West Coast

How to Cope When Nothing Goes to Plan

I’ll be the first to say I’m not always the most easygoing person. I’m definitely laid back, but I take my traveling seriously, and if I don’t get to do what I planned, I get a bit antsy.


Last week my boyfriend and I got back from California after a long weekend. Our plan was to tour San Francisco for a day, drive down the coast via Highway 1 another day, and visit San Diego on the last. We had everything planned to the hour. Point Reyes National Seashore, Alcatraz, San Diego Zoo–you name it, we thought of it.

Our excitement came to a slow, steady end when one thing after another went wrong: a delayed flight, traffic, chatty host, closed roadways, and more. Nothing seemed to go right during this California nightmare, but we still managed to enjoy our trip.

Despite the frustrations, I look back on that weekend and laugh. If it’s taught us anything, it’s that we’re right for each other. We took everything thrown at us in stride and we still love each other at the end of it all.

Here’s how we managed to love the disastrous weekend regardless of bumps in the road:

Lombard Street, San Francisco

We (ahem, I) planned for it.

Before leaving for our trip, we had a list of everything we wanted to see, how we would get there, what time we’d get there, and what time we’d leave. With such a short amount of time in an area with so much to do, you should have some sort of schedule.

As much as I didn’t want to divert from our plan, I knew I needed to prepare in case things went wrong. I had some idea of where everything was in relation to one another, and I made sure to plan alternate routes in case things weren’t going smoothly. We didn’t want to miss too much, so we only skipped one thing on our list from San Francisco: the Painted Ladies.

Point Reyes National Seashore

We embraced it.

We scurried from spot to spot, taking it all in as we went. We weren’t seeing Point Reyes National Seashore in broad daylight, but we caught a glimpse of the national park in the haze just before sunset. We took photos along our drive through the park and studied the views we couldn’t quite capture on camera.

When everything feels like it’s falling apart, the worst thing to do is complain. Being bummed about the things you’re missing only ruins the things you’re seeing. Take a breath and take your trip for everything that it is: you’re exploring a world that’s so far from your own. Roll with the punches and you may stumble upon something you never would have found on your internet searches.

The longer you hold on to everything that didn’t go according to plan, the more likely you are to forget the good parts of your trip.

We moved past it.

The key is to quickly forget about whatever went wrong. Don’t just forget for a few minutes or while you’re looking at something else, really forget. There’s nothing you can do to go back in time and change what happened. You can’t make the flight take off on time or make the rental car manager move quicker, so let it go.

The longer you hold on to everything that didn’t go according to plan, the more likely you are to forget the good parts of your trip: the laughs you had along the way; the views you saw while sitting in traffic; or even the hole-in-the-wall restaurant you never would have seen if you took the originally planned route.

Oceanside, California

We learned from it.

As much as you don’t want to admit it, you all know there’s a chance your trips won’t go exactly as planned. You can conduct hours of research until you feel like you have it all figured out, but there is always a chance that it will all fall apart.

Let it be a lesson to all: make a backup plan. There should always be a list of “must sees” as well as a list of “interested, but not necessary.” If you can get to it all, great! If not, you’ll already know which places you’re okay with missing and which you absolutely have to make time for. It might take some more time in the planning phase, but it could ultimately save you a lot of stress once you’re there.

San Diego Zoo

We laughed about it.

When we’re asked about our trip now, you won’t hear us complain about it. Of course, we’re bummed to have missed the Big Sur, but we know we’ll be back.

That’s not to say we didn’t get cranky throughout the trip. We were exhausted, hungry, and missing some of the highlights we didn’t want to miss. We know we can look back on the trip and laugh about the not-so-great things while reminiscing about our favorite parts. We saw migrating humpback whales (totally by accident, not on a whale watching tour!), spent hours getting lost in the San Diego Zoo (thanks to San Diego Tourism Authority), and wandered around one of the most beautiful states in the country.

When all is said and done, you can’t really ask for anything more than that.

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