Trips can last much longer than the time we’re away from home. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Think of your trip as a three act play with a beginning, middle and end.
With travel, the beginning doesn’t start when you board that plane, train or automobile. It starts with a dream, an explosive vision of clarity or a subtle whisper of an idea as to where you might go. You take the next step and move into the planning stages where you wrestle with logistical details and get yourself ready (on multiple levels).
Then, amidst all the reservations and decisions, you find a childlike excitement blossoming in you regarding your upcoming journey. Suddenly, you just can’t wait for your trip to start. But in a way, it already has.
The travel itself is the second act, the middle. Experientially, this is the meat and potatoes phase, the core that bridges your looking forward with your looking back in a short period where you realize you’re living almost entirely in the present.
The third act finds you walking through your front door as you return. That, however, is not the end of your trip. That is only the beginning of the end.
Your trip actually continues for days, weeks, months and even years after your return as you share your journey with others, remember key moments, reflect on what happened, learn from those reflections, and apply those learnings to your life at home. It’s a long ending and would make for a very boring play. But it provides us with journeys that literally can last a lifetime.
That’s the good news. In fact, as most travelers will attest, the anticipation and reflection phases of the trip can be as or more meaningful than the actual journey itself.
But there is one small little detail to contend with: reality.
As we lengthen our perspectives on travel, particularly as we include within our understanding of “the trip” the whole pre-travel phase, we extend or increase not only the number of “ups” along the way but also the number of “downs.” Thus, making our trips last longer benefits us only if we learn to maximizes the ups and minimize the downs.
One place where we are likely to run into unexpected snags is before we ever leave home during the anticipation phase. I prefer “anticipation phase” to “planning phase” because the actual planning is where many of us get the most stressed out about a trip. Dealing with myriad details before our trip can overwhelm us with choices and fill us with angst: Am I making the best decisions on hotels? Visiting the right locations? Getting the lowest airfare?
Sometimes, you get so frustrated with the planning stage you want to walk away from your whole trip like you would from an obnoxious street vendor who questions your intelligence, judgment and lineage (not to mention who wears the pants in your family) simply because you won’t buy an ugly souvenir from him.
But have no fear. Over the next several entries, we will explore the wonder of anticipation and how to find meaning in even the stress-inducing aspects of planning. As we’ll see, the anticipation phase – or at least the planning part of it – isn’t always fun. But if we do it right, it can be meaningful and can set the tone for the rest of our trip: beginning, middle and end.