Over the past few years, I’ve learned and relearned a very important lesson: you can’t always control your situation, but you can always control your attitude. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that we usually don’t have control over the situations in our lives, if we think we have control over a situation, we probably have control over one element of that situation, not the situation as a whole.
Back to the point. There are situations in our lives when we can choose to wallow in self-pity, let our anger fester, or make the decision to be happy and look on the bright side.

The first example of this comes from my trip to Thailand last September. (Wow, huge shocker, she’s using another travel story. Yeah, I know. I can’t promise that I’ll ever stop talking about traveling. Sorry if it’s getting old. Actually no, I’m not sorry. #sorrynotsorry.)
Anyway, we were a few days into our trip through Thailand, and our plans for the night were to stay in floating bungalows in Khao Sok National Park.

Our home for the night in Khao Sok.

Our home for the night in Khao Sok.

It was a really incredible experience, but I’m jumping ahead a bit. At this point, a half-hour boat trip stood between us and the floating bungalows. This requires some explaining: our boat was nothing fancy, it had maybe five or six benches that sat three across and was covered with a very weathered tarp; it served the purpose of ferrying guests from the docks to their accommodations on the lake. We set out from the docks, and within twenty minutes, what had started as a partly cloudy day ended up looking like something like this:IMG_1629I LOVE extreme weather so at first I thought it was pretty cool, but pretty soon, the combination of pouring rain and incessant wind made for some cold, unhappy campers. I was still enjoying the experience until I realized that the deluge was soaking my backpack, and although I had tied my DSLR in a grocery bag and buried it deep (or what I thought was deep) inside my luggage, I feared for its safety.  I did my best to keep my backpack dry, but when rain is barraging you from every angle and water is pooling in the bottom of the boat, that’s a difficult task. At this point, I was just grateful that I had left most of my other electronics behind. Long story short, the above photo was one of the last ones taken by that camera. Fortunately my memory card was water-resistant, so all my pictures were undamaged, but the same couldn’t be said for the camera.
It’s probably obvious that at this point that I was pretty bummed out; I had saved for a long time for that camera, and although I’d had it for nearly three years and had used it to take thousands of pictures, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I was faced with a decision at this point, I could mope about losing my camera and be a Debbie Downer for the rest of the trip, or I could use my old, dented, little point-and-shoot, which somehow worked despite having a cracked screen and having been subject to the same conditions, and enjoy the rest of the trip. It was difficult, but ultimately relieving to choose to enjoy the rest of the trip, rather than dwelling on the loss of a material possession.

Well, that’s not hard, right? Right. I had travel insurance, and at that point I still thought my camera was covered, (which it wasn’t. Thanks Allianz.) I like to think that this was just a warm-up for what was to come in New Zealand.

It’s necessary to make another side note here: I’ve been dreaming of visiting New Zealand since my obsession with Lord of the Rings began, which was nearly a decade ago. I’ve read the books, seen the movies (extended editions, of course) hundreds of times, and watched all the bonus footage, behind the scenes stuff, and commentaries. I may have had a problem, but that’s beside the point; traveling to New Zealand was a dream come true for me.
After our finals, three of my friends and I embarked on our long-anticipated trip to the north island, home of Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in the films) and more importantly, the Hobbiton movie set. Needless to say, I was more than a little excited. Our first day went according to plan, we had a rather relaxed day exploring Auckland, with a lot of walking and sightseeing. The second day began with the four of us walking from our hostel to a car rental place, where we picked up the small, white, hatchback that was to be our transportation for the rest of the trip. We drove a bit out of Auckland to see the famous black sand beaches, which were beautiful, and then after getting groceries and some much-needed coffee, we decided to visit a monument called One Tree Hill. Honestly, after what happened next, I don’t even remember why it was important.

This was where we parked. Note the sheep everywhere. It seemed very safe.

This was where we parked. There were sheep everywhere.


One Tree Hill from where we parked.

I feel like I go into unnecessary detail every time I tell this story, so I’ll skip over the details for brevity’s sake. We walked up to the summit of the hill, where the monument itself stood, and spent a good ten minutes or so taking pictures before a surprisingly sudden and also surprisingly brief rainstorm sent us running down the hill to the shelter of our car. When we got to our car, we discovered this:


My initial response: “Crap, we’re gonna have to pay for that.”

The broken glass was the least of our concerns; there should be three backpacks in this picture.

The broken glass was the least of our concerns; there should be three backpacks in this picture.

After a few moments of panic and several pricy phone calls from the only remaining, and fortunately internationally enabled iPhone, we made a list of what was missing. The list consisted of three iPhones, two iPads, a MacBook Pro, a telephoto lens, my wallet, and two passports. Another side note:  this happened on Thanksgiving, so the embassy was closed; we had called the police and the car rental company, but as far as the biggest issue, the passports, there was nothing more we could do that day.
The events of that day left us all emotionally drained and defeated. I vividly remember sitting in a Wedny’s in Auckland, dipping my fries in my frosty, praying that I would eventually make it back to the states, and wondering what the heck we were going to do. After a good deal of silent, defeated stress-eating, one of my friends pointed out that everything that had been stolen could be replaced, no real damage had been done, and nobody had been hurt. In any other situation, I would have considered the following conversation incredibly cheesy, but  we sat there talking about what we were thankful for. What stuck with me was: “Well, at least this sets the bar pretty high for the worst Thanksgiving ever.” and “At least this didn’t happen in Thailand.” That conversation set the tone for the rest of the trip. With a little rescheduling, we were able to fit in almost all of our planned sightseeing and activities, and the next day we got our passports and continued on our way. We accepted the fact that our belongings were gone, but didn’t let it affect the rest of our trip. There was no way I was gonna let some jerk ruin my Hobbiton experience (which was awesome, by the way.)

Bag End of Bagshot Row.

Bag End of Bagshot Row.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s easy to look on the bright side and embrace a positive attitude, or that I’m always able to simply choose happiness regardless of my situations. I also understand that there are circumstances in which having a positive attitude is incredibly difficult. What I’m saying is this: next time you find yourself wallowing in self-pity or getting irrationally angry, just think about how it’s affecting you and try to approach it differntly.
Or try getting a snack, I know I get pretty cranky when I’m hungry.

Just an aside about what happened in New Zealand: I could not believe how kind and apologetic people were when they heard about what happened. One woman, after overhearing one of my friends talking on the phone to his parents, offered us free accommodation for two nights and was absolutely wonderful to us. Despite the robbery, we had an incredible time there and I would go back in a heartbeat.


The Woman on the Plane

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past few years, and especially during my time abroad, it’s that complaining accomplishes nothing. No amount of whining will change crappy weather, lower horrendously high prices, or get you more leg room on an Air Asia flight. I fully came to this realization after I was caught in a sudden and intense rainstorm that destroyed my DSLR camera, and was forced with the decision of whining about it and letting it ruin my trip, or choosing to enjoy the rest of my time in the country despite what had happened. (That actually ties in quite well with an entirely separate blog post that’s been rattling around my head for a couple days, so more on that later.)

I had spent the previous four days in Cairns, a city in Queensland, Australia, about the size of Syracuse that is best known for its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. In those four days, I had gone scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, held a koala, pet a kangaroo, jumped out of a plane at 15,000ft, and was able to check four items off my bucket list in as many days.
I will now take this opportunity to share pictures of my trip:


Feeding a wallaby


Scuba diving. (I’m in the center)


Trying not to vomit or cry.


The most terrifying moment of my life and seriously regretting every decision that led up to this moment.

No longer regretting all my decisions leading up to this moment.

No longer regretting all my decisions leading up to this moment.

Anyway, on to the main point; a story I fondly refer to as “The Woman on the Plane.”
Despite what the title implies, and despite the fact that I was stuck in the middle seat (because who’s gonna pay the extra $10 to choose their seat? Not this girl) I had an uneventful flight back to Sydney. Weather in Cairns had caused a bit of a delay in departure, but we made the trip in the allotted three hours and landed maybe twenty minutes after the initial 8:00pm arrival time.  To my surprise, it was raining pretty heavily when we arrived in Sydney, which had apparently caused a delay of sorts.

This is also where the story gets interesting.
After our flight landed and we had been waiting on the tarmac for only a few minutes, one of the flight attendants got on the PA system and announced that due to weather related delays, three flights in front of us were still waiting to unload and that we would have to wait roughly 20 minutes for a bay. This, of course, was followed by the typical “please keep your tray tables fastened and keep your seats in the upright position.” I’m still not sure if they expect anyone to follow that rule, I’m guessing they’re just legally obligated to say it. Anyway, before I could even grab my book and make myself comfortable, the woman next to me, who had been nothing short of amiable the entire trip had a sudden change of demeanor, sighed VERY audibly, pushed the button on the side of her chair, and forced it into the reclined position with an exclamation of “Well that’s bull****!” and continued to complain loudly to her husband, who was sitting across the aisle from her. Now is a good time to note that we were close enough to the front of the plane that the flight attendants could clearly overhear everything this woman was saying. After maybe fifteen minutes of waiting (reminder that our wait was estimated to be 20 minutes) the woman shouted to the front: “HEY! How about an update!? I’m sick of sitting here like a bunch of IDIOTS!” A young man, roughly my age, turned around a very politely informed her that it was likely our situation had not changed, and that he was sure we would be updated as soon as the captain received any information on the situation. That only irritated her further and she turned to her husband with: “Why are Australians so f***ing passive?! And why do you never take my side on things? You’re just sitting there doing nothing!” Her poor husband responded with a rather unenthusiastic “Yeah! Tell us what’s going on….”

Long story short, we ended up sitting there for another hour and a half, as other flights were connecting or for whatever reason, had a more dire need to unload their passengers.  Due to this woman’s incessant prattling, I couldn’t concentrate on my book, and even if I had to be able to, it was much more entertaining to listen to her lose her mind.  I can’t remember the precise order of events, but I’m going to try to highlight the most memorable parts. The sentences: “we’re just sitting here like a bunch of IDIOTS”, “I just want to know what’s going on”,  and “this is terrible customer service, I PAID for this flight” were uttered probably half a dozen times each. Towards the end of our wait, it had devolved into complaining that she wasn’t going to make it to the grocery store and engaging in ridiculous hypotheticals, such as: “What if we had someone picking us up? They would just be waiting there. They would have been waiting for us for two hours. TWO HOURS. And what would we tell them?! WE don’t even know what’s going on!” After the flight attendants began to ignore her complains, she repeatedly jabbed the button that calls for the flight attendants, and when that was ignored, there was some “What if something was seriously wrong? I could be hurt! I could be dying. Are they really gonna ignore that?! What if something had happened to me!?!” At this point, I think it’s safe to say that everyone on the flight had wished something had happened to her.
Eventually, around 10:30PM, our flight docked, and to no surprise of mine, she was the first one standing, wrestling her luggage out of the overhead bin.
It was at this point that I did something incredibly out of character. Knowing I would never see this woman again, as the line began to move, I turned to her and said “Oh look, all your complaining got us a bay” and gave her the coldest stare I could muster (which wasn’t hard, apparently my tired face looks angry to begin with.) For a brief moment, I thought she was going to slap me, but she turned to her husband and loudly complained about how “kids these days are so f***ing disrespectful!” Her blood pressure must have been through the roof by the end of that wait; I can only imagine how fun she is when otherwise inconvenienced.

I feel like I should wrap this up nicely with a summary or a lesson about negativity and complaining, but I’ll just leave it at this: don’t be the woman on the plane.