An air-freshner I bought in Flagstaff, AZ, that reminds me daily of my travel motto of going with the flow.

Four Words to Change Your Outlook on Travel

Arriving back in the United States after a year in Indonesia, I mysteriously lost my wallet, including my bank and credit cards, driver’s license, and other important documents.

Recognizing this was a big deal, I cancelled my cards. Then once back in my home state of Iowa, I drove to the DMV and got myself a new license and ordered a brand new card. Problem solved.

After completing my tasks, my dad remarked how I was a new daughter.“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You handled losing your belongings in a way I’ve never seen before. A year ago you would have been stomping around the house, having an unnecessary fit and possibly a meltdown.”

Startled by his response, I realized he spoke words of truth. I hadn’t yet acknowledged this change, but reflecting on my past-self I realized that yes, I totally would have been freaking out! But newly home from a wild year-long adventure, I handled the scene like a pro… without any whining.

So what changed me?

Going with the flow.

My Papuan host family and me.
My Papuan host family and me.

Living with a family in Indonesia—a family who didn’t speak my language or operate on my schedule—I was presented with an opportunity to adjust my previously rigid and scheduled lifestyle to a going with the flow lifestyle. I had no choice over the food I ate, the activities I participated in, or even the bed I slept in. To survive, I adapted.

I’ve thankfully carried this new lifestyle into my current way of living, which is nomadic, unstructured, and unscheduled, to say the least. Other than my part-time social media job and personal blog that I do from the road, as well as occasional speaking events or conventions, I have the freedom to do what I want.

That freedom also comes with responsibility: a responsibility to make the most out of every situation, no matter the outcome. No whining, no fits.

As part of a current mission to hit up as many national parks and monuments in the Southwest as I can, I decided to check out Chaco Culture on my way to a meeting in northern New Mexico. In order to get to the site, you must travel on 30 miles of dirt roads.

Approaching the dusty roads, it started sprinkling. I thought, “It never rains in northwestern New Mexico! I’ll be fine.” But bumping and swerving my way in, it didn’t just sprinkle, it started to pour. After 45 minutes of frustrating travel, avoiding cows in the road while staring through my rainy 1995 Honda Accord station wagon windshield, I arrived to the campground with thanks to the Universe.

A lucky break in the rain allowed me to set-up my tent, but immediately after I did that, the clouds broke loose and my tent blew over! Running head-on with the sharp western winds, I attempted to jab my stakes back into the sand, but they wouldn’t stick.

Growing frustrated and very wet, I remembered the 4 bungee cords I bought at a discount camping store. Congratulating myself on being a pure genius, I rummaged through my camping bin, found the cords, and anchored my tent down, laying down large rocks for insured protection.

Already soaked, I gathered my sleeping bag and pad, along with a few extra items like incense, decorative cloth, book, journal, change of comfy clothes, and an extra blanket. I crawled into my little tent refuge and, after changing clothes, created the most beautiful hippie-den.

The inside of my hippie tent den where I spent 4 hours reading a book.
Inside my hippie tent den where I spent 4 hours reading a book to the pitter-patter soundtrack of rain.

Driving into the park I told myself the rain would stop and I’d go on the two hikes I previously planned. But upon soaking my bones, I realized this wouldn’t be the case. Rather than throwing a fit and being extremely disappointed—which I very well could have been—I instead went with the flow and made the most out of the moment, creating a pleasant atmosphere and spending the late afternoon and evening in the world of my novel, a book I wanted to start but hadn’t gotten around to.

Munching on my dinner of a Clif bar, hummus and veggies, I relaxed. A realization hit me: laying low and reading a book was something I hadn’t done in weeks, if not months. With my go-getter outdoorsy attitude, and my attempt to maximize my activities everywhere I stay while being constantly connected online for my job, I never have time to just sit other than scheduled moments for yoga and meditation.

In order to travel well, you must be able to adapt. That adaption means going with the flow, even when events and circumstances are unexpected and undesired. You can’t change the outcome, but you can certainly change your attitude. And changing your attitude may bring on profound realizations, something you’d miss by being rigid within your schedule.

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