I recently had a minor travel disaster. Flying back from Colombia, I had been booked via New York to Joburg. As I was checking in at Bogota airport the attendant asked me for my USA visa.
Me: “I don’t have one, but not to worry, I’m not leaving JFK, I’m connecting to SA.”
She looked at me sadly and explained that the USA requires all visitors flying in from Colombia to have a valid visa, regardless of whether they’re now leaving the airport.
Awesome. I guess that’s what happens when your biggest export is drugs.
My heart sank. I had been away from home for five nights. I was tired. I was missing my wife and kids. Post-tour-depression had already kicked in.
I knew there were not too many options to get home, so not only was I in for spending more money on a ticket, I would definitely be stuck in Colombia for a few days.
In a previous life I would probably have lost my temper. As it was I struggled to remain civil. I swore a lot under my breath as we tried to make an alternative arrangement.
In the end I took a taxi back to my hotel (at 10pm) and resigned myself to being stuck in South America for a few days whilst I somehow find a flight to SA that doesn’t connect via Europe or USA.
Long story short, I was back at the airport 45min later, somehow managing to catch a flight to Santiago (Chile), eventually to arrive home two hours earlier than originally planned.
In a short period of time, a very very depressing situation changed to a happy ending.
What is the moral of the story?
Don’t scream. Don’t shout. Don’t panic. Sometimes things turn out better than expected. Losing your cool doesn’t make your odds of a happy ending any better. All it does is make you look like a fool and cause people to edge away from you.
Imagine screaming like a craven coward when the enemy army is seemingly about to crush your force. Suddenly the tide turns and your army wins. Your fellow soldiers will always remember your reaction in the moment of adversity. And what did it gain you?
Panicking will never solve your crisis. A cool head gives you a small chance of survival. At the very least it saves you the embarrassment of looking like a fool if the crisis does go away.
Also published on Medium.