Manage Your Expectations

February 15, 2015

Guest post by Stephanie Rosenbaum, Team Peru 2015

“You’ll want to manage your expectations.” I heard that phrase first on a Skype call during Fall 2014 Policy Analysis Class. We were talking with half of the AASD- two out of the four members of the organization were crammed onto the screen, looking quite cold and about as thrilled to be there talking to us as we were to be talking to them (background: it was 3 PM on a sunny September Thursday afternoon. Being inside a stuffy room was no one preferred location at that time). But the point was valid, even beyond the conditions of the day.

I didn’t really have any idea what to expect before going down to Peru- I had never been to the country, or the continent before. I knew it was likely going to be rainy and cold, except for when it was hot. And the altitude could be a problem, we were warned. So I packed a bunch of rain gear, hiking clothes, hiking boots, only one book and lots of socks and left my house at 3 AM to get to SFO in time for my flight hoping for the best. And really, it was the best. Not every moment but in general, and in hindsight, so much of what could have gone wrong didn’t, and most of what could have gone right did.

So what exactly could have gone wrong? In my more worry-wort moments, I thought of constant, drenching, freezing downpours; debilitating altitude sickness; other kinds of sickness you might expect in a rural Peruvian mountain town; unfriendly people not interested in taking our survey; feeling completely cut off from the research process because I don’t speak Spanish; crappy team dynamics…etc etc. I can find multiple things to worry about in just about any situation, let alone one as unknown as this was.

But…those things didn’t happen. Well, most of them didn’t. It only drenched us in rain a few times, and it wasn’t totally freezing. I didn’t get altitude sickness at all. I did get the flu but that was something that could have happened in any country. People were incredibly friendly, my lack of Spanish wasn’t a problem (and during my time there my Spanish skills markedly improved!), our team had the kind of serendipitous lack of personality clashes that make it clear that no matter how many team building exercises you do (we didn’t do any), chance will always have a say in how a group of people get along when thrown together 12 to a house, 24 hours a day at 11,000 feet.

What does this have to do with the idea of managing expectations? Because I went in expecting neither the best nor the worst, I was open to everything. When something good happened, it was a lovely bonus surprise and when something not so good happened it was eaiser to shrug off as just a part of the experience. If I’d had a set of expectations in my mind, I would not have been open to a lot of the possibilities that only became reality once we were actually in the country and I probably would have been a lot more upset by anything negative because it would have been interfering with my little mental plan, even if my mental plan had very little in common with reality.

Confession time: I’m a planner. Back home in Monterey, I plan just about every hour of my day. I mean I write down what homework I’m doing when, which hours I’m going to eat what meals and where I’m volunteering when. And in the past, when I’ve traveled I’ve leaned more towards that same system. (As a side note, I think this probably stems from spending so much time in rehearsals both at home and abroad- you need to schedule carefully to be on time when you’re a performer.) But travel isn’t a rehearsal. And I’ve been discovering the beauty in an unscheduled, and therefore expectation free, hour. And that possibility multiplies exponentially when you’re somewhere completely new. If you think you know exactly what to expect, you miss those possibilities.

So what’s the point? As I see it, there are two prongs to this point: one, that old cliché you hear about how much you learn about both yourself and the world while traveling is actually pretty true, and two, managing your expectations and being open-minded are very good things indeed.

Entry Filed under: Guest Posts From Students,Team Peru Reports. Posted in  Guest Posts From Students ,Team Peru Reports .

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Our mission is to provide and implement sustainable programs and projects in collaboration with the indigenous people of the Sacred Valley of Perú in an effort to improve their lives and reduce poverty in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Furthermore, we work to support local NGOs with whom we have shared values using the skills and tools we possess.