This trip was meant to be “the” trip. On some Eat, Pray, Love shit. I booked it 6 months ago, and counted down the days. I booked a bus tour, a food tour, and visualized myself all peaceful and discovering new things about myself for my FIRST solo trip. I got to the check in at the airport, and....
"Ma'am, do you have your travel visa?"
Travel visa?! What do you mean!
But, there I was. A woman who hadn’t researched enough to know it was needed, and the sad look I gave this woman with the perfectly groomed bun (how did she get it like that? i wish I had asked but it wasn’t the right time) didn’t really help. The sad stare I gave her didn’t make her change her mind either; It was just awkward and eventually she told me to “step to the side please ma’am”. The E-Visa I frantically applied for on my phone wouldn't go through in time, and before I knew it I had missed my flight.
My brain scanned possible story lines: I could throw a self pity party, as the helpless victim: “why didn’t I get any notification I needed this?! How was I supposed to know? :: quick calculation of money lost, then fantasizing of all the things I could do with that :: whyyyy meeee”
The self critic (I'm really good at this one, this was very tempting): “you’re so irresponsible I can’t believe you didn’t do your research, someone should take your adulting card”
The little kid having a tantrum (another familiar favorite): “fuck this place I’m going to pout and make a scene because life is supposed to be fair and this ISN'T FAIR!”
BUT in that moment something happened.
I realized that sometimes, shit happens, and I really do believe it’s for reasons that are often out of our awareness but cause a ripple effect that is greatly needed for the big cosmic plane. I realized had a choice: I could fight reality and make myself feel worse, or I could accept what was happening and respond to the reality rather than reacting.
I booked this trip with the intention that I would go solely for the experience, with no pressures and expectations. And grace in the face of unexpected changes is quite an experience. And it was happening right there within that disappointment. So I chose again.
I chose to be in charge of what I’d do with my time and my attention. Because isn’t that life? I mean, yes, people travel successfully all the time and this didn’t just “happen” to me; I did contribute and it could have been prevented. But don’t things just not work out sometimes? Even if you contributed to the situation, does that mean you have to live and dwell in your unmet expectation after you extract the lesson?
So much of our heartbreak and melancholy are a result of unmet expectations. That relationship you swore was “the one”. That other person that just doesn't GET IT no matter how hard you try to "fix things". That job you wanted so badly and over time realized it wasn’t exactly what you thought it’d be. The expectation that others will do for you what you’d do for them.
Expectations lead to disappointment for sure. I'm not saying to not have standards for life; but let's accept the reality in front of us rather than always wishing for it to be so different, and respond in ways that meet our needs to the best of our ability! Spoiler alert: sometimes that means walking away. Living in expectation and disappointment is sometimes more familiar then walking away from a situation that we know isn't working and walking towards the unknown.
So for my "failed" trip, I chose again to let go of the expectations I had for my time. I walked away from the trip I thought I was supposed to be on, and I booked a small room in the Catskill. I landed on a bar called Hi-Lo, which coincidentally was showing the Italian film “The Great Beauty”, and sipped at my prosecco with a tear running down my face because of the beauty and humor of the film. And how fucking delicious my empanada was.
If I had fixated on what didn’t happen, and held onto how my trip didn’t go according to plan, I’d have missed so much.
Like the fact that the woman behind the counter made sure I didn’t forget my passport because I was a hot mess. The smell of lavender in my hot soothing bath. The feeling of the fresh crisp sheets of an unfamiliar room that means I’m “away”. And the smell of French press fresh coffee in the morning. Stumbling upon a Buddhist temple that was beautiful and awe inspiring.
Now, I’m not suggesting you travel internationally without checking if you need a visa. Im also not saying that me having the privilege to book a trip like this compares to some pretty devastating disappointments that happen in life. I’m saying, when things that are no longer in your control happen and aren’t what you expected, choose again.
If your attention and energy aren’t focusing on ideas and experiences that help you thrive, choose again.
If you’re waiting for life to turn out just as planned in order to feel satisfaction, choose again.
Shake yourself free of expectations and the timeline of “should’s” you’ve inherited from who knows where, and slow down. Feel the breath move in and out of your lungs, know that things are working in your favor somehow and somewhere, and know that you have a choice of what your focus on: choose what makes you come alive, even if it’s not the storyline you thought it’d be. Don't be afraid to step away from what's not working and into the unknown, because there are some really amazing experiences waiting for you there.
You’re still here, so why not spend time finding the smile in a strangers face, noticing nature wherever we can, really tasting that first sip of fresh coffee, and feeling the sensation of crisp sheets on your skin. Feel the feeling of your body working for you and your ability to see your world around you and hear the sounds of your day. Find where in your life there is space for gratitude, because what you pay attention to will grow!
Heres to letting go of the focus on the struggle of the missed expectations, and just enjoying this journey,