When you travel a lot, it’s the little things that can make a place or a trip memorable. Whether it’s homemade waffles at a guesthouse in a tiny fishing village in Iceland or a street dog in Uganda who will not leave your side, these moments are what lingers. And oftentimes the people I have met on my travels are just as memorable (if not more so) than the places themselves.
I spent five truly spiritual days in Belize at an incredibly attentive, warm resort. I did yoga at a Mayan ruin, went horseback riding in the mountains and got to experience a jaguar licking my forehead (they like human skin – salty, I suppose!) A friend is planning a trip to the same resort early next year and she asked for any tips, must sees, etc. and I was happy to help. However, when I think of my time in Belize, which is more often than I could have imagined, it’s not those once-in-a-lifetime experiences or even the flawless resort that puts an immediate smile on my face. It’s the people I met. The founder of the zoo and her passion while telling me how she ended up caring for the wildlife of Belize. The chef at Ka’ana who showed such genuine love through each meal he prepared. A few amazing women who started as complete strangers and within a matter of days became friends I will have for a lifetime.
It’s hard to tell someone how to find these things. It doesn’t happen on every trip. And that’s okay. A solo trip to Paris in which I didn’t speak to another human being except to order lunch or pay my bill is still one of my best travel experiences to date.
I’m on a business trip right now. Work travel and personal travel are usually pretty different, although I try to learn something or see something in each new place I go for business. And so, after an unexpected free evening tonight, I decided to see a little piece of St. Louis. I imagine it will be incredible (I’m writing this on my iphone in the cab on my way – I’ll let you know!) but what got me thinking about this was my waitress at the hotel restaurant. Instead of checking emails or burying my head in a paper, I started a conversation. Not too personal, not too chatty, just told her where I was headed after I had a quick bite to eat. I am so thankful I did. No matter how amazing the lantern festival at the botanical gardens is, it will be the waitress I remember first. She couldn’t wait to share her city with me and she was as excited as I was about my plans. When she heard I would be taking a taxi, she went a grabbed a map and showed me a route with a little detour so I could see some other areas of interest on my way. She told me about a place about a mile from the gardens with a sundae that is not to be missed. She even made sure I had a bottle of water for my bag when I left. Then, when my taxi arrived, she went out to tell the driver exactly how he should go so I could see as much of downtown as possible.
And so, at a Marriott on a business trip in St. Louis I am once again reminded of why travel is in my blood and always will be. It is the pure bewilderment and joy I feel when I realize that this world is complex and full of tremendously different landscapes, religions and cultures to experience but everyone I’ve met, whether in Iceland, Uganda, Belize or a Marriott in St. Louis, Missouri, is not very different from me at all.