My husband and I were sitting in a restaurant in London one night trying to get in touch with his Italian cousin who is a surgeon in the city. We were there for vacation, but we had promised Massimo and his wife that we would get together during our stay for dinner. In our effort to contact him at work, we were failing miserably. The people at the table next to us recognized that we were struggling with the phone and our attempt at communication with the hospital and promptly invited us to their table. When we explained that the hospital said he was in “theatre” we assumed he was seeing a show; the British folks who were next to us giggled and explained that the term “theatre” in England meant he was in surgery—performing a surgery. Embarrassed, we thanked them for the help, and began to make our way back to our table, but they wouldn’t hear of it. They insisted that we stay and dine with them that evening—and we did. It ended up being one of our most memorable and enchanting evenings in London, and we still make references to the Stevie Nicks look-a-like who touted Steely Dan and told us that her kids didn’t understand what really good rock music was. When she continued to tell us the story of how she made them listen to her old albums, we all laughed heartily and she was one of the funniest people I’ve met. Our fleeting friendship ended with the couple and their friend inviting us to their house in the South of France, but our time was limited, our trip fully book, and we were unable to do it. But it sure was nice to be asked.
While travel does involve seeing the sights, taking in historic sites, and eating food, what I remember most about traveling are the people we meet along the way. From the man who told me I had a lovely neck at the Tower of London to folks we met in a French pub who shared an evening with us talking about the Cotswolds, each and every person we have met along our way has been interesting and has certainly added some magic to our trips. Even on our quick jaunt to California last week, a place my husband and I have not spent any time visiting, we were tickled by the friendliness of people. On a bike ride around the vineyards in Napa Valley, we stopped to take a photograph and were off our bikes. During those few moments, two sets of people in cars and on bikes stopped to talk with us and made sure we were okay—that we knew our way around and that all was well with our bikes. At the resort, The Carneros Inn, the staff and reception folks were tremendously friendly, inviting, and helpful. And, along the way during our wine tasting, we met some lovely native Californians, as well as people from all over the globe, who were there to experience wine country.
Similar to our experience in London, in Italy we made many friends. One older British couple in Florence ended up hanging out with us at the bar in the Mona Lisa Hotel where we were staying. We had lots of laughs with them and talked about the difference between American and British cultures. At an Italian family-style local restaurant, we ate side-by-side with folks as we shared plates of uniquely prepared pastas, cheese, and topped it off with good wine. In Venice, one of my favorite pictures of the trip is of my husband and me with a group of folks who invited us to their table—two women writers who wrote for PBS and a German professor and his wife. The six of us got pretty tipsy that night, shared stories, and swapped a lot of hilarious stories as we stayed together until about two in the morning.
Of course, there’s no discounting seeing the places where we travel and experiencing them fully, but traveling somehow brings people together. It has the ability to help you realize that the world is small—that we are all connected by and large—and that part of growing comes from having these interactive experiences.
Having just returned from Napa Valley and San Francisco, the success of that trip makes me eager to plan our next jaunt, and hopefully it’s a trip that our now 13 and 15-year-old children will experience with us. I can’t wait for them to become wide-eyed with wonder for all that the world has for us to experience and digest.
And meeting all kinds of people is a big part of that impressionable, magical journey.