Welcome back to my Travel as a Story series! Today, we’re going to cover the Antagonist of our trips. To catch you up, here are the links to the previous posts in this series:

Part I: Setting
Part II: Theme
Part III: Protagonist

I know this series is a bit different than my other posts, but I hope you’re starting to see it come together a bit.  It definitely should after this post.

Dragon in Caesar's Palace

Dragon in Caesar’s Palace

What’s an antagonist?

The antagonist of a story is the person, place, or thing that is set against the protagonist.  If you’re with me that the protagonist of a story seeks to accomplish something, the antagonist would stand in the way of it.

It’s a relatively simple concept, but let’s look at some common antagonists and how we can think of overcoming them.


It never seems like we have enough time when we’re on vacation, does it?  I’ve been out of the country once a month this year and only one of those trips was for longer than two nights in-country.  Time stood in the way of me accomplishing everything I wanted to on these trips.

So how did I fight back against this dreaded antagonist?  I accepted that I would not get much rest on these trips.  That wasn’t the goal, after all.  Since I didn’t plan on resting much I had more time to go do stuff.  I also made a little list of Must Do’s and Like To Do’s.  Since I didn’t have much time, I planned on doing the Must Do’s and fitting in as many Like To Do’s as I could.  All while sipping copious amounts of coffee.

Language/Culture Barrier

You’re going to Italy.  You took three years of Spanish in high school and remember precisely none of it.  Somehow your lack of knowledge of Spanish isn’t likely to turn into fluency in Italian during the flight over.

I don’t worry about the language barrier as much as I used to.  I try my best to learn a few phrases in the heart language of countries I go to since most locals will appreciate, if nothing else, the effort you put in to learn something in their native tongue.  But even if I don’t have time to learn local phrases I have found the following tips are helpful, no matter the location:

  • SMILE!
  • It is polite to ask someone if they speak English before starting a question in English
  • Even if they do not speak English, they probably will still want to help if they can.  Let them know where you are trying to go and look confused and they might be able to point you in the right direction
  • When in doubt, use your right hand to eat and/or receive something (receipt, etc.) from someone
  • SMILE!
  • If someone does speak English but it’s clear that it’s not their native language, do not use contractions and try and speak a little slower than usual.
  • If you are in a location that uses Arabic/Cyrillic/any other script that’s different from the letters you are used to seeing, your hotel will be happy to provide you with a few business cards that have the location in the local characters
  • The following words are fairly universal: “thank you”, “bye bye”, “Coca Cola”, “taxi”, “hotel”, “police”
  • SMILE!

It’s absolutely amazing how far a kind attitude and patient spirit will get you in a foreign land.  Give people a chance to feel helpful and not only will you likely get to where you are trying to go but you will make someone’s day in the process.


I’m a nervous flyer on international flights.  I’ve also gone on plenty of business trips where I wasn’t sure how everything would go and was afraid I hadn’t prepared enough.  In my eyes there are really only two ways of approaching/combating fear:

  1. Preparation
  2. Acknowledging it then going for it anyway

I try to rigorously prepare for flights and for work trips, but there’s only so much you can do.  I don’t want to plan out my trips so much that there’s no room for the trip to breathe so I leave a little room for spontaneity.  Obviously for work trips it’s sometimes just a confidence thing, but I generally know my stuff and do really good work for my clients.  But I still have bits of fear every once in a while.

Travel can be scary sometimes.  Uprooting yourself from what is most likely a relatively comfortable life at home and heading off to the great unknown is stressful.  We shouldn’t expect for things to be like they are back home, that’s why we travel in the first place, to see how other countries and cultures do life.

Here’s the thing about antagonists…

Oftentimes they beat the protagonists…at least for a while.  Rocky IV all good stories feature the protagonist in a struggle against the antagonist.  You will win some and you will lose some.  The point isn’t to win every battle against your antagonist, rather it’s to have ultimate victory over them.  We shouldn’t go into every trip expecting everything to go right.  What we need to do is remain on point: remember the theme.  Remember who the protagonist truly is and remember what they’re trying to accomplish.  When you put everything in its proper place within the Story of your trip, it’ll keep you focused on what’s truly important.



I hope this series is coming together for you a bit.  Up next we’ll talk about Timelines of stories, but until then I know there are other antagonists out there, what are some you’ve found?

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