COMPASSION: TO BE OR NOT TO BE

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." ~ Dalai Lama

A respected writer friend and travel lover invited me along on a wonderful vacation to the casual, picturesque province of beautiful Nova Scotia. I was to join her and another traveller for our maritime adventure. The three of us met up at an airport hotel the night before our early morning flight. It became immediately clear the relationship with this new personality would be complicated the minute she handed me the vodka Pepsi that I had thrice refused.

Neglecting to read the fine print on our pre-boarding passes, they missed the baggage check-in by a mere thirty seconds. You can tell a lot about a person by how they handle a stressful situation. My new travel companion reacted with vulgarity, red-faced yelling and by throwing the extra fees at the representatives face. I was embarrassed for her and myself.  I travel light so the attendant advised me to run for my flight. Believe me when I say I could not run away fast enough.  My escape was short-lived as the airline changed the gate and I too missed the flight. It was less than a two-hour wait so I checked in and took my time getting to the lounge where I relaxed and began to read.

I was engrossed in my novel when the loud, gravelly laugh of my gnarly nemesis broke my concentration a half an hour later. The less than impressive start to the day was made duller still by her recants of the story and how in her indignation and retribution she happily left a smashed up muffin on the CSR’s counter.

Rudeness offends me as does excessive use of profanity and drink, smokers and drug users. I was lucky enough to find all five abusive behaviours in this travel companion. This was going to be one hell of an adventure and let me tell you folks, the hits just kept on coming.

My writer friend is a wonderful woman and were it not for her pleasant personality, I would never have travelled with companions at all, preferring to travel alone making new friends and acquaintances along the way. The two personalities seemed such a contrast to me but it’s true that you never really know someone. All efforts to converse with my friend were met with interruptions and comments indicating petty jealousy and one-upmanship. The snide remarks delivered as feeble humour or out of earshot from my friend. I don’t understand jealousy myself and think it a merit-less emotion but I know it creates enough power to inflict pain on others. I found myself in an extremely uncomfortable situation and while much venom was subtly directed towards me I choose a path of compassion instead of anger. I laughed when I wanted to lash out. I held my tongue when she repeatedly gave wrong directions or misinformation. When she spoke incessantly as an official on every topic, I sat quietly, mused or when I could, I walked away alone.

Was it easy? Not as much as I would have liked although some days were easier than others. In the end I did spend good money to leave a day earlier. There are limits to my compassion and as mentioned earlier, I despise rudeness. I felt one more day could push me into a wrath or unkindness for which I would later question myself.

Searching for some reason for this hardship, nothing seemed reasonable and I had to look inside myself for lightness of being. It was closer than I thought. She forced me to recall that humans come in a variety of packages, imperfect packages. It is in fact our imperfections that make us human, deserving of love, despite our faults. We don’t have to like each other but it’s important to try to love each other. When I hugged my companion goodbye at the airport it was with a full heart and genuine warmth that I wished her well.

  • TRAVEL TIP #1:  Get to know the people you plan to travel with and ensure compatibility. The adventure should be found on the journey, not in your travel companions. 
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