Education, Travel - Europe

Let Us Not Destroy but Love

14. Florence, Italy

(Actual Trip Date: September 21, 2010)

Traveling in a group of six or seven people and constantly seeing them night and day while undergoing the stress of travel, exhaustion, hostel hopping, and switching trains tends to bring out the worse in everyone. You come out of the shower and you see the same people, you wake up and see the same people. Eventually, all one begins to see is his or her friends’ flaws. He or she forgets why they were friends with them, and suddenly the flaws are magnified.

The conclusion? Snapping. Bitterness. Irritation. Misery.

It’s so sad.

I began to notice this trend in Florence, Italy and I heard stories about it when I arrived back in Maastricht as well. Although the shopping was wonderful in Florence and the cannoli was great, the general behavior of people was beginning to bother me. It worried me.

Everyone came here already friends with those people. What’s the point of traveling if it’s just going to destroy those friendships? I learned that traveling is not just about games and fun. It’s a learning process, and this backpacking experience was definitely one placed before all of us by God. It’s a trial, and I feel like people don’t recognize or acknowledge that.

It’s hard. I’m guilty of it myself. It’s hard to control your frustration when travel things go wrong, lines are too long, and the group is too big. But whining and complaining about it really doesn’t change the situation so why do it? Because humans just have a tendency to open their mouths and let a string of complaints rush out.

I understand. Or at least I think I do. Being in the close proximity of the same people will drive you nuts eventually, but it’s better to take a step back and retreat into your own space instead of lashing out. Having my space, retreating into my shell to breathe, relax, and think. That’s how I deal with things.

There was so much unnecessary snapping that it just brought me down. ‘Why is this happening?’, I kept questioning myself. Traveling should be about embracing what’s all around and learning more and loving each other more. ‘There is no need for this,’ I explained to an understanding friend, ‘of course, it is hard to check ourselves, but I feel we must at least try. Snapping just causes more problems.’

Maybe it’s just me noticing these things? I am the type of person that always makes sure people are happy before I am. Because if they’re not happy, how could I be? I feel like the mother whenever I’m in a group, determined to always put a smile on someone’s face. I love all these people too much to allow them to ruin something so precious before returning to America.

““Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if instead of showing love among yourselves, you are always biting and devouring one another. Watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”- Galatians 5:13-15

Love and patience and kindness are the three qualities I try to place first when dealing with others.

Kindness will bring people a long way in their life. The gift of this attribute is that it will impact others in ways you won’t even realize. The warm feeling changes and diffuses into the traveling atmosphere with just a kind smile, a word of encouragement, or a brief touch on the arm. Apologies are even a form of kindness. It’s too bad stubbornness and ignorance holds it all back.

Patience is the hardest quality to learn and master. Amongst pain, frustration, and exhaustion, how does one take the time to relax, breath, and look at things from a further angle? For me, I find falling silent is the best way I can let patience seep into my body. It eliminates anger, and in turn, fuels kindness. Eventually, it creates trust – a quality I learned later in Milan that holds a heavier meaning than I ever expected.

But people are learning this. I see things are changing and people are changing. I have wonderful conversations with everyone. Things are changing, gradually but understandably. But every now and then, I heard the snapping, the ‘I-know-it-and-you-are-completely-uselessly-wrong’ impatient voice that frustrates, hurts, and cuts people more than they can imagine. As little as those things are, they accumulate and destroy. And it frustrates me to see chaos happen in the middle of European beauty.

I now come to the final and most important quality. Love. Because love is a combination of kindness, patience, and trust. And people forget this so easily. We are all guilty of forgetting this so easily.

A beloved friend of mine died over two years ago, brutally murdered. She was loving, ambitious, accepting, and always had an eye for trying to understand the world. It was a cold New Year’s morning when I found out. New Year’s has never been the same. The death of my friend didn’t teach me how easily someone could slip away. No. It just engrained more into my soul the importance of having patience and love for others, even if they are bordering my highest level of irritation.

This traveling business is now our challenge against unexpected events, stress, friendship, trust, and love. Love is shaped and defined by constructing and deconstructing. Peeling back layers and adding more layers.

What we must try to do now is build up. Breathe.

I have faith.

Do you?

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