Most of my early travels were done when I was single. So many of my girlfriends were doing what I was doing: living alone, following a career path, seeking a relationship and building a life with what we had, which included trips to here and there.
A good friend that I spent enormous amount of time back home turned into a brand, new person when I traveled with her! Am sure, she felt the same way about me. 😊 Living 24/7 with someone is vastly different from spurts of shared outings, dinners out, bar hopping, and crying on their shoulder. Little things that were a bit annoying to begin with became bigger obstacles when you are a plane ride away from home! But, with time, you gain patience and perspective and most of my friendships survived.
Decided where to go was the first task. Domestic? International? Fly or drive? The beach, mountains, camping, Vegas? I’m not a beach person; I burn easy and get bored easy. Spending 5 days lying on a beach towel is not my idea of fun. I don’t ski or hike – am more of lodger with a toddy type of person. While I do dabble at the slots, I don’t make large bets; I have a drink or two, but do not get sloshed. Camping??? Heck no…using up one day to pack everything up so I can spend another day unpacking is the first no-no; doing my own cooking and cleaning while on vacation is the second one. There are more reasons why I don’t camp, but I won’t go into them!
I like touring towns and cities to see how people live; I enjoy walking through neighborhoods and exploring shops, village squares, museums, cafes, etc. Some of my best experiences include trying to communicate with the locals when we didn’t speak a common language. On my first trip to Paris over 30 years ago when I was buying croissants, trinkets, clothes, etc., I took a different approach. The conversion rate from dollar to franc was confusing to me. I would put money in my hand, offer it to the salesperson and smile. They smiled back, shrugged and took the amount they needed. Back at the hotel, I would slowly do the calculation and am happy to report I was never cheated.
Planning on when we go and for how long became an issue as everyone has a different vacation schedule and budget. We may have had the time for a longer trip but that equated to more hotel, food, site-seeing expenses; everyone had a different wallet size which made it difficult to agree on a trip that was comfortable for all.
Along came Zaf. We fit in well together, right from the start. But as we planned our early trips; apprehension loomed. They say that you don’t know someone well enough, until you travel with them…and they are right! For the most part, we were okay. Directions seem to be the biggest issue. Turn left, turn right, go straight were often disagreed upon and we often found that long stretches of silence filled the car when I, looking at a map, I’d say right, and he went left! Curiously enough, this still happens!
I made an interesting and important discovery on one trip. While walking about and exploring a city, we typically bring a small bag to carry shopping, sweaters, bottles of water, etc. At times it would become quite bulky and heavy so I would try to pass it off to Zaf to carry. He had a real hard time with that on one trip. Not because he didn’t want to. He just didn’t want to carry a pink bag! I bought a navy blue bag at the nearest shop, moved the items from the pink bag into it and Voila! He was comfortable and boy, was I comfortable too!
Having someone that I you love along side of you as you explore new worlds is double the fun. You experience it at the same time, and you talk about it later, for years to come. You look through the pictures together, reminisce and re-live it as though you were just there. The fun increases when I remember it one way and he has a totally different memory. Was it our first trip to Greece when we met the bikers on the bus? Was it our first trip to Florida when we went through the everglades? Each time we try to remember, I drag out the pictures, look at the dates and double check!
Our first fun trip to Greece the challenge was on! We planned to visit our respective “villages” from where our respective families came from. We had a contest going – which was the best village? We went to mine first – high in the mountains of Central Greece, tucked under enormous trees, along a streaming creek with picturesque bridges and close to a historic monastery reached by a treacherous curving mountain road. He liked it right away and said: “you win!”. I was surprised he gave in so easily, way before we got to his village. Once we got there, I realized why. His village is like a tiny town; the borders on all side connect to other tiny towns, so they are all connected into one big area. Not like a village at all. It is charming though and holds many cherished memories for Zaf and me.
The retirement plan we have in mind is to see more of the world, to explore places we have never been to and to bring home more cherished memories.
We are on it!
Helene’s Village Roots Photograph from The Personal Collections of Helene and Zaf
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