Life as a Traveler: Meeting New People

As I anticipate upcoming trips, one of the things I anticipate the most is the people I will meet on my journey. They are people who I may never see again, but they are a huge part of my experience. It’s a little bizarre, but I have intense memories of people I have spent only minutes, hours, or days of my life with, but who became part of the tapestry of an experience and memory.

My first trip outside of North America was to Singapore and India. While in India, the friend I traveled with and I were able to stay with our friend’s family in Bangalore. Our friend’s family lived in a compound with four houses. Her grandmother lived in one with her mom (her mom was in the States during our trip). Her two aunts lived in two of the other houses, and the fourth house was rented out to a business. What an amazing trio of women we had the pleasure of staying with for two and a half weeks. They were strong, independent, intelligent women who have a solid place in my heart and memory. Mani the historian and artist, Auntyo who remains one of the most giving and caring people I have ever met, and Buddu a woman with the strength of ages.

While in Bangalore, we were able to attend part of a wedding, which was an unexpected pleasure. Now to the couple, we were one of many guests they greeted, and they probably don’t even remember us. But at odd times, I will find myself thinking about them and how their lives are going. Their wedding is a part of my memory. While in India, there were so many people who wanted to be part of our experience like the friend of my friend’s mom and the family of doctors we met. We also had a chance to visit a school and interact with children who may be adults now. I have pictures of some of them from that one place in time. Where are they now?

While roaming around various cities you encounter people who you create a memory with. I was roaming around Warsaw, and I accidentally stepped into a picture a man was taking. I apologized, and he was like no problem. Then a few minutes later, he asked me take a picture of him in front of one of the sites. After that, I was just wandering aimlessly in the Old Town and ran into him again. After the second meeting, we chatted, and I found out he was from Moscow. He is a memory from Warsaw. I always wondered how his reception was in Poland with the history.

When I was in Stirling at the castle, I encountered four young men who I think were from Spain. They asked me to take their picture. The next day I took a tour to the Highlands and there they were on the same tour. And I tell you I randomly walked into a random agency to book the tour I could have done on a number of different days. Then the day after the Highlands, I saw them in St. Andrews. We were walking different directions on the opposite side of the street, but we saw each other, laughed and waved. It was so funny. It felt like we spent three days on the same wave length. We were in the same country, creating the same memories on the same days. During the Highlands tour, I also met a family from the States. When I was at the train station to leave Edinburgh, I sat down in an area that was available. Then, I heard the dad’s voice behind me. It was funny and so random that we could be at the train station at the same time and then sit next to each other.

Then there are the people you go across the world and meet who live right in your backyard. During one trip, I met quite a few people from the Seattle area. Among them was a mom and daughter who I ended up spending time with throughout the trip. We and two others I met had some pretty amazing, timely, and needed conversations over the course of the trip about life. And I have kept in contact with the daughter. During another trip, I met a man who lives a little south of Seattle who I wonder about from time to time. He is originally from Latvia, and his life has been pretty amazing. It’s funny to have to go that far to meet people so close.

During my last trip, I met a woman who I am still in contact with. She is single like me, and it was so easy to be open about life in general. You name the topic, we talked about it. It’s like the feeling I had with the women mentioned in the paragraph above. I felt like we were meant to meet. It was a chance to have honest and open communication that was soothing to the soul.

So as you travel, be open. Of course you have to be cautious, especially when traveling by yourself. But be open. Meet the people you are supposed to meet. I know that no matter how small or large the interaction with the random people I meet, the memory will stay in my heart for my lifetime.

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Life as a Traveler: Sage Advice

While traveling, I have had the privilege of encountering some pretty amazing individuals that I have had mind-opening conversations with. Over the course of the dialogues, whether minutes or hours, they have offered some pretty sage advice about life that I have taken to heart. If I had to sum up their counsel in a few words, it would be this: Do what you can now. As I get older, I think more about regret and missed opportunity. I don’t want to look back with a list of things I “wish” I had done, which is one of the reasons the advice has resonated.

One woman in particular stands out. I was in Edinburgh and there was this building that kept catching my eye

I could not figure out what the building was despite my handy guidebook. So I finally asked a woman I saw standing on the street corner about it. After she answered, we ended up walking and talking along the Royal Mile for at least two hours. During our time, I learned a lot about her life. She was an American who had moved to Edinburgh with her now ex-husband. Although I do remember the details from our conversation quite vividly, I will leave them out. Though one statement she said resonated with me. It was that the life she knew had been taken from her. For some reason, this observation has always lingered with me. By the way, the building in question was an old jail.

Here is the part of the conversation I would like to share. She mentioned a couple she knew. They were both diagnosed with cancer. Then, with the threat of terminal illness, they decided to finally see the places in the world they had always wanted to see. Her advice, and her tone was very beseeching, was to do what I can now. Not to wait until something major happened to suddenly rush to fulfill all of my dreams and desires (travel and otherwise). This was in 2009, and I still remember it to this day. There are years when I don’t feel like taking or planning a major trip, but her voice in my head presses me to do what I can now. Tomorrow is not promised. I must do it now. I have the time, money and my health. What better time than now?

This rolls into advice I received from a financial advisor from Florida I met in Central Europe. She said she sees a lot of people who plan on waiting for retirement to travel because they would be able to be gone for longer periods of time. Then they or their spouse gets sick or injured. The money they saved for traveling gets used on medical expenses. During the same trip, I met a retired couple from upstate New York. They encouraged me to keep traveling while I am young, which a lot of the retired couples that I meet have done. I fully plan on taking all of their advice!

Life is short and fleeting. Life and health are not promised tomorrow. Do what you can today. Don’t keep putting off your travel plans (or life plans) until tomorrow. Tomorrow becomes next week, which become next month, which becomes next year. Do what you can now.

As I close, I will share the words I heard from Alison who owned a bed and breakfast I stayed at in Conwy, Wales. She told me that, “Life is for living, not existing,” and “You don’t live to work; you work to live.” Both are sayings we have all probably heard time after time. So why aren’t we living like this? There is a big difference in surviving and living.

When I am traveling, it’s like something that is dormant in me the rest of the time comes alive. It reminds me of the words of Violetta. Violetta is from Lithuania, but when I met her, she was working in Dingle at a bed and breakfast, which she did for part of the year. She spoke to me and the ladies I was traveling with and encouraged us to seek what is shouting out to us.

The world is open to you, be open to it. Is there a place in the U.S. or the world that is shouting out to you? It could be time to find out why it’s calling and live out the sum of the advice. Do what you can now.