Are You A Semper Gumby Traveler?

If you travel enough, there are times when all goes wrong. Heck, even if you travel once in awhile, all going wrong is still possible. And then of course there are varying degrees of all going wrong! No matter what, though, flexibility can save your trip. I think we’d all agree that travel tests your mindset. Have you heard the phrase “Semper Gumby”? It’s a take-off on the Marine Corp slogan “Semper Fi”. Semper Gumby translates to “always flexible” because it relates to the animated character Gumby. I love this phrase and it’s become my travel motto. No matter what trip I’m planning, I spend a lot of time thinking and planning the trip. And yet, many times the trip won’t go exactly as planned. I find that my Semper Gumby mindset definitely increases the likelihood that I’ll still have a positive experience.

There actually is a logo of Semper Gumby! Image source:

Recently, a friend asked me more about what a Semper Gumby mindset really is. At the very least it has these four defining characteristics.

1. Learn to Press the Pause Button

This is easy for some but really hard for others. I’d say for me it’s getting easier, but because I’m someone who favors action, it’s still something I have to practice. It’s easy to just keep going, making one decision after another without stopping to take a breath and rethink things. Surely, being able to make decisions on the fly is a useful travel skill. And still there is much value to being able to press pause.

Learning to press pause allows me to gather more information before making decisions, helps de-escalate situations that may be taking a turn for the worse, and most importantly, it gives me a moment to check in with myself or my travel mates. A good example was when I was arrived in South Africa and my luggage was broken into. I was exhausted. Pressing the pause button rather than responding too quickly to what was happening gave me the time I needed to figure out what was going on and what I wanted to do next.

2. Don’t Take it Personally

Once we dream up a trip, plan all the logistics, and finally put the plan into action, we become attached to the trip and how we see it playing out. This attachment can lead to disappointment and really messing up what could potentially be a great experience anyhow. It’s easy for me to tell you not to take it personally, but sometimes it feels impossible not to take it personally. I have two strategies I use when I find myself overly attached to travel outcomes:

  • Swallow my ego. Nobody is more attached to your travel plans than you. Mountain climbers have this expression: the mountain stands with an indifference toward your wants and needs. This reminds me that 99.9% of the world doesn’t care about our adventures.
  • Remember that what we can’t control can lead to great travel experiences. Some of the best memories I’ve ever had on trips come from the part that wasn’t planned or the part that didn’t go well. Funny how that works.

3. Be Flexible, Literally

Since my motto involves Gumby, and because I’ve been in the health and fitness field for years, I also take Semper Gumby literally. From that lens, I am a huge advocate of keeping your body in shape, and staying flexible and mobile. The rewards you’ll reap are amazing and will keep you engaged and energized throughout your trips. No matter what happens during your travels, when you’re in good shape and good health, it’s all easier to handle!

4. Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

If you learn to press the pause button, don’t take life too personally, and maintain good health, then laughter is often a natural byproduct of your travels gone wrong. Now you may not always laugh at that moment, but even my cousin who missed her plane and ended up spending the night in the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul rather than meeting me in Venice, eventually laughed it off! Who doesn’t love a good laugh? When we can start laughing at our own travel mishaps, we’ve come a long way in owning a Semper Gumby mindset.

When I first started working with the Semper Gumby mindset, I thought it was a silly motto. But after using it a lot, because really each and every trip presents opportunities, I’m on it! We all want our travels to be fun, safe, and memorable. I hope this Semper Gumby mindset gives you something to think about and use.

Are you a Semper Gumby? If not, what’s your travel motto?

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