Unexpectedly Finding ‘My People’ on the Mediterranean

November 12, 2011

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Prompt #12: 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.

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.” –Amelia E. Barr

Solo travel makes you much more apt to meet strangers. It’s one of the fun things about travel, as the saying goes you might be traveling solo, but you’re never alone. I met so many interesting people on my RTW trip — from the people you spend an afternoon with and never see again, to the backpackers you just keep running into throughout a country, to people who you identify as “your people”.

One memorable friendship that I made on the road water, was with a couple from Toronto, Dave and Andrea. I had decided to take a small group sailing adventure from Mykonos to Santorini. After not finding any cheap lodging on Mykonos (I’d been paying $30/night at a pension in Naxos), I decided to just arrive straight to the designated meeting point. I arrived to the taverna about two hours early since my ferry was also early and started chatting with a Canadian couple who were also waiting to meet their sailing group. I was immediately excited that I’d be spending the next week with people who seemed just my style. Over the next two hours more late 20s to 30-somethings (couples and solo travelers) arrived and we all got to chatting. Then the two captains arrived. One of the captains said “Who’s sailing from here to Athens?” and all the people I’d just met raised their hands. The second captain said “and who’s heading for Santorini?” and myself and some random couples scattered around the taverna raised their hands. My heart sank, as I’d been traveling really solo for three weeks (spending my time reading, pedaling around the islands, tavernas, pubs, chatting with locals, afternoons at the cafes, windsurfing lessons… it’d been great, but I hadn’t met a lot of other travelers or spent much time with English speakers especially since it was getting to be end of season in the Cyclades.)

Needless to say, I was really looking forward to hanging out with people who seemed like “my people”; and the older couple, young standoffish couple in the corner, and random group of three, did NOT seem like my people.

I bid farewell to my new friends of an hour as we arrived at the marina. After putting our packs onboard and meeting everyone, we headed into town for dinner, and I was mentally preparing myself for a very long week.

Fast forward 4 days and I learned that the retired couple had a great sense of humor, the standoff-ish couple from Toronto were just in the corner because Andrea had thrown up almost the entire way on the ferry from Crete to Mykonos that afternoon, and the other group of three ended up being kind of odd ducks (a ‘club’ I’m well familiar with), and the German captain was kind of a nut who wandered about in his skivvies, but we had become a little family during our one week sailing adventure. Turns out I had a lot in common with Dave and Andrea, so they became my default people to hang out with from exploring a new island to listening to tunes on the top deck, to jumping off the boat enroute to Ios for a swim, and renting a car together to drive around Santorini after the sailing trip was over.

As we sat as a group on our 2nd to last night on the sailboat in the port of Ios, drinking champagne to toast a birthday, waiving to the Russian mega-yacht to our left and chatting to a group of sailing friends to our right, I was reminded how you don’t always get to pick your companions, and even if you could, you’d probably select ‘wrong’ half the time. I unexpectedly found ‘my people’ in a group I’d quickly stereotyped, and had a memorable trip, which just added more to all the reasons I love Greece!

Have you made any surprise friendships on the road?

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