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A Little Lesson…The Best Advice My Dad Ever Gave Me

So there I am, 16 years old, hiding in the hotel bathroom while sobbing on the phone and spilling my teenage woes to my dad.

And that’s when he hit me with my favorite advice from him:

The Advice

“Shannon, it’s just money. It’s not worth you being in a miserable situation, I’ll buy you a ticket and you can come home tonight.”

 

grand canyon with dad

Visiting the Grand Canyon with my dad on the road-trip when I moved to Los Angeles

 

The Back-Story

My dad isn’t one of those pageant parents, so when I told him I wanted to travel out of the state for an Irish dance competition (the Southern Regionals – I had to go!) he promptly collaborated with one of the dancer’s guardians so that I could tag along with them – girly dance competitions are not his scene at all but it was fine for me to go chaperoned.

Well, the only problem with this situation. The other dancer was a righteous bitch who hated my guts and sadly, I didn’t know that before we left.

Fast forward a bit and she has now spent the past two days of the competition making my life terrible – alternately name calling and articulating extreme hatred for me whenever her grandmother wasn’t around. Then she openly laughed at me when my hard shoe just happened to fly off of my foot and land in front of the judges…

…ok, so maybe that last one was funny, but she laughed at me maliciously, and there is a difference.

What I Learned from Him

Anyway,  jump back to me on the scrunched up and perched on top of the closed toilet seat in the bathroom of our hotel and contemplating my dad’s offer to come home no matter what the expense.

That’s actually all I needed, the reassurance that I could leave if I need to, that I wasn’t stuck without a choice due to unfortunate circumstances (me being underage and all). I ended up staying for the last few days. And my shoe flew off again (damn that buckle), but my dad’s advice stuck.

His Advice and My RTW Trip

See, I make my RTW backpacking sound like roses and flowers all of the time, but backpacking on a budget was a real brutality at times. There were the marathon 24 hour bus rides, attempting sleep on rickety trains (vomiting on said trains), sweaty hikes uphill in search of an incredibly elusive hostel, and bribing people w/money to get out of unfortunate circumstances. And though it was often these same experiences that made my best stories (and I actually kind of love when a few things go wrong and I get an awesome “holy cow can you believe I survived that” story out of it) I always knew that, at the end of the day, I probably wasn’t truly stuck.

There’s an out. Ok, yes, paying $150 for a hotel rather than the planned $20 hostel sucks, but at the end of the day, my dad’s advice held true– there’s probably an out and you’re just not seeing it. And particularly if it’s just money; if that’s all its going to take to make your life suck a whole lot less, then sometimes it’s just worth it.

And the money thing is only one aspect to it – my dad’s advice altered my point of view (even at the awesomely angsty age of 16).

What it taught me was that we normally do have an “out” from situations even when they seem hopeless. There is something that can be done if we are open to looking for it, some other solution or perspective we haven’t yet seen.

Now, when I’m on the road and something is going wrong on my travels, I really try to take a moment and assess how I’m perceiving the situation versus the reality of what I can actually do to change it. Perception versus reality; I’m still working on recognizing the difference, and when I can, my traveling woes aren’t quite so bad.

Have you ever had these type of situations on your travels…when you just didn’t think there was a solution?

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  • joanna_haugen

    Instead of answering your question, I'm just going to say that I love that you wrote about your dad! Next to traveling with my husband, my dad is by far my favorite travel partner. He's so chill and is always reminding me that things will work out when they deviate from the “plan.”

  • ShannonOD

    Thanks Joanna! Your description sounds precisely like my own dad! He's
    steady and hard to rock :)

  • Being stranded in Copenhagen, with my money belt (and my money, Eurail pass, and passport in it) gone I certainly felt that way. I slept in the kitchen of a hostel I sneaked into that night, and left at 5 am before anyone noticed. By that evening I was on a train headed to Stockholm with a new passport, Eurail pass, and only $100 poorer.

    I credit this to my excellent disaster planning. The US Embassy was impressed at how I had color copies of all the proper documents, just enough money in US currency, and two passport photos ready to go (from my emergency money belt, which was an actual belt with a hidden pocket). Seeing as how I only had a 3 hour window to get it all taken care of, there was no way I could've gotten it all done without proper planning.

    We choose to remember the good bits, but it's the bad bits that make for the best stories.

  • joanna_haugen

    Instead of answering your question, I'm just going to say that I love that you wrote about your dad! Next to traveling with my husband, my dad is by far my favorite travel partner. He's so chill and is always reminding me that things will work out when they deviate from the “plan.”

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks Joanna! Your description sounds precisely like my own dad! He's
      steady and hard to rock :)

  • soliv19

    I actually went, “aww, Mr. O'Donnell!” out loud when I read this. Your da is so precious, and I love that you wrote this entry about him.

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  • Being stranded in Copenhagen, with my money belt (and my money, Eurail pass, and passport in it) gone I certainly felt that way. I slept in the kitchen of a hostel I sneaked into that night, and left at 5 am before anyone noticed. By that evening I was on a train headed to Stockholm with a new passport, Eurail pass, and only $100 poorer.

    I credit this to my excellent disaster planning. The US Embassy was impressed at how I had color copies of all the proper documents, just enough money in US currency, and two passport photos ready to go (from my emergency money belt, which was an actual belt with a hidden pocket). Seeing as how I only had a 3 hour window to get it all taken care of, there was no way I could've gotten it all done without proper planning.

    We choose to remember the good bits, but it's the bad bits that make for the best stories.

    • ShannonOD

      Wow, that is incredible that you were able to keep your wits and go with the
      flow enough to have all of that sorted out so quickly! And props to you for
      really planning so well; a good example of why it's so important to have all
      of your emergency information in order just in case! Thanks for sharing
      Andy!

  • soliv19

    I actually went, “aww, Mr. O'Donnell!” out loud when I read this. Your da is so precious, and I love that you wrote this entry about him.

    • ShannonOD

      Thank you Stephie! He would give you and “aw shucks” type of chuckle if he read your comment :-)

  • That is just some of the best travel advice I've heard in a long time. If there were situations that we couldn't get out of, then we wouldn't be here right now talking about it!

    Lost wallets, missed flights, shady characters with weapons, illness, being lost, days of endless frustration – it's all part of traveling and at the end of the day, none of those situations are really as hopeless as we sometimes perceive them to be.

  • This post touched me so much. I am unable to say more. Thank yo for sharing him with us.

  • Great advice, not only for travel but for life. When things look dire and you are super tired, it's easy to think there is only one way of doing things or only one choice. But, there are usually many options if we are able to step back and look at things objectively. And, we (e.g., western travelers) are very fortunate to have things like credit cards to get us out of binds or to make that splurge when we need it.

    Fathers sometimes still know best, don't they?

  • That is just some of the best travel advice I've heard in a long time. If there were situations that we couldn't get out of, then we wouldn't be here right now talking about it!

    Lost wallets, missed flights, shady characters with weapons, illness, being lost, days of endless frustration – it's all part of traveling and at the end of the day, none of those situations are really as hopeless as we sometimes perceive them to be.

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks Earl, so well said – it's just so rarely as bad as we can make it out to be that a tiny bit of perspective goes a really long way when you're traveling :-)

  • This post touched me so much. I am unable to say more. Thank yo for sharing him with us.

    • ShannonOD

      You're welcome :-)

  • Great advice, not only for travel but for life. When things look dire and you are super tired, it's easy to think there is only one way of doing things or only one choice. But, there are usually many options if we are able to step back and look at things objectively. And, we (e.g., western travelers) are very fortunate to have things like credit cards to get us out of binds or to make that splurge when we need it.

    Fathers sometimes still know best, don't they?

    • ShannonOD

      That's precisely the point I was going for Audrey! As a western travelers the ability to get out of a pinch is much easier in many cases…and the super-tired aspect/hungry is when I/most of us usually need to remember objectivity the most :-)

  • Ah, this post makes me miss my dad. :) You're right, having an answer is always comforting.

  • Ah, this post makes me miss my dad. :) You're right, having an answer is always comforting.

    • ShannonOD

      I agree Candice, it's been a month now and I miss my dad too, kinda what inspired my nostalgic post. :-)

  • Great advice. We're also budget travelers, but sometimes there's a limit that is reached and it is necessary to treat yourself and rest. Sometimes, one night of air conditioning is all we need to feel better again.

  • Great advice. We're also budget travelers, but sometimes there's a limit that is reached and it is necessary to treat yourself and rest. Sometimes, one night of air conditioning is all we need to feel better again.

    • ShannonOD

      That is so true! I remember how grateful and rejuvinated I was in Cambodia just by upgrading to a room that was $10 more a night. That evening of TV and AC recharged the weariness and grumpiness that was creeping in :-)

  • Stephanie

    A lot of my best life and travel advice also comes from my Dad.He is my biggest cheerleader and bolsters me with lots of “life is too short” pep talks.

    And I was actually talking to him last week about what I like to call those “oh shit” moments of travel where things just seem horrible. I always try to remeember that as long as I survive it's going to make a great story! One that I will probably tell to my Dad but not my Mom because that stuff just freaks her out.

  • foggodyssey

    Shannon: Your old man was a wise one and good for you for learning this lesson when most people never learn it in their entire life. I personally used to sweat the little stuff when traveling but the more I travel the less I care about things when it goes bad.

    Take for example this trip in Colombia; I somehow lost $250+ USD. Don't have a clue where it went or if it was stolen but I really just shrugged it off. Not because I can afford to lose that kind of money every week but getting upset or pointing blame on someone wasn't going to get it back. 5 years ago I would have been mad a hell and it would have ruined 3-4 days of my trip because so but I looked at it now like this “I have my passport and credit cards and I wasn't held at gun point when I lost the money. Things could be worse!”

    Great Post!!!!

  • A lot of my best life and travel advice also comes from my Dad.He is my biggest cheerleader and bolsters me with lots of “life is too short” pep talks.

    And I was actually talking to him last week about what I like to call those “oh shit” moments of travel where things just seem horrible. I always try to remeember that as long as I survive it's going to make a great story! One that I will probably tell to my Dad but not my Mom because that stuff just freaks her out.

    • ShannonOD

      That's the same relationship I have w/my parents! My mom just worries/sighs if I tell her too many of the crazy experiences…my dad still worries but does so to himself I think so that he can outwardly really support my travels and everything I decide to randomly do, sounds like we both have pretty great dads :-)

  • foggodyssey

    Shannon: Your old man was a wise one and good for you for learning this lesson when most people never learn it in their entire life. I personally used to sweat the little stuff when traveling but the more I travel the less I care about things when it goes bad.

    Take for example this trip in Colombia; I somehow lost $250+ USD. Don't have a clue where it went or if it was stolen but I really just shrugged it off. Not because I can afford to lose that kind of money every week but getting upset or pointing blame on someone wasn't going to get it back. 5 years ago I would have been mad a hell and it would have ruined 3-4 days of my trip because so but I looked at it now like this “I have my passport and credit cards and I wasn't held at gun point when I lost the money. Things could be worse!”

    Great Post!!!!

    • ShannonOD

      Man, that is my refrain too…as long as I have my passport I try not to sweat the rest! It's hard to check your emotions sometimes and look for objectivity when things are going wrong, but it seems like you've got it mastered pretty well…yikes, $250 is a lot to lose in one swipe like that!

  • brookevstheworld

    Cool story, Shannon, and I totally agree – sometimes spending the extra money is worth it. It's hard to sometimes let go of the rut of thinking we get into… When I was in Kyrgyzstan and issues at the time and with my home life were getting me down, it took my friend telling me that paying for that plane ticket home to take care of everything (and get happy again) was worth it to actually buy it.

  • brookevstheworld

    Cool story, Shannon, and I totally agree – sometimes spending the extra money is worth it. It's hard to sometimes let go of the rut of thinking we get into… When I was in Kyrgyzstan and issues at the time and with my home life were getting me down, it took my friend telling me that paying for that plane ticket home to take care of everything (and get happy again) was worth it to actually buy it.

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks Brooke – it definitely sounds like the investment in a ticket home was well worth the price and you have a great friend who recognized that you needed that trip home and was able to really tell it to you straight like that :-)

  • Many people try to go through problems rather than around them. Makes travel in particular much easier.

  • Many people try to go through problems rather than around them. Makes travel in particular much easier.

    • ShannonOD

      Well said and succinct Anil, I agree.

  • traveling on budget can be sometimes frustrating but, as your wise old man said, it's not worth to make it ruin your travel experience. when you stop for a second and value both side of the coin, you will find there is always an alternative choice

    • ShannonOD

      I completely agree- once you can force yourself to recognize the other side of the coin – and that there ARE two sides, you're on the right track. It's the people who think situations are out-right hopeless that we have to worry about :-)

  • ShannonOD

    You're welcome :-)

  • ShannonOD

    That's precisely the point I was going for Audrey! As a western travelers the ability to get out of a pinch is much easier in many cases…and the super-tired aspect/hungry is when I/most of us usually need to remember objectivity the most :-)

  • ShannonOD

    I agree Candice, it's been a month now and I miss my dad too, kinda what inspired my nostalgic post. :-)

  • ShannonOD

    That is so true! I remember how grateful and rejuvinated I was in Cambodia just by upgrading to a room that was $10 more a night. That evening of TV and AC recharged the weariness and grumpiness that was creeping in :-)

    • ShannonOD

      Man, that is my refrain too…as long as I have my passport I try not to sweat the rest! It's hard to check your emotions sometimes and look for objectivity when things are going wrong, but it seems like you've got it mastered pretty well…yikes, $250 is a lot to lose in one swipe like that!

  • ShannonOD

    That's the same relationship I have w/my parents! My mom just worries/sighs if I tell her too many of the crazy experiences…my dad still worries but does so to himself I think so that he can outwardly really support my travels and everything I decide to randomly do, sounds like we both have pretty great dads :-)

  • ShannonOD

    Thanks Brooke – it definitely sounds like the investment in a ticket home was well worth the price and you have a great friend who recognized that you needed that trip home and was able to really tell it to you straight like that :-)

  • ShannonOD

    Well said and succinct Anil, I agree.

  • ShannonOD

    I completely agree- once you can force yourself to recognize the other side of the coin – and that there ARE two sides, you're on the right track. It's the people who think situations are out-right hopeless that we have to worry about :-)

  • Wow – great job of laying your heart out on the line. What a story. Adversity builds character, they say. (And they also say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.)

  • ShannonOD

    Thanks Andy :-) It was a pretty heartfelt post and if adversity builds
    character then I'd say I have character in spades! ;-)

  • Wow – great job of laying your heart out on the line. What a story. Adversity builds character, they say. (And they also say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.)

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks Andy :-) It was a pretty heartfelt post and if adversity builds
      character then I'd say I have character in spades! ;-)

  • Sarah

    I was in a situation a little like this in Malaysia and we were trying to get to Thailand. We'd planned to travel by a combination of train, bus and ferry but we were running out of time and just couldn't get the transport times to link up so that we weren't looking at spending the night at a train station or ferry port. After several stressful hours trying to figure out the possibilities online I was chatting to my Dad and he just offered to buy us the far simpler option of plane tickets and we could pay him back when we were home. He was happy because we were safer and we were happy because we'd found a way out of our problem.

    I think you're so right though, whatever problems we get ourselves into the vast majority are solveable if you look at it in the right way. I always have that emergency credit card on hand for those emergencies that can be solved with a little money thrown at them.

    And Dads are always wonderful at giving you a little bit of perspective.

  • Sarah

    I was in a situation a little like this in Malaysia and we were trying to get to Thailand. We'd planned to travel by a combination of train, bus and ferry but we were running out of time and just couldn't get the transport times to link up so that we weren't looking at spending the night at a train station or ferry port. After several stressful hours trying to figure out the possibilities online I was chatting to my Dad and he just offered to buy us the far simpler option of plane tickets and we could pay him back when we were home. He was happy because we were safer and we were happy because we'd found a way out of our problem.

    I think you're so right though, whatever problems we get ourselves into the vast majority are solveable if you look at it in the right way. I always have that emergency credit card on hand for those emergencies that can be solved with a little money thrown at them.

    And Dads are always wonderful at giving you a little bit of perspective.

    • ShannonOD

      Aww, I love that your dad facilitated that solution for you guys; it really
      is easier sometimes for an outsider or an outside perspective to really just
      come in and strip the situation down to the basics! Good that you flew and
      were able to safely move on into Thailand. :-)

  • ShannonOD

    Aww, I love that your dad facilitated that solution for you guys; it really
    is easier sometimes for an outsider or an outside perspective to really just
    come in and strip the situation down to the basics! Good that you flew and
    were able to safely move on into Thailand. :-)

  • This is a great article Shannon! For my first trip I went to visit Taiwan, everything went well until the last day when I got lost and went to to the wrong airport terminal, I remember being on my mobile talking to my mom almost on the verge of crying thinking I was going to miss my flight.

  • This is a great article Shannon! For my first trip I went to visit Taiwan, everything went well until the last day when I got lost and went to to the wrong airport terminal, I remember being on my mobile talking to my mom almost on the verge of crying thinking I was going to miss my flight.

    • ShannonOD

      Hope you got out of there ok! Parents are so wise sometimes when it comes to
      calming down and solving a situation!

  • ShannonOD

    Hope you got out of there ok! Parents are so wise sometimes when it comes to
    calming down and solving a situation!

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