Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Have a Great Vacation

Our vacation has not been without its mishaps, but once again I find myself surprised by our luck in the fantastic people we meet, easy friends we make and wonderful welcome we are given by locals. I don't believe the girls have never really known a bad travel day (though I know there are days that have involved FAR too much travel time for any of our tastes). Even when we got locked out of our own trailer due to a faulty lock, it worked out fantastically.

I had cause to reflect once again on this string of good fortune late last night with the delivery of fresh-caught seafood by a local I'd met on the beach only hours before. What caused him to offer up a share of his catch? We had met on the beach, he heard my family was barbecuing and he felt compelled to share a local treat. When he delivered, I offered a gift in return, but he refused. He was simply happy to share. Was it because we'd also made friends with local families? Local kids and our girls had exchanged phone numbers and were enjoying play dates on the sand? Why is it that so many of our travel experiences work out, sometimes despite adversity?

Most of our best vacation memories share something - from the music jam Mr. B and I discovered in the basement of a Welsh pub YEARS ago to this weeks' lobster feed and countless wonderful encounters and events in between. All of these experiences have shared one common trait - interacting with local with absolutely no expectation beyond simple conversation, a shared laugh, a smile. There's just something about showing genuine interest in a person's country, community or activity that strikes up great conversation and leads to warm feelings of welcome.

Talking to strangers isn't difficult for me, though it used to be. I still remember those first reporting assignments that required me to walk up to relatively random individuals and ask them about an event or activity or current event. OH! I'd stand there for as long as possible casing the crowd at hand in search of a friendly face. It wasn't long before I learned to assess a person's approachability. If they refused to make eye contact, looked away when I smiled, or began turning away as I approached them, chances were they weren't going to be willing to talk, let alone be quoted in their local paper.

When I travel, these same skills come into play. And while my kids and husband may tell you I'll talk to anyone any time, the fact is I still choose who and when I'm willing to talk to strangers. I size them up, watch their body language, and cut 'em loose immediately if they show signs of feeling uncomfortable with me. I am genuinely curious about the people I meet, the foods I eat, the places I see when I travel. I don't expect anything except a courteous response from these interactions. I'm seldom disappointed.

You may be shy, but if you want to make your next vacation even more memorable, strike up conversation with a local. Maybe you're looking for the best park in town, the favorite locally owned eatery, or the name of a local plant. Flag down a local and give it your best. At the very least, you'll come away with answers and that warm, welcoming feeling.

So, what did we do with our surprise seafood treat? Rather than wait 'til today, we opted to listen to the local and "cook it fresh, ya?" At 11:30, I started boiling the water and prepping the lobster. By midnight, V and Mr. B had fallen asleep. So E and I enjoyed a midnight feast. (V ate her lobster for breakfast, and Mr. B, not a fan of seafood, opted out altogether.)

Mahalo Nui, Ron!


  1. Great Advice! I can attest to that very same thing.
    Learning from your example, Craig & I ventured off the 'tourist-path' at our recent visit to Huntington Beach(A much different place than our home in Utah). We made it a point to ask the locals what the best things to do and places to go were. I believe we had a MUCH better experience than we would have otherwise.
    Thanks for being such a great teacher!

  2. We have done much travelling to many parts of the world with our two sons. They are always happy to talk to people and there are even times we have to reign them in! But we have met some amazing people thru our two chatter boxes and the kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

  3. The opposite side of the same coin is that traveling with kids makes many people — locals, strangers, taxi drivers — much more approachable and friendly. They're more welcoming, more sharing, more likely to take you under their arm, go out of their way to help you, or even invite you home for dinner.


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