Two summer ago, we drove into Gettysburg on a return trip from Williamsburg. It was late afternoon, so we asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions since we were in a town we’d never visited. Finally, Richard announced “You have reached your destination!”
Indeed we had, though not the one we had it mind for that night’s repose. As far as the eye could see, Richard had brought us to what must have been Gettysburg’s largest non-war related cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the motel.
I’m a great traveler. I don’t like airports and hauling luggage, but I love everything else. It’s like a book I’ve just begun to read. Anything can happen and the surprises are what makes it fun.
I habitually engage strangers in conversation. So does Garry. He does it because 40 years working as a reporter makes it natural for him to talk to people he’s just met. Me, because strangers are only strangers until you get to know them. After that, they may be odd, but they aren’t strangers.
I will talk to strangers on a grocery line, on the ferry, or in a waiting lounge. Not so much on a train or plane, though. Too much noise to make conversation comfortable.
Otherwise, I love meeting people — weird and otherwise. If you ask the right questions, they will tell you about their town, their family, their jobs. How they feel about the government, music, art and if you are lucky, will offer you useful information about great places to eat and visit.
I love learning about local sights, customs, legends. I don’t care if no one speaks real English. As long as they don’t point a gun at me or physically assault me, I’m up for any kind of conversation. Especially if it might lead me to a good photograph.
You never learn anything about a new place if you only talk to the companions you’ve brought with you. If you don’t want to meet new people, to have encounters with those who are different from you, why travel?