If you believe all the travel websites and blogs out there, traveling is meant to be a joyous occasion full of excitement and wonder. It might be life changing, it might be a relaxing break to reset and recharge or all the blogs might have it wrong and it’s the worst experience in your life. No matter how your trip plays out there is a lot written about when you have actually left home and started your trip but not much about beforehand. The time when you’re still trying to research and book your trip while maintaining a full time job, study and/or family. This is the time everyone wants to catchup and see you before you go and the time when you put unnecessary expectations and pressure on yourself to finish things that could wait until you come back.
A month or so before any of my trips I used to always freak out. Everyone would be asking whether I am excited yet and all I could think about is the endless list of things I had to do before departure. There were bills to pay, people to catchup with, family to see, houses to organise, bank details to sort out, clothes or equipment to buy, travel arrangements to finalise, project deadlines at work to meet, handover notes to type and somewhere in all this I had to sleep and be excited at the same time. I never figured out how to do it properly so defaulted to feeling stressed and frustrated.
Having spent the last few weeks watching my Mother and Sister do the same I realised this wasn’t something unique to me and that probably everyone goes through it. My sister works full time, chases after 2 kids and because she wasn’t busy enough then took on a university degree. Trying to organise a month long trip to Europe for just myself was an ordeal so I can only image what it must be like to try and organise a family of 4. My Mum also works full time and has a ton of other sporting and social commitments that also make her time-poor. Both family members are exhibiting a familiar mixture of stress and excitement common to those about to depart on a trip.
Talking to them both about what they are trying to do before they leave on their respective trips it’s easy for me to judge what sounds important. I don’t have an accreditation audit to prepare for or a uni assignment to write but when I hear things like changing tyres on a car that wont be driven or cleaning rooms that no one will enter, it makes me ask why? Why do we put these unnecessary pressures on ourselves to have everything “done” before we leave? I’m not saying these things are not important and that it wouldn’t be nice to return to a clean house or a to-do list significantly shorter than when you left but when we come back from our trip feeling rested and relaxed will it matter that we didn’t achieve those things before we left?
Since I’ve left on more than a few trips in my time here are some ways that might help –
People always worry that you won’t ever come back and that they have to see you before you go (occasionally this concern was justified in my case). People you might not have seen in months all of a sudden want to organise to meet for a coffee and while it’s nice to hear from them they have had plenty of time to see you before now. Brutal but true. Decide who is a priority and who you can see when you get back. Another month or two before that coffee probably won’t affect the relationship if you haven’t seen them before now anyway.
Does your house really need to be spotlessly clean before you leave or can the important things like dishes just be done and leave the rest? Do you really need to clean that junk room that no one ever goes into or can it be a junk room for a few more weeks until you get back? Deciding what is and isn’t important can significantly affect how much time you have to be excited before a trip.
I think I am pretty good at this but when it comes to leaving for a trip I always make a few rookie mistakes. I always tell myself I don’t need long to pack but it always takes longer than expected and I always leave loading music onto my iPod until the day I leave then get upset when there isn’t enough time to transfer all the music I want.
I was once told that the build up and excitement about a trip is just as important as the actual trip itself and watching my niece and nephew in their excitement about their trip to Europe has finally shown me that. They don’t have the stress of changing money, booking hotels and hire cars and working out flights so they are like kids at Christmas bursting out of their skin for departure day. In direct opposite to that, I see my Mum and sister stressed and frustrated and looking forward to their holidays not in excitement but in relief that they can sit on a plane for 12 hours and be forced to either sleep or chill out watching movies instead of preparing for and organising everything.
What about you? Do you get excited before a trip or do you get even more stressed and frustrated as well. Let me know in the comments below.
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