A Little Life Lesson on the Tour Bus

So my husband and I find ourselves on a China tour with 24 others, all strangers to us when the tour starts. This is a rare experience for us; we usually arrange our travel on our own and at most sign up for a day tour of a specific place. We thought, however, that China would be difficult to navigate without a tour, since we don’t know any Chinese. (In retrospect, I would say it’s a lot easier than we imagined.)  Tour participants range in age from 21 to probably 75 and come from all parts of the U.S. Many are couples, but there are also pairs of friends, a brother and sister traveling together, and two individuals traveling on their own.

Right away I notice behavior that I disapprove of. There is the couple who always pushes their way forward so that they get on the bus first and take the seats up front. There is the woman who continuously asks, “How much is that in American?” There are the two older gentlemen who use everything they see as proof of Chinese (or sometimes “Oriental”) inferiority. There is the couple who take literally two hours buying jade, so we all have to wait, but who seem utterly uninterested in any cultural artifacts. I can feel myself becoming exasperated and judgmental.

But after a day or so I think, We are all wherever we our on our spiritual journeys. I can’t know what people are struggling with. Maybe pushiness comes from people feeling that they are often overlooked and won’t get what they need unless they assert themselves. Maybe purchasing expensive items provides a sense of abundance or security to some people. Maybe abruptness is just a sign that all of us are a bit uncomfortable spending so much time with strangers.

I share these insights with my husband, and not only do they calm me down, but they do the same for him. We both slide into more relaxed and flexible states of mind. Waiting for people becomes an opportunity to develop patience–and to people watch. Quirkiness just demonstrates the range of human experience. I can’t say I always hang on to this perspective. One woman’s angry and noisy insistence that the U.S. government overburdened her with taxes to provide generous care for poor and disabled people alienates me, and I avoid sitting near her whenever possible. But overall, I am able to give people the benefit of the doubt and meet them with curiosity and patience instead of judgment.

When I find out that the man in the couple who always push to the front suffers from severe car sickness and grabs the front seat so he can manage this condition, I feel validated in my decision to presume positive intent. I’m grateful for this evidence that the kinder interpretation was also the accurate one.

Furthermore, I notice how much happier my husband and I are when we let go of judgment. That’s a valuable life lesson as well.

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9 thoughts on “A Little Life Lesson on the Tour Bus

  1. Oh, wonderful Q: I missed you! And I must admit to reading your new posts, eagerly waiting for a CRUNCH of six or eight legged creatures!! So glad you and your husband had a great time. TS

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  2. I have been working very hard on “assuming the best” in people and “leading with kindness”. I find it doesn’t matter so much that my assessments are correct, but it certainly helps me stay in a calmer, more optimistic space. This is a great post! Enjoy the rest of your trip 😊

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  3. Yeah, a much appreciated entry. I especially like this part here.
    ‘When I find out that the man in the couple who always push to the front suffers from severe car sickness and grabs the front seat so he can manage this condition, I feel validated in my decision to presume positive intent. I’m grateful for this evidence that the kinder interpretation was also the accurate one.’

    We never know what is happening in another person’s life or what they’re going through. It is best not to assume things. This is a positive outcome to a positive outlook. Good!

    Faith

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  4. I think traveling and the change of scenery can bring up a lot of emotions, stuff we previously hadn’t thought about. I think it makes us think more, process more, look inside more. It can be a good thing. The first part of traveling for me was always filled with anxiety. Once I got settled in a bit I could enjoy myself a little more. I think the expectation to have fun is rather high. We SHOULD be happy, by George we’re in a beautiful place. We SHOULD be grateful, look at these impoverished people. Whatever emotions that come up and don’t fit into the expected realm of emotions is cast off as negative. It makes it even harder to enjoy ones self when there are preconceived ideas of how we should feel when in a particular place.

    China, without a doubt, is a place of beauty. While I have no desire to visit, I do think the country side I’ve seen in photos is breath taking. Authentic Chinese is awesome. I’m drinking authentic Dragonwell very sparingly. I’m a lover of history so I’d be out of my mind walking around China.

    I personally should live in Japan in a little stone house with wild moss all around me. Off further would be my tea plantation. I’d stroll to check on the leaves to see how they’re doing then begin a nature stroll where I’d see little frogs and curious bugs. I’d collect fallen bark from trees and make little sculptures. I can see that, clear as day I can see it.

    I appreciate going on this journey with you via the entries. I hope you know that no matter what you feel from day to day, people will read without thinking poorly of you, says the hypocrite. 🙂

    Faith

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  5. yes! This is such a beautiful reminder about letting go of judgment. How judgment and blame cause us to contract and close our hearts, and move away from both connecting with ourselves and other people. And it is so hard in the moments we are annoyed or agitated, to let go of the “what they are doing is wrong, why are they doing that?” But when we can, it leaves us so much more receptive to seeing others as human. And being able to love them and offer compassion.
    And I don’t know about you, but when I am feeling compassion versus judgment, it is so much better for my health. So it is for them, but really, I cultivate these qualities selfishly for myself because it feels so much better.

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