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What We Do When Our Plans Blow Up!

As we have managed several weeks of “shelter in place” here in Colorado and across the country, a common topic has been “dealing with adversity”. This has lead me to reflect on my own experiences and lessons learned on the topic and one defining adventure that continues to come to mind. 

In August, 2017 we took our first international trip since our honeymoon. Up to this point we mostly had been traveling domestically but we finally pulled the trigger (or rather “opened the floodgates”) and booked a two week trip to the United Kingdom. This was a dream trip to explore a country we love so much as well as attend a soccer match at the “Theatre of Dreams”, Old Trafford, the home of our beloved Manchester United Football Club! 

As you can imagine, we spent months planning every single detail of this trip. As we tidied our plans and poured over various towns, B&Bs, pubs, beaches and attractions along the way, the official soccer schedule was released and all our plans needed to change. Instead of the anticipated home match, the game was moved to Swansea, Wales: 200 miles in the opposite direction we planned to travel. Since attending a match in Manchester was a top priority, we absolutely had to figure out how we were going to adapt. Fortunately we still had two months before we left so we took a deep breath and had a discussion that has dramatically impacted our travel, and our lives in general. 

I had recently read a book that talked about adversity and how to allocate our energy to live a more sustainable life. In work, travel, and in life, our energy is a highly limited resource. It is so often drained by things that lie outside of our control! So I asked Melissa if we could try something. She agreed as I pulled out a sheet of paper and started to make two lists:

        • “Things that are important”
        • “Things that we can control”

By shifting our focus in a very real way, we were able to see there is always something we can do to feel in control again. We were again on the path to staying in harmony and having FUN! We were able to contact the airlines and explain the unexpected change in schedule. We shifted our travel a couple days so that we could be in the country the following Saturday and make it to the game in Manchester. From there we simply inverted our plans. Instead if starting in Manchester, we were going to end there and follow our itinerary in reverse. Problem solved! Or so we thought…

Everything was in place to have a great time traveling along the east coast, surf the North Sea, and explore several castles along the way. Checking the weather on the morning of departure, it was glaringly obvious our plans were not going to work: Torrential down-pours with (what seemed like) a zero percent chance for fun. But we took a deep breath and asked ourselves two important questions:

What’s important?

What can we control?

After invoking the “Benefit of the Doubt Mode” we settled into our Detroit – Amsterdam transatlantic flight, paid for the in-flight WiFi and completely re-planned our entire trip! There were a lot of things we could see on the other side of the country where the sun was shining. We drew out a new itinerary and promised we were going to take our adventure one day at a time, enjoy the highs as well as the lows, and try to save our energy for the import things that we could control. We are very lucky that we started our trip out with this attitude because, little did we know, more adversity was ahead. 

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

After arriving in England we discovered Delta/KLM had lost Melissa’s bag with ALL her clothes. We were ensured it would be found quickly and they’d deliver it to our hotel… haha! When asked where we were staying, all we had confirmed was an Airbnb that night in London. It was Saturday and the courier service didn’t deliver on Sundays. While we’d drawn out a new route of travel, we hadn’t actually booked any lodging! This began a daily battle of back and fourth with our personal itinerary, Delta baggage agents, and the local courier service, complete with a 5 hour time difference and no international phone plan. Every day was a new opportunity to “focus on what we can control”. I have to be honest, I was blown away with how well Melissa handled having nothing but the clothes on her back and plans that only ever extended to the next day! 

It would be impossible to capture in one post how much we learned on this trip, not to mention telling the full story of the wild adventure that it was. But I will say this: we made full use of our BOTD mode and spent most nights talking about “what was important” and “what we could control”. These exercises that were so beaten into us on that adventure have truly become integral parts of our daily lives. It is amazing how adversity can teach us so much. I can’t really wrap my head around how impactful these lessons have been for us as we have been faced with various other challenges in life beyond traveling. I am so blessed to have a wife who is so patient with me and open to my crazy and obnoxiously optimistic ideas and exercises! 

To wrap it up a little, we never ended up getting Missy’s bag until we landed back in Denver. We shopped for “tomorrow’s outfit” nearly every day as we continued to be promised that the bag would be at our next B&B. As I reflect on it now, it’s occurring to me how insanely heroic it was not to completely loose it! But honestly, it was one of our most incredible and memorable trips. We saw, experienced, and learned so much more than we ever could have planned and we still got to see Manchester United! 

This first international trip since our honeymoon paved the way for so many future travels. In some ways we felt a new sense of invincibility: if we could survive that, we could handle anything! It also gave us a sense of unfinished business. We felt like we knew we could plan future trips better and cheaper and we wanted to test our theories. But most importantly it taught us, no matter what came our way, if we worked together as a team, gave each other the benefit of the doubt, and focused on the important things we could control, we could endure inconveniences, remain harmonious, and have an absolute blast together! 

– Kevin 

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