It’s been years since I took one of those Myers Briggs personality tests, and I don’t remember what four letters I got, but I bet it’s a strange mixture. My default setting is quiet, observant, hoping something cool will happen and I can join in. My approach after the disastrous years of middle school has been louder, friendlier, trying to start something cool. I still need a lot of privacy and alone time, but I wouldn’t say that I’m shy anymore, which is a big change.
Still, it doesn’t always come naturally, and sometimes I need to remind myself that I like meeting people and some of my best friendships are a result of me going up to someone and saying, “Hi!” Travel is the perfect setting for such encounters, and I’m rewarded again and again for approaching someone with a smile and a greeting.
This weekend, for example, I was in Split, on the coast of Croatia. I decided to take a day trip out to the island of Brac, to see the beach Bol, described by everyone I talked to as “the best in the country.” I bought my ticket at the booth on the pier and started the long walk to the ferry boat at the other end. At one point, I noticed the guy who had been behind me in line pass me, and then later I caught up to him as he stopped and looked around. He seemed a little unsure of where he was, so I paused, smiled, and said, “Further up, further in” (a weird quote that’s stuck with me from the last of the Narnia books–the terrible one).
And from that smile and that comment! He grinned and we started chatting as we walked the rest of the way to the boat, and we didn’t stop talking for the next hour. Russ asked me where I was from, and when I told him, he went into rhapsodies about how much he loved Chicago. I rarely meet non-Americans who have actually visited Chicago, but those who have always say they liked it (unless they went in winter, in which case I can’t help you for your terrible life choices). It’s always nice to hear someone say good things about your city.
Then it got a bit freaky. We did the British Zoom, which is what I call it when you zoom in on where, exactly, someone is from/has been on the tiny island of Britain. For him, it went, “You know Shakespeare, of course, well I’m near Stratford-upon-Avon.” “Oh yes, I’ve been there.” “Oh, do you know Warwick Castle?” “Yes!” “I’m closer to there, to Leamington Spa.” That’s as far as I zoomed in, to a town a few miles away.
But Russ won the game, hands down. I said, “Oh, my mom’s from Worcestershire.” “Oh yeah, I know it.” “Okay, she’s sort of near Birmingham.” “Yeah, I went to school near there.” “Okay, so you know Kidderminster, then.” “Yeah! Never tell me she’s from Kinver, haha.” Kinver being a tiny town, this seemed highly unlikely to him, just as it was highly unlikely to me that anyone, even a British guy, would have heard of Kinver, which is indeed where my mom was born.
So we had a laugh about the smallness of the world and the importance of starting conversations with fellow travelers, because you just never know what strange and wonderful bits of information are going to turn up, or what kind of new friend you might make.
Russ was headed to Brac to research it as a possible destination for his travel company, Green World Holidays. Best part of the job, as he said, and I remarked that I need something that will similarly let me move around. Should be easy, as an editor, since all I need is a computer and an Internet connection, but it’s tough finding clients. He laughed and said this really was a crazy day, because not only do I know tiny Kinver, I’m an editor and he’s probably looking to hire someone to oversee the company blog in the next few months. We definitely exchanged business cards. (No pressure, Russ, but I needed to mention it for the story!)
Later, he overheard a Finnish woman at the snack bar say something about pooling for a taxi to Bol, and he brought her over to me so we could figure out the details. Turns out this woman from Helsinki had also been to Kinver! We decided that we should all buy lottery tickets that day, because something was clearly in the air.
Those sorts of kismet moments don’t happen to me often, but they do happen, and as everyone who’s happily settled will tell me about finding love, they happen when you least expect it. I thought I was taking a quiet ferry ride on the Adriatic, but instead I found an hour of friendly conversation and fun connections. All because I saw a fellow traveler and said hello. A conversation that not only started with a smile but ended with one, too.