It hasn’t been a week since I came back from a trip to Sicily, Vulcano, Lipari and Naples and I am still trying to process the three weeks I spend pretending winter wasn’t real.
This trip was amazing, the weather held up – mostly – and I got to see some amazing sights. But one thing that will probably make an ever longer-lasting impression on me than the beauty of Siracusa or the wonder of walking through a roman villa at Stabiae are the people I met.
Travelling is about the places you go but more importantly, about the people you meet. Here are some of the great humans I had the chance to bump into.
After a great half day getting wet in Segesta, I met a woman waiting for the bus to Trapani. She was a travel journalist, or has she said “I guess that’s what I was.” A Brit who has lived in Turkey for decades, she went into great details about how her entire life work had been destroyed. She wrote for a newspaper owned by the man supposedly responsible for the coup and in one day, everything was destroyed/confiscated. She’s now “retired” and working on a book about Gertrude Bell and the legendary woman’s time in Turkey. Incredibly, it has proved almost impossible for her to get published. She can’t really prove she’s been working for decades as a journalist, she has no contact in the UK where publishers are not taking her calls and Turkish contacts are less than interested in her work. She told me that in a day, she went from being known and recognised to becoming “nobody.”
When you’re stopped by a Brit in the middle of an archeological site with the exclamation: “you’ve just missed it,” you know something good will follow. John proceeded to show me a video of a bird drinking off a roman sarcophagi and a completely unrelated chat ensued. A retired teacher, this Brit has been travelling around Italy, making friends wherever he went. I think it has something to do with his ability to completely open up and take people as they are. Even if he’s in the process of teaching a Sicilian “proper English.”
The train to Milazzo/ Lipari
Commuting is a nightmare when at home but it’s part of the travelling experience. It’s also a good time to chat to people. Meeting Matthieu on the train to Milazzo was great. It also made the wait for the ferry – the one we were planning on taking was cancelled – more enjoyable than two hours at a ferry terminal should ever be. We also managed to catch up in Lipari, having dinner together and trading stories. The fact that I randomly met someone with whom I have so much in common is quite mindblowing. From our search for recycling facilities to our love of the sea and surfing, this is definitely someone I will see again.
Where to start? Staying in hostels mean you get to meet a lot of interesting people. A definite standout is a 71 years old woman who lives in different places for three months at the time. As she put it “my entire budget for a month in Kyoto was less than it would cost for a studio flat in California. I only go back to see my daughter.” I’ve always been interested in slow travel but never managed to pull it off. Chatting to this woman made me realise she probably had it right. She was just coming back from three months in Sardinia and planned on two weeks in Naples before going back to California. I didn’t get to ask her where her next home will be, but wherever she finds herself, I’m sure she’ll have a blast. If nothing else, her customary introduction of “hello, I’m American and I don’t like Trump” should get the conversation going with whomever she meets on the road.