Two Ways to Sabotage your Vacation – or Not

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I was on a cruise with my husband, Brad, standing in line behind a newlywed couple. Unfortunately, they spent their 10 minutes in line blaming each other for everything they didn’t like about the cruise experience. ‘Blaming the other’ is the first way people sabotage a vacation. I felt so sorry for them. What a memory to take away from their honeymoon!

Happily for me and Brad, a dozen years before I had learned the magic of using the ‘Follow Up’ mindset instead. It’s a great way to avoid sabotaging your vacation fun no matter what happens.

This is how ‘Follow Up’ works: You make a decision, such as where to go on vacation, and then, afterwards, you talk about what you liked, what you didn’t, what worked for you, what did not, and what you learned that you’ll use for the next decision.

The best part? It completely changes your attitude when things don’t go well, and you have a great time on your vacation.

Here’s the example of how I used ‘Follow Up’ on that same cruise to protect our vacation enjoyment:

First, the background: Both my parents were smokers. And when I went to work, people smoked in the open office where I worked. Over the years, I’ve developed a bad allergy to cigarette smoke. First my nose burns. Then it runs. Then my throat gets scratchy, then it feels likes it’s closing. So, as you can imagine, I’m very grateful for smokers who ensure they are not smoking in the place I’m breathing. Thank you, you wonderfully considerate people!

Now to the Follow Up: Brad and I decided to go on that cruise to Mexico. He’d heard it was great. On the cruise ship, though, I discovered that to get to the shows, etc., we had to walk through the casino. Guess what was happening in the casino? Yes. Smoke filled the air.

As soon as we got back to our cabin, I needed to jump in the shower, and wash me and my clothes. At this point, I had two choices: ‘Blame’ or use ‘Follow Up’.

Blame would have sounded like this:

“This cruise was all your idea! I HATE having to walk through smoke. It’s awful to have to take showers All The Time. This Stinks!!”

Now, would you want to be on a vacation with this witch? Me, Neither!

Brad felt badly already, and my blaming him might have created defensiveness and an argument. I would have guaranteed that neither one of us would have a good time on our cruise.

My ‘Follow Up’, on the other hand, sounded like this, said while smiling sincerely and in a light tone of voice:

“Who knew that this ship was laid out so that we (note the ‘we’, not ‘I’) have to walk through the smoke to get to everything? Now we know for the next time we pick a cruise, check the layout!”

Brad smiled and agreed wholeheartedly, and we enjoyed the rest of our cruise.

Now let’s say that you decide to take the whole family on a vacation to Disneyland.

Sample ‘Follow Ups’ might be: “Let’s remember for the next time to set aside more money to eat in the park itself. Leaving, coming back and parking again was not fun.” Or “Maybe next time let’s go off-season so we can stay in a hotel in the park. That would be so convenient for when the kids really need a nap and we need some downtime.”

You get the idea. And you can do this ‘Follow Up’ during the vacation itself, or when the vacation is over and you’re back at home, or even later when you’re planning your next vacation.

Quick reminder: It is crucial to use a positive, friendly tone of voice with Follow Up, of course. Using an exasperated, angry tone of voice sends the opposite message, moving your wonderful words from Follow Up to Blame. Let’s not do that.

The second way people sabotage their vacation is to use negative, judgmental labels for another person’s behavior or events. So the second way to save your vacation is to check how you label people and things.

How do labels make a difference? Different labels can change your thinking. I learned this first in high school French. For example, when you are talking about your age in English, you say “I am x years old.” “I’m twenty years old.” (You’re young!) “I’m forty years old.” (You’re getting older. Oh, dear.) “I’m sixty years old.” (Too bad for you.) I wonder if this is why we have what’s called a ‘youth culture’?

But I learned that the French change the verb. It’s not ‘I am’. In French you say, “I have X years.” with the subtext of ‘how many years of life experience I have’.

So if you have only twenty years, don’t worry. (You’ll learn more as you grow older.) “I have forty years.” (Lucky you! Look at all you know now.) “I have sixty years.” (Dang! You have a lot of experience. What wisdom you must have.) I confess that I do enjoy this more and more the older I become.

Another good example is that you don’t say, “I’m bored.” You say, “I bore myself.” Which is much more correct. If I call something “boring”, my brain shuts off, and I learn nothing. If I say, I’m boring myself, I need to check what I’m thinking and choose some other direction for my thoughts.

Now, how does this apply to saving your vacation? Let’s use the most common problem as an example.

How many times has someone given you a “driving tip” as you’re driving during the vacation? Yes. You know what I’m talking about.

And if we label it negatively as ‘backseat driving’ or ‘Telling me what to do’ or ‘They think I don’t know how to drive’….Yes! Anger, escalation, and there goes the vacation fun down the drain.

But what if you instead labeled them as your ‘Navigator’? Of course the pilot is flying the plane, and the Navigator knows the pilot knows what he’s/she’s doing, or they would Not have gotten in the plane with the pilot.

And what’s the Navigator’s job? To point out to the pilot any possible hazards, and to offer suggestions as they check conditions.

I love the way this different label changes how we respond to the other person if we have labeled them as ‘my navigator’. A side note: If you need quiet to drive through a tricky spot, you can say (politely), “Hang on a minute until I get through this, Navigator.” Consider how that new label would change the climate in the car. Your vacation can actually be fun.

So, while you are on your summer vacation, remember these two tips:

Keep that ‘Follow Up’ mindset, and check your Labels. Enjoy!

Terry Turner
As a military brat, Terry’s early life was spent enjoying other countries and cultures. Add to this her forty years of teaching Communication Skills in both aerospace and education, and she has many ideas to share and stories to tell. Now happily retired and living in Northern California, she spends her time writing and enjoying life.
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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Linda Cooper says:

    Hello. Regarding your mention of “in French you say I have X years,” I found that very interesting indeed. I am a curious person, and yes I do ask some probably politically incorrect questions at times.

    However, I noticed for the past couple of years, instead of asking how old are you, I ask what age are you. For some reason that “sits” better with me, and also with others. Although, after reading your article, I might shift to the French method and ask, how many years do you have. Full disclosure, I will have 70 years next month.

    • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

      Linda, I somehow posted your reply under Steve’s comment. Hmmm. Somedays are like that, yes, they are. Anyway, great comment. Thanks!

  2. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    “I’m sixty years old.” (Too bad for you.)

    :::wipes tear from corner of eye:::

    I think any form of the question and answer that leaves out “old” is better—but the truth is inescapable: Sooner or later, you have fewer years in front of you than behind you, and your biological machinery does get old.

    French accent —>. “Entropy…she eez a beetch, no?”

    • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

      Linda, what a great way to re-word the question about age. I love it. “What age are you?” is such a better way to ask the question. And congratulations on achieving 70 years of life experience next month!

    • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

      Oui! Entropy….she eez a beetch!
      And you are so right, Steve. Even if I live as long as my family norm (98 years old), I definitely am now in the other half, turning 70 next year. I love the idea of thinking of my age as valuing my life experience even more now than I did in my 30s and 40s and 50s. 🙂

  3. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I loved this article. Tone of voice and the right perspective can change any situation. Great ideas. When I think about aging I think about all of the experiences I’ve had, skills I gained, and things I’ve learned. I also think how lucky I am. The only student who told me that I was old and she would come to my funeral died in at ATV crash that summer. I’ve dropped the word “elderly” from my vocabulary and use the word “elder” which honors the life experience of a person who has many years.
    Your article suggests ways to think about an unpleasant event that makes you feel like a failure because of the things you didn’t know to consider. Look at the possitive parts of that event, and learn from the negative. Thank you.

    • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

      Thank you, Joanne! What a great idea to call ourselves elders. I love it! It honors all the life experience you bring to any conversation.
      My sympathies on the loss of a student, and what a good reminder that we aren’t promised a set amount of years. And I agree with you. It’s amazing what can happen when we look at the positive parts of an event and learn from the negative. Well said!

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      I find I really resent reporters who write stories about an event and feel compelled to use the adjective “elderly.” A year or so back, a man made continued attempts to break into a woman’s house, and after being told repeatedly to leave, she shot him. The reporter described her as elderly (she was 68). Why was that necessary? And why, when describing a man who has committed some heinous crime, do police spokesmen call him a gentlemen rather than just man?

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Elderly seems religious as many churches have elders. I prefer Mature.

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          When the young LDS chaps came to the area on their mission, they introduced themselves as Elder Jones and Elder Smith. Hard not to chuckle when they were in their late teens.

        • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

          Ah! You have a good point, Bruce. I would not want to confuse my listeners by calling myself an elder, and then have them think I mean in my church.

          So instead, I’ll say I am very mature as I see 70 approaching. 🙂

      • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

        You have a point, Beverly. I guess we could ask ourselves what the story needs to inform the public, and then stop there.

        Back to the French, I believe they would call me ‘a woman of a certain age’. 🙂 Much nicer than being called elderly, in my opinion.

  4. Interesting column, Terry. Good insights. Regarding being bored, I remember someone who used to say – especially to kids who said they were bored, “If you’re bored, you’re boring.” It stuck with me.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Along that same line, “If you don’t like being alone, you probably don’t like the company.”

      • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

        Brad told me that once, when I was attending a teachers’ meeting at school, and he would be home alone. He enjoyed his own company. Happily, he enjoyed mine, too.

  5. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    Thank you, Doni! And what a good insight. If I am bored, I’m probably boring as can be, too. I love it!