4. Assert yourself. On a bus tour in Russia some in the group were interested in taking every opportunity to shop. It wasn't our priority, but we enjoyed some of the souvenirs we bought. It quickly became the default preference for the group,and we were becoming frustrated when we missed opportunities for other activities, until we realized that we too could assert our preferences.
Though the tour guide could not accommodate the request we had, we told her we wanted to go off on our own for a few hours, and had a unique experience in St. Petersburg as a result. We learned that saying what we want helps in planning and negotiating, whether with a group or just between the two of us.
5. Be self-aware. Penny is sensitive to the idea of being perceived as a pushy tourist, the classic ugly American. When our flight was delayed, and about 20 other passengers missed a connection in Paris, the Air France staff informed us that there were no seats available the same day on any flight to Florence.
One of the disappointed passengers loudly demanded that something must be done, and explained repeatedly to the ticket agents why this situation was intolerable. We were both extremely uncomfortable, feeling a mix of emotions including humiliation by association with the pushy group member, anxiety over the outcome, and frustration over the whole mess. Emotions in group situations can be contagious. Self awareness can allow you to maintain objectivity and flexibility in a crisis.
6. Respect each other. Penny and I have different preferences, and sometimes we plan for them. When I go windsurfing on the Outer Banks, Penny goes to a little known art gallery where she has found great deals on antique prints over the years. Still, I admit that I gave her more than a little grief about her decision to eat at a McDonalds in Kyoto.
I complained that the smell of French fries would be evident to everyone in the Ryokan, where we were staying. In the end,I had to admit that she had a wonderful experience with people at the foreign/familiar fast food location, and that has provided a good travel story for years. The idea in this story is to respect one anothers' preferences, and work to accommodate them as often as possible.
7. Hope for the best; expect the worst. One of the problems with great vacation plans is great expectations. Sometimes they are fulfilled. I refused to believe that the Taj Mahal could be as stunning as all the pictures I have seen of it. But when you walk through the portal, it just knocks your socks off. Nonetheless, great expectations can lead to great disappointments.
A meal at a special country restaurant booked a month in advance for our anniversary was marred by bad weather,I knew a snow storm was coming, and bad treatment at the bed and breakfast. In situations like this, I tend to get mad at myself for the mishap. "How could I be so stupid?" I know it doesn't make sense, to beat up on myself, but the emotional impact of a disappointment works its way out in odd ways for each of us.
If you are aware of what is going on, you can avoid generalizing, and just accept it for it what it is — a disappointment. Perhaps there is some way to reduce the risk in the future, but it's not a reason to give up on high expectations. Just don't punish yourself or anyone else too much for it.
Brock Hansen, LCSW offers coaching in Emotional Intelligence Skills on his website at www.Change-for-Good.ORG