On our most recent trip to France, we ended up in a really stupid pickle.
We had a mixup with our rental car company when we got to Avignon for our South of France day trip, which resulted in us getting stuck in the middle of Avignon for 10 hours. This was NOT what we had planned by any stretch. In fact, Avignon was originally intended to be nothing more than a pitstop along what was going to be an amaaaaazing and meticulously-planning day trip.
However, thanks to the fact that you need a passport to rent a car in Europe and neither of us had double-checked that the passports were WITH US on the train… we got the chance to figure out just what we’d do in a nightmare situation: when you’re stuck in an unfamiliar city with zero plans and zero international ID.
Keep a cool head
If a mistake leads you in a direction you didn’t expect, try not to drown in blame (of yourself or others). Instead, use the tools you have – phones, maps, wifi, people – to figure out either how to fix the mistake, or how to work around it.
Basically, rationally look at your tools and options and don’t let the emotion of the situation get to you. Sounds easier than it is, but it’s a worthy goal 🙂
Boyfriend Perspective: If you happen to be traveling with other people, I recommend deciding before hand who is going to be allowed to have a breakdown because you forgot a small, required document. That way, everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing so someone uses a brain and you don’t end up sitting at a train station for 12 hours. Sadly, I was not allowed to have a breakdown, must adult instead.
The mixup we had with the car company was partly my fault, and I’ve never felt more guilty or heartbroken about a mistake. So, Luke went and got us additional coffee and some pain au chocolat, and sat with me outside the Avignon TGV station while we tried to figure out our next move.
I cried, and he hugged me and suggested sugar. And about halfway into chatting about options and eating pastry, we both starting laughing about the sheer absurdity of the situation. Sleep-deprived, laden with stuff we thought we’d be able to tote in a rental car, and stuck in a city we hadn’t expected, it was honestly hard NOT to have a half-hysterical laughing fit once we fully realized just how pear-shaped our situation had gone.
Always have a Plan B (and, possibly, a Plan C)
Once we realized we were well and truly stuck, we started researching tour companies that ran trips to the lavender fields. After all, we’d planned enough time in the south to handle a long excursion, so it would’ve fit just fine.
Unfortunately, no tour companies were taking same-day bookings (because of course not!).
So, we ended up following a very simple Plan C: take an Uber to Avignon’s city center and explore the scenery we’ve got.
Boyfriend Perspective: If there is something that you really want to do, like the entire reason that you made the trip, here’s a tip. ASK THE LOCALS!! Seriously, someone has got to know how to get from A to B for a day trip if it is possible. Since, we happen to be more introverted and would rather do it ourselves, I believe that we could have made it to at least a lavender field that day if we had asked a few people about it. To be honest, I’m sort of glad we didn’t go, I have a strong dislike of bugs and never once thought there would be bees in a lavender field. Like, who knew, right? /s
…GASP. Traitor! ^^ hah
Live in the moment
From personal experience, I can say that perhaps the worst thing you can do when your plans go sideways is to be so heartbroken about what could have been that you completely miss what is or could be. Sometimes, things really do work out for the best.
Luke’s approach to the situation was very much in this vein. He was ready to shrug off lavender fields and start exploring Avignon’s Papal Palace and all its nooks and crannies. I was the one who hung on to our old plans, and I probably wasted a good hour or more looking at hard-to-decipher train and bus schedules, trying to figure out how big a gamble it would be to force our plans to work.
In the end, I ended up following his lead and putting the train tables away. And our trip was all the better for it. We ended up feeling that our time in Avignon was some of the best-spent in our entire vacation!
This one’s a little light-hearted, but also a decent idea. The thing we wanted most from the Avignon area was to see lavender in bloom. It’s one of those dreams that follows you for years, you know?
Well, we couldn’t find any fields within Ubering distance of Avignon (at least, none that we could easily get someone to bring us BACK to Avignon from). But, as we were walking around, making do with what we had, we noticed a decent-sized patch of lavender planted just outside the city walls and surrounded by tour buses.
It’s not ideal, but hey. We got photos of us and lavender, I got to enjoy that absolutely heavenly aroma, and we still got the privilege of exploring Avignon.
The lesson in all this: if you can find a way to get even some semblance of what your original goal was, it may help you to feel a little more at peace with your shattered plans.
Also published on Medium.