Traveling has proven to me that so much good exists in the world – along my journeys, many people have gone out of their way to help a stranger. And, without the words to acknowledge that, I feel limited. Here’s the story that inspired me to learn thank you in the native language of every new country I visit:
Long before AirBnB was even a twinkle in our eyes, two friends, my sister, and I boarded an overnight ferry from Italy to Croatia with no place to stay on the other end. I had heard rumors that Croatians often offer (safe) homestays. Hoping for the most authentic experience, we towed our luggage through the old cobblestone streets and stone buildings. The sun was devastatingly hot. No travel agent had ideas. And, all the hotels were too expensive for our student budgets.
We were sitting on the curb with shawls shading their faces from the sun, when an old man appeared. He didn’t speak a word of English but motioned for us to follow him – to the scuba diving store. There, he made a phone call, waited a few moments, and then walked away. Knowing that I would want to remember him, I snapped this picture.
Twenty minutes later Tonci arrived. He spoke English, and told us that he rented out a guesthouse near the beach for a reasonable price. He fed us homemade Croatian food and took us sight-seeing. It was one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve had.
I still don’t know how the old man knew exactly what we needed without a word in the same language. But, I wish that I was able to at least say thank you in his.