Sunday, April 28, 2013

Old Faces, New Places



Once someone leaves their comfort zone and immerses themselves in an environment contrary to their own – that sensation of complete freedom and detachment is never to be forgotten. When we truly travel we abandon familiarity, security, and comfort and expose ourselves to a novel place where our excitement, curiosity, and intuition guide us.



It was a long, cold, and wet winter in Florence that kept most of us indoors or bundled up for brisk walks to the cafes.  As the end of March came around, I was eager for a little getaway. Yet, this was a different kind of restlessness. The laziness of a long winter deterred me from taking a trip completely on my own to a country where I knew no one. I wanted the best of both worlds – comfort of friends and new countries to explore.

So with the help of my best alliance, Ryan Air, I booked two trips. I would spend Easter in Guernsey Island and then a weekend in April in London. After purchasing my tickets, I instantly felt relieved – I satiated the travel bug.

I willingly went backwards in the seasons. It was 17 degrees in Florence around Easter and I walked off the plane into a sharp 5 degrees with wicked winds on Guernsey Island. However, as I’ve grown up I have learned that it’s the company you surround yourself with that matters most.

Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, is a very charming place. The north side of the island is home to coves, beaches, families, and sprawling farms. As you head east, you reach the industrial part of the island that leads you to St. Peter Port where most of the action takes place. The landscape of the southern part of the island is riddled with steep cliffs, windy roads and grand views of the sea. Guernsey serves as a marine port, summer tourist spot, and home to those who are strong enough to bear the wind and cold. Its history is highlighted by maritime battles and the Nazi occupation during WWII and several museums pay tribute to that era on the Island. 
 

I spent four days on the Island with Marci, one of the dear friends I made in Croatia. He recently moved his life to this quiet place to work as a fencing coach so we were able to explore the Island together. We visited the old fortress, military museums, and an aquarium. We walked along the cliffs, rented a motorino to cruise the island, and dined and drank in local spots.



On my way back to the airport the taxi driver told me of the local saying, “Guernsey born, and Guernsey bred; Strong in the arm, thick in the head.” I laughed because of how perfect that little rhyme is for the Island. There is a sense of pride among the locals that is easily picked up on. Also, they pay no mind to the harsh climate. Locals surf in the winter sea, exercise in shorts and tank tops, and their going out attire is a t-shirt. Amazingly, 5 degrees with whipping wind is no battle for them.
It was lovely to be back by the sea and explore the sights of a new place; yet it was even better to see a good friend. We enjoyed long, lazy meals filled with our usual never ending conversation. We took comfort in the ease of being in each other’s company.

There are friendships during our life that need constant tending to and there are ones where distance has no effect. Neither is better or stronger than the other – it is simply the way two souls must maintain their connection. So when we find ourselves across the state, the country or the world from our friends, we learn which type of friendship it will be. I believe the period of when the relationship is born marks the course of its path. Whether the friendship began during a chaotic time of your life, a peaceful one, a dark and troubled one, or a period of transformation– the energy of that creation will be reflected in the bond between you.

The friendships I have now that have survived several moves, personal challenges, and time have flourished into lifelong bonds. The connections I have created during my travels, where my soul and heart have been fulfilled, are honest and solid. So when life finds a way to reunite friends, or when a long overdue phone call or email is made, that relationship has not altered – we are able to pick things back up where we left off. 

These types of friendships have brought me to Ireland and San Marino. They bring comfort of home through e-mails and Skype calls. And they continued my Beginning-of-Spring-Getaway from Guernsey to London.

A couple weeks and short plane ride later, I was arriving at our hostel in Russel Square at 3:30am with the other half of the dream-team – Clare.  We attempted to devise a big Camp reunion in London; however life responsibilities and prior commitments swatted the plan away. Nevertheless, Clare and I still wanted to meet and catch up properly – Viber phone calls can only go so far – and since we both have never truly visited London, the decision was made. Luckily Nicole, another dear friend from our time in Croatia, came to share the weekend and a summer Pim’s with us. 

Warm weather and abundant sunshine brought every Londoner out that weekend. London reminded me of NYC with posh accents. The eclectic crowds – hipsters mixed with men in business suits – ruled the streets and relaxed in Hyde Park. Oxford Street was full of determined shoppers headed to Primark for a bargain. During the days we walked and walked and walked. In between Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hyde Park, London Tower, and Buckingham Palace, we pit-stopped for cheeky pints and pub food. 


It felt familiar and refreshing to be in a city again. Yet even amidst the energetic chaos of London we found plenty of time to catch each other up on our lives with the typical topics: work, future plans, family, friends, and men – the latter taking up most of the conversation.

It’s funny how people you meet and know for just a few months can understand you better than others who you spent four years of high school or university with. The conversation never falters and the advice is never belittling. I know there is a reason fate had our paths cross thousands of miles away from our homes in a little village in Croatia. I know there is a reason fate has introduced me to my friends here in Italy. We are all meant to share each other’s experiences, learn from one another, and grow.  We are all on our own personal journeys and when we are able to build these connections along the way, we share parts of our souls with another that are carried on within them.

So as I continue my journey and tell my tale, I am forever grateful for the people I have met and the light and love they have given me. In my upcoming travels I know that I will return to places close to my heart and explore new ones completely on my own – but sometimes we’re lucky enough to do the best kind of traveling - when we see old faces and new places. 

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