March 7, 2014

How we react to different types of travel

I've traveled in foreign countries in rickshaws, blistering hot trains with no air conditioning and hard seats, rickety buses that should be rotting in a junkyard, and even by camel (sort of).  I took all of these in stride, and even enjoyed them.  Well, except for the camel.

Transportation of champions
So why is it that I can spend hours on a slow-moving train beyond drenched in a puddle of my own sweat and not mind it when I'm far from home, but put me in a nice car with leather seats, butt warmers, climate control, and absolute authority over what blasts from the speakers to go to work every day, and I erupt in fits of rage?  Why do we hate our every day travel that can often be far more comfortable than the travel we engage in elsewhere for kicks and giggles?

I know that in some other countries, the lack of some comforts I'm used to while traveling is simply normal.  I can deal with it when I'm there.  But if I hit traffic in my car or I end up in a metro train car that is freezing cold, I'm livid.  My expectations are higher.  Sure, I'll share a tiny ferry boat that I waited 45 minutes for with a basket full of geese.  That's awesome.  But cut me off in downtown DC so that I get stuck at a red light?  I will curse your existence until I reach my destination, and then I'll probably just keep cursing you.

I'm sure I'm not alone here.  How many people hate their daily commute?  Plenty.  That's how we got all this road rage.  But how many people also simply chose to enjoy their journey when they're traveling freely and of their own choice?  Well, if your travel plans get royally screwed up, yeah, you're going to hate that.  But just the normal process of getting around your destination of choice?  How bad does it normally seem?  Probably not bad at all.  It's an experience!

Now one could argue that part of this difference may be due to the method of transport - namely driving to work every day versus using different forms of public transportation when traveling.  I won't count that out.  But I do know that I can get beyond disgusted when I take the bus or the metro around DC, and I've also done some driving while traveling where I've had a blast.

I've been thinking of these differences a good bit recently, and I'd like to try to start remembering my traveling mindset on my daily commute.  I usually drive to work, and I'd like to remind myself of all the advantages and opportunities that this commute gives me.  I have a comfortable, reliable car that has butt warmers.  God, I love those butt warmers. But best of all, my daily drive affords me some amazing sights every single day - the U.S. Capitol building, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Pentagon, and the Air Force Memorial.  I also drive over the Potomac River, and if I'm stuck in traffic on the bridge, I can take a moment to enjoy some pretty gorgeous views.

I'd really like to make this mindset stick.  I'll try it today.  I'll probably measure it by how many people I curse from the confines of my car.  But if I can take a moment to enjoy the great sights I pass every day and remember that I am neither on a camel's hump nor sharing my ride with a flock of geese, I'll consider that a good start.


  1. I used to get rabidly mad at the other stupid drivers around me (because I *am* better than average, right?). Then, I read the article by James Altucher about saying "not useful," and it truly changed my attitude. Every time I get annoyed, I simply say to myself "not useful" until I calm down. It works like a charm, except when I forget to use it.

    Here's the article:

    1. But of course you're better than average. I am, too, right? And I forget James Altucher exists. I should get back into his stuff. He's right, screaming obscenities at another driver doesn't accomplish anything. But it does feel kind of nice for a split second....

  2. I suppose one's TSQ (Travel Serenity Quotient) comes down to control and expectation. When you're traveling for pleasure, you cede control to the airplane pilot, the bus driver, and the camel. You never expected to control the trip, so it's hard to feel annoyed when things don't go exactly as you wish. The camel will go where he wants.

    But when at home we expect to be comfortable, to control the time it takes to get to work. We are, after all, in control. When other drivers cut us off, when the butt warmer fails to heat up, then we feel frustrated. We are supposed to be in control. We are choreographing this commute. Here is some dodo turning right from the left lane causing the performance to come to a screeching halt. I could murder that idiot!