I recently looked at my calendar and couldn’t believe it is August. I will be studying in Strasbourg, France for the upcoming fall semester and the anticipation of leaving stirs up many conflicting emotions. I am excited to embark on this adventure with several of my closest friends but also anxious at the thought of living in a foreign country for four months. In an attempt to ease my worries I began journaling things to pack, possible trips to take while in Europe, and my goals for the upcoming semester. I noticed that my expectations for the trip were quite high considering I haven’t even boarded the plane yet!
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and realized that when I really got down to it, my number one goal for this experience is to be happy. I am not going to be able to anticipate every possible problem or sticky situation. I may forget to pack something, get lost while traveling, or get homesick but, at the end of the day being flexible and going with the flow will be the best way to achieve happiness abroad.
This approach is not only applicable when traveling but in all aspects of life. Our society often puts a lot of emphasis on being in control. While making smart decisions and planning ahead can be useful tools, things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes there is an unexpected extra guest at your dinner party or major construction on your way to work. We are often faced with situations we cannot control but how we react to these situations is within our control.
So, the question is, what do you do when things don’t go according to plan? I find it is often helpful to first take several deep breaths; this relaxes the body and the mind and allows you to think more clearly. Then, I try to focus on the facts. If I forgot to pack something, can I find it in France? If there’s construction on the way to work, can I take an alternate route? If I’m homesick, will the feelings pass? The answer to all of these questions is yes. Even when things don’t go the way you thought they would there is always a choice to freak out or be flexible. I hope that the next time you or I are faced with a change of plans we choose to take a deep breath and go with the flow and, who knows, the outcome may be better that we expected.
Claire is a Bachelor's level summer intern at The Awakening Center. She co-leads the Tuesday night ANAD support group.