Plan, Do, and Review
Updated: Jul 13
When my late ex-husband, C, and I were married, one of our family mottos was "plan, do, and review." We were ages 19 and 20 when we were married, so there was quite a learning curve. Not just with being young newlyweds, but doing life...adulting, making decisions, managing money, being college students, working, becoming parents, starting businesses, and managing our own marriage as time went on. Unfortunately, we didn't have the greatest role models for how to do life successfully, so most of the time we were winging it as we go while trying to absorb as much information as we could from various motivational, spiritual, and psychological leaders of the time. While my previous post Launch and Learn is certainly relevant and necessary in order to start something, anything, to pursue a dream or passion, there are times in which planning is a must. Even the best-laid plans flop and back to the drawing board we go.
If a plan flops, this does not mean all is lost or that you should just give up. Just the opportunity to evaluate what occurred, create a new plan, and commit to doing something different next time. Where people get stuck is in their stubbornness to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, which according to pop culture, is the definition of insanity. I don't know about you, but all it takes is for me to hit a brick wall, hard, and I'm like, yeah, no, how do I get around this MF'er.
I've learned early enough in life that brick walls hurt my head, so why try to plow through the same fortress, only to come away feeling pained and hopeless. At the same time, hitting a brick wall doesn't necessarily stop me either. I tend to step back, survey the situation, and say okay, what do I need and what has to happen for me to get around this thing?
My stubbornness is often one of the things that will drive others crazy about me. It takes a lot for me to give up altogether. I look for ways to find other alternatives around the said brick wall to make my dreams come to a reality.
On one of mine and C's first road trips together, we were young, too--I was 17 and he was 18, we decided to travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Great, right? We left at night, and what should have been a 5-6 hour trip ended up being a 12-14 hour trip. Somehow, in the middle of the night, we ended up with a flat tire near Mobile, Alabama. Back then there were no cell phones, no google, no GPS, nothing....we had to flag people down in the middle of the night for help and figure out where to go to put a new tire on the car. Who the heck is open in the middle of the night? I don't remember how we managed to find someone willing to open up his shop for us, but we did. Unfortunately, we didn't have the money to put a new tire on the car. Why were we traveling without extra funds? Because teenagers are the leaders in launching and learning first, right? We called my mom and then his mom for help to pay for a tire on our car. At this point, we were giddy with adrenaline and the chaos of it all that we were laughing. This did not amuse either of our parents. They repeatedly told us we needed to come home. But why? The tire was on our car, everything was fine, and we were halfway there. We didn't want to give up on our road trip because something unpredictable occurred. So to our parents' chagrin, back on the road we go to head toward our destination. There were other events that occurred that night that made the whole situation laughable. I think we got lost. And I think we pulled over and helped someone else who was stranded. I cannot remember, but it wasn't just one event that turned a 5-6 hour trip into double-time. There were many.
We had an amazing weekend, and I am glad we didn't turn around and give up just because we got a flat tire or just because other people couldn't understand why we would want to keep going when we ran into obstacles. What we learned from this was:
1. Make sure you have roadside assistance--something probably not available then but it certainly is now.
2. Make sure you stash extra cash and a backup credit/debit card for unpredictable events.
Since that time I have encountered a number of crazy, off the wall events that interfered, disrupted, delayed, or added cost to my travel experiences. To name a few:
1. On my and my son's first international trip, our connecting flight in Toronto was disrupted because when we landed, their airport was on fire. We had to sit on the plane for nearly three hours waiting to be deplaned. We had no idea what was going on, but google searches told us that the airport had caught on fire due to a kitchen incident. And of course, this caused us to miss our connecting flight to Amsterdam. We had to wait until morning for our next flight, making camp in the airport to sleep. It reminded me of many scenes from the TV show, The Amazing Race.
2. While in Amsterdam, we took a train to Paris for the day. Just for the day. We were warned repeatedly of pickpockets. There were signs everywhere and we were oh so cautious. But while waiting for our train back, my son and I were engaged in conversation and I was showing him something on my phone. At the moment he laid his phone down to look at mine his phone was swiped. All it took was a second and it was gone. Nowhere to be found. We missed our first train back to Amsterdam while in a mad search to find his phone. I immediately contacted Verizon and Apple who were responsive in helping lock down his phone, and clear his data, and they overnighted a new phone to us--back home. Unfortunately, he was without a phone the rest of the trip. In the chaos, when we were finally able to jump on a train back to Amsterdam, but we boarded the wrong train. When the conductors came around to check our tickets, we were scolded. We explained the situation and they patiently helped us figure out what to do next and where to get off, but we could tell they were irritated by what happened, which truly was an innocent mistake.
3. On the day we were supposed to fly back from Amsterdam to the US, our flight was canceled. Just simply--canceled. No explanation. No rebooking. We were stuck. However, the airport graciously put up stranded passengers in a nearby hotel and fed us, and kept us informed of when we would be rebooked. Our 9 am flight didn't leave until midnight that night.
4. On my first solo trip to Montreal in 2019,
I flew out of Atlanta with a connecting flight at Laguardia in New York. However, my flight out of Atlanta got stuck in the air for a couple of hours in a holding pattern circling the sky because there were storms preventing us from landing at Laguardia. When we finally landed, I, of course, missed my connecting flight which had just departed at 3:00 pm. The next available flight was 9 pm. At first, they didn't want to rebook me because they were blaming me for missing my flight. I had to repeatedly explain the situation. I waited in the airport for 6 hours and as I was waiting, the flight they rebooked me on kept changing gates. I was playing musical gates. And then it kept getting delayed, incrementally changing times from 9 pm to 11 pm. When we finally boarded, we sat on the plane for an hour, inching our way down the runway, only to be turned back around to be deplaned with no explanations, other than storms where we were headed. By that time it was midnight. Midnight. And there were no planes available. The soonest they could rebook me was 2 days later. So here I was in New York, at midnight, stranded, with no other booking available until 2 days. And no, they didn't put us up in a hotel as Schiphol did. We were on our own. So I had to figure out where to go, where to stay, and how to get around New York in the middle of the night. I searched the internet and was able to find a hostel with good reviews. After a very expensive uber drive from Queens to Manhattan, I settled into a hostel for the night. The next night I was able to secure lodging at a loft associated with the university where I graduated. These flight delays and cancellations caused my trip to be cut short in Montreal, and I had to repeatedly call the hosts of my accommodations to update them on what was happening so I didn't lose my lodging altogether. I finally made it out of New York City, but what an adventure being stranded! Fortunately, I had been to New York City before, so it wasn't too terribly shocking to make my way around.
5. The most recent, and probably craziest of all, was when I went on my 5-week spontaneous road trip in the summer of 2021 and then came home to a flooded house. How the hell does that even happen? That my house conveniently waited until no one was around to spring a leak? It was like it was mad at me for leaving.
Yet despite it all, I'm still a travel addict. I still want to go places. I still want to fly places. I still want to camp. And I am sure people think I am crazy for it. But that is where the whole motto plan, do, and review comes in. In each of these scenarios, and I really haven't given you every scenario, just the big ones, but in every scenario, I have learned something new to add to my list of things to do when I leave town on a road trip or fly.
When you book a trip, it really is best to book about 10 days. If you are lucky enough to not have any flight delays, great, then you have a full 10-day trip to enjoy. But you have to factor in the possibility that flight delays, cancellations, and the uncertainty of rebooking exists. Having a 10-day time frame at least gives you enough time to account for those uncertain circumstances so you can still enjoy a trip you paid good money for. Because my trip to Montreal was only about 6 days, I only had about 3-4 days to really explore Montreal.
Purchase travel insurance. It's really not much and it will help you cover the extra costs of flight cancellations or delays that happen that leave you stranded causing you to spend money that you didn't think you were going to have to spend. Because I had travel insurance, the extra costs I spent for my flight cancellation and being stranded in NYC were covered.
When there are flight cancellations in Europe, there are legal protections. I was able to take advantage of this opportunity and get money back from that experience. I didn't realize this was a thing until I was emailed about it by an attorney firm, and while their firm took a percentage, it was still worth it to me to get money back, especially when I didn't realize that was a resource that was available.
Keep your valuables secured on your person at all times. No matter how safe you think you are, populated areas like metro stations are high-risk areas for pickpockets. Don't lay your phone down. Keep your purse or backpack straps on you. If your phone is stolen, contact your carrier immediately and they will walk you through the process. Our phones were only a month old at that point, so they were brand new, but we did have insurance on them. They overnighted a brand new phone, although we had to pay 200$ for it. And if you need an item replaced, especially a technology item, in the meantime, find a thrift store or pawn shop. We found a cool technology thrift store in Amsterdam and opted to purchase an IPad that I still use today. This allowed us to at least communicate via wifi and something we could keep long-term and find other uses for.
And one thing I cannot stress enough: If you go out of town for any length of time, turn your main water supply off. Make sure there are no running toilets. Make sure your ice maker is off. Anything that produces water needs to be checked before you leave. Maybe get water alarms or cameras in your house so that you can check on your house while you are away. Get a house sitter to stay in your house or visit daily, even if you don't have pets. I know it seems like overkill, and if you have never had anything catastrophic happen, you might think it's crazy to think this way, but all it takes is one little line to come loose and your house is flooded in the same way a natural disaster might flood it. It's not worth it. So at the very least, just turn your water off.
I hope these tips help someone to get around the brick walls of traveling. Yes, unpredictable events can and do occur, but the beauty of seeing the world and having amazing experiences is worth the extra steps. Plan your trip. Do your trip. But then Review it and determine what is something new that you learned that you can add to your trip planning next time.
What are some experiences you have had while traveling that either scared you from
traveling again or that you learned from and simply logged that information for next time?