“A pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant.”
–Rex Stout

It took me a few minutes of pondering to unpack Stout’s quote above. A pessimist always expects the worst, so by contrast, a surprise to them would be something positive. Okay, got it. On the flip side, an optimist expects the best, so by contrast, a surprise for them would be something negative. Logically, that makes sense, but does this quote really hold water? I mean, wouldn’t a pessimist spin a surprise into something unpleasant, no matter what it was? And conversely, wouldn’t an optimist find a way to make even an unpleasant surprise something positive? Such reasoning gives me a headache. Nevertheless, I will say that travel is nothing if not full of surprises, some pleasant, some unpleasant. One’s attitude gives those experiences meaning.

Take the time Donica and I went to Banff National Park. About an hour and a half from Calgary, Alberta, Banff is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Rocky Mountain peaks, glacial lakes, miles of hiking – Banff has it all…including extremely variable weather. Ostensibly, we have come here to deliver a treasure hunt in the downtown area. But luckily, the sun is shining brightly the day before the hunt, affording Donica and I the opportunity to take a long, gorgeous hike above Lake Louise (Wow Place #19). By the next day, however, the weather has shifted, a storm front has blown in, and it it’s rain, rain, rain –all over my parade. Thankfully, my client has a positive attitude and the hunt comes off successfully – with generous thanks to the rain jackets and umbrellas provided by our hotel, the Rimrock Resort, perched high on a hill above the valley. Feeling good about ourselves, we return to our hotel, only to learn that the roads are now flooded and we won’t be able to drive back to Calgary the next day to catch our flight home. Nor will we be able get home the next day, or the next, or the next. As it turns out the roads are so washed out that we won’t be able to even attempt the route to the airport for at least 6 days!

Now, there are worse place to be stranded than beautiful Banff, Canada. Except, with the incessant downpour, we can’t really go out and take advantage of the outdoor activities. Even driving over to the town is risky, as the bridge could flood out at any time. So there we are, stuck at the hotel, hoping that they don’t run out of food and drink. A pessimist would likely proclaim, “Well, this sucks! Who is going to pay for this expensive hotel room?!! This is an unwanted, unpleasant surprise!” And to be honest, there were times when I find myself going there. What keeps me upbeat is the view from room 800:

Just out our window, the entire Rocky Mountains are laid out before us. Even with the incessant downpour, we can still sit by the glass – for hours at a time — goggling at Mother Nature’s stunning majesty, seemingly here on display for our own private viewing. Best of all, there is a window in the bathroom, meaning we can literally take a bubble bath while enjoying the panorama.
By and large, I’m an optimist. According to Stout, this should mean that I expect the best and thus surprises are unpleasant. But the unwanted rain also gives me room 800, with the best view in the world. I count myself as stoutly lucky.

(Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Chances are you’re a little of both. We all are. Bad things happen in life; at such times, of course you’re going to feel sadness and remorse. No one can be upbeat and positive all of the time. Nevertheless, it’s also true that we attract good luck and fortune by maintaining a hopeful outlook…at least most of the time. The art of living is allowing yourself to feel the full range of emotions while simultaneously manifesting positivity.)