Now I understand why travelers get angry

I’ve always been a patient traveler — or so I like to think. Missed trains and delayed planes don’t normally phase me beyond a general annoyance. I’ve always regarded the stressed-out angry traveler as someone who needs to take a chill pill and enjoy the journey. I plan to get sick, get robbed, and/or see big insects in my guesthouse; so I don’t take valuable items with me, and usually sleep with the lights on (just because I expect to see big bugs doesn’t mean I’m not scared of them).

But this holiday season, I had the experience that made me understand just why travelers get so pissed off. I’ll be discussing it in a three-part series coming up, but for now I want to apologize to travelers out there on whom I have formerly passed judgment. It sucks being stranded in the U.S.A.

Here are the lessons I learned this dismal holiday travel season:

1. Landing in Tampa does not have the charm of landing in Bangkok or Delhi. There’s no $1.50 tuk-tuk or rickshaw to take somewhere if your car rental reservation gets effed-up. When you’re stuck in a hotel room in Dallas outside the airport (a hotel with no bar, nonetheless), it’s not as cool to have to order a $12 pizza from Dominoes as it is to eat street food for a few cents. Thus, being stranded while traveling domestically loses any glamor it might’ve had in a foreign country.

2. Delays cost money. Delays cause stress. Vacations are short and expensive, so a day by the pool that has been replaced by sitting stand-by and eating unhealthy and expensive airport food is reason enough to get upset. But when airline, travel agent, and car rental companies have no empathy for the bedraggled traveler, it makes everything all the worse. All we want is a kind word and a little respect to help make up for lost time and spent money.

3. When things happen through no fault of your own, don’t expect anyone else to take the blame. You’re on your own. As such, take every single precaution you can think of to protect yourself. One thing I regret is not taking down names; it helps to know who you were dealing with when filing a complaint. And when you file a complaint, don’t expect reparations — but it’s still worth filing.

Those are the three major lessons I learned — what about you? Did you have any eye-opening experiences while you traveled over the holidays?