My Favorite Way to Turn a Failed Adventure Around

When you travel frequently, especially with small children, you are bound to have the occasional bad travel day.  It usually begins with something benign like a burnt pancake or finding out there’s no milk for your morning coffee.  (Isn’t that just the worse?)  Snarky comments are made and you get out the door an hour later than planned.  From there things head downhill fast because as we all know, the universe can’t resist tossing in a flood when it’s already raining.

Traffic pushes you even further behind schedule, the weather turns to crap, and you’re typically happy child starts wailing because the car is moving too slow.  Hunger sets in and already dangerously short fuses get even shorter.  Very few things can rescue the day when your tummy grumbles come out as growls.

Parent or not, we’ve all been there.  And it sucks.

I recently found myself in a similar situation in an attempt to visit Muir Woods.  I should have known better about the traffic –in the Bay Area it is best to assume there will ALWAYS be traffic – but I had no idea the parking situation would be so abysmal.  Alexi and I drove up and down a 3-mile stretch of road for an hour trying to find a spot with zero luck.  On the fourth pass we called it quits and kept on driving.  There was no way I was going to walk up a 3-mile hill pushing a stroller in a foul mood with a bladder ready to burst.

My need to pee outweighed everything else and Alexi mercifully pulled over at the nearest stop – Muir Beach.  Luckily there were plenty of bathroom stalls to choose from.

Peeing did nothing to improve my mood.  Isn’t it fascinating that while it’s the little things that drive us over the edge, fixing them isn’t what saves the day?  How often do we pick a fight about a dirty dish only to end up crying about disrespect and gender inequality long after it’s been washed?  My poor husband – usually the dirty dish is just that, a dirty dish and not a slight about how he’s the superior sex.  But I digress…

I’ll admit that sometimes a day simply cannot be saved and it’s in everyone’s best interest to call it quits and try another time.  But sometimes all it takes to turn things around is a camera.

You’d be amazed at how quickly things can go from total disaster to fun time when someone whips out a Nikon.  Very few people won’t fake being happy when one is pointed at them.  Seriously.  The need to look happy for pictures that might end up on Facebook is unreal and sometimes this type of crazy can work to your advantage.  Fake it ’til you make it people.

In the midst of my temper tantrum Alexi started snapping pictures.  (He kindly wants me to point out that he has a Canon, not a Nikon.  Apparently Nikon people are a bit pretentious.  Hmm… I have a Nikon that he bought me for my birthday.  Interesting…)  All those years of family holiday training kicked in and I smiled reflexively with each flash.  It didn’t take long before we were genuinely having a fun time.

And we got some great shots.  Looking at these would you guess steam blowing out of my ears 10 minutes earlier?

Muir Beach Carol and Giota

Muir Beach Carol and Sunset

Muir Beach Carol and Giota

Undeniably we lucked out that the nearest bathroom stop was a beautiful beach on the Pacific.  Don’t be fooled though, it wasn’t the locale that boosted the mood.  On the way home, Giota had 4 wet diapers which meant frequent tantrums and stops.  We figured we might as well find a restaurant but everything was closed.  Apparently nobody eats between 3 and 5 pm in California.  Honestly – there was literally nothing open.  We stopped to change a diaper in the parking lots of three restaurants and all of them were closed.

Despite the lack of scenery we whipped out the camera to pass the time until one opened.  Instant smiles all around.

Alexi and Giota


Does having a photo shoot fix every bad travel day?  No, absolutely not.  But it’s certainly worth a shot (see what I did there?) when you’re in the midst of a rough day – what’s the worst that could happen, you call it quits and head home?  You were probably going to do that anyway so you might as well toss the hail Mary first.

Next time you find yourself having a rough day on the road try smiling for the camera.  Hopefully it works for you as well as it works for me.  Either way you’ll have pictures to laugh about later – and possibly use for blackmail depending on how strong your scowl game is.

Say cheese!

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