The mindset you need for traveling


Greetings from another new country. I’m in Norway right now, on my grand tour of the Great European North. I’m seeing new things, challenging myself, and am generally having a blast.

Travel prerequisites

After having been on many trips to many countries over the years, I’ve learned that there are certain prerequisites you need in order to travel:

  • You need to want to go. This may seem self-evident, but I mention it because I actually think that fewer people want to travel than who profess to. It seems to be something that we see as being a positive character trait, (as in, “I like reading, camping, and travel”). As it’s not verifiable in the moment, it’s one of those things that we can say about ourselves to make us look better in others’ eyes without penalty, even if it’s not technically true.
  • You need to be able to go. By this, I mean that you need to have your health, enough money, enough time, and other life situations that enable travel. Which, by the way, seems like as good a time as any to say that having children does not automatically disqualify you from traveling. I met up with a couple who is traveling internationally with an infant, so it is certainly possible. It may be more challenging, but I just don’t think it’s fair when people use their children as an excuse.
  • You need to prioritize it. We live in a world where we can do anything we want but not everything we want, so in order to say yes to travel, you need to say no to something else, whether it’s time-related or money-related. By being here, I can’t be there, and by spending money on this, I can’t spend money on that.

So important that I can’t think of the word

That said, even if you have all of the above, and you’ve packed well, and have all of your required documents, and brought a bag that you can carry yourself (a miscellaneous-but-cardinal rule for me), there is still something else that you need to make sure you have.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to think of the exact word that describes this mindset. A few words that dance around it would be: calm, flexibility, perspective, humility, and grace.

Here is what I mean: You need to make sure that you are fine with things unfolding as they do, with plans changing, and with a certain amount of discomfort. It seems weird to say it, but you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Travel bummers

I mentioned in my post about what you never hear about traveling some examples about less-than-perfect travel experiences.

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of these little bummers. The time when I slept in a bus station. The time where I accidentally took the wrong ferry to the wrong island. The time I took an overnight train in a compartment with a young child whose piercing screams can only be described as either disturbed or possessed. The time when I and my travel companion stayed at a hostel which was almost entirely filled with loud children.

All of these experiences are not exceptional. The only variable is how you react to these situations.

If you react to these situations with calm, grace, understanding, and a certain humility, to say nothing of a little laughter, you will enjoy yourself and your trip immensely. The situations can be put in perspective, and you can realize that they are just part of the process.

However, if you don’t have this mindset, then you are going to be miserable. You will complain, sigh, and moan. If you have companions, you may make them miserable too.

Your challenge

Now, I understand that it’s much easier to react to negative situations with negativity. And I have moments where it’s harder than others. But these are the times that truly challenge us to be better people. When you respond to difficult situations with grace, there is a certain valor in that. In a strange way, you win over the adversity.

For every night without sleep, there is the evening where you find that cafe on a side street by the water. For every misplaced item, there is that amazing local place that you stumbled onto.

And the night after that hostel with all of the loud children, I found myself at a very nice hotel under a pastel sky, sitting and watching the sunset over the old town.

Will you have the strength to be graceful with all of the stresses that will happen to you? Those stresses are guaranteed. How you react is not.

But enough about me. Have you had any challenging travel situations? How did you react?


  1. Christofu

    Love “travel bummers” – that describes it so well. But those are part of the journey and often lead to even better things in the end.

    • Mike

      Hi Christofu. Thanks for chiming in. I totally agree; if nothing else, the travel bummers will usually lead to great stories!

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