My summer vacation began in Canada. I flew into Vancouver and met my first Airbnb host. He and his family were awesome! They have two young adult children and had two other people staying with them. They were even hosting a couple of dogs. Their house was warm – full of love and life. Bill and Milly are their names.
One incredible moment that sticks out to me is when I first arrived. Bill came and got me from the train station near his home. I asked if he knew of a place where I could get a Canadian SIM card for my phone. He took me to a phone store but the cards were ridiculously priced. I explained to Bill that I originally had a plan. My mom sent me a Sprint phone to my home in China. But when I tried to activate it, Sprint told me I had to be by a Sprint tower. So basically I would have to be in the U.S. to activate it and then I could use it while traveling out of the country. Bill confirmed that all I needed was to be by a U.S. tower and I said yes. Then he offered to take me to the border and see if that could work. After dinner we hopped back in the car and he drove me right to the border which was about an hour away. Sure enough as soon as I got to the border my phone activated! Ha! That was genius and very considerate of him to do that. We had family dinners and great conversations. He also taught me how to make my own soap!
When I moved on to Montreal I stayed at four Airbnb homes. I remember at one home, my host’s name was Leona and she’s from Sri Lanka.
She is a very lovely woman with three adult children. One day we went out to lunch and ended up not getting back home until late that night. She showed me around her town and we also went to Old Port Montreal. She even learned some things she didn’t know about the area she lived. We swapped life stories, laughter, and encouragement. I even found some $2 black Clarks sandals at a second hand store she frequents. She’s one of those people I wish I lived closer to.
I’ve had several quick temporary encounters with strangers that affected me deeper than some encounters I’ve had with people I’ve known for years. Perhaps it’s easier to be more open with strangers that you know you’ll probably never see again or maybe it’s just what travelers do. Many of us seize those opportunities to connect with people as they arise because we know tomorrow they or we will be moving on to our next destination.
The thing about traveling is not just about what you see. But it’s about who you get to meet – connections you make. At least that is my personal opinion. I have traveled to places where I opted to spend more time with people than doing the touristy things. The memories that get stored in my heart and mind are the ones attached to intriguing conversations, having a meal with those that treat me like family, or tours with a local person passionate about sharing what makes their town special. People are the bricks and mortar of a city. The locals are who set the tone. I may not remember all of the facts and figures of a city. But I do remember the people and how it felt to be there.