LUGGAGE Lady

Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Archive for the tag “compassion”

Travel’s Priceless Souvenir

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“I’ve orchestrated my life around travel because nothing else truncates imaginary woes or realigns perspective so stealthily.” ~ 💗Luggage Lady

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Two weeks after graduating college, I tucked a second-class Eurail pass into an overloaded backpack and jetted off to Europe. I saw the opportunity as a luxurious postponement of reality, but my ‘delusions of glamour’ shattered the moment that plane skidded to a halt. Far from lavish, the summer of ’88 revamped my sheltered mindset and fortified my coddled heart. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars (and my parents) for this gift.

Twenty-seven years and 56 countries later, here are a few introspective observations:

🌎 Hunkering in Dachau, Germany’s dank concentration camp gas chamber, death’s stench lingered in my imagination. Sickened by such incomprehensible horror, I focused on those who’d somehow survived the senseless carnage, praying they’d gone on to lead wildly fulfilling, dignified lives — complete with every well-deserved amenity.

(I have never experienced true suffering and have no excuse whatsoever for not adding positivity in my brief time here.) 

🌎 Swaying on unsteady legs in an African AIDS orphanage, jet-lagged and longing for caffeine, the guide announced the arrival of his American friends and the children swarmed. Frail arms clung to my knees, giant eyes gazing upward. I bit my cheek until I tasted blood to keep the pooling tears from falling and knelt down to join them.

(I know nothing of hardship. Overfed, overwatered, and otherwise overindulged — I have absolutely nothing to complain about — ever!)

🌎 When my Guatemalan tour guide asked if he could show me his new house, I agreed but worried what he’d be omitting from our tour as a result. I can barely recall the rain forest, but touring his minuscule cinderblock home, as he proudly pointed to the concrete floor and explained how he’d had dirt flooring his entire life, is something I’ll never forget. Shame prickled in my gut for all the creature comforts I had — and took for granted. Yet, there he stood, with his shy wife and cooing baby at his side, all of them beaming.

(How few material possessions we need! Family, love, friends, and the dreams we build together represent real wealth.)

🌎 I’d already been advised not to wander out of this Turkish port town’s tourist area and shooed from a mosque. Instead of visiting the woman’s designated prayer trailer, I roamed the residential back streets. My heart froze when I heard voices chanting, “American, American.” Before I knew it, a giggling boy and girl were grabbing my hands — just wanting to say hello.

(Political and religious zealots may capture the headlines and fuel fears aplenty, but they rarely represent the spirit of the people.)

🌎 As we prepared to sail away from Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands my husband smacked his empty back pocket and gasped. He’d forgotten his wallet in a massage parlor the previous night. The cynic in me thought we were more likely to be struck by lightning than to ever see the contents of that wallet again. Not only did he get it back, but when he offered a tip of gratitude, the business owner vehemently declined, saying, “You come back and visit me again — that will be my thanks.”

(Most people are good and decent and moral — and cynicism is such an unattractive waste of energy!)

🌎 Beyond the rear gardens of St Petersburg’s Summer Palace, my husband spotted his ideal food venue: a shish kabob cart packed with locals. Turned out, the chef/owner was Armenian and thrilled to have Americans patronizing his establishment. He brought a complimentary sampler platter to our table and sat down. The only problem? His English was extremely limited and, as you can probably guess, we didn’t speak a lick of Armenian. But, boy oh boy, did we ever have a blast communicating about his family and how he ended up in Russia, where we were from and what we did for a living…

(The desire to share one’s story is universal. Cultivate magical connections whenever possible.)

🌎 A darling travel mate was inspiring some Cuban school children to smile for our photographs. She shouted, “Cheese!” Seeing their confusion, she repeated the word in Spanish: “Queso!” Her sweet, albeit — completely lost in translation —  effort sent our group into giggling fits. The vision of middle-aged gringos practically rolling on the ground elicited enormous grins from the kids. Mission accomplished!

(A friendly demeanor and hearty helping of humor can overcome just about any barrier.)

🌎 Whether marveling over the Inca’s artistry at Machu Picchu or rocketing across the sky at roughly 600 mph, I can’t help but stand in awe of mankind’s ingenuity. From architecture to innovation, brilliance abounds! 

(Next time I start flapping my jaw about spotty internet coverage, or shrinking airplane seats, or any other deemed ‘inconvenience’ — may I honor humanity’s achievements by respectfully clamping my teeth over my tongue.)

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Travel’s Priceless Souvenir??

The empowering realization that we awaken our best selves each time we stretch outside our comfort zones and engage another, whether interacting globally or within one’s community: Greeting, smiling, listening, learning, and appreciating the diverse souls populating our planet, while celebrating how similar we truly are — hearts beating and breaking, just the same.

Machu Picchu -- WOW!

(photo from our Machu Picchu 42-mile hiking adventure 2013)

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Compassionately Converging

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“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ~ Maya Angelou

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In my dreams

Humanity doesn’t just bustle by one another

We initiate inspiriting impressions

Sans preoccupation or fear of repudiation

Greeting one another joyfully

Sharing a smile

A funny tale

Or maybe even swapping life stories

Commonalities dissolving differences

Respectful minds OPEN

Listening

Broadening

Approachable hearts expanding

Celebrating varying viewpoints and insightful interpretations

No matter how contrasting

Laughter and tears uniting

Difficult situations drawing us closer

Providing opportunity to stand in each other’s shoes

Appreciating the pain

While boldly rebuffing the destructive “us versus them” mentality

Bridging every gap in our power

Mindful we’re in this together

Spreading kindness rather than antagonism

Compassionately converging

♥ ♥ ♥

(Photo from my latest travels: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland)

Ever Grateful for YOU

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May the faintest illumination allay all traces of gloom
A whispered word evoke cheer in your heart even amidst chaos
May providence veer you fluidly from harm
A song renew your spirit
May your blessings be bountiful enough to share
And giving elevate your essence
May love lavish endless color across your days
While the gift of family and friendship provide safe harbor
May you know inner peace and hone this asset
Forever seeking
Passage to soulfulness…

♥ ♥ ♥

Your support means the world to me, precious readers. Sending you ALL my deepest gratitude & love — on this special day — and always! 😘

Ode to Cabin Crew

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I wanted to be a flight attendant for as long as I can remember. More than twenty years later, I still pinch myself from time to time. Although my experience has been overwhelmingly positive, there’s a dark side no one really discusses. We’re supposed to be social butterflies with contacts spanning the globe and bags expertly packed for our next exotic excursion, after all. Lonely, isolated, and disconnected are probably not terms most would associate with cabin crew. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe part of it is that we’re so busy caring for others that we forget to care for ourselves. Perhaps we bottle up the day’s negative energy, like the mountains of trash we collect but forget to throw away the former. Or maybe because we’re trained to calmly handle countless emergency scenarios, we’re terrified to admit when we need a lifeline of our own. Whatever the reason, we must do our best to look out for our sky family, honoring the fact that we’re forever united by wings…

💗I dedicate this to a dear sky angel who left this world far too soon. Rest in peace, sweet friend.💗

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Hired for our upbeat personas, quick wit, and reassuring smiles

We’re kindred spirits united by similar dispositions

Our aluminum-tubed office affording a collage of continuous change

Crewmates bonding as seamlessly as the airplane generates lift

 

Perhaps it’s the liberation of zipping

Seven peaceful miles aloft across azure skies

Teetering on sparsely padded jump seats

We share stories those closest to us may never hear

 

Whether swapping tales of adventure

Or unfathomable challenges, lessons, and heartache

We inspire and garner fresh perspectives from one another

A myriad of personalities merging at 37,000 feet

 

Not just a career

But a dynamic lifestyle

Cherished wings

Symbolizing fortuitous passage to a boundless world

Thump against my ever-grateful heart

 

And yet – somewhere between the ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’

A sense of impermanence looms

We’re independent souls

Or we wouldn’t have chosen this profession

 

But sometimes

When that hotel room door clicks shut at the end of a grueling day

A lonely heart slips beneath the covers

Brushing away a tear or two

And questioning

“Who’s going to have my back when my smile falters?”

✈ 🌎 ✈

(♥ Photo courtesy of a dear colleague’s friend. Check out her site, featuring the precious model above: http://karlaquiz.com ♥)

🌎 See also: Love Letters to Malaysia Airlines

Mind Over Mountain

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The mountain looms. Ignoring the “I can’ts” lobbing across my mind. Altitude accentuating the agony. Hammering heartbeat. Inferior lungs. Exhaling in a humiliating whoosh. The peak well above my comfort zone. Weighted legs. Stalling. A gulp of metallic water from my canteen. Sun and wind chaffing. A flicker of reverence launching untapped stamina — I’m traversing a portion of the intricate 25,000-mile Inca road system!

Santos, our Inca Shaman darts by. He’s hiking in sandals (!), playing a wooden flute-like instrument. I wonder what he thinks of this out-of-shape gringo gasping for air? He pauses in the distance. Incapable of speaking his native tongue, I ask for a picture in Spanish. He smiles, waving me over.

Later, he leads our group of twelve in a ceremony at the edge of a luminous glacier lake. He distributes symbolic coca leaves and we cling to their divinity as he begins chanting in hushed Quechua. Our Peruvian guide translates:

Release your negativity. Leave it here in the wide embrace of the Andes. Be free of debilitating thoughts. Let them go. They drag you under. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Disappointment, grudges, and bitterness destroy. Know in this moment, you have all you need: the sustaining sun, soothing air, purifying water, guiding stars, protective mountains, and exalting skies. The moon’s pull to keep you centered, the soil to nourish. Mother Earth always provides, ready with healing hand. Use this restorative energy. Envision family, friends, those suffering you’ve never met. Lift them up with your compassion. We have nothing more valuable to give the world — or each other.

We clutch hands, stitching our circle tighter. Snow loses its grip on a nearby cliff, triggering a small avalanche amidst our tranquility. A Condor swoops gracefully. Both men intensely engaged in their sacred ritual. Who am I to be standing in such a surreal natural sanctuary? I close moist eyes and picture the Southern Cross dancing in last night’s sky, wondering how I’ll ever translate such marvel to another. I tuck the memory into a deep pocket of my brain, hoping I’ll find a way.

Back home, I study our photographs, trying to recapture the rush of accomplishment, to harness the spirited Inca drive. I mean — who possesses such moxy as to erect cities and trails upon alarmingly precarious territory? I observe people all around me facing everyday mountains, trouncing obstacles with unparalleled grit, and I ask:

What’s the magic ingredient that propels an individual to exceed mediocrity — striving for excellence in every pursuit?
 



The Gift

 

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Every day the gift awaits

Extending a hand in comfort

Sharing a genuine smile

Turning stranger to friend

Compassion

The gift that costs nothing

Yet overlooked

Time and again

Continuing the spiral of ambivalence

Humanity passing

Without touching

Preoccupied and competitive

Forgetting we are one

Every day the gift awaits

The chance to contribute

To add a sparkle to the world

Replacing indifference with caring

Supporting others

Through kind actions

Brightening life’s journey

Choosing the gift

Heroes by Default

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Our vacation to the New England Coastline had been planned for months, our lodging prepaid and non-refundable. So it was that we boarded our flight from San Francisco to Manchester, New Hampshire on September 16, 2001.

That’s right, precisely five days after the world (as my generation knew it) changed irrevocably. Airplanes as suicide bombs? Hundred-story buildings disintegrating like those in an animated film? Fighter jets scrambling to do the unimaginable? My husband and I (pilot/flight attendant, respectively) boarded a scarcely populated aircraft and headed east.

The first breakfast held a table of twelve. As we all chattered about the basics: where are you visiting from…what do you do? The room grew quiet, all gazes drifting toward us. The rest of the guests were locals who had canceled trips to stay within driving distance of home. We’d not only traversed the continent in a “weapon,” we were part of the group that had been slaughtered before everyone else. Many rose from their chairs to hug us, offering words of praise with tears in their eyes.

We were heroes, by default, for the day…

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