A few years ago, my sister and I went on our own trip together as adults. I can't determine why it was so important to us, but it was enough to make it happen. Mom was still caring for Dad and couldn't join us. I don't know why our younger sister wasn't included. In hindsight, we needed to bolster our relationship for the future--our father's death, our little sister's perplexing behavior.
We met in Boston and drove to New York. We caught ferries, meandered down country roads, and conquered Big Apple traffic without a hitch.
We had a wonderful time.
As I look back, it was the first trip where I developed relationships with almost everyone we encountered. We talked to people. Brought the bell man a juice. Pushed through the story of the begging woman. No, they weren't lasting relationships, but every person mattered.
It has changed the way I travel.
It makes travel fun and meaningful, because the only thing that matters is relationships. Not selfies at the acropolis, not the best baclava bakery, not the distance nor the shore. It's about the people we meet.
Last night's dinner was an adventure because of the waiter. We asked him for help on our Greek phrases; he smiled and like a book, opened his cover for a peak inside. We laughed, he brought us fruit. Tony even asked him about Greek tipping protocol. He gave us tips for an out of the way Greek island unspoiled by tourists. Within a minute, our table was surrounded by other waiters who esteemed the goat meat on the island, and guessed the real travel time from Lesvos.
When we left, the owner taught me how to say "Good evening." I tried it on the first man we passed, who cut me off with a perfunctory "No." He may have thought I was soliciting--so much for my Greek-speaking abilities.
But even that curt encounter was a kind of relationship. I tried to connect--I was rebuffed. It's who most of us, most of the time, have become. We say "No," before we have a chance to know the wonders we refuse.