Traveling is a great adventure, but like all adventures, the stress levels increase. Some people forget that not only do bad things increase stress, but so do good things. If enough good things occur, then some small bad thing, that you normally sail right through, can leave you foundering. Enough stress can go beyond the usual grumpiness and extend to the toxic.
Remembering last year’s Portugal adventure left me worried. We had chosen at Regina’s insistence, to fly out of Nashville rather than Atlanta. Sure enough, we had severe thunderstorm delays, causing us to miss our next flight. This cascaded into missing our Paris to Portugal flight also. We also decided to eat before trying to book a new flight in Atlanta. Thus, we were too far down the waiting list to make the last flight of the day on standby. Having to spend the night in Atl. caused us to miss a whole day of our vacation. Thus in Paris, we endured a long delay waiting for an open flight to Lisbon. I strove mightily to not criticize, but grumped mentally.
Well, in Lisbon, I had insisted on driving, and not flying to Faro. When we added the lateness of our arrival, the time of acquiring the car, the long drive to Quarteira, and half an hour getting lost, and arriving past the final arrival time for the AirBnB apartment. We were then confronted by a locked building with no clue how to ring the right doorbell to say, we are here. It was then compounded by finding that neither of our phones worked in Europe, so we couldn’t call them either. This time it was Regina’s turn to grump mentally, and to strive not to let it out physically.
This year, Regina decided that we would fly into Faro. This resulted in a six-hour layover in Lisbon Airport. We then had to fly for 45 minutes to Faro and drive 45 minutes to Portimao. I only had to compare the 71/2 hours to the 2½ hour drive from Lisbon to be put out of sorts. Then, at Faro airport, we find that we have printouts of everything but the car rental confirmation. Again, the problem with a partially working phone left us struggling to find the confirmation #. We get it and then walk to the booth to see it closed. Then the fact that it was Easter Sunday and everything might be closed began to gnaw at our minds. What if the restaurants and grocery stores were also closed? Add to that, the 6 hour time change and the total lack of decent sleep, and our stress levels hit new heights of toxicity. Well, walking out to where the rental cars were found the wide open and busy rental company. Soon we were motoring out in not the car we had rented, but a nicer upgrade, a brand new, never driven before, larger, more fuel economical, car with GPS! (No getting lost this time)
Of course, toxic stress wasn’t about to let go. We arrived to find that street numbers were not used, but building names were, and we couldn’t find the building. After finding it, and unloading, we walked out to find a meal and a grocery store. In our half-starved state, sitting in the first restaurant and finding they didn’t take visa, left us more stressed. We walked to the beach and had a decent meal. Then we struggled to find a grocery store. The first didn’t take plastic.
I deliberately focused on all the ordinary stresses of a long foreign trip. Were we stressed out? Yes. Did we want to snap at each other? Certainly. But how did it work out? In the first trip, we met two people at the local bar and borrowed their phone to call. That not only got us in, but I made two friends, Victor and Johnny. They invited me to hear them sing on Saturday, and one of them, I still write to, and hope to see them both this trip. I left you with the missing grocery store on the second and current trip. After returning to the Apt., I googled grocery stores, and hopped in the car to look for one. Google led me to tiny stores that either were closed or didn’t take plastic. While driving, I spotted a sign that said, “Aldi” and thought, “I can’t be.” but drove that direction. Sure enough, There was an Aldi, an exclusive Eastern United States cut-rate grocery store, packed with shoppers. After beating off several contenders for the open parking spot, I waved my visa and got a friendly nod. Shopping was on! There was almost not a single familiar American product, but the prices were great!
Our problem with toxic stress, is that we have to learn to trust God. God has reasons that He lets us go through these small events. For one, He is showing us that there is an immediate point, such as making friends with Victor and Johnny. More important is building for the future. God wants to build us up so we will be ready for when a truly major toxic event happens. These little events strengthen us for the major ones that will happen, guaranteed. I failed at one miserably, earlier in my life. I am learning to trust God and joyfully watch Regina become so less stressed out by these things also. Remember, not letting God do His work can result in broken marriages and non-functional families. Trust is learned, so learn it and grow and be at peace!