Making Friends on Vacation

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August 8th 2022
Published: August 9th 2022
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Lonely Planet:
Just your usual Friday, sitting by the pool at Stanly Ranch in Napa, drinking a delicious Diet Coke on ice, tapping away on my laptop, transcribing an interview from a lounge chair, protected from the sun by a giant umbrella.

“Nice spot to work,” I hear a young woman say to me from the pool. “I know, right?” I reply. Next thing you know, she and I are talking about our favorite places to travel, her Greek heritage, the Ionian vs. Aeolian Islands, how much we love food, her fiancé’s restaurant in Boston.

We exchange names and numbers. She promises me to text photos from her dinner at SingleThread Farm that night (and she did).

It was so natural and easy, making a new friend (if only for a short time). I loved it so much – why hello, new person! Such lightness, such joy! I’m so grateful to my new friend for taking the chance that the weirdo working from the chaise was worth talking to.

Has this ever happened to you? My favorite spot, in the "old" days, was the now totally useless and practically non-esitent internet room. After all, that is where I met Barry the V (in Santiago, Chile), and Jason and Chun (on Langkawi island, Malaysia).

Now, post internet room, the most logical places to meet people are on the flight, dining in the cafe' or restaurant, and drinking in the bar. Though I do not hang out in bars anymore, I do tend to linger when I dine by myself. On my last trip to Athens, Greece, I was invited to go on a cross country cycling trip!

And I told you about meeting Jessie on the plane from Frankfurt to Athens last year. Do you remember? We ended up at a total stranger's apartment. Our hosts grilled two sea bass for us, and served it with a huge green salad, fried potatoes and plantains. We also brought a bottle of wine. I met "Elvis" at the fresh market in Athens, Varvakios Market, where he was selling lamb.

But in this changing and suspicious world, I think people are a bit more reluctant to engage with strangers. Yet, I met a nice young man from Philly who said he would take me to the Army Navy football game next fall. Can you believe his name is "Pretty Tony"???

I tend to talk to strangers about travel. For instance, I was trying to determine the best way to travel from Split to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Some people said to rent a car and drive. Others said to take the bus. But the locals said to take the high-speed catamaran. Which one do you think I took? Thanks to my buddy, "H" for this great advice.

Never underestimate the value of a good waiter or waitress. My waiter in Santorini doubles as a wine guide in the afternoon. I got the best wine tour, and plenty of side excursions to historic and famous sites. It may have been the best wine tour I have ever experienced. Thank you, Kostas!!!

But my all time, best experience occurred on my first trip to Athens back in May of 2021. I became friends with some people at a little Greek taverna, who eventually "adopted" me. We became brothers, and my wine glass never became empty. They gifted me with olive oil from their native village, wine form their private collection, dried figs, and bottomless glasses of mastika! Here's to George, Stavros, and Vasili, my Greek brothers. Oh, and one sister, Karina.

Alas, I save my best story for last. As some of you know, I was in a cycling mishap on my last day of cycling in Croatia this past May. My friend Goran, on our ship, tended to my wounds, fixed my sore shoulder with ice and massage, and made sure I had an abundance of medicinal supplements!! I will never forget his kindness!

Bottom line, I just consider my so fortunate to make friends all over the world!!!


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