Hitting a Sleeping Policeman While Traveling

September 25, 2019


I had never heard the words “Sleeping Policeman” until we went to Barbados, an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies (in the Caribbean region of North America). It simply means “a speed bump” or something that will slow you down.

I’m using it here as “something unexpected” that happens when you are traveling, a delay that comes from left field – it gives one a bit of a jolt. Keeping this in mind, I came across an article in the June 2019 issue of AFAR magazine by Sarah Buder that addresses this from the perspective of “mindfulness” – or, making us more comfortable when the unexpected happens on a trip, for example: (1) your plane is delayed, (2) a reservation for dinner has gone astray, (3) it rains on your only beach day (4) your luggage is lost, (5) your hotel is nowhere near the beach and (6) there are no rental cars left.

Buder’s approach is to address the issue of “mindfulness” or as David Gelles, a New York Times reporter says, “Travel inherently involves uncertainty.” He is also the author of Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out – or, “mindfulness can make us more comfortable with that uncertainty.”

Well, okay I get it BUT I think that “fast action” is equally important. Buder notes that the practice of mindfulness – focusing on the present moment without trying to change it – is rooted in centuries-old Buddhist traditions. She suggests: (1) Taking daily moments to meditate; just close your eyes – it’s about taking short moments, many times, (2) Seek small sources of comfort, e.g., fear of flying can be helped by taking a favorite travel pillow. It won’t make a turbulent flight less bumpy, but it might enhance your sense of serenity until the storm has passed.

Finally she ends with (3) Have a backup plan or when you can’t complete your travel “to-do” list, pursue plan B. Mindfulness is “about recognizing that we’re faced with one reality, and it’s OUR CHOICE whether that is one we embrace.  Travel is not about checking off boxes.”


I believe these suggestions are sound but I think “jumping in and doing” trumps meditating. First example, when my husband and I landed in Barbados we found that our luggage had been sent to Paris, so forms were filled out at once. Then we hailed a cabbie who took us to a store for T-shirts, shorts and sandals – off went all the NYC wool and cashmere clothing before we headed to a restaurant. Our luggage arrived eight hours later and was sent directly to our hotel.

Codrington College in Barbados was built in 1743 – it has a truly spectacular campus

Second mishap: we landed in St. John in the Virgin Islands and were told that NO rental cars were available. We should have made a reservation in St. Thomas. My energetic husband said, “I’ll take care of it” – and he did. I was stunned when he returned and said, “This was the only car they had BUT I had to wait while they put all four wheels on.”

Third mix-up: Traveling as two young, single girls in Europe resulted in lots of adventures – this was one: we wanted to go from Paris to Salzburg, Austria (for the music). When we got off the train we found that we were in Strasbourg, France – probably due to a language glitch. We realized this was not the town for us and left at once.

Fourth shock: Where is the beach? When hotels or motels don’t have access to a beach they’re very quiet about it. Peter and I landed in Narragansett, Rhode Island and found that our motel was near the ocean but separated by a wall and a rocky beach. This was not for us so we left everything at the motel, hopped on bikes, found a ferry to Block Island for a terrific stay in a hotel right on a long, sandy beach. Four days later we returned to Narragansett to pick up our stuff and left – never to return. 

Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island – located 14 miles east of Montauk, Long Island and 13 miles south from mainland Rhode Island

The same thing happened to us in Acapulco – a lovely hotel with a huge pool but no beach. We deep-sixed that one pretty fast, too.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

What travel mishaps have you experienced? Share in the comments section below.

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