I had one of those nightmare travel situations recently. My husband and I were sitting on the Piccadilly line just about to arrive at London’s Heathrow airport when my husband pulled our passports out of his bag. I instinctively knew something was wrong but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. The question that was going through my head was - what was my US passport doing with two holes punched out of it? Then it hit me – I had picked up my expired passport by mistake. Oops! I had my British passport with me so I could make the trip to Iceland, which was the first leg of our journey, but because as a US citizen I need to enter the States on an American passport, I couldn’t then take my onward flight to Florida in two days’ time where we were to meet up with my family.
As you might have guessed, our great idea of my husband running home to exchange my passports and hurrying back to make the flight didn’t quite work out as planned so I ended up flying out without him and he joined me later. The thing is, though, sitting on the train watching my husband hurry off to catch the Heathrow Express back into town, I realised that I had an important choice to make which would determine how the rest of my day, perhaps even the rest of my trip to Iceland, would go. Would I spend it beating myself up – how could I be so stupid? why didn’t I double check my passports earlier? - we’ve all been there, right? Or, and this is the harder one - could I forgive myself?
For once I decided to opt for the latter. It was a revelation to be honest. I calmly headed to the check-in desk at the airport where I explained the situation and we came up with a couple of options. Then I sat down and had a coffee and waited to see what would happen. Yes, it was that simple. I even made a joke about it on Facebook and one of my friends suggested there might be a blog post in there somewhere, which I already knew would happen.
I fully acknowledge that there were times when I missed my husband and I wished he had been able to fly out with me as we love nothing better than to explore new places together. However, what I reminded myself is that for every thought that comes into my head, I have a choice to make. Is it going to be constructive and helpful or is it going to be harmful and damaging to me and, by extension, to those around me?
In this situation I tried my best to adopt the former. I calmly explained what I had done to those I encountered and to my delight everyone was tremendously understanding and helpful. I was able to leave my husband’s bag for him with a very nice man at left luggage, I had a nice flight, I was able to catch the bus in Iceland without a paper ticket as my husband had mine, and I went out and had a lovely dinner. I was even offered free grilled prawns by a friendly bartender in the restaurant, and I met a really nice couple to chat with as I was finishing my dinner at the bar.
The big lesson here is that life is infinitely better when we treat ourselves with compassion and understanding when we inevitably make mistakes. As the saying goes, nobody is perfect. I will try my best to remember that the next time I do something which makes me feel silly and I hope you will remember to do the same.