There are moments of such pure universality when one travels that truly, one’s breath is taken away and you can do nothing else but shake your head. Hmmmm I’m pretty sure I just made that word up but WordPress is letting me use it and it feels right, so away we go!
On the shores of Lago di Garda I have had one of those amazing moments that serve to remind us of how small this world really is. The brother of the kind, generous family I am staying with here, also shares a mutual friend with me who lives in Brisbane. There we were, sharing a beer in the piazza, as one does on a fine and warm Saturday afternoon, when two histories bumped gently together and the world became much smaller.
I love this aspect of travel; that you can randomly meet someone who a day earlier was a complete stranger and suddenly you are old friends sharing stories about common acquaintances and locations.
Mind you, it doesn’t have to be about sharing people in common. Just 2 weeks ago I met a nice couple from northern Queensland who were on holidays in Venice at the same time as I was. We hit it off as we waited patiently (our wonderful Italian cousins love a good queue) to visit Basilica San Marco. There is something about someone speaking your native language in another country that draws you to each other, if only for a moment.
In this instance, we became firm friends quickly, wandering this magnificent edifice, taking snapshots and admiring the spectacular mosaics on the ceiling of the duomo. Of course, all that craning upwards makes one very hungry and a splendid repast of anti pasto was required, all washed down together with a bottle of vino bianco and mutual bonhomie.
Travelling solo has it’s benefits. It has it’s darker moments too but I’ll save that for another post. On the upside, as a single traveller, there is an absolute need to reach out, even for a small moment, to share what you are seeing. A short nod as you watch a spectacular sunset, can lead to conversations with a nice young Dutch couple about a great trattoria you went to last night with the locals. A smile as a little one laughs at something their papa said to them, can lead to a full interaction in broken Italian/English (complete with large arm gestures) about the joys of travelling with children when the European summer vacation period is in full swing. A deep sigh at the top of a very long staircase up the tower of an ancient fortress, can bring similiar exclamations from the elderly, yet sprightly couple who climbed up before you.
The challenge is not to miss those moments and to grab them with gusto and confidence. You never know who you might meet!!