The happiest travelers honestly enjoy the act of getting from Point A to Point B. They know that travel is not just about reaching their destination.
We could all learn a thing or two about travel from horses. For years we had horses for our resort guests to enjoy. One of our most popular horses was named Hoover the Mover. He got that name because he was slow. He was curious about his surroundings and thoroughly engaged in every step of every trail ride we took him on. From the minute you walked up to him with saddle and bridle he perked up. You could almost hear him ask, “Where are we going this time? Can we play in the water today?”
Other horses we used for rides were less than enthusiastic. There’s a term for horses that either won’t leave home willingly or that speed up on the second half of the trail in order to return home (their ultimate destination) faster. Horses that don’t enjoy the ride are called “barn sour.” It’s a hard habit to break, but it can be avoided with a little creativity in the first place. To avoid boredom we varied our route just enough to keep the horses wondering what was coming next and we often made sure that there was something special in store for them before they finished traveling for the day. When there were multiple rides to do, we treated all the horses to brushing and rub downs before the next set of riders.
Hoover liked Coca Cola, so that’s what he got between rides. He could spot a red aluminum can from a hundred yards. Give him a few minutes slurping Coke poured into the cupped hands of a giggling child and he was ready for anything.
Sometimes it’s just that simple. Change your route; take a closer look at your surroundings; stop for a Coke.
Sometimes it’s not that simple; sometimes there’s an airline involved. Airlines and airports have a nasty habit of leaving travelers feeling exhausted and defeated. The number one thing that will help keep you on the happy side of air travel is to remember that you are responsible for your own comfort. Take matters into your own hands and do anything and everything to ensure your comfort.
- Don’t take too much carry-on luggage. The trade off of having to wait for luggage on arrival is usually outweighed by the difficulties it presents in the airport. Every foot you drag a heavy bag moves you one step closer to the dark side of being an unhappy traveler. Make sure that what you take is lightweight and either necessary for the duration of the trip or something you positively cannot complete your journey without if it were lost.
- Stay fed and watered. You simply cannot depend on the airline or airport food for all your needs on a long trip. (And who knows when you might get stuck on the tarmac for eight hours.) Take along crackers, peanuts, anything packaged you can munch on. Drink plenty before you get to the airport, then break down and buy a bottle of water in the airport after you clear security.
- Know your own limits. If you aren’t a morning person, then for goodness sake don’t schedule a 6:00 AM flight if you don’t have to. Can’t sit comfortably for hours on end? Then don’t book long non-stop flights. The hour you lose by making one stop may not be as bad as arriving in pain.
- Use gadgets. Headphones, ear plugs, neck pillows, butt pillows, eye masks. Take anything that is small, lightweight, and that you will actually use for comfort.
- Don’t forget to dress in layers. Airports and planes tend to be cold in any season.
- Entertain yourself. If you aren’t content with people watching or sleeping, then make sure you have a book, crossword, electronic game or something to help pass the time. Gary likes to buy a big newspaper when we arrive at the airport because there’s lots to read but it’s disposable. He sheds sections along the way.
- Think novelty. Remember the first time you flew? There was excitement at traveling in a new way. You probably won’t ever re-capture the novelty of that first trip, but little things like wearing something new or starting a new book can help your frame of mind. The exception here is new shoes. Break them in first, or wear some comfy old ones.
The only Shetland pony we ever owned was named Rusty. He was a barn sour little cuss if ever there was one. He hated leaving his pen. He hated giving rides. I’m not sure he liked anything except food, and he was even picky about that. Because he was afraid to leave the barn yard he never experienced the joy of splashing in the lake with Hoover. He never heard the laughter of the children he was there to entertain.
His stay with us was brief. He was an unhappy traveler that could not learn to enjoy the ride so we moved him to another home. I felt sorry for Rusty. Domesticated animals are not really in control of their fate, and I suspected that he was barn sour because his life’s journey had not been an easy one.
The point of his story here is twofold.
Rusty’s other lesson is that the world throws open welcoming arms for the happy traveler, but moves past the unhappy one with barely a blink.
Oh, and don’t kick people in the butt when you do leave the barn (especially the ones trying to help you.) That didn’t work well for Rusty either.