How do you measure a good vacation?
The friends you’ve made?
Or is it that you’re positively thrilled to return to your own routine of work, chores, and friends?
However I measure it, I had a great time. I’m tickled to be back.
After spending three weeks on a frugal trip to Italy and France, I can honestly say it was an unforgettable trip.
Given my propensity to get lost and to break things, travel far away is always a particular risk for me (or the people around me).
Thank you to my hostel mates for filling in the gaps. To the wonderful Costa Rican young man who set aside time to show me the ropes of Paris subways and navigate the way to all the best sites. To Hakan in Rome who intervened when a creepy staff member starting following and harassing me. To the gentle, elderly Parisian woman who must have sensed my loneliness and sat with me on an empty subway to share her life story. To my old and very dear friend Popi for bringing me into her life in Trieste, Italy. And to the many, many others.
Everyone has a story worth hearing.
For me, it takes removing myself and going far, far, away to make the time-from work, from family, from hobbies, even from writing, to really focus on hearing those stories.
And guess what? I returned under budget, two pounds lighter (no small feat given the countries at hand, and couldn’t wait to re-connect with you.
I’m in Italy this week, spending time with a cherished friend.
Have you ever been the beneficiary of uncommon kindness from a random stranger?
There is something special about going through a brutal time and finding that you have guardian angels who pop up out of nowhere.
Such was the case for me in 1995 when I found myself alone in Greece without two dimes to rub together, looking for my abducted daughters.
On my first trip to Greece after they were kidnapped, I met with a lawyer I had retained there. Two young women attorneys worked in his office, and after our initial meeting, they invited me to lunch with them.
They weren’t involved with my case. They were not being paid. They simply extended their hospitality, and they were only too happy to practice their English skills.
One of the women, Popi, inquired about my living arrangements while in Greece. When I told her I was staying at a hostel, she piped up. “It is settled, then. You will come stay with me in my spare bedroom.”
And I did.
At the time, I had long been a motherless child, and was now a childless mother. Popi’s nurturing presence was medicinal to me. She taught me to read and speak Greek after work, something that would come in handy since my daughters no longer spoke English. Popi took me on outings with her friends, and when my lawyers quit my case temporarily due to non-payment by me and due to the fact that I second-guessed them constantly, Popi stood in the line of fire with them to help me find a private investigator. In turn, her job was threatened.
What do you say to someone who has done so much and asked for nothing in return?
We’ve all faced hard times and have been the recipient of uncommon grace.
Who in your life has stepped up to help you?
With luck, I’ll post next week. Otherwise, I’ll return to you at the end of the month.