I came home from vacation late last night and got a message from a client today. She said, “everything goes wrong for me. Always, no matter what I do.” And unfortunately, a lot of lousy things have happened to her and It’s frustrating to see her continually experience set backs and disappointments.
On any other day, my response would have been different. But I just came home from quite possibly the worst vacation experience I have ever had.
Every couple of years, my two kids go to stay the summer with their grandparents who reside in St. Croix. I take them down, they stay, their dad goes and gets them (and visits his family). Travel there from Colorado is not direct and there are long layovers, usually in Miami, due to limited service to the island. This year, we went and I took my mom, and we planned a very relaxing, beach and sea focused trip with shopping, snorkeling, sunset watching and sight seeing.
To sum it up: 3 cancelled flights, one of which had been rebooked to St. Thomas, then cancelled. My over night hotel fee is in dispute right now since we could never have made it. No rebooking opportunities for 3 days. Stranded in Miami 2 nights, one night in Charlotte, NC. Miami was apparently in some kind of rainy season. Luggage was all sent ahead to St. Croix the next morning while we remained in Miami. An excursion I planned to take my mother to St. Thomas on the seaplane was accidentally mis-booked and we had to pay change fees to get on the sea plane. I really had my heart set on flying that way – The plane takes off and lands on water and it’s 20 minutes between islands. Four days in St. Croix and we had to go home, saying our tearful goodbyes to my kids. That is never pleasant but I was worried about their return travels already! Flight home was St Croix to Miami, Miami to Chicago, Chicago to Denver. Flight from Chicago to Denver was cancelled. No rebooking. No seats on any flights for 3 days. I booked two one way tickets on another airline. I was not going to stay 3 days. Another hotel, a full day waiting in Chicago, before getting home at 1:30AM.
With that many turn of events, it was very hard to keep my chin up and not feel the way my client expressed. I was furious at the airline for cancelling so many flights, for so many people and not adding any to accommodate them. How many travelers had to go home because the extra expense would be devastating? I had been to St Croix two other times and I had expectations and plans. I wanted to swim laps every morning on Rainbow Beach… and I never even got to dip my toes in the water. I went to the beach three times the whole trip. And only once on St. Croix.
Now, despite being very put out… I forced myself to make a list. Several good things resulted from these mis-adventures!
1. I went to South Beach (Miami) for the first time, saw a cousin of my kids who works for a large Hotel company who got us the family rate. He lives on Miami beach and we went out to dinner on Ocean Ave and had a beach morning the next day. When it began raining, we walked over to his apartment.
2. My best friend lives in Charlotte, NC and her fiancé gave us his very beautiful home for the night, then they brought us breakfast in the morning before we had to go.
3. I rented a car in St Croix and having my own wheels there for the first time (vs being chauffeured around by in-laws) was liberating. Driving on the left isn’t that hard.
4. I got to ride on the sea plane and went to St Thomas, running an errand I had planned at a local shop. Also got to lie under a mangrove tree on a nearby beach.
5. I met my new niece and got to see/hug/kiss my nephew, who lives there
6. My kids are getting to spend time with grandparents, uncle, aunt, cousins, learn to cook Dominican food and speak Spanish
7. My brother lives outside of Chicago and came to the rescue. I got to see/hug/kiss him and his family.
8. I got to see the Art Institute of Chicago.
It’s important to make these kinds of lists when it seems like everything, well, sucks. It’s what I ask my clients to do every day – re-frame the experience. Trying to find the silver linings. Doing this tells your brain that you will NOT allow it to go down the dark path. Every time we only see the negative, our brain becomes more and more accustomed to going there as the default. It doesn’t make the experience any better, but it is certainly helping me not hate life right now! Things don't just go badly for you, but the cruelty of depression will tell you that it is you and that everyone else is living a wonderful life. I still had a vacation, just not exactly the one I had planned.