On The Road

It’s summertime and over the last few days I keep seeing hitch-hikers. It’s like when you buy a red umbrella, the first you’ve ever seen in your life, and then everyday for the next week you see them everywhere.

Or when you think you might be pregnant and then everywhere you look you see women waddling by with a huge tummy and that excited expectant look!

So, everywhere I look I keep seeing hitch-hikers, I know it’s the height of summer and everyone is traveling but it has stirred in me something quite unexpected!

I look at the young, handsome, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed travelers and I can’t help but feel a warm, mushy, longing feeling, actually this is the mild description. This evening as I drove to a meeting in the dusk, I felt an intense longing to be that young and handsome again, to be care-free with a backpack on my back and my thumb out waiting for the ride that will take me wherever I decide to go at that very moment!

Lucy and I arrived at the station in Sienna just in time to catch the train to Venice. We were very excited, even though we had been travelling for several weeks Venice was the place that we had been aiming for, for quite some time. And the film festival was just about to start. The train ran through the night and we arrived in Venice station at some ungodly hour. It was too late to find a hostel and too early to start touring so we looked around the station until we found a waiting room that we might be lucky enough to catch a few undisturbed hours of sleep. There was one such room that was strangely empty; we walked in, grabbed a row of chairs each and both of us curled over our backpacks and fell fast asleep.

Several hours later I awoke to the sound of a man clearing his throat. I opened my eyes and had to double take. The man sitting across from me (the throat clearer) winked at me. He was tall and blonde, probably in his seventies and wearing a huge cowboy hat; his suit was bright purple with a pink stripey shirt and I noticed his hands were perfectly manicured. The woman sitting next to him wore a mink coat from head to foot and I suspected that she wore not much underneath it. She was in her thirties I reckoned and her hand that draped over the gentleman’s purple sleeve was dripping in diamonds and shocking red nails. She looked bored and stifled a yawn. I looked around the waiting room to see others in similar garb.

Luce, Luce wake-up. I shook her a bit more violently than I had intended, she nearly fell of the chair.

What is it? Where are we, she asked.

I dunno, I whispered, just check out these people.

We smiled and quietly grabbed our things and walked towards the exit. There we found the red carpet and realized that we had stumbled into the waiting room of the Orient Express. It was about to leave on its latest adventure.

We were not invited to join them. However, we did manage to get a few hours of much needed sleep!

For me, traveling with a backpack, an eye for adventure and an ear for a story is what life is all about. You get to meet unexpected people, hear amazing tales and experience things you never dreamed of. Every sandwich becomes a feast, every friendly gesture fills you with gratitude and a sense of safety and well-being. The beauty of what awaits you stuns you into silence, joy and appreciation. It’s always better than you imagined!

But it doesn’t just have to be when you’re young and traveling the world with a backpack. These sights and sounds, people and stories, gestures of good will and friendship are all around us. Usually we’re too busy to notice, our schedule doesn’t allow us the time to sit in a town square and watch the people. Our kids are too demanding to let us just drink another cup of coffee and chat with a stranger. But who’s to say we can’t just stop and do it anyway.

So, this week, I have decided to do just that. I will be (kind of !) on the road again, at least I won’t have to drive someone somewhere, pick up this and that and make the deadline. This week I will have my virtual backpack there and ready so that I can notice the beauty all around me and take that extra moment to be thankful for my blessings. Why don’t you try it too!

When was the last time you shared a story with a stranger?

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