During my Alitalia flight to Rome, at around 37,000 feet when Geneva was out the window to my left, I was trying to read the on-board magazine and a phrase caught my attention, “someday this pain will be useful to you.” Perhaps it stuck out from the rest of the words on that page because it was the only portion written in English. Perhaps, I was destined to find it.I’ve written about my journey toward and in travel before. While I talk to or hear from people every day who say they are jealous of my job and of the current life I lead, it’s not without pain. I simply avoid sharing all of it in favor of instead trying to inspire people about how great life can be when travel is a part of it. It seems a more productive way to live.
However, just because I do not talk about all the pain present in my life all the time, does not mean it is not there. I began my career in travel because of a rather bitter end to a failed marriage and a divorce that has left a gaping scar in my beliefs about love and relationships. That alone is something which cannot merely be cured with new countries, first class upgrades and decadent meals in foreign cities. Never mind that my travel is usually far more budget oriented than luxury-themed anyway, it’s beside the point. The freelance lifestyle that I lead in an industry which is largely in transition and still growing, is always a precarious one and that brings its own challenges and heartaches of unpredictability as well. A complete change of profession and direction simply doesn’t happen without pitfalls. And I am always missing someone’s birthday or bachelorette party to the point that I’m rather rubbish as a sister, daughter and friend.
Still, I believe the phrase I saw is true. Pain is useful, and I’m actually thankful for it. The pain of my failed attempt at marriage combined with all the difficulties that can be part of this life drives me to continue down a path that has led to more happiness than anything else I have ever done. It drives me to want to help people that I see also stuck in difficult circumstances either similar to mine or completely different, yet which I can speak to on some level.
Difficult personalities abound in travel and encountering them is only helping me become more compassionate and kind when I deal with people. It is indeed useful. Stereotypical travel nightmares and constant technology snags seem to befall me with the frequency of a weapon in a cheesy horror movie. This too is useful, I believe I am becoming more patient as I age and more willing to “live and let live”.
Now I haven’t arrived anywhere. I am so far from perfect it’s laughable. The pain of my past experiences and poor choices and the silly headaches that can come with frequent travel have not made me a model anything. I am learning as I go, I am determined to keep doing so and I am finding that every bad experience makes me that much more thankful for the nights like tonight where I stood in front of Fontana di Trevi watching it sparkle like something out of a Fellini movie.Whenever something bad happens, you’ll likely hear me saying under my breath, “Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to Me.” After all, the alternative view is certainly no more palatable than the idea that all which happens to us, simply sets us up for what is coming later. Can someone who has had no pain of any kind appreciate the flip side of the coin … the one which tells us, as they say here in Italy, La vita è bella? I don’t know. But I am glad I do not have to find out.