While I love seeing the world, I have to admit not everything I see is great. In fact, some things that I wind up seeing are flat out mediocre. Other times I feel that I’ve been set up for a terrible day because maybe I missed a train or I couldn’t get a dinner reservation anywhere and then something truly interesting happens. I go somewhere else and have an amazing time.
I find that it’s often that these moments stay with me the longest after a trip. Whether my bad experience with something truly affected my trip negatively or whether when I was forced to make do with the unique moment of utter disappointment or if in the place that I was in if I could turn that negativity into a truly interesting moment.
Let me give you 2 examples from Tokyo.
The last night that I was in Tokyo with my wife it was a Friday night. We could not make a reservation for dinner anywhere. In fact, we tried to walk into a few places but found that the wait time would be at least 3 hours anywhere that we went to. In sheer desperation we went to a down and dirty bar. This bar was not crowded and had basic food like edamame we could eat.
Let me draw you a picture. This bar was small. It was a single long bar with a single Japanese man behind the bar and what appeared to be a fat lesbian to our left. When we first sat down my thoughts were that this is where you go when society doesn’t want you but hey, I’m hungry let’s do this.
First Bad Experience Turned Good
At first, both of them were very clearly making fun of us making us feel uncomfortable. Lucky for us we studied just a bit of Japanese before we went there. We didn’t understand what they were saying about us, but it did give us an in. Also, when we were served our use of chopsticks impressed them, most Japanese people seemed to be interested in how I learned to use chopsticks altogether.
Then we slipped in a little Japanese into our discussion and both the barman and the lady to our left became more curious. In that moment the tides turned and we had a great time discussing the classic rock music they were playing there and who we were and who they were in broken English and Japanese. In fact, when I think back on this moment of the trip I always smile as does my wife.
Second Bad Experience Turned Good
The second example in Tokyo is when we tried to get into the Tsukiji fish market at 3am to see the fish auctions. This is a major tourist site in Tokya and getting there early is key to getting in as they limit tourists to a very few number. Well, we got there a bit too late and were immediately pissed at ourselves.
We picked ourselves up and walked out of the area a little cursing at ourselves. But then, like a beacon of hope there was both light and the sounds of people coming from not very far away. We walked over and there was a sushi place right there full of Japanese eating at 3:30am! Well we cozied up to the bar and got some food. The sushi was amazing, as it should be since it’s right next door to the fish market and the people who were there were all so friendly and curious about with us at the same time. I like to think that this experience was most likely better than getting into that fish market.
Third Bad Experience Turned Good
I was in Poland and headed to Auschwitz, so I didn’t expect the day to be a wonderful day given the heavy topic. On the train I met a couple who spoke English and were from the States. We got along so we decided to hang out for the day since we were going to the same place. On the train there was a stop for “Auschwitz”, which I had heard is actually the wrong stop. Well, we all got off of the train and I said think this is the wrong stop, just as the train took off and left us in the dust
The husband and wife had fire in their eyes were about to get at each others throats when I said, “Well, there’s only one thing to do when you get off at the wrong stop in Europe.” They stared at me for a moment. Then I said, “Get a drink and wait for the next one”. That made them laugh and it’s exactly what we did. We went to the local store learned that the next train would be by in 1.5 hours and got a drink. They invited me to dinner with them back in Krakow which I took them up on and they thanked me for what I said as they would have certainly been very angry at each other otherwise. Again, this is something I will always remember.
What Turns a Bad Experience into a Good One?
1. Your Attitude
It’s easy to lose yourself in negativity when something doesn’t work out on a trip. The first thing to remember is that even if you didn’t get to d the activity that you wanted or that you missed your train/plane, you’re still on vacation! You’re still somewhere that you haven’t been before and you can take advantage of the moment. So it’s ok, be pissed then take a moment to re-adjust yourself and find something to fill your time that you will enjoy.
2. What you wind up doing instead
If you miss a plane and all you do is stand there waiting for the next one then yes, it sucks. Unless you are in your home country then the opportunity to explore or experience something new and interesting is likely all around you, all you need to do is seek it out. Walk down a few streets and find something to do that is fun. Get a local coffee/matcha/matte/Chai tea – whatever the local drink is and take some time to listen to the people around you. The point is, enjoy the moment.
3. The People you Meet
The people you are with or the people that you meet when you feel that you have missed something big and good do have an impact on your experience as well. I remember getting onto a late evening bus and having a very rude driver that ruined the night. So if you must find something to do with your time try to meet new people at whatever you choose to do. The people can make the difference and turn your bad travel moment into a good one.