One aspect of traveling that I particularly enjoy is meeting new people along the way. Every time I visit Scotland for instance, I include a chunk of time to spend with my friend and cousin Lindsay (our great grandfathers were brothers). He was one of the very first friends I made on my first visit to Scotland.
Although in previous visits I had never met any of his immediate family members before, on my third trip back to that beautiful landscape in the spring of 2015, I finally had the wonderful opportunity of meeting his kids and grandchildren.
We visited castles together and I even got to attend one of his grandson’s family birthday party at his son’s house.
Unfortunately, I got so caught up in the festivities and enjoying a grand tour of their beautiful home I was neglectful in getting a family picture of all of them together. Next time!
While visiting Ireland later on the same trip, I had the opportunity to see some more family members, one of my cousins’ children, in Dublin. The last time I saw Ben, he was just a kid himself about 8 years old I think. Now he is grown and has a family of his own. I got to meet his wife and sweet little girl for the first time too after he and I toured his workplace – Trinity College. I also was given the chance to view the ancient and beautifully illustrated manuscripts the monks painstakingly created during the dark ages. What a treat!
Below are his sweet and beautiful wife and daughter.
Although the next picture is also of a family, they aren’t related to me at all. I drove into the town of Kenmare, Ireland late one day after a long day of sightseeing. I had arrived at my destination and checked-in at the B&B I was spending the night in.
Afterward, I was sitting outside in the front porch area contemplating whether or not to take a walk down into the village below and have a look around. These fine folks came driving up the driveway after a long day of sightseeing themselves. They were also guests at the B&B.
They were so friendly and quite funny! Before I knew it, they had all convinced me to just stay put and enjoy a few drinks and hors-d’oeuvres with them. I ended up having such a wonderful time with them; I laughed so hard I was afraid I might wet my pants in front of them all (but I didn’t, thank goodness!) They even invited me to join them at their table the following morning for breakfast since they had temporarily adopted me as part of their family. That kind of threw the hostess for a loop, “This is your table over here Ms. Frew!”
“No, no, she’s part of our family now” they all chimed in! What fun.
I never did actually see and experience the small village of Kenmare, except to drive through it and fill up with gas on my way to the next destination. I guess I was supposed to go to Kenmare just so I could meet that delightful family and spend some very precious time in their presence. Although we parted ways after breakfast, I still stay in contact with them through Facebook and continue to enjoy their friendship to this day.
At other times I try my best to visit a friend that I made on a previous trip. Pat and Ian also became my friends on my very first trip to Scotland when I was first discovering where my great-grandfather had emigrated to the US from. Pat and Ian also work at the Dingwall Museum.
Last spring when I went back to visit once again, I also had the pleasure to meet their daughter, Lynn, and her family, as well as a whole bunch of their friends who belong to the WRI (Womens Rural Institute). Pat invited me to attend one of the WRI meetings and one other club activity – Trivia Game Night – in a nearby village. Now I have even more friends! It just keeps getting better and better!
Sometimes the people I meet are in a more brief type of interaction, yet still quite meaningful.
I might be standing with a couple from Australia; fellow travellers who are watching a wedding procession with me at an old church in the Cotswolds because we each just happened to be there at the same time…
I might be enjoying a meal in a pub with another couple sitting nearby from North Carolina, or…
I might happen to be sharing the same hostel dorm with a couple of sweet and delightful young ladies from Montreal who speak French!
Although brief in nature, I still treasure the time I spent talking with each of them, getting to know them at least a little bit, finding out where they are from and taking the time to make connections with my fellow travellers I meet and encounter along the path.
I have discovered that at any given moment, no matter where I find myself or under what circumstances I might find myself in, there are always some very interesting, thoughtful, kind and friendly people all around me. I just have to be in the moment, grab the opportunity to make a connection with them somehow. All I really have to do is smile, say hello and start a conversation. It isn’t very often, in fact rarely, that I meet someone I don’t like or am not interested in getting to know just a little. Occasionally, but rarely!
And of course, there’s the occasional proud groundskeeper (like his father before him) who is the caretaker of a really cool old graveyard in Galway. He really went the extra mile to show me around and help me find a family headstone for a friend or an interesting old headstone from the time of the Spanish Armada!
How about the informative and knowledgeable experts who made themselves available to me at a popular sight in York?
Some of them just take me under their wing and provide a more “personalized” individual tour or help. I know they don’t regularly do the same thing for the just the “average tourist” that comes along. Really, really great people that I am grateful I came across and had the opportunity to talk to and spend some time with.
Then there’s the occasional fellow ‘solo’ travellers or ‘locals’ I cross paths with; birds of the same feather as it were! I might find myself standing on the ‘Brig O’Doon’ in Robert Burns’ hometown where I find an opportunity of meeting a very nice woman who had grown up in that very village, just up the river from where we stood, who was taking her very first trip alone.
Maybe I’m in a cafe or coffee shop taking a well-deserved rest after visiting the Castle in Edinburgh and another woman who is a librarian in the local branch doesn’t have anywhere to sit so I say to her, “Please, join me. I have plenty of room to share at my table.”
While visiting Rosslyn Chapel, I befriended another solo traveller.
We were each touring the ancient and heavily ornately carved stone chapel when we met. We continued the rest of the tour, discovering its secrets together; even enjoyed a very pleasant long lunch together in the visitor centre cafe afterwards before we climbed in our respective cars and went about our merry way. What a lovely chance encounter that was and a great way to spend time with a new friend in a beautiful chapel and breaking bread with one another to add to our time together.
So many others – the really nice Chaplain in Stratford-Upon-Avon, or the friendly daughter and her father I met in Gleno, Ireland while searching for ancestors in their quaint village, the delightful and kick-in-the-pants B&B owner/operator who made me feel so “at home” for a couple of days while visiting Ayr…
or what about that mischievous city worker who was trying to get me to help him paint the cities posts and other iron works in Trim in preparation for the “Tidy Town” competition,
or one of the friendliest people on this planet, Eileen. Her and her lovely daughter, Victoria, befriended me within the first 5 minutes I was at a local music festival where all kinds of local talent, young and old, professional and amateur alike were playing and dancing their hearts out. They were great company and made me feel like I was just part of the gang!
Last but not least, is the charming owner of Ballingskelligs Lodge hostel who treated her guests like family and spoiled us with home-baked goodies each day when we returned from our daily adventures and discoveries.
or the sweet and cheerful cook at Wye Valley YHA in Welsh Bicknor cooking up a storm on the back deck for everyone!
I might even have the pleasure of meeting a couple of real characters and fellow roommates in the Galway hostel!
Sometimes I’ll meet a sweet couple who’ve been married forever; maybe they are enjoying a picnic lunch in a remote location, or maybe they’re serving me a delicious home-cooked meal in their welcoming and homey B&B!
Then there are the extra special ones – the ones that really touch my heart and will remain, lifelong friends, ~
I was roommates with Anna at Stow-in-the-Wold youth hostel. We were each individually exploring the Cotswold’s in England and would swap notes and stories at the end of the day. We soon realized we were kindred spirits, cut from a similar cloth, and discovered we each had the same destination next on our itineraries – Bath!
Instead of taking a combination of trains and buses, she decided to take me up on offer to give her a ride in my rental car. We had great fun travelling together and discovering the glorious history of Bath together before we parted ways and vowed to keep in touch, which we have, with the idea of possibly travel together once again sometime in the future.
Then there is Desi from Milan!
Like Anna, she was also a roommate, but this time in a ‘mixed dorm’ (men and women). I think it was within the first 5 minutes I had entered the dorm, when she smiled at me, said hello, and proceeded to tell me how happy she was that there was another woman in the dorm with her!
We also resonated with one another and soon became temporarily inseparable. We chummed around Galway with another one of our roommates, Paul, and had a lot of fun together for a couple of days.
When it was time for me to continue on my travels, she asked which way I was headed and I told her, “toward Northern Ireland, where my great-great-grandfather was born and raised.”
“Really?” she replied, and added “I’ve also been wanting to visit there as well myself!” with a very wistful look on her face.
“What’s stopping you?” I asked.
She was a bit timid and shy, and ever so worried she would spoil my vacation if she tagged along, but I could tell she was really dying to join me just the same. After a bit of reassurance from me that in no way would she be ‘spoiling my vacation’ and in fact it would be great to have yet another new friend join me for a spell, she finally decided to come along and I am forever grateful that she did!
I told her, however, “I have to warn you when I’m up in the area where my ancestors are from, I plan on visiting a lot of graveyards, churches and towns trying to uncover clues about my Frew family. If you aren’t keen on that sort of thing, it might be kind of boring for you.”
She, in turn, reassured me that she didn’t mind doing that sort of thing at all, and that it actually sounded rather interesting and intriguing to go on a ‘treasure hunt’ with me. So off we went.
We spent quite a few days together travelling northward. We visited and stayed in Londonderry along the way and continued on exploring the coastline of Northern Ireland, finding castles on the clifftops, Giant Causeways with wonderful rock formations and pushed our limits and overcame our fears by crossing a very high rope bridge which connected a small island to the mainland at Carrick-a-Rede to name just a few of our many adventures together.
Eventually, we found our way to Ballymena where my oldest known Frew relative was born (or at least nearby – we haven’t quite determined that yet!)
We made a game of it as we searched for and found museums, churches and churchyards, discovering clues like the detectives we were pretending to be. I was Sherlock; she was my trusted and valued sidekick, Watson!
We searched over hill and dale for the many graveyards, wandering through as many as we could find, looking for possible family headstones.
We also met a lot of interesting people along the way and made some more new friends together.
Early on, we had the chance encounter to meet a really helpful guy (I think he just really wanted to meet Desi) in a very old churchyard, where he was helping another guy mow and maintain, in Ballymena.
He asked what surname we were looking for and provided some very substantial clues to follow, many of which produced delightful, and much sought for, results! Thank you, Junior! You were a godsend!
When he finished telling us where all the graveyards were in the area, he also mentioned we should be sure and visit the “Frew Chip Shop” in Ahoghill when we visit the very old graveyard there he had told us about and explained that a friend of his, Stewart Frew, was the owner. Ka-Ching!
By the time we returned to our lodgings later that evening, the innkeeper had several phone messages waiting for me, one of which was from Florence! I returned their calls and soon all of us Frew girls were all together the following day, swapping stories, family trees and having a wonderful time around the corner at a great little coffee shop! It was absolutely delightful. Count them! 5 new friends (and all of them Frews) in one fell swoop! Wow! I was amazed and delighted.
Later, our fellow-lodger, Ahmed from England, was anxiously awaiting our return so he could hear all about our latest adventures. He loved to hear us recount our daily adventures and discoveries and thoroughly enjoyed all the details and hearing about all the people we made friends with!
Desi and I continued on with our travels; parting ways in Belfast temporarily, and reconnecting again later in Dublin for a few days before I left for London to spend the final days of my vacation before returning home. Our friendship however never ends and we both treasure it dearly.
Visiting historic sights, such as ancient castles, museums and century-old villages, beautiful and stunning natural and man-made landscapes and the final resting places of my ancestors all add significant meaning to my travels. The friends I make along the way, however, are the sweetest and best part. Making friends while I’m making memories – it just doesn’t get better than that.
Besides, as my cousin Lindsay from Scotland recently reminded me,
“Strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet.”