Headed out for a late night of Washington D.C. clubbing, you’re well dressed in a short skirt and fancy new shoes. Suddenly appears a young, out of breath woman with a 35 pound Gregory backpack, hat on her head and fanny pack on her… err… fanny. She’s running frantically up the metro stairs, circles a couple blocks looking desperate, then discouraged, and finally defeated.

That was the scene Friday night outside the Chintatown metro stop, with all eyes staring at this sad image of me.

People gathering on the platform of the unmoving red line of the D.C. Metro.

I missed my Megabus from DC to Knoxville. Starting out at 9:45 PM for an 11 PM bus, I technically had plenty of time. Previously traveling on the 11 PM D.C. Megabus to Knoxville in August, I knew what to expect. Unfortunately this time around the D.C. metro had work and after sitting in a metro car for 30 minutes I realized a cab was my only option to make my bus. Hopping out of the metro car, I ran up the ascending and seemingly never ending escalator only to discover I was cashless. My heart sank. “There’s bound to be a cash machine around here,” I thought. But I thought wrong. After uncomfortably jog-walking four blocks I am beaten. At 10:50 PM only a miracle could get me to the Union Station on time.

Anger, annoyance, and resolve took over my pumping adrenaline. I left with plenty of time! And now I wasted money on a ticket, trekked miles with a heavy backpack, and will have stood-up my awesome couch-surfing hosts I intended to stay with in Knoxville.

I’ve always prided myself on traveling well. Living in Peru, then later Indonesia, I’ve learned to adapt to cultures that truly don’t make plans, or at least change plans more often than carry them through. Experiences of my youth also formed me into a flexible and (sometimes) laid-back person.

At age 17 I flew to Hungary to meet my older sister who was studying abroad. With Eurorail passes we traveled through five European countries and ran around picturesque cities with friendly acquaintances we’d meet randomly. To say this experience was formative on the woman I became would be an understatement. The thrill of independent travel and autonomy became my drug of choice. So far I haven’t kicked the habit.

Upon returning from this trip I had a horrendous time flying back to the U.S. I ended up spending over 50 hours in transit, sleeping in airports with greasy hair and smelly clothes. That wasn’t fun, but it did give me a taste of the unpleasantries of travel. Through similar experiences on later ventures I came to expect travel to include discouraging layovers, which in return created a relaxed traveler.

That is, until DC. This mishap was particularly discouraging.  I’m not a planner, yet I had actually planned this portion of my trip. How could it not go smoothly?

Although I’m not always an optimistic soul, I tend to live by the motto that tomorrow is always another day and there’s no reason to let something beat you down when it’s out of your control. And seeing as this incident kicked off my 60 day Greyhound voyage I thought it appropriate to learn some lessons from it. Perhaps these lessons can assist all travelers who at one time or another have had a failed plan:

  1. Know about public transportation delays in unknown cities and plan your trip accordingly. Allow even extra time rather than the “right” amount.
  2. If something doesn’t seem to be working out, don’t wait around for it to work out. Change your plan of action.
  3. Always, and I mean always, carry cash on you. You never know when you’ll need it.
  4. Don’t fill up your 48 ounce Nalgene until you’re at the station. There’s no reason to carry around that extra weight.
  5. Make the best out of delays. Contact those people you didn’t get to see (something I didn’t do, but really wish I had), or check out that used book store you missed the first time around.

As my mother said, “Who knows; maybe it is all for the best. One never does know.” So the next time you’re in that place of travel plan defeat, let the anger come, take a couple deep breaths, then drink a beer, recreate the situation and intentionally put the anger abate. Tomorrow is another day.