Accept when your plans are changed


It was to be a good day. I could make it to the ferry terminal with enough time not to have to rush (for once). The ferry would be a leisurely two hour ride to the island of Jeju, and I had an assigned seat so I wouldn’t have to stand around. I’d have the evening to get settled, and all day tomorrow to explore the island.

I got to the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare. To my surprise, though, a long line had already formed and was heading out toward the gate. I immediately got in line. The TV screen said a bunch of things in Korean, but one of the things it said was “15:00”, which was the time of my ferry’s departure.

The man at the gate looked at my ticket (helpfully printed out by the hotel staff the day before), scanned the bar code until it went beep, and handed it back to me. I followed the long line of people onto the ship. So far so good.

You may find yourself in another part of the world

I couldn’t find my seat. I knew I had gotten a window seat, but none of the seats had numbers on them, and anyway they were all filled with elderly Korean ladies on holiday, all in seemingly identical pastel-colored jackets. There was only one room of seats; the other room had people sitting on the floor (shoes piled up by the door).

The engine started and we pulled away from the shore. I looked at the time and saw that this was a half hour earlier than the intended departure time. Something definitely wasn’t right. Asking someone where this ferry was going would be a strange conversation to have in most circumstances. (Shouldn’t I know this?) Trying to ask that question when there is a language barrier wasn’t likely to be fruitful at all.

Nevertheless, using the International Language of Wild Gesturing, I tugged the shoulder on an amiable man standing next to me, pointed to the ground, and asked, “Jeju?

He countered with a long string of Korean syllables. I smiled sadly, and gave him the International Facial Expression for I-Have-No-Idea-What-You-Just-Said.

After much back and forth, it emerged that I had boarded a ferry for the island of Cheongsando, a destination of which I knew nothing (and of which my guidebook said nothing). I vibrated with nervousness and discontent. I was heading toward an unknown place, with no real idea where it was or even if I’d be able to get back easily. What’s worse, I had now missed the ferry I actually wanted to go on, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Jeju at all today, even assuming I could get back to my original point.

Two ways to respond

Now, at this point, I had two options:

  • Get very annoyed. Complain to no one in particular about how my all-too-short visit to Jeju was now going to be even shorter. Grumble a lot. How dare that guy not take a closer look at my ticket! I want my won back!
  • Accept that my plans changed and move on. Realize that an unexpected chapter in my trip was about to be written. Relax. Take a deep breath. Wonder about what’s going to happen next. Note that no one was going to pitch me overboard or leave me by the sea. Maybe get a bit excited.

Notice that in both of the above cases, the actual outcome of events would be exactly the same. The only difference is my attitude. That was the only part of the situation that I had real control over. I couldn’t turn the ferry around. I certainly couldn’t swim to Jeju. I could only make the conscious choice to enjoy myself and continue to have faith in those around me that I would continue to be fine.

You have this choice too. Whether you’re planning adventures or something comes up in your job or love life, there are situations that befall you that you are forced to deal with. You may have caused them or not, but you have no control over the situation once you’re in it. And you have two options: relax or be upset. If you had to choose one of those, which one would you pick?

In the end, the guy notified the captain, who allowed me to take the ferry back to my original destination. He suggested (through his own wild gesturing) that I get a hotel in town and catch the next morning’s ferry. On the ride back, I fell in with some revelers, obviously enjoying the fruits of an enjoyable day. We shared soju and seaweed (theirs) and granola (mine). While we didn’t quite all speak each other’s tongue, we all knew the International Language of Adventure.

But enough about me. How have your plans changed, and how did you respond?

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