I’m somewhere over the Atlantic traveling home from our summer holiday — a 10-day cruise to Turkey, Greece and Italy.
(I sound so sophisticated when I say “holiday” instead of “vacation.”)
I met so many interesting people in the last week-and-a-half. And, as I think about the places I enjoyed most, it had nothing to do with what we saw or what we did.
It had everything to do with the people I met. How I was treated where I was visiting. (And, probably with what we ate!)
We met a cool restaurant owner in Mykonos when we dined at his oceanfront place. Our tour guide in Sicily referred to our 12-person group as her “family” – even though we only spent four hours with her. Then there was the Dane I shared a bus seat with on the way to a Santorini beach. He gave me the ins and outs of the island and made me want to visit his country next.
I was especially touched by our tour guide in Thessaloniki. She was with us in the heat of the Greece financial crisis. Visibly upset, she made sure to tell us how hard the people of Greece work and how troubled they are by the country’s financial straits.
All strangers when we started. And, all people I wanted to hug when we left.
Sure, we met a grouch or two along the way.
I wanted to duke it out with a fussy Russian over a laundry charge on the ship but thought that might go viral and be career-limiting.
Then there was the nude sunbather. He let it all hang out.
Ahem. We’ll leave it there ‘cuz my mom reads this blog.
The overwhelming majority, though, kindly stumbled with us through the language gaps. Helped us navigate directions and bus schedules. Told us what to order. And, perhaps most importantly, let us use their water closets.
I learned a lot about myself this trip. For instance: I CAN go ten days without Diet Coke.
But more importantly, the friends I met this week taught me how to be a better ambassador when those from other countries visit my homeland.
(Yes, I know it’s been an hour. But, Delta served our meal. And, I’m not one to ever miss a meal.)