Have you ever been really, really excited for an upcoming trip or event that you’ve spent weeks planning, only to have it fall short the day-of?
I know I have. And it’s awful being disappointed or let down.
These days I try really hard to avoid setting expectations, especially when travelling to a new place. I try not to build things up more than necessary, and what I’ve realized, is that by doing so I leave my self open to whatever experiences that come – good and bad.
The problem with built up expectations is that you’ve set yourself a really high bar for your happiness. Maybe your friend told you an incredible story about meeting a marine biologist in Indonesia who took her to meet a sick dolphin who she bonded with and ended up getting to release back into the wild in a tear-filled moment that changed her life forever. And then some other friend of yours tells you about some equally incredible experience in Indonesia. And now, because of other people’s experiences, you’re expecting something equally incredible to happen to you. Nothing short of a spectacular life changing event will do. And whether or not your friends’ stories were real or exaggerated doesn’t matter. Because in your head Indonesia is the place that will change your life. And you can’t wait to go, experience your magic, and then go home and tell everyone about it.
Do you see the problem here? I think we can all relate to that feeling of deflation you get when an experience you’ve been looking forward to doesn’t quite live up to what you had imagined.
The two golden rules
I had planned to do a list post for this topic. You know, something along the lines of, “10 ways you can stop sabotaging your travel experiences”. The problem is, I couldn’t come up with 10, or even 5!
And this is because all I have to say on this subject really boils down to two key rules:
1. Don’t let other people’s experiences define your expectations.
2. Don’t let other people’s expectations define your experiences.
I have found these rules to be the key to living with more joy and less stress, feeling honest and like your true self, and having more confidence and less fear.
There’s a big difference between excitement and expectations. Excitement is awesome! Be excited; look forward to the great trip you planned! Don’t try and minimize your anticipation and joy. All you need to do is check-in with yourself. Periodically make sure that your excitement is not carrying any extra baggage (a.k.a. expectations).
The thing is, we will all encounter amazing moments in our life. They might feel spectacular. And then again they may not. You might see them coming, but chances are that they will completely blind-side you. The experiences that change your life are not things that you can prepare for or expect. You simply wont have the chance. They will come out of nowhere and leave you breathless.
These are the moments that we talk about and dream about and wish for. And they are precious, but they are rare.
The value of the mundane
We are not always able to recognize an experience for what it is until later, when we can reflect back and marvel at all the things we never saw coming.
If we are so caught up in the grand things that we expect to happen, we aren’t living in the moment, and will miss out on so many truly wonderful moments that are happening right now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally had an amazing conversation with someone in a new city or town after stumbling into a random cafe or shop that led to an amazing day, or a wonderful friendship. Or the times that mishap after mishap has led to an incredible experience, I never could have planned. And when things do go wrong, more often than not you’ll learn something great about yourself; that you can handle the unexpected and that you are stronger than you think. That is a great gift, all on its own.
There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect trip’
I’ve read a lot of blog posts about travel and trip planning and vacations and solo travel, and have done all of these things many times. Lots of these articles would have you believe that there is a way to plan a perfect trip, if you just follow steps a, b and c. I hate to break it to you, but it’s simply not true. All the planning in the world wont necessarily make your trip perfect (actually – I’ve found too much planning has the opposite effect!).
Focus on Gratitude
When you catch your thoughts lingering on your expectations, just take a moment and bring your thoughts back to the present. Focus on gratitude.
So let go of your expectations, take a deep breath, and dive in without fear.