According to Benjamin Disraeli, “Travel Teaches Tolerance”.
This is so true. There are 6 billion people on this planet. It is unlikely that you will get on with all of them. But, as I have gone about my wanderings, I have figured something out about the people who I find annoying. I’ve realised that whatever trait or quirk I find annoying about them, I possess that trait myself.
My biggest frustration with others tends to come with indecision. I am an incredibly indecisive person. I like to blame the fact that my starsign is Libra, and I weigh up each decision into a list of pros and cons. Indeed, I could of gone on this trip years, maybe even a decade ago, but I just wasn’t sure where exactly I wanted to go, hence, I put it off until now.
I try and tolerate people. I think my tolerance level has increased since before I started this trip. I can put up with snorers quite easily now. I can tolerate drunk people who return to my dorm room at 4 in the morning and behave obnoxiously. It is the indecisive people who really grate on my nerves. One time, whilst walking on the Camino de Santiago on a rainy day, I was walking behind a German lady who had come to a fork in the path. The Camino is incredibly well way-marked by a scallop shell insignia and yellow arrows. Despite a yellow arrow pointing her in the right direction, she stopped, stood there and waited for me to reach her. I pointed her in the right direction begrudgingly. She subsequently overtook me, only for the same thing to happen 5 minutes later. And then, a third time. By this point I was really cranky. How thick could this woman possibly be?
In hindsight, I felt really bad for getting cranky at her. I had to stop myself and think that perhaps this was her first time in a different country and here she was walking through it by herself. Whilst she was middle aged, it would have taken guts for her to make the decision to do this. In a sense, I saw a reflection of myself at that age in her. I felt really bad. Thankfully, a few days later I was staying in the same albergue as her, and we got talking. She had forgotten my crankiness (or perhaps, it had seemed to me that I was really snappy with her, when, in fact, it felt worse in my head than in reality). I was glad I had managed to catch up with her, and repaid her by watching her bottle of red wine for her in the kitchen and save it from a group of American college students who were eyeing it off.
Another group of people who I have to tolerate are those who expect to be entertained. They sit in the hostel, and eye you off as you enter. I can hear the question they ask themselves, “Oh, she looks like she knows what she is doing, I hope we can have a conversation?” It’s tiresome yet fascinating.
At the moment, where I am working, there is a man called Andrew who expects to be entertained. He fuels himself with alcohol every single night to pass away the monotony and boredom of his life. The only thing that seems to excite him is conversation revolving around alcohol consumption – who was drinking it, how much of it they consumed last night, the affects of it the following morning on the people who were drinking it, and so the cycle continues. Every. Single. Day. It has actually turned me off drinking. I am quite partial to a glass of wine every now and again. But having him watch me drink it is incredibly disconcerting. One night, he leered at me with a bottle of whisky, offering me some. I declined, somehwhat embarrassed as he disrupted the conversation I was having within a circle of friends. “But it’s single malt whisky”, as if the notion of its purity would make me change my mind. Nonetheless, I tolerate Andrew. I grind my teeth, avert eye contact and make only civil conversation with him. The bare minimum of tolerance. But tolerance all the same.