A few months ago, I responded to an email about what I thought was the most important skill a traveler needed. I said adaptability. Without the ability to adapt to the constantly changing conditions of the road, a traveler is not going make it. There are so many highs and lows on the road that without being adaptable and flexible, you are going to end up being frustrated all the time. You’re going to get aggravated, angry, upset. It’s going to be unpleasant. You need to know how to just adapt and go with the flow.
But adaptability is not the only skill that you need on the road.
Another important skill that goes hand-in-hand with adaptability is patience. Without patience to accept the changes you’ll encounter, you’ll spend most of your trip annoyed and irritated.
Many unexpected things will happen to you on the road. Buses run late, trains get delayed, hotels get overbooked, and flights get canceled. If you spend any time on the road at all, something will wrong. Murphy’s Law is never wrong.
Our modern busy life creates a lot of pressure and anxiety. It’s always rush, rush, rush. In that environment, it’s easy to get worked up and annoyed over the smallest incidents. You have to make a meeting but you’re stuck in traffic. There’s a baby crying on the bus. Your mortgage is due. Your car payment is due. You have a million errands to run. It’s very stressful. And it’s easy to take that frustration with you on the road.
After a life in Boston, I developed a lack of patience. Boston is fast-moving city, and we have no time for distractions. When I first started traveling, I was frequently annoyed. Patience is not my greatest virtue. I wanted people to get out of my way – I had things to see. I had escaped the rush of Boston only to find I was rushing the thing I wanted to take slowly.
After two years of travel, I still struggle with it sometimes, but it is another skill you learn on the road. It is also one that you can use anywhere in life.
As a traveler, it’s important to develop patience. You didn’t come this far to get frustrated and turn around. You came to see the world, relax, and escape the high-pressure life back home. When you find yourself getting irritated, think, I’m on holiday. Every day is Saturday. What’s the rush? Take a deep breath and put things in perspective – you’re a nomad. You have nothing but time.
One of the things I’ve learned on the road is that things always resolve themselves. Just relax, smile, and wait – your problem will work itself out. My hostel last weekend was overbooked, but I simply asked if they had any other beds in a different type of room. They did, and the problem was solved. I got stuck on the runway in London for one hour. I could have been really annoyed and irritated, but what’s the rush? I’ll get there eventually.
By cultivating patience, you’ll be able to enjoy the little things more and come to see irritations as growth opportunities – not hindrances. Relax. It will work out. The best travel skills are ones you can use on and off the road, and the ability to have patience is certainly one that is useful anywhere.