The Obstacle is the Way

“It’s always good to start your trip with some issues… it means later it will improve”. I loved this advice from a friend yesterday when my first day of indefinite travel went from one cock up to another. It also helped me to remember the famous words of Marcus Aurelius- that the obstacle is the way, and try to figure out what I might learn from the situation.

So what went wrong?

To start with I had vastly overestimated my minimalist packing and underestimated the size of my carry on bag. 80€ later I was happy the airline staff comprised with me to halve the cost of the fee.

Next, my flight was delayed an hour for technical reasons, so I missed my connecting fight to Lithuania. Even though I had booked a through fare there was not much the airline could do as they had no more flights that day. Instead they put me on another airline’s flight via Riga, 8 hours later. This meant I didn’t get to my hostel until after 1am. I’d left home at 8.30am for what could have been a 90min direct flight.

There were also a few minor annoyances along the way, like paying for a locker to store my bag when check in was already open. Throwing out some liquids because I thought it was only Heathrow that were particular about everything fitting into a small sealable bag.

The point of this post is not to complain but to share some less exciting aspects of travel, so that you’re aware that things regularly go wrong and that in fact this is one of the best parts of travel- learning to deal with unexpected issues.

What did I learn from the day?

  • Less is always more. And then some
  • If in doubt, always book checked luggage
  • Book direct flights if possible, even if it costs more (within reason)
  • When given two not so great options spend a moment weighing up the pros and cons, then decide and stick with your decision- no regrets
  • There’s no point in getting worked up about problems that arise when traveling. Do your best to get a fair and comfortable outcome then accept any cost or time lost
  • Make sure you have budgeted for fk ups so that this is not a huge budget breaking, stressful experience
  • Even though it sometimes seems like staff are not helpful or doing all they can, often they are. There’s a difference between nicely telling staff you are not happy with a situation and asking for a better solution, rather than being aggressive, rude or unreasonable. I saw others behave like this yesterday and the only thing it achieved was taking longer to get the same result that I did. And everyone was a lot less happy about it
  • Always bring a book and writing material to entertain you on unexpected delays
  • If you are delayed over 6 hours ask for meal vouchers (I got free lunch and dinner) and if you have to fly the next day the airline should put you up in a hotel
  • Spend the time productively doing things you haven’t had a chance to do or have put off- I read, wrote and sorted out some of the extra stuff I brought with me
  • Look for positives and be grateful- I got an opportunity to use up some Swedish money I had and if I wanted to I could have gone into Stockholm to explore another city
  • View it as an opportunity to practice acceptance of difficult situations a calm mentality


What’s the worst unexpected thing that happened to you whilst travelling? How did you deal with it?