The Characters You Meet While Traveling

When we ask the question, “What’s your favorite part of traveling?”, we’re pleased to often hear, “the people I met along the way,” as the answer. The people we encounter along the way become part of our unique travel experience each time. The best way to meet people while traveling is to simply keep an open mind and to respect and adapt to cultural variances. Whether it’s on a plane, train, bus or in a hostel, hotel, villa or on the street or in a museum, you never know who will have an impact on your travels.

Positano. The name itself conjures up images of romanticism and beauty with its flowerful pathways winding through colorful villas perched atop the hillside overlooking the bright blue sea. Though I do recall the beauty of Positano, the jewel of the Amalfi Coast, Angelo is who really stands out in my mind when I think back on this trip. Angelo was the grandfatherly man with the great smile and endless knowledge of his home and its people. Since I was with a friend of mine visiting as backpackers, I didn’t have lots to spend in this somewhat pricey Italian location. Angelo kindly offered to give Hilary and me a tour of the place…on his scooter. That’s right…all three of us….on his tiny scooter. As it is a very hilly place and scooters don’t have lots of power, you can imagine the speed at which we traveled. You would think the other drivers would have been annoyed at our snail’s pace, but no. Other scooters and cars flew past us waving! This was Angelo and I imagine this was not an uncommon sight for the locals! He made our trip. He introduced us to everyone on the street and in the stores and to those popping their heads out of their villa windows. He even took us on a tour of Le Sirenuse, a chic hotel with fantastic views not typically frequented by backpackers! Thanks for the memories Angelo!

Who have you met along the way that has become a character in your personal travel story?btretweet

17 thoughts on “The Characters You Meet While Traveling

  • In Prague, on a train ride, I was feeling grumpy and complaining about some teenagers who were joking around. I turned to my friend and said “I didn’t act that way five years ago.” Then, the man sitting across from us turned around, and in perfect, clear, native English said “Everybody acted that way at that age.”

    He was the first American we had met in Prague although we’d been there for a week and he answered all of our questions, gave us info on some craft and boutique shops, and a fantastic restaurant at our train stop.

    He wasn’t wacky or off-the-wall, but his gentle, unsuspecting nature has made him a favorite person I’ve met on my travels.

  • One early morning while staying at a great backpackers lodge located right on the beach in Knysna, South Africa, my friend and I struck up a conversation with a guy named Jerry. Jerry had been at the lodge for a few weeks building a huge pizza oven out of rocks and concrete and was sleeping in his car.

  • Actually, almost everyone because I am a writer! In fact I am transcribing my college travel journals into a book, so pretty much everyone I met around Europe in 1997 has literally become characters in my life story and an actual story!

  • At the campsite in the middle of the Wadi Rum desert, Jordan, we met this incredibly friendly Aussie couple who were our grandparents’ age. They were so warm and open-minded, we instantly hit it off, and couldn’t stop laughing n chatting till night fall. Ah, one of the best nights ever, and some of the most amazing people we’ve met.

  • Ireland, 2002. It was my first international trip, there was a lot of anti-bush sentiment happening at the time, and I was a bit nervous on how we’d be received. Our first night in town we hit a pub and after a glass or two the group of Irish people next to us suddenly yelled “hey, are you Americans?”. We replied that yes, we were and they were overjoyed. They couldn’t wait to tell us how they loved Americans (but hated Bush) and give us tons of tips on their city. We ended up going back to their apartment and drinking until 4am. They even offered to drive us out of the city and give us a tour the next day. Of course, we were all too hungover and didn’t go!

  • In 1996-1997, I was camping for extended periods of time in some caves on a beach on the Canary Island of La Gomera. There was a man living in one of the caves. His cave was higher than the others, and it was the farthest away from everyone.

    Each day I’d see him walk by, wearing only a 3/4 sleeve sun-bleached gray sweatshirt (and no pants), with a rucksack hanging from one shoulder. He never talked to, or looked up, or smiled, at anyone. Which made it difficult to know anything about him.

    It was believed that he was from Scandinavia. It was also believed that he wrote horror stories from his cave.
    Which made sense.
    He was that creepy.

  • The most interesting person I ever met was an old woman in a small town outside of La Paz. She claimed to be a Cochi(sp?) Indian, the last of her tribe. She sold me what we agreed in my terrible Spanish and her equally terrible English was mescal. It was not Mescal, whatever she gave me was alcoholic, but also wildly hallucinogenic. I didn’t get into any trouble, I don’t think, but I didn’t turn up at my hotel until 4am, I still am very unclear as to what I got up to. All I remember after drinking it was her leaving me on the the side of the road. She was a very trippy old lady, before she left she told me about the ancient rites of her people that had been all but destroyed by the Spanish hundreds of years earlier. It may have been a scam, but I will never forget her lined face, like a wizened bullfrog.

  • Italy 2001- Todi (region of Umbria). We were staying in our friends apartment that required a parking sticker for our rented car…well we couldn’t find it in the apartment so we walked down the hill to town (very small Italian town) and found a police man..where we spent the next 1/2 hr. trying to explain what we needed- we didn’t speak Italian and he didn’t speak English and rarely saw Americans….he was trying so hard to help us and was so friendly about it…we finally got the pass and ended up seeing the man every day that we were in Todi and he always waved and smiled.

  • an adult film “actress” on a plane trip back from Japan to LA that I hooked up with. and no the coach restrooms on UA international are not very roomy.

  • On a plane home from Vegas recently I had the fastest ride home ever. My husband and I ended up sitting separately. I met a man and we had the most incredilbe talk. I forgot we were flying for most of the flight and forgot to eat my dinner I brought with me! I was amazed when we were told that there was only one more hour of the 4+ hour flight.
    This man was me only 20+ years older. He had accomplished most of what I wanted to accomplish in my life. We talked as if we had been friends for life. It was incredible. We covered religion, finance, economy, families, communication – you name it we talked about it.

    It made the flight home from Vegas (the one I hate the most!) enjoyable – I didn’t want it to end.

  • In April of 1990 it was my first time out of the country and first time in a bar. Went to London on a class trip-while I was ordering cocktails at the bar one night, I started talking to this really cool guy. He was telling me about his love of music, traveling, etc. I spent an hour or so chatting with him before we exchanged introductions. Low and behold it was the Lenny Kravitz. I was blown away and he was humbled by how naive I was. Good times!

  • I moved to AZ the end of the summer in 1998. I went to explore and hike the Grand Canyon-magnificent experience. I meet a guy from Norway half way through my hike. My friend and I were only hiking half the canyon. This guy was clearly in need of help-It was a hot day and he was extremely dehydrated. My friend and I spent an hour or so with him, sitting on a rock in the middle of the Grand Canyon-chatting, exchanging stories and having a laugh and trying every so hard to understand his broken English. He had hiked the entire canyon in one day. He started at 5am and we meet up with him around 4pm. This is not recommended because of dehydration, the strain on the body, long day, etc. He told no one, including his wife, that he had taken on this challenge-Scary! When he felt better we continued to hike back up to the top, which was another 3 hours or so. We spent the evening with this guy-He was very entertaining and had traveled the world taking on great challenges-physically and mentally. He generous paid for our meal and we toasted to his rescue! When I take on new physicial challenges that seems scary or daunting, I think of him and smile-I always get through it.

  • I went on a fam trip with my previous employer to one of the Caribbean islands around 2005.

    One night, we had a special hosted dinner at the island’s most premier hotel. The hotel owner (not only one of the highest regarded hotelliers in the Caribbean, but a Knight too), was our host.

    Anticipating fewer numbers to the dinner party, the tables and chairs were positioned extremely close, leaving little room for manuevering for the seated guests.

    Our tables’ drinks order arrived. All on my tray. Held single-handed by our waitress for the evening.

    Sadly for the waitress, it was to be her last night of employment at the establishment…

    As she tried to get close to the table to serve our drinks, the whole tray slipped, covering one of the guests with a cocktail of coke, rum, stawberry dacaris, local beers and wine.

    While my colleague went to get dried off with a hair dryer, the waitress was receiving her own hair-dryer treatment from ‘Sir X’.

    Needless to say, despite appealing to him for mercy, we never saw her again that night.

  • Okay, I am dating myself here but way back in 1982 I hitchhiked through British Columbia (BC) with another girl. Both of us were from central Canada and had never been in Washington State so, we hatched this crazy idea to cross the international border and hitchhike through Washington to Vancouver BC. Only one problem,when we arrived at the US border, the border guard said no way and turned us back. It was early May. We had no tent, no food, and it was getting dark as we put our thumbs out heading back north. I remember thinking “what was I thinking of”. That’s when this delightful couple who I would guess were in their 70s picked us up. They were from Trail and ended up taking us home, feeding us dinner, and giving us beds. The next morning after a hearty breakfast they drove us to a good spot to hitch a ride west, and Kath and I continued on our journey to Vancouver.

  • I’m loving all these stories! There’ve been so many characters from our travels…and it’s sad to think we’ll probably never see any of them again to get the “where are they now?” update.

    Githio, Greece, 2005: A young man with a small restaurant that had been in his family for 50 years told us he’d become disillusioned by his country’s financial excesses during the 2004 Olympics, and was soon off to join his cousins in Stamford, Connecticut — where he’d be once again running a Greek restaurant. He changed the way we looked at every run-down school, potholed road and half-constructed, half-abandoned hotel.

    San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, 2004: A young taxi driver on a break in front a taco stand was pleased to learn that we were from his wife’s former hometown in Los Angeles. He assured us that if we ever chose to leave L.A. to live in his country, we’d know true happiness — both having less and wanting less.

    Negril, Jamaica, 2010: A tiny little couple from Los Alamos, New Mexico celebrating their first trip to the Caribbean and their 40th anniversary were amazed to discover that half the people they’d met at their beach resort had never heard of…New Mexico. Since this was only the 10th time they’d left their home state, it was baffling to them that a place so much the center of their universe wouldn’t even register in some other folks’ global map.

    Banff National Park, 2008: A twinkly-eyed, 50-something expat Scotsman biking across Canada pulled off the road to admire a lakeside view with us. Like a portent from the future, this millionaire who’d cashed out and gone off to see the world warned us against missing out on life’s great adventures. He was on his way to northern Alaska to pick up a motorcycle he’d ridden there, from Chile, just the year before.

Comments are closed.