You know when you have one of those perfect days? My boyfriend and I decided to get back in the groove of exploring New Jersey. Given that fall foliage is pretty much toast and we have a book full of NJ-based hikes at our disposal (Falcon Guides are brilliant). We ended up at the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area, went for a 4+ hour hike with our pug Lulu. By the end we were so exhausted and thoroughly worn out that dinner with Marc’s parents was a relatively quick affair so we could head home and relax.
Throughout the entire day I had the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project in my head. It was odd. Very rarely do I make a commitment to a personal project and stick with it. Had it been something for work? Absolutely! There is no question I would get it done. I’ve wondered why it is that I can show up for everyone else, but when it comes to my own projects, I am always willing to let myself slide. But I’ve committed to this challenge for 30 days and have been faithfully sitting in front of my laptop night after night with this project. Maybe this is the start of something bigger.
And what’s funny is that while this is definitely a travel-focused challenge, I find that it’s given me so much more. I find I’m thinking writing, what it means to create and write well, and, as always, tell a good story. Now if only the inspiration for today’s topic would come…
Day 12: Meaningful Connections
Travelers meet dozens, if not hundreds, of new people on every trip. They may become friends, enemies, lovers, and resources; they may stay in your life forever or be forgotten the next day. Tell about a time you felt a powerful connection – for however long – to another person while traveling.
Marc and Oleg.
Two names that will forever be synonymous with my post-collegiate backpacking through Europe adventure. As my best friend Zuri and I boarded the train in Madrid we noticed two fellow American backpackers. As luck would have it, we were sitting in the same car as both parties had reserved seats ahead of time. Over the course of the journey we discovered we both were headed to the same hostel in Barcelona (thanks to identical copies of Let’s Go! Europe and The Rough Guide we each had). Marc and Oleg had both graduated from college as well, and were on a two month backpacking adventure before returning back to New York for medical school. When we talked about our travel plans and respective itineraries, we realized we were pretty much on the same route. Several days in Barcelona, traveling down to Rome, up to Prague, etc.
Between Barcelona and Rome, our twosome became a foursome. Marc, Oleg, Zuri and I were inseparable. We went to see the sights, grab gelato from the place with 100+ flavors, drink cheap red wine on the Spanish steps and sing “What’s Going On” with our new Italian friend and troubadour. As our time in Rome came to an end, we realized that we were taking divergent paths, but would both be in Prague at the same time. In the spirit of serendipity, we let them know we would be at the Prague Castle at a designated day/time.
From Rome we left to explore Florence and Venice, Marc and Oleg slipped from our mind and we set about our journey, taking in Renaissance art and paying too much to stay in the dirtiest pensione I’d ever experienced. Put it this way, I slept underneath an obscenely long cobweb and woke up with a tick on my sheet. By the time we reached Prague we had half-forgotten about the promise to meet Marc and Oleg. We had met new friends along the way, including Keith, the Aussie who’d been our unofficial tour guide.
But still, we had to show. So off we went to the Castle to wait for Marc and Oleg. And like clockwork, there they were. We greeted each other as though we were old friends and had known each other for years, not strangers who had met a month earlier. After Prague, we went our separate ways and despite promises to stay in touch, we never did.
To this day, they’re preserved in my memory and I will always fondly recall the time we spent and how we were brought together by the shared experience, the common thread that travel enables. Marc and Oleg. Oleg and Marc. Makes me wonder if they ever do the same. Erin and Zuri. Zuri and Erin. A little part of me hopes they do.