This started as a post about doing your research before you travel and veered off course in a wonderful way.
I love the research part of travelling. I suppose years of working as a theatre tour coordinator taught me to be an organized traveller. Don’t get me wrong. I leave everything open when I arrive at a place. I just like make sure I have my accommodation booked and know how to get to the room so I can dump my knapsack and explore.
I think I spent as much time researching places to visit, where to stay and how to get there as we spent on the trip. It was worth every minute. My husband was always a little dubious when I would hop off a train in a new city and start looking for the next bus or subway, or even more unnerving for him, start walking to our accommodations. We usually ended up right where we were supposed to be-or pretty close.
The times I didn’t have our route figured out so well were also ok, because we were able to meet the people who lived in a new place. It always amazed me that no matter where you went, you could always find someone who was willing to help you find your way.
In Siena, Italy we had gotten on the correct bus at the train station to take us into the city, but didn’t know when to get off the bus. I asked a younger woman, who I figured would speak English, where we should get off the bus to get to Via della Sapienza. While she was pondering an answer an older woman and man jumped into the conversation. By the time our stop came, lots of helpful people were telling us to “go, go now”, or something like that in Italian. The man who had made suggestions earlier met us at our stop, we must have looked incredibly confused on the bus, because he had gotten off one stop earlier. He very kindly walked us part way to where we needed to go. We were still in trouble. The old city is full of narrow alleys and streets. After conversations with shop owners and a police officer we found our accommodation, Albergo Bernini. It was worth getting lost for.
We also ran into a large crowd of very helpful people in Naples who helped us figure out which train to catch to Sorrento. A wonderful young couple on the express bus from the airport to the port of Athens (Piraeus), used their blackberry to find directions to our hotel and even talked to the bus driver to make sure he was aware of our stop. These encounters with people are what make travel worth while. There is natural beauty and wonderful examples of art, architecture and engineering all over the world. But, when you travel and are blessed by the kindness of strangers it reaffirms your faith in humanity, and the memories of these encounters become more remarkable than the sights you have seen.