Three powerful phrases we need to say more: Sorry, thank you, I love you!


By Leesan

The columnist with his 127 travel buddies from 22 countries forming a circle at the North Pole, symbolising family and unity. — Photos: Apple Vacations

On one of the many bus journeys I’ve had with travel buddies, we happened to discuss the word “sorry”, which always seems to be the hardest word to say. Travel buddy Ah Som quipped: “The closer we are to the person or people, the harder it is for us to say the word ‘sorry’ to them.”

I agree with what he said because this is what I normally experience. Very often, when we are locked in a tussle with our better half over an issue or two, the impasse could have been easily broken just with a softly uttered “sorry”. Unfortunately, this word seems perpetually difficult to be said out loud.

In the end, things get worse and escalate into some sort of “cold war”, sometimes lasting a few days or even weeks!

However, saying “sorry” too many times will also render the word worthless. What people want is a sincere and genuine apology that is usually accompanied by an apologetic expression.

I myself often say “sorry” in the middle of a conflict – be it among couples, family members, friends, business partners, colleagues or even travel companions – as I find that it can quickly smooth things over, and save anyone from embarrassment.

When we assembled at the bus that morning, Ah Lee, who showed up late, said to everyone, “Sorry for keeping you waiting for so long. The next round of ice cream at the highway service station will be on me!”

That small gesture helped melt all the frustration the other travellers were feeling, and Ah Lee’s announcement was instantly reciprocated with a heartfelt, “Thank you”!

As their tour guide, I also seized the opportunity to try to cheer things up a little with a joke: “Perhaps our friend tripped inside the toilet this morning while getting ready and ended up being late ...”

Actually, Lee was only 10 minutes late, and those few minutes of waiting in the bus gave us the chance to take a better look at the vista outside the hotel lobby. In situations like that, one should always try to make the best of things by taking the time to relax and check out the people walking along the street, or chatting with the people around us. This is something that was mentioned in New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s book Thank You For Being Late.

Malaysian tourists are always welcome all over the world as we are a polite, cultured and educated bunch. This photo shows the tourism board in Japan’s Gifu prefecture warmly welcoming the first Malaysian group to arrive since the pandemic.Malaysian tourists are always welcome all over the world as we are a polite, cultured and educated bunch. This photo shows the tourism board in Japan’s Gifu prefecture warmly welcoming the first Malaysian group to arrive since the pandemic.

Just like “sorry”, the phrase “thank you” is also a powerful one. My “die-hard fan” and travel buddy Aceline has developed the habit of saying “thank you” to the bus driver every morning and evening. I think the bus driver initially felt a little uneasy about that because he insisted that he was just doing what he was paid to do. After some time, though, his heart softened and returned Aceline’s “thank you” with a genuine smile each time.

Kindness will not only spread very quickly from individual to individual, but can easily improve our relationship with other people, too.

In fact, the one thing that truly makes a tour leader or tour guide’s day is a simple “thank you” and a short round of applause from group members. Of course, I always respond in kind to all my travel buddies at the end of each and every tour. They have spent both their precious time and money to join us on our tours, and their support is the most powerful motivation for us to move forward. “I love you!”

Upon hearing those three words from me, little Wei who was also on the bus turned to her grandmother sitting beside her and said: “Thank you, granny! I love you, too!” Everyone else onboard was moved by that.

Verily, sincerity has always been a superbly important element in our relationship with people, before or after the pandemic!

On a side note, Lin Ling and her British husband Mike were seen always holding each other’s hands throughout the journey, much to the envy of the other fellow travellers. As if that’s not enough, Mike would every so often utter the words, “dear”, “great”, and “I love you” to his beloved wife. Isn’t that very sweet?

While we may speak different languages, a gentle expression of love and gratitude always delivers that same uplifting effect!

The biggest reward one gets from travelling is when one experiences local culture, and engage with the local folks. This photo was taken in Tashkent, capitol of Uzbekistan.The biggest reward one gets from travelling is when one experiences local culture, and engage with the local folks. This photo was taken in Tashkent, capitol of Uzbekistan.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.


Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has travelled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.

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