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Vacation Hassles? Take a Picture!
by: Pauline Wallin, Ph.D.
Looking for some fiction to read this summer? Try a travel brochure. Those beautiful glossy pamphlets promise you the time of your life, with nonstop fun. To illustrate their promises, they show pictures of perfect people with perfect bodies and perfect teeth, frolicking and smiling. No one has sunburn, sore feet or indigestion. The children always look squeaky clean, and they never have tantrums. There are no mosquitoes, no flat tires, no thunderstorms . . . and no inner brats!

Meanwhile, back on earth, your actual vacation may look something like this:

1. You've been driving for several hours, when you notice that the "check engine" light on your dashboard is illuminated. You get off the highway at the next exit and find a garage that can fix the car, but it won't be finished till the next day. And it's going to cost a small fortune.

2. You're on a camping trip. It's been raining for 2 days straight. The campground is one big mud puddle. And your matches are wet.

3. You splurge for a resort hotel, but when you get there they can't find your reservation, and the hotel is fully booked. You produce your travel agent's confirmation, but the reservations clerk merely says, "I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do."

4. Everything is crowded. You have to wait in line for food, for transportation, even for the bathroom. Other people are loud, pushy and rude.

You'll never see situations like these in a travel brochure. But I'll bet you've experienced at least one of them on your own trips. I know I have. And in retrospect I realize that my inner brat made things seem a lot worse than they were. It blamed and complained, making not only me miserable, but my family as well.

No vacation is perfect. Inevitably something will go wrong. Aside from real tragedies (which, fortunately, are rare) most vacation hassles are about inconvenience, bad weather and minor mishaps -- all temporary, none life-changing.

Predicaments such as delayed flights, sold-out attractions, small injuries and unexpected downpours can ruin your vacation if you allow your inner brat to gripe and grumble over every annoyance.

Instead, try this: Take a picture. Capture the mishaps. They may turn out to be your most precious and amusing memories.

I recall a sweltering summer day many years ago, when we ran out of gas on the highway because my husband was sure we had enough to bypass one rest stop and get to the next. He was right - almost. We made it just past the sign that said, "Fuel, Food: 2 miles." Instead of yelling at him with a thousand I-told-you-sos, I wish I had taken a picture of him standing in front of that sign, apologetically holding an empty gas can. It would have been the perfect souvenir from our trip.

If you happen to encounter frustrations on your upcoming vacation, get out your camera and take a picture. Looking through the lens will give you a less emotional, more objective view of the situation. Plus, you’ll have a souvenir that will later remind you that crises have a way of working themselves out.

Copyright Pauline Wallin Ph.D., 2005

About the Author

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2004)

Visit for more information, and subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.


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