One of the most challenging…and rewarding tasks to accomplish, as an expat, is to manage expectations. I have noticed how Americans react to their experiences involving resort stays and tours. I am very involved with using timeshares (and tours), and read reviews of them to get an idea as to what to expect and how to plan, accordingly. Reading ahead also helps to prepare to avoid some scenarios and take advantage of others. So the first phase is managing expectations, ahead of an event, to minimize pain and maximize enjoyment.
For example, timeshare presentations are to be avoided at all costs – especially, here in Mexico. . So we have turned the avoidance of the offer, itself, (to schedule a timeshare presentation), into a game. This step is important, because, here in Mexico, even the scheduling folks are “hard sell.” We pulled it off so well, during our January trip to Puerta Vallarta, that the victory experience was one of the top things of the trip. Those who didn’t succeed (or prepare themselves) were complaining about the timeshare presentation, throughout the week.
The more challenging part of expectations management is when you are in the midst of a scenario that you may have even prepared yourself for (to be disappointed), but then your preparation was not enough for the actual experience. I went on a tour to Veracruz, and had done a 15 minute google search to explore the likely items on the tour agenda. Sadly, the most important site, the amazing anthropology museum was not on the tour. Instead, we wasted time at some really underwhelming sites, such as a dress museum and a furniture museum. However, one things that got my attention was the location of the museum: General Santa Anna’s house. Remember him? The bad guy opposite Davy Crockett, at the Alamo?
So two things came to mind, as I was swirling around with disappointment. The first game changer was about re-configuring my concept of the mission of the trip. As far as my personal enjoyment, I was having a great time with two of my favorite expat friends
Second, I realized that the trip was a perfect opportunity to re-design the next tour (when Anita is back from Germany) and hire the tour guide as a driver.. After all, the museum provided plenty of information on what we were seeing, and this would be the centerpiece of the next tour. We also had a major (avoidable) SNAFU concerning the arrangements for lodging. Luckily, we discovered the better alternative, for a hotel, by chance. Since we were going to re-design the our, this could be the place we stay. And one of the best things, was that Anita was not with me. I could hear her expressions of disappointment at a number of (avoidable) flummox points, and was so glad she did not have to experience it. Instead, she will enjoy the revised tour. And Mexico is a great place to use reliable drivers (in this case with vans and mini-buses) that could be tailored to the size profile of the folks on the tour.
The overall revelation, was, sometimes, it makes sense to put the mission objective of “enjoying myself” aside. Instead, I could see the trip as a “business trip.,” In doing this, I could employ a host of professional perspectives for preparing the next tour (that would include my good friends and Anita). I had done this type of “site visit” trips for scouting out the best place for Executive Leadership Conferences for U.S. Capitol Police and U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. There were no failures (in the scouting adventure) – only learning opportunities.
This re-visualizing the purpose of the trip is a powerful “expectations management” vantage point. The Expat journey is “target rich” with opportunities to do employ this tool, and develop the art of using it better. Note: the picture of the volcano is the view from the “alternative” lodging that we will book rooms at next time.