Greece: Encounters to History

In the world of travel writing, many travelers begin a story with a random encounter, such as sitting at a bar or restaurant and a stranger next to them strikes up a conversation that then leads to an interesting, worthwhile experience. An encounter that they then relay in the travel blog they write that states the real pleasure of travel is the people they meet. In real life, this only happens about half the time in my experience.

We arrived in Athens at night and took a cab to the hotel for a night’s sleep before catching an early ferry the next day to Paros. A man with mostly gray hair, looking about ready for retirement but still with a few more years on him, sat across from us. Technically, he was in a seat not assigned to him. As we found out, seat assignments were loosely enforced on ferries in Greece. It was okay, because we were at a table that we booked and by having him across from us we could take turns watching each other’s things while the other went to the toilet or food or just to walk around a bit on the three-hour ferry ride.

He was from Australia and was over to meet with some friends on a seven-day cruise. Since he went through the expense and time of the trip, he decided to take a few extra days and visit Paros. Makes sense, probably something I would have done as well, especially with how long a flight from Australia to Greece must be. Other than the “where are you from?” conversation, and a bit of a chat about Australia and England and other locations, we didn’t talk all that much. Sure, it was a nice encounter, but was it one of those profound travel experiences travel writers look forward to having? Well, I am writing about it, so I guess it did. But to make it an interesting story for you, the reader, I would need to detail the interaction, to set him up as a character, write some dialog that we had, and of course have something happen besides sitting across from a table having small talk.

I’ll be the first to admit that striking up conversations with strangers isn’t my strong suit. In fact, I barely engage people I know in conversation. So, if I had been the type of person who enjoys learning more about other globe-trotters, this might have been a more interesting discussion. Maybe we would have even made plans to meet at some point on the island. Part of it might be because my wife was with me and we tend to prefer the company of each other over that of people we just met. To prove the point when I traveled to Thailand by myself, I found myself more inclined to strike up conversations with fellow travelers. Yet, were they meaningful moments to where I felt the need to write about it or post a video to my social media platform? Not really.

Maybe that is what makes a good travel blogger different from people like me. When I travel it is about the sites and the history of the places. The journey and people I meet are often less interesting. Unless there is something about that individual that stands out of the ordinary. For me, I care about the history of the location and the deceased people who stood there centuries before me. And that, of course, is what lured me to Greece and a travel blog that will be more about the locations and less about the encounters.

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