“I hate it when I ask for no pickles, and they give me pickles anyway.”
Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of first-world problems; there are plenty of little annoyances and aggravations in life that get under our skin. But when you stop and think about them in the context of the wider human race, you realize that many “problems” — like unwanted pickles — happen only because of the enormous prosperity that we enjoy in the United States.
Perhaps pickles aren’t your pet peeve, but I’m sure you can think of a gripe or two of your own. Is the air conditioning in your office so cold that you have to wear a sweater? Do you hate it when your iPhone takes too long to download a video from the Internet? Have you ever grumbled when the morning line seemed too long at Starbucks?
I’m as guilty as the next guy. Many of the things I grouse about daily aren’t existential problems at all but mere inconveniences that blur the edges of my comfortable, connected and convenient life. When I travel outside the United States and see the harsh conditions many people face every day, I realize how much I take for granted and how many of my “issues” are just first-world problems.
I’ve also noticed that those of us who work in travel and tourism can develop our own brand of first-world problems. Whenever I’m around a group of tour operators, group leaders, travel agents or travel journalists, I see a creeping tendency to begin to complain to each other about the travails of our collective work.
“I had to fly 12 hours to get to China — in coach,” we say. “The hotel was out of king rooms, so I got stuck with two double beds.” “My lunch at the conference was cold.” “I had to sit in the back of the bus during our ride through Glacier National Park.”
Although everyone needs a chance to commiserate from time to time, I wonder sometimes if we’re missing the point. Sure, travel has its hassles, and the more you travel, the more vulnerable you become to them. But then I step back and think about the incredible industry we work in. We spend our lives in travel and tourism. We have jobs that our friends and neighbors dream about. We get to see some of the most amazing places on the planet, and very often, we do it at no personal expense.
The next time you feel swimming in travel stress, take a few moments and give thanks for all of the blessings that come with being able to travel.
Travelers get to see, do and experience more every year than most people do in their entire lifetimes. We are blessed indeed. Next time you get held up on the tarmac — or stuck with an unwanted pickle — thank heaven you should be so lucky.