On Being Flexible and Stoic

The great twentieth century philosopher Mike Tyson once said

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

The story behind that quote is fantastic. He was being interviewed about an upcoming fight, and the reporters where asking how he was going to handle all these plans that had been publicized by his opponent.

His response was perfect, and it pertains to so many other aspects of life, because quite frankly… I’m not super interested in being punched in the face, especially by Mike Tyson. I’ll be damned if that quote rings true nonetheless.

Our Plan

We recently traveled to India. It’s a strange and interesting place, especially for two run of the mill Americans, but I’m sure we’ll get into in an upcoming post.

Regardless, we had plans to fly into Delhi, up to Derhadun for a wedding, then back to Delhi and to the southern Indian city of Kozhikode via Mumbai before we headed up into the hill region of Wayanad for a few days relaxing in the jungle.

It’s a full itinerary to be sure. But we have three weeks, and we have some slop time, but when booking it there were two main days I was concerned with.

The first being the day we go from Derhadun > Delhi > Mumbai > Kozhikode and then second being Mumbai > Delhi > home.

Here’s why it’s so concerning, all of these flights are transitions from one airline to another. There are no direct flights that are reasonably priced or timed to make it to these destinations, so I had to delicately balance our arrival times and departure times so that we can get off one plane make it to another within the time frame. No one is going to help us out, because we’re transitioning airlines. But all should be just fine, we travel with only carry-ons, so we should be able to check in online, and then get between the gates within the airport with relative ease.

As for our flights to Kozhikode, we fly to Delhi and catch the last flight out to Mumbai, stay the night in the airport hotel in Mumbai to catch the first flight out the following morning.

Tight? Sure, but the travel gods tend to shine their light down on us, so what the hell… Let’s rock and roll.

The first punch

I tried to check in online for our flights, and I couldn’t. Apparently in India, they want to see the credit card you booked the flight with if you are a foreigner. So we have to check in at the desk for each of our flights.

Hmmm… ok, no biggie, we have time, we’ll get to the airport and check our entire way through so that we can just have our boarding passes in hand.

Walk up to the check-in counter.

“Sir, your carry-ons are too big, they will need to be checked”

Uhh… Well that’s not ideal, but ok, we have two hours between when we land and getting to our next flight, so we should be able to gather our luggage, and then re-check it onto our next flight.

So, we check our bags and we proceed through security and wait for our boarding time.

Punch Two

We are approaching our boarding time and all the sudden an announcement comes on.

“The flight to Delhi has been delayed a half an hour.”

Hmm… Ok, well, we still have 90 minutes to gather our bags from the checked luggage, make it to the gate and re-check them in. It’s gonna be tight, but it’s doable. Besides, we’re lucky, there have been multiple times that we’ve run through airports to get a gate and made our flights, no biggie.

Punch Three

45 minutes after our initial boarding time we start to board. I’m starting to get a little anxious, but again, we still have some slop time. We’ll be alright. We just have to get on board and get in the air.

So we board, we find our seats and they start up the engines.

Then oddly, the engines wind down. Huh?

“Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a weather delay in Delhi. They are re-routing planes from there here.”

Well shit. This is interesting. Then then engines start up again, and we start moving…

We start moving to get out of the gate to free it up for another plane. We simply moved to another area on the runway. And sat. And sat. And sat. For almost 2 hours.

At this point, we were supposed to leave a 6 PM to land at 7 PM, gather our bags and make it to a 9:30PM flight. It was 8:20 PM before we even took off from Derhadun.

My anxiety is thru the roof. We had hotels booked and flights booked, all non-refundable. We’re done. We’re stuck. We’re going to land in Delhi after the last flight out and that means we miss our flight from Mumbai the following morning.

Acceptance

Recently, I’ve been trying my best to adopt more of a Stoic attitude, and concern myself with what I can control, and not let things that I can’t control bother me.

Once, we touched down in Delhi, I had resigned myself that we weren’t going to make it to our flight. First, we landed at 9:20, we had to get off that plane, grab our luggage and make it to a different terminal, re-check our bags and make it through security and to the gate before 9:30.

No, not gonna happen.

What else we didn’t realize was that the terminals aren’t like the terminals at most airports we’ve been to. The terminals in Delhi are actually a 30 minute drive from each other. They might as well be separate airports. Weird, but sure…

So now what?

We go to customer service and talk to the folks at the desk. We can fly out the following day, one way for almost $700 per person with a 12 hour layover to get where we need to go. Ouch!!!

So, we decide to grab a hotel close to the airport, get some sleep and figure it out. It was after midnight at this point after all.

The following morning, I wake up and start digging around, I find flights for the following day, that will get us to Kozhikode airport, for $200 a person in a reasonable amount of time. So, we booked them. We booked a room at the Hyatt in Delhi for an additional night using points (CSR to the rescue!!), and just decided to relax.

We weren’t able to make it to Kozhikode the city, we missed that entire leg of the trip, we went straight into the hills and the jungle and relaxed.

Figured we’ll just join up with the second half of our itinerary once we get down there. I’m writing this on our flight back to Mumbai. And we have yet to make the connection to come home… here’s to hoping.

Lessons Learned

First, holy shit, regression to the mean is a real thing. We’ve been so lucky with our travels up until this point. Life has a way of balancing out. When things are too good, start looking around. That’s not to say live in paranoia, but it is to say prepare for the unexpected.

Second, damn is it nice to have resources. I know FIRE isn’t possible for everyone. I don’t pretend that it is. It’s actually extremely difficult to achieve, and there are a lot of things that need to line up to make it possible.

BUT… spending less than you earn, investing it, having a surplus of cash and resources is extremely powerful.

We were stuck, but we were able to make adjustments and get where we needed to go because we had a surplus of resources. During all the turmoil, it was reassuring to know, this isn’t going to put us out. We’d get through, it’s only a couple bucks.

That’s immensely powerful.

Third, be flexible and Stoic. This Stoicism stuff is the real deal, but man, does it take practice. Although, if you perfect it, damn is it helpful. This was a super stressful situation, but once I resigned to only concern myself with what I could control, I immediately felt a wave of calm.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t anxious or constantly mentioning the outcomes to Mrs Wow. She just kept telling me,

“What exactly are we going to do about it? Relax.”

(PS – A fantastic wife helps as well! 🙂 )

So, with that… I’ll leave you with a picture of a wild baby elephant that we saw along the side of the road in Wayanad.

I just gotta hang out and watch traffic drive by like this guy!

Here’s to hoping we’ve paid our debts in full to the travel gods for a while.

3 Comments

  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials March 6, 2019 at 6:20 am

    Ugh that blows. Reminds me of the time I tried to switch airlines at Heathrow. I flew into a different terminal, so I had to go through customs, get my luggage, take a bus to the other terminal, check in at the desk and give them my luggage, go through security and get on the plane. It didn’t happen (the plane was still there, but they stopped letting people check in 90 minutes prior because it was an international flight). Not much I could do about it, but the airline rep was super nice and only charged me $300 to push my ticket to the next flight out. I still got back to Chicago late and missed the last bus home, so a friend drove 3 hours to pick me up and back. Shit happens when you travel….. best you can do is try not to do it again!

    Reply
  • Joe March 6, 2019 at 7:32 am

    That’s why I hate switching airlines. There are always potential problems even in the US. I try to give it extra time if I have to switch airline. Sitting and waiting is way better than stressing out about what to do next. But sometimes you just have to take your chances. At least you got it down from $700/person to $200. Nice job.
    Seeing a baby elephant in the wild is pretty neat.

    Reply
  • Dave @ Accidental FIRE March 7, 2019 at 1:58 am

    Man, I can relate to this post. I used to travel, a LOT. I’d like to think I’m pretty stoic in many aspects of life but if it’s one thing that stresses me out is when things go wrong with flights. I have so many stories, some are just crazy. I’ve slept on many floors in many airports in many countries. Sometimes you just have to surrender and say “it is what it is, at least I’m alive” 🙂

    Reply

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