that we spend much of our time living with this feeling of low-grade annoyance.

I’d argue also that we’ve become too reliant upon having the perfect experience. In this sense, technology is not our friend. We believe that because we can see photos of our hotel and read reviews before booking that it will meet our expectations. In India, we can now book our train tickets online, but it doesn’t mean that the train will run on time or that the air conditioning works in the first class car. How you respond to this type of minor setback, that is, how resilient you are, will make all the difference not only during the journey but long afterwards when you’re sharing stories and photographs.

cancelled flight

No matter how much we prepare for a trip, making sure we have all of our documents in order, triple checking our packing list and laying out plans for the entire journey, something will fail in the process.

Ultimately, it’s how we choose to respond to those apparent “failings” that will determine a happy life and happy travels.

I was talking to a very well-traveled friend. He said that his pet peeve was when people take too much time getting to their seats and loading their luggage when boarding a flight. When I asked why, he said it was because the plane might lose its place on the tarmac and they might end up departing late. I then asked if he had ever missed a connection because of someone being slow during boarding. “Huh?” he asked. He didn’t get it. His low-grade annoyance, his pet peeve, yielded no tangible downside yet he let it bother him every time he boarded a flight.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve got this stuff down myself. I admit to having a meltdown or two at the airport when I’ve had to wait 10+ minutes for a female assist for a pat down or when a flight has been cancelled and the ground staff is unable to answer questions regarding rescheduled flights.

But looking back at those times, I realize how futile it was to get mad. I didn’t miss my flight because I had to wait at security and, ultimately, I have made it home regardless of a delayed or canceled flight.

Sure, it takes time to retrain ourselves to be more patient and resilient – particularly when we live in a society that looks upon imperfection as failure and believes we should put ourselves before others. But one thing is for certain. You’ll have plenty of opportunities during your next trip to practice both patience and resilience, I promise.

Travel Well,


Related links:
On Traveling: Solo Safety Issues

Photo credit:
Yoga pose – Tomas Sobek
Cancelled flight – Comedy_Nose



On January 21st, 2013 at 6:25 pm, Angie Hilbert said:


This could have been titled “being here now while getting there.”

It’s a real gem on the zen of travel. Thank you.


On January 21st, 2013 at 8:44 pm, Priyanka said:

Agree with you. Patience is really required while your are travelling and be ready to expect the unexpected.

On January 21st, 2013 at 10:37 pm, Beth Whitman - Wanderluster said:

Thanks, Angie!

And Priyanka – love it! Expect the unexpected. That’s the tag line that the tourism board in Papua New Guinea uses and it is SO true!

On January 22nd, 2013 at 1:26 pm, wandering educators said:

Love this. It’s so true!

On January 22nd, 2013 at 2:39 pm, Larissa said:

Wise words. These petty annoyances don’t really matter in the long run, and they tarnish the other experiences we’re having in the process. Sort of “not seeing the forest for the trees”.

Thanks for the friendly reminder to not sweat the small stuff :)

On January 22nd, 2013 at 2:44 pm, Beth Whitman - Wanderluster said:

And it’s all small stuff!

On January 23rd, 2013 at 1:17 pm, Jennifer said:

Interesting thought piece. I wonder if resiliancy is a character trait — like how our temperaments are congenital to a large degree — or if it’s something that can be learned/self-taught to make our lives easier. I see some people able to bounce back from stress a lot faster than others.

On January 23rd, 2013 at 6:58 pm, Sarah Shaw said:

I heard a recording of motivational speaker Zig Ziglar talking about this a couple months ago. He was talking about how to see unexpected changes as opportunities. Having your flight cancelled and rebooked for 6 hours later gave him the time to actually explore the airport rather than rush through it to the next gate. He was able to sit down and enjoy a coffee…slowly. I’m hoping to have the presence of mind to remember this the next time I get a surprise.

On January 27th, 2013 at 7:06 pm, D.J. - The World of Deej said:

Patience is a virtue that I admittedly don’t have an abundance of, but I try to keep it nearby when traveling. Always seems to come in handy:)

On January 28th, 2013 at 6:51 pm, Linda @EcoTraveller said:

Totally agree. If I had a cent for every time I wanted to go mental when travelling but managed to keep calm, I would be a very rich woman. I figure there’s no point in losing it because most of the time there is absolutely nothing I can do to change the situation. Keep calm and carry on :)

On February 10th, 2013 at 5:31 pm, Deb said:

This is something I need to work on. I find that the more I travel, the less patience I have, especially at the airport. I keep trying to tell myself to relax, but it’s difficult. I’m like your friend, I get frustrated when people are slow and when security isn’t moving along. I know I should just take a deep breath and go with the flow, but instead, I grow agitated. I’m going to use this post as a reminder and make sure I am more patient and resilient when I travel.

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