I’ve always felt that the greatest lesson one learns in travel is the art and discipline of patience. And the more I travel, especially outside of my culture, the more opportunity I have to practice this discipline. It requires patience, for example, when you are faced with trying to buy a ticket–any ticket–in a country where you don’t speak the language. The first step is knowing where to buy said ticket: the part of the city you have to get yourself to, the building in which the ticket is sold, the time the building is open and the bus number and time schedule to get you to that building. And the same goes for the counter within the building including its hours and location. And so on.
And if you should take the right bus at the right time and find the right counter in the right building, patience is what is required to know how to stand in a line, if there is one. There are inevitably rules for said line, of which you are probably unaware at the time. You have to know, for example, when to stand there and when to shove ahead. In some places, you learn that four hours standing single file is normal. In other places, you learn to shove the old lady next to you (after you’ve let enough go by to assuage your brand of cultural conscience) because if you don’t you won’t ever get served.
And so over time I’ve learned that patience is not the same thing as merely waiting. Actually, patience is just as much about action as inaction–and not just any action–skilled action. Patience involves a form of waiting armed with a wisdom that enables you to move with alacrity when the time calls for it. Thus, patience is knowing when to act and how; and the self-control to hold out until the right moment. The practice of patience can be exhausting, aggravating and at times even infuriating, which makes mastering it even a little a huge accomplishment.
–Salvador airport, Brazil, June 2011