Bad days happen no matter where you are so it’s important to remember that you may encounter a bad day while on your adventure abroad. I’m currently in Madrid, and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been redefining my original definition of “do less, leisure more.” I’ve been sleeping in, exploring the cities, writing more articles, reading more books, taking full advantage of the siesta, and partying like a real Spaniard. My biggest complaint is that I can’t find Siracha at the supermarket.
Last Saturday however, I got a nice little reminder that travelling doesn’t give you immunity to a good old fashion bout of bad luck. I was woken up around 8:00am by the maid banging on my door. I hadn’t gone to sleep until 6am the night (day?) before so I was all discombobulated and super out of it. She had to go somewhere, and I guess the family I’m staying with had just left, so I had to babysit a three year old. I was pretty hungover, so I just threw on the television and tried to relax on the couch. When his parents came home, I considered going back to sleep, but decided to start my day because it was a whooping 50 degrees outside, which basically felt like summer.
My friends were going to an American restaurant for hangover food, so I decided to meet up. The place was called Tommy Mel’s and they said it was a really easy metro off the green line. I’m off the blue, so I just had to transfer to the gray and then hop one station over to green. When I went to make my transfer, the gray line had an hour and half delay. I was super hangry at this point, so I decided to just take a taxi.
I was way too hungover to speak Spanish, so I told him the name of the restaurant and sort of dozed off. MISTAKE. He dropped me off MILES from where I was supposed to go at some other random Tommy Mel’s right outside the city. I wandered around lost for a while trying to find the green line metro before realizing what had happened.
Took another taxi and arrived about an hour and a half late.
After lunch I decided I needed to find a sandwich, so I headed to lavapies and found my familiar location. About twenty five seconds after I said hello, the cops swarmed the street, and I GTFO because I was like, not trying to be there.
I realized I was being super negative, so I was determined to change my attitude before going over to my friend’s place later that evening. I tried to focus on exactly WHY today felt like it was the end of the world when, in reality, I’ve had days way worse than this back home. I took a walk and tried to think about why it felt like today sucked worse than it really did.
5 reasons that make bad days feel worse abroad
- You are alone. Back when you’re having a horrible day you have people to talk to. You can call your mom, meet up with a friend for coffee, or make plans for later that evening. You can vent and you are always supported. Abroad it’s a bit trickier. Suddenly, you can’t just call up your parents or friends. They are probably sleeping, and I doubt they’d be amused by a middle of the night call. When you’re abroad, your bad days are only yours.
- Things are already more complicated. You’re in a new country full of different languages, unfamiliar places, and different ways to react to problems. You might find yourself wondering why everyone is so calm about an hour and a half subway delay while they are wondering why you are freaking out about it. Things are naturally more complicated because you have to factor in that you are the stranger to their home, and the things that make you crazy are just a part of their every day.
- 3. It’s harder to simplify the day. When you’re back home, sometimes the best cure for a bad day is to turn on some music and take a nap. When you’re abroad, you might feel like that’s not an option. You’re in go mode, and you have to make the day better right away. When it’s not possible it feels like one defeat after another.
- 4. You have higher expectations. You’re in another country. You are supposed to have magical days every day, be meeting new and interesting people, and having endless adventures without any set backs. It’s much harder to be patient, to wait for things to pass because you have an idea in your head about what should be happening.
- You have to battle homesickness. For me, when I have a bad day abroad, my first instinct is to crave home. So when I was having this bad day, I felt that loneliness was being maximized and there was nothing I could do…
BUT THERE WAS.
The walk alone definitely helped, and it was easier to relax and unwind from the earlier hours. Bad days are really what you make them. I was giving that day way too much power and it was affecting my mood and making the day even worse. I consciously forced myself to not try to control the day. As I did that, it started to rain. I didn’t have a jacket and I couldn’t stop laughing at the irony. I walked to the metro smiling because I knew that life was laughing back at me. It wanted me to get it, and I think I did. I’m not in control of what happens, only my reaction to what happens. Bad days happen everywhere, but stability comes from the inside, not outside. Laying on the couch that night, I went over the day in my head. I recognized the moments that wouldn’t have been bad at all if my reaction to the situation was a little different.
5 ways to turn around a day (abroad, or at home)
- Take a minute. My solo walk changed the entire day. I separated myself from all obligations people for an hour and just made my own route. My mentality went from stressed out to calm because I was able to reflect without worrying about someone waiting for me or somewhere to be.
- Embrace the alone time. It’s sort of cool to be fully independent and learn to not rely on others to get you through something.
- Halt on the pity party. You’re ____. The place doesn’t matter. You’re alive and breathing and blessed and loved. Your attitude dictates the day, and allowing yourself to wallow gives way too much power to the past.
- Live in the moment. Bad moments happen, but moments are short. If we just accept them as they come and then move on to the next, these bad times lose their power because we don’t give them time to grow in our heads. When I took the time to go on a walk alone, I wasn’t focused on what had happened anymore. Instead, I was just enjoying the walk, and then enjoying the rain.
- Laugh. This isn’t a joke. Sometimes, you just gotta laugh it off. It really does work.