It is often said that travel is a way to broaden one’s perspective of life and indeed it has opened my mind and heart to other cultures and people in a way that is inexplicable for me. Even more so maybe because I choose to travel in a manner that is deliberately slower than many tourists by staying in one place for an extended period so I can get to know the people that live where I stay. More and more I realize how very much at our core all people are alike because I’ve spent time getting to know who I’m doing business with or who lives in the house next to the one I’ve rented for my vacation. It was no more evident to me than in the Fall of 2001, after the horrific events of September 11th.
When I realized my turn as featured blog poster was September 11, my mind immediately raced back ten years to the impression of darkness left from the events of that day. Checking in with my community of fellow travel guides recently , they all agreed that it would be appropriate to acknowledge this date in history with its iconic images. I remembered that just a short couple of weeks after the original 9/11 tragedy I was scheduled to be in Italy for a three week vacation. My travel journal from that time came in handy as it reminded me how empty the planes were on both the flight over and returning. I had use of two full rows to stretch out on, which at any other time might have felt luxurious but at that point was just a reminder of destruction, lost lives and how our world had changed.
My natural inclination towards life is optimistic but I found myself questioning whether it was prudent to fly to Europe for a vacation in that Fall of 2001, to enjoy life as I always had in my favorite Italian venues. Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, I chose to go ahead and everywhere I went from the beginning of the trip to end, even though there seemed to be a somber veneer on things, people of all nationalities were warmhearted and offered sympathies with small kindnesses or just unexpected greetings.
From airline staff to the friends greeting me upon arrival, to the many neighbors, shopkeepers and acquaintances in my little village of Bagnoregio people warmly greeted me. embraced just a bit longer and held a knowing smile that seemed to say “we are standing here with you in this sorrowful time”. An unspoken connection was made as I traveled from place to place revisiting familiar spots; finding new ones with new faces. There were times in my solo wanderings around several different regions of Italy that I started feeling alone and sad, craving the familiarity of home and at those times I found I could easily ask to join a group of Americans sitting down for lunch, welcoming me into their midst or strike up a conversation with a train seatmate in my pitiful Italian with complete ease and acceptance. I was able to find a group of “slow travel” friends and have a lovely group dinner together in Venice which gave me a sense of “home”. We’d not met before except on the internet but our common language of travel and interests in cultural diversity gave us a comforting sense of connection that is sometimes overlooked when traveling at a fast pace.
Travel is indeed, an eye opening experience. It is a reminder of the basic humanity which connects us in spite of our many differences, socially, economically, politically and even spiritually. Those labels make no difference ultimately as it all comes down to the same common denominator: we may like to think we hear a different drummer, but our hearts all have the same beat! Keep on traveling, friends, slowly!
Ciao-ciao! Off to Italy next week and hope to see you there soon!
Cheryl has been traveling to Europe, particularly Italy, for more than fourteen years. Her interest in Italy, its history, art and rich culture led her to purchase property near Orvieto, allowing her to spend more time there. Cheryl’s exploration of Italy include the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, as well as the areas around Venice and south towards Sorrento. She continues to travel into Italy’s less traveled regions, and enjoys sharing her discoveries with others. Relaxed, leisurely tours are her specialty with an emphasis on the comfort of her guests.
Cheryl spends the rest of her time near the beach in San Diego, cavorting with her two small grandchildren. She’s an avid reader, health advocate and community volunteer. Her career as a social worker brings an understanding of people’s needs to the tour business.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.