I love to travel. I love seeing new places, meeting new people, doing new things, eating new foods… it’s one of my favorite things to do. I also love coming home. By the last day of vacation, I am usually ready to be home. This trip was no exception. As much as I love to travel, looking out the window of the plane and seeing Cape Ann on our approach into Boston Friday night, I was reminded again that this part of the world is home. There is a flowering magnolia tree in front of my apartment building, and I returned home to see it in full bloom.
One of the things I love most about traveling is the people you meet along the way. Maybe it’s because I frequently travel by myself, but I always enjoy meeting fellow travelers and locals and striking up conversations. A few conversations from this trip stand out in my mind. The first was last Friday night while I was waiting for my flight at Logan airport. I had a talk with a woman who was heading home to Scotland after a few days each in New York City and Boston. She was on the flight after mine, and she told me all about her travels in both cities. She said she loved New York, but she couldn’t wait to return to Boston. She said the best word she could think of to describe our city is “classy”.
The second conversation took place on Saturday night at the White Swan pub in London. The older couple who sat down next to me struck up conversation and we chatted throughout the meal. They were from D.C. and staying at the same hotel as me down the road. I left to order dessert, and when I returned they had begun talking to the gentleman on the other side of them. Soon we were all talking about our travels and experiences. He was from Italy, but had been living in London and working as a barber for about 15 years. He said when he was first offered the job, he was told he had a year to learn English. He did and you would barely know English wasn’t his first language. The couple was heading to Cardiff for a business meeting and decided to spend a couple of days in London before heading on.
The last conversation that stands out in my mind was with a couple from Newbury, England who I met on my walk back to Chipping Campden from Broad Campden on Thursday. When we first met on the path, the gentleman said, “That doesn’t sound much like a Chipping Campden accent!” Obviously it’s not, and we starting talking about the U.S. and traveling. They have a house in Orlando and knew all about the winter we had in Boston. There was nothing that stands out about this couple specifically, it was just a warm conversation and they seemed like the type of people who represent the friendliness of the British.
One other anecdote from my trip… Every morning at breakfast, I saw these two older gentlemen from northwest London. The first morning I saw them, I smiled and said hello and they nodded back. The second morning, they were telling the waitress that they were going to Sudeley Castle that day. I piped up that I was going there too, and they smiled and nodded without saying much. Then I saw them at the castle, and one of them said, “Oh, I recognize you.” It wasn’t until the third morning that we managed to strike up conversation. As I was leaving the restaurant, one of the gentleman asked how I had enjoyed the castle. We chatted about the beauty and history of the castle, and then began talking about our trips. They asked about my “holiday” and told me about theirs. They are both retired and enjoy traveling. By the final morning (they checked out the day before me), they called me over as I was leaving for the day and wanted to know all about my plans for the day and where I was from. It felt like some small victory, that I had won them over. From the first day nodding and smiling at each other to the last couple of days sharing conversation. I saw them briefly in the parking lot as they were loading up their car and we wished each other safe travels.
None of these conversations were particularly noteworthy on their own, but they represent many of the small things I remember from my trips. I don’t typically bring home a lot of souvenirs from my vacations, but these small moments are the ones that I remember long after the traveling is over.
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” -Pat Conroy