Travel is about people. I am ashamed to admit that I just learned this recently. Now I identify not only what I want to see, but how I am going to enrich my experience by meeting new people. I had the fortune of traveling with some of my favorite strangers this past summer. These people have transformed the way I think about life, yet I only spent three weeks with them. I try to hold onto my new friends with a grip that might cause blood circulation to cease. I want to share some vignettes about people from my travel journal of the summer. Some of these snippets may seem out of context, but just take them as a tired traveler’s reflection on the daily events. I hope you think back on the impact others have made in your own travels.
Jodi, who was also our waitress, weaved us through the quiet town to teach us about the culture of the Dutch and what day to day life was like. The most interesting aspect was discussing the benefits of their way of life, but seeing that even they cannot escape change.
I’m finding myself getting closer and closer to my fellow tour partners. Life is good.
He is the type of person that lets you into his world right away. Like a grandpa, he shares his stories to us. He shares to teach, and remind us of the times from the past. I’m sure he has given a similar speech for many, many years, but he speaks with the same gusto as if it is the first time he has shared his thoughts.
While hiking in the vineyards, he began to talk with me about how he has helped in the harvesting season. He then went on to discuss a time when they plucked the grapes for ice wine. I shared my love of ice wine in passing. Later that night he rejoined us and to my surprise, brought me an ice wine. I shared my treasure with my new friends later in the trip. Germans may be some of the nicest people I have ever met.
Our final stop included a visit to an artist’s shop. He played “What a Wonderful World” on the piano as some noticed tears swelling up in their eyes.
He shared a story about the wall, and his little piece of it. To celebrate his anniversary with his wife, he bought a piece of the wall as a gift. The problem was that his wife was afraid of heights, and didn’t want to go up to the wall. He finally convinced her to go. She was shocked when she saw their town up there. Once she read the names above the town, she was even more surprised.
That night, we shared the lives of our friends with each other. We rationed Thomas’ ice wine as we learned about the paths that led everyone to this trip. Much tragedy has happened, and what this trip means to everyone is unique. One theme that stood out was healing.
She lives on the Lido and it shows by her perfectly tanned skin. She was confident, beautiful, and knowledgeable. I picture her being stubborn, but very loveable.
The ladies at the balsamic tasting were so kind to let me taste all of their wonderful vinegars. I love how people at markets are so proud of their products, and are keen about sharing more about their products and their lives.
She encourages people to use all of their senses as they walk through the historical ruins. Many of us felt a strong connection with her. Towards the end of the tour, she began to get emotional. I think it was because we valued what she was saying. Two hours together, and we built a connection.
While there, we met this American woman and her son. They had been traveling all summer. He was only in 6th grade, yet he was so cultured and respectful. I wondered what it would be like to grow up traveling and learning at the places where the history actually happened. I wish I could take my students to all of these places.
Feeling fine, we decided to take a little wade in the Mediterranean.
We surrendered versions of ourselves that rarely escape. Some removed constricting clothing. Others seemed forgetful after wandering in with money belts still on. We embraced the opportunity to be liberated. on the way back to the hotel. It ended up being a little more than that…Some people drifted off to sea, while others got to know hidden fragments of new friends. Life is good.
As he leaves, he goes to kiss the ladies on the cheek. He approaches one, and gives an innocent kiss on the cheek. He goes to the next, and approaches the same way, but lingers a little longer and the kiss is dangerously close to the corner of her mouth. He finally comes to me, and as he reaches in to kiss my cheek, he turns his head quickly to make lip-to-lip contact.
My friend kept passing the glasses to me. We sipped as we learned how to make fondue.
Ruth is probably the most outgoing person there. She doesn’t speak any English, and yet somehow we all found ways to communicate.
He would stick his decent-sized nose in the glass and keep it in there for what felt like an eternity. We leaned closer and closer to hear what he had to say about it. Finally he would take a sip and do some serious swishing.
It was time to say goodbye to all my new friends. I built bonds with these people that I will remember the rest of my life. We brought wine and shared our favorite moments. Each new moment that was shared reminded me that it was my favorite moment too. They all were. It wasn’t the places that made it memorable, it was all of the people. Our guide, bus driver, other tour members, and everyone we met along the way created this experience that will stay with me forever. I really didn’t want to leave everyone. Couldn’t we just pack our bags back up to go onto the next destination? I guess we were; we just weren’t going together.