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Travel plans were made, bags were packed and the ski trip finally arrived. We boarded the connection flight in the busy Atlanta hub, flew across the country and the excitement built as the landscape view from the small window shifted. The flat patterned western plains were interrupted by the jagged snow capped Rocky Mountains. The thrill increased as the plane touched down on the Aspen runway at noon on Saturday. We were ready to be on the ski lift breathing in the fresh cold mountain air. As the plane neared the gate, the phone was taken off airplane mode, that’s when it happened. A text message appeared, “We are sorry, your bag did not arrive as intended…” What?!?!

We quickly made our way to the baggage office. The baggage representative reassured us there was nothing to worry about. The four bags were re-routed and would arrive later that afternoon or at the latest after dinner, and would be delivered to the hotel. We shrugged this off and placed our trust in the agent and decided we’d go with the flow by exploring downtown Aspen. We opted for a more casual dinner, considering we were still in our comfortable traveling clothes. 

Around 7pm a text arrived indicating a bag had arrived at the hotel. Surely, all four bags have arrived? When we arrived back in the room, our hopes were dashed as one solitary bag was placed inside the door. We went online and also called the airline. We received the same first answer – your bag arrived! True, but what about the other three. “Well…” It seemed the airline’s expectation has been met as a bag arrived. Seems there was a delta of difference from our  perspective, our expectations were far from met – we were missing three bags. Making matters worse, they “think our remaining bags are in Salt Lake City”, but really aren’t sure because they weren’t scanned leaving Atlanta.

Almost all of the ski apparel was in those bags. Far more importantly, one missing bag included all my girlfriend’s makeup, products, and undergarments. Uh-oh, this was not a good situation. I have traveled a good bit and have little problem with washing my undershirts, socks, and underwear in the sink. However, she does not share this same sense of adventure nor the level of cleanliness which can be achieved through hand washing in the sink with hotel shampoo. Totally understandable. We called it a day, hoping things would be better in the morning.

Immediately after waking up, the airline was called, hoping there was new information. James, the agent on the phone told me the computer indicated that the bags had arrived in Aspen overnight and should be delivered shortly. Whew! We decided not to wait for the delivery service, and Ubered to the airport to claim our bags. We arrived at the airport, no bags. Seems James may have wanted to get me off the phone. Being hundreds of miles away in fresh clean clothes may have emboldened him to exaggerate our bags location? The baggage agent we were now standing in front of, could not tell us where our bags were located but assured us they would arrive sometime that day. 

We headed back to downtown to buy necessary clothes, we tried to employ the airline’s not so useful advise that they “may reimburse reasonable expenses” but couldn’t clarify what that meant, only that they would make the decision in the claims process. Hmm. Well, the dilemma became more challenging as there were no “reasonably” priced stores, actually boutiques, in Aspen, nor within an hour’s drive. For instance, the cheapest jeans found were $275, which we decided probably were not “reasonable”. Ultimately, we found a few limited basics and headed back to the hotel. By that time, we’d spent almost the whole day talking to the airline, going to the airport, finding open stores on a Sunday, and trying diligently to locate “reasonably” priced necessary replacements for an uncertain  time period which, the airline could not clarify.

Needless to say, the frustration had built and the time came to blow off the steam. Unfortunately, this was being taken out on each other. Why? Well, that’s the way relationships work sometimes, take it out on the one closest to you. After venting strongly, we talked  ourselves down. We had to make a decision: continue to stay angry or view it as a true venture. After all, we had planned this trip for some weeks, we were in the beautiful mountains with perfect powder. It was time to take several deep breathes with long exhales and make the absolute best of the situation. We made the decision to enjoy the day and be grateful for where we were and what we did have. We also agreed we’d probably laugh about the challenges in a few weeks. We found a guy who rented ski apparel out of a van, who conveniently met us at the hotel. We then rented the ski equipment, choosing to enjoy the venture. 

The bags finally arrived around 10pm Sunday night. Baggage crisis averted.

This blog is not about venting on the airline’s baggage fail, though that would be “reasonable”. This blog is about how travel, and life for that matter, are unpredictable. Challenges will inevitably arise, some more problematic that others. At times, in the heat of the moment, they may appear larger than they really are. Here are a few suggestions when things don’t go quite as expected:

  1. Pack key essential items which are required in the first 36-48 hours of a trip in your carry-on luggage. Narrow down to the items which can’t be easily replaced or aren’t readily available in stores nearby where you are staying
  2. Do all you can to get information. Any information you can gather helps to devise an initial short-term plan. In this case, the information provided was inaccurate, but it at least allowed us to move forward
  3. Vent in productive way. Find a constructive way to vent the feelings, but don’t make it personal to your spouse, family, partner, friend or whoever is with you. Make sure you both, are releasing frustration about the situation, not frustration at the other person.
  4. Take several deep breathes with long exhales. These simple breathes and long exhales helps to calm your mind, letting your brain know there is no need for emotional arousal.
  5. Set the right attitude and remind yourself the reason for the trip. Was the trip to ski, enjoy the mountains and each other? Then go skiing, enjoy the mountains and each other. It sounds simple, but a good reminder of the reason for the venture can be reassuring. A positive attitude will make a gigantic difference. This can’t be stressed enough.
  6. Laugh later. Many times, the challenges become the best part of the trip and the story you share with your friends. The storyline is what turns a trip into a venture. Think about your favorite travel stories, they typically include challenges and/or obstacle which were unexpected and overcome.

“Find your Venture”, even when the venture finds you.

Gary Gresham

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