We’ve all been there. The trains are late, the food is not what you expected, service is slow, you’re charged more for a coffee than you wanted to pay. Traveling has its share of frustrating moments—especially if you’ve come to expect a certain standard of living and you’ve grown up in a society where everything is readily available. I remember the first time I was truly annoyed with being in a foreign country.
Living in Venice, taking the vaporetti was an art. If you were too early, then you would wait half an hour or longer to catch one. If you were late, even by five seconds, they would immediately close the gate and you were left stranded on shore. I can’t tell you how annoying it was when I had class or an event to go to and be on time for and the attendant would shut the gate in my face.
As a United States citizen, I grew up with certain attitudes of how things should be. I expected to sit down at a restaurant and have a server at my side within moments. In Italy, Spain, or France, I was surprised when it took much longer. Tips are meager in these countries, and waiters and waitresses don’t have incentive to rush around with a smile on their faces. It took me a while to get used to the wait. Now, I enjoy it because having a meal is less about consuming and more about enjoying.
Every traveler has a sense of entitlement going into a new country and a new situation. It’s a comfort zone of how things “should be.” If I know things should be a certain way, then I don’t have to rethink my ideas of how the world works. But isn’t that the whole point of traveling? Why would you even bother to go to another place if things weren’t different?
Traveling, in its purest form, is difficult. It was a pain in the ass to be stuck on shore when I knew I had Italian class in a few minutes. I’ve waited plenty of time for an afternoon lunch when I was in a rush, and who knows how many times the buses have run at times that did not correspond with the time table that I had looked up. All of these experiences have made me want to tear my hair out and scream, but all of them have been good for me because they have pushed me out of my comfort zone.
It all depends on how you want to spend your time away from home. Since I’ve adopted a more nomadic lifestyle, I’ve had to learn to let things go more than I would have before. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and to see things from other perspectives. Will you suffer if your meal isn’t delivered at the speed of light? What difference does it make if you have to catch the next vaporetto in the long run?
We’ve been fortunate enough to live in societies and economic conditions that allow us to experience new cultures. As annoying as these instances can be, they have taught me how lucky I am and how entitled my culture really is. We enjoy aspects of our culture that others wouldn’t even dream of having in their own, and it’s taken me time to lose an entitled attitude (even now, I’m not totally rid of it entirely). Travel has taught me compassion in so many ways, but I had to be open to learning about a new culture and willing to see things from another point of view.
How have you lost an entitled attitude while traveling? Why is it important to you?