Whilst I’m out of the country on a trip to a mysterious undisclosed location, the daily blogging will be achieved through a series of travel-related posts, thanks to the kindness of my friends and family, and the wonders of post-scheduling technology.
This installment of The Travel Diaries is brought to you by Peter Dray. Peter is my boss (lucky him!). He’s a southern exile living in South Yorkshire, with a passion for his family, students, halloumi, chorizo, and football.
Making New Friends
One of the things that I love most about travelling is meeting a range of weird and wonderful characters. I love meeting these sorts of characters in the UK, but there’s something particularly delightful when one meets them in their home context.
A favourite memory of mine is of Evgeny – a friend of a friend who was hauled in to show me and a group of British students I was with around a castle on the border between Moldova and Ukraine. His passion for the aforementioned castle knew no bounds and was extremely excited about the prospect of showing it off to his new British friends. What set him out, though, was his interesting way of herding us through the ruins. We were on quite a tight time schedule, but Evgeny quietly revealed to me his secret weapon: reverse psychology. He figured that, if we felt unrushed, we’d more likely behave and leave the castle on time. And so, each time he led the group into a new section of the castle, it would be prefaced with the quaint phrase, “Slowly, slowly, with no great haste….” Remarkably, Evgeny’s ploy worked, and we had enough time not only to see the whole of the castle, but also to do an unplanned extra visit to the city’s gypsy quarter.
In the Balkans last year I met a host of memorable people. Perhaps Montenegro has the highest number of memorable people per capita! There was Simo, who had learned his English through listening to British football match reports on the radio, and who had decided to try and ‘collect’ people who lived in the towns and cities with English football teams. Needless to say, he was overjoyed to meet someone who lived in Doncaster (not a common experience, let me tell you). There was Petr, a fiery Serb whose father had swum for Yugoslavia in the Olympics and who had such a strong opinion on absolutely everything that he’d frequently get into shouting matches and threaten physical violence. (My colleague Simon enjoyed egging him on, hoping for a fight; what Simon called a ‘Balkan-off’). And there was Momo, a pensioner who’d delight in challenging all and sundry to pull-up competitions on a door-frame (and who’d inevitably win).
For me, people are the most wonderful thing about travelling. It’s great to see the sights, taste the food and try new experiences but, for me, it’s rubbing shoulders with a range of new people that truly broadens both heart and mind.
In summary: people.