Independent solo travel is rad, like I said. Like everything, though, it’s got its ups and downs. I think low morale moments are the worst of the downs. You know what I mean – those times of struggle that, because they are bookended by awesomely exciting travel adventures, seem much more demoralizing than normal. The downswing is emphasized by the fact that you are On Vacation and if you’re not having fun every single second you feel like you’re doing it wrong. Not to mention that every time something doesn’t work out, you’re haunted by the nagging spectre of What You Should Have Done Instead.
When you’re traveling alone there’s no one to share your misery or cheer you up. You’re stuck with your own company and unless you’re good at dealing with these moments, you’re not going to enjoy being around yourself. As a fairly veteran solo adventure traveler, I have noticed that Low Morale Moments come with some regularity, usually after I’ve done something totally rad and, true to my “if a little is good, more is better” ethos, I’ve pushed the boundaries a little too much and ended up suffering. However, I’ve learned to cope with these inevitable downswings while traveling. Here are my tips when you find yourself having a pity party on your travels:
1. Drink. Seriously! You’re on vacation. Find a beautiful spot overlooking the glowing sunset waters and have a few drinks. Or, crouch in a dingy hidden corner with a view of the open sewage lagoon and make a drinking game out of predicting the number and style of honey buckets to be emptied. It will seem better after a few drinks, I promise.
2. Make a list. I love to beat myself up for doing things wrong, forgetting stuff, or making dumb decisions. Sometimes I make lists of these things to remind myself not to do it again. But I don’t want you to do that – no! That’s for professional self-flagellators like me. Instead, make a list of everything you did that was right, lucky, or just super cool. I have started doing this myself, immediately following the creation of the “fail list” and I’ve found that my list of plusses is always way longer than the minus list, and yours will be too. You’re an adventurer! Of course it will.
3. Go to sleep. Sometimes a reset is the best medicine. Have your drinks, make your list, then go to sleep. It will be better in the morning.
4. Embrace your circumstances. One of the big reasons for Low Morale Moments is that something didn’t meet our expectations. We planned out a trip and it didn’t go the way we wanted or the weather sucked or the drinks we were counting on to boost our spirits tasted like frog slime soaked in gasoline. If you’re an adventure traveler, chances are you’re in a new place (give yourself a plus one!) so you really didn’t know how it would be. Well, now you know, so enjoy it for what it turned out to be.
5. Make a plan. Ah, my favorite – action! Now listen. There’s really not anything we have much control over besides ourselves. In our familiar environments, we think we have control over stuff, but it’s an illusion. We just know our home bases well enough to have a good grasp of the alternatives at any given time. In an alien place, we’re back to square one when plans don’t work out, and we’ve got to figure it out from the beginning all over again. But that’s all right, it gives us something to do. Figure out what you don’t like about your situation and make a plan that might be better. Might! Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not better. You tried (plus one!) and you took action (plus another one!), call it a win.
If none of these ideas worked, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe flash someone? Making people smile is a good bet for lifting your spirits, and flashing always makes people smile. Phone a friend? Phone home? Hell, GO home if you want. It’s your adventure, you’re in control (no you’re not, see #5). But seriously, it’s a Low Morale Moment. It’s just a moment! Even if it’s really dire and it’s an entire Low Morale Day, it’s just a day. It might suck now but it will be over soon enough and will probably make a great story.