“I hate to say it, but Mom is right. You can’t stay mad in Disneyland.” – Lindsey Leavitt
All parents have lessons that they want to teach us as children in the hopes that it makes our lives easier as we move through life. Some of my Mom’s more salient lessons and sayings have stuck with me over the years. Here are 3 lessons that I learned from her and use when traveling.
My mother would always speak to me in her native Hoiping dialect (Kaiping in Manadarin). The dialect is specific to a particular southern region in Guangdong province of China. Some of my Mom’s sayings don’t have a good equivalent English translation. I will do my best to translate my Mom’s Hoiping sayings along with the best possible interpretation and/or meaning.
1) Saying: In a disagreement, let the other person wear the “Top Hat”.
Meaning: Placate and be humble
One of my Mom’s favorite Hoiping sayings when involved in a conflict was: “Just let them wear the Top Hat”. Basically, anyone wearing the Top Hat gets to feel like they’re the Boss, Top Dog or the Big Kahuna if you will. My Mom felt that trying to bulldoze your way through people generally gets met with resistance. Letting others feel important and useful goes a long way in getting what you want or having matters settled in an amicable way.
I’ve used this lesson a few times when there were issues with hotel bookings upon arrival. I would avoid making the clerk or manager feel like they didn’t know how to do their jobs. I’d aim to make them feel smart enough to find a solution for me. Even if the solution was my suggestion, I would give them credit. Thus letting them wear the “Top Hat”. I’ve also gone the other way and steam rolled through similar situations. Even if I got my way, it makes for an awkward stay at the hotel later.
Don’t get me wrong, if I run into a situation where I feel I’m being cheated or defrauded, I will stand my ground. But to start, I generally default with the Top Hat and some diplomacy.
2) Saying: Always try to keep your belly full.
Meaning: Don’t function while hungry.
My Mother came from a very poor upbringing and often found herself hungry during her childhood. When I was growing up, she had an almost obsessive concern that I was never to be hungry. Whether it was a peanut butter sandwich or instant Ramen noodles, my Mom made sure that me and my brother’s bellies were always full.
You can see my Mom cook traditional Chinese dishes in action on my brother’s Youtube cooking channel on the Chinese Canadian Roots TV .
I’ve always remembered this lesson on long travel days. A big breakfast to start and always some snacks for later. I’ve done long travel days on an empty stomach and tended to get light headed and squirrelly mid-day. I couldn’t think straight and was easily agitated.
Remember, keep your belly full!
3) Saying: Not everything has to be a so perfect that it fits in you’re asshole.
Meaning: Don’t be a perfectionist.
My Mom was pretty graphic and succinct with this saying. She would say this to me over the years while questioning some of my failed romantic relationships and the long stretches of bachelorhood as I got older. She felt that I was too picky when it came to choosing a girlfriend.
She always encouraged me to have a give and take attitude. She always emphasized to me that I or anyone else didn’t need to be perfect. Just be happy.
I’ve learned to let go some of my perfectionism through my travels as invariably something does always goes wrong. And invariably there’s always some resolve. The sky never fell and the earth didn’t open up and swallow me.
Whether it was sub-par hotel experience or a travel schedule gone awry; the downs of my travels have just been as interesting as the ups. Regardless, there was a story worthy of telling.
Sometimes it’s just better to let go and have something go wrong. So far, I’m still breathing and life goes on.
What lessons has your Mom taught you that’s helped in your life and in your travels?
“My mom smiled at me. Her smile kind of hugged me.” – R.J. Palacio, Wonder
NOTE: I’m currently in Hong Kong as of this writing and will be entering China tomorrow with my Mom and Dad for them to visit their Hoiping villages. I was privileged to take them back with my brothers 2 years ago. I will share my experience of visiting my parents village in an upcoming post.