The people you meet

From Naples, we toured Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast with this lovely family.  May, 2008

From Naples, we toured Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast
with this lovely family. May, 2008

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.”Amelia Barr

One thing I love about travel is the way it brings people together who might never otherwise meet.  Cruises are great for this, with continual group activities planned, but even those of us who don’t go to the many onboard social events and games will still end up chatting with others while going ashore on a tender or lining up to board the ship at the end of a day spent exploring a new port.

Technology has made cruising easier in many ways, enabling passengers booked on a particular cruise to meet online ahead of time and exchange tips and information.  Websites such as Cruise Critic sponsor forums for passengers of specific scheduled cruises.  Past cruisers have helpful hints on what to bring and what to avoid, along with names of good tour and transportation companies, and not-to-be-missed sights at various ports of call.  And for those of us who prefer not to take the ship-sponsored tours, such websites are a great way to contact others who want to share a cab for the day to explore at a faster pace and lower cost.

Before our Mediterranean cruise in 2008, I went to Cruise Critic to find travel partners for our days in Florence, Ephesus and Naples, since we had much that we wanted to see in each of those ports, and wanted to have a private cab or van to share with people who had the same plans. It was so much more fun to explore with others from our ship, and we felt safer, too, knowing someone would notice if we didn’t get back to the car at the agreed time.

For example, when we were driving the stunning Amalfi Coast and got stuck in traffic on the way back, it was reassuring to be with friends from our ship who would be “in the same boat” — or not — if the ship sailed without us!  Not to mention the fact that two of our four companions were physicians; always a nice perk if there’s a medical emergency.

The cost to travel this way is far cheaper than buying a cruise-sponsored tour, and because only a few people are in the group (instead of 20 or more) it’s much easier to move efficiently from one sight to another.  Online reviews and research have good information about which companies are most trustworthy, and in some cases, even an individual driver will be recommended by several different people.  Having such travel tools at hand can make a trip go more smoothly, with a sense of familiarity when you are among fellow tourists you have already “met” online, going to places you’ve read about beforehand.

If you have travel plans coming up soon, I hope that you will come home with happy memories, not only of where you went and what you did, but also of people you met along the way.  May you find, as we have, that there are friendly, helpful people all over the world, just waiting to greet you and share a few smiles to take the edge off the tiring, anxious or frustrating moments.

One year ago today:

In the cherry blossom’s shade


  1. Great Idea and good advice, and if you want to you can pick up my book “The Italian Thing” on Amazon. It is a humorous memoir about my trip to Naro, Sicily. I share the adventures and misadventures, as well as the lifestyle of the family and friends as we travel around this wonderful island. :o)

    • Patricia, I got a copy of your book a few weeks ago for my Kindle and I can hardly wait to read it. It’s “next up” on my list after I finish the one I’m reading now (on my Kindle – I have three different books going at once; one each Kindle, audiobook, and print. I find that different formats are good for different situations. I love the Kindle for reading in the dark while traveling or in bed). I hope to go to Sicily one day but in the meantime your book will be the next best thing to being there. 🙂

  2. Sheila

    Julia, my travel yesterday was FINALLY to the post office. There really is a little package on the way to Matt. I hope that he receives it tomorrow or Thursday. I so enjoyed putting the little goodies inside for him to enjoy! 🙂 It looks as though we may have to walk on some “imaginary sunshine” today. It was fun to read that one year ago we were comparing notes on Pasha and Salty. Alright, here’s to a “make it happen” day!

    • Sheila, thanks so much. I know Matt will be very happy to get the package. It’s hard to believe that we have been without our wonderful dogs for almost a year now. In some ways it seems like a short time, but in other ways, forever. There are still so many everyday things that bring Pasha to mind. Jeff, Matt and I are able to laugh over our memories, though always with a touch of sadness. Drew really misses him too. For the first five years of Pasha’s life, he was primarily Drew’s dog. Drew is the one who named him, fed him and walked him every day. Our dogs will be in our hearts always!

      We had REAL sunshine here today, a welcome relief after the gloom yesterday. Tonight when Matt was saying the prayer before dinner he said “and thank you for bringing the sunshine.” I said a hearty AMEN to that one!

  3. Julia, good morning. thanks for the info. my husband only likes traveling on land…:) no planes or boats…

    • Merry, I know more than one person who feels that way. Maybe you can find a pal to go on a cruise with! Jeff is not crazy about boats (he tends to get seasick) but on a huge cruise ship it’s easy to forget you are not on land. On many cruises, most of the sailing is done while you are asleep anyway. If you have any desire to go on a cruise, I hope you are able to go one day. I was HOOKED with the very first one we took, and I think Jeff was too.

  4. Jack

    I’m not a cruiser, probably a little more of a landlubber (but don’t know cause I’ve never cruised!). Of this I’m certain: with whom I travel is a lot more important than where I’m going or how I get there. Business travel whether it be to Paris or Pell City is a burden if the company isn’t good or the reasons for going are difficult. But send me somewhere with people whose company I enjoy and presto chango, Pell City can be darned enchanting. Well, not really, but Paris sure can.

    When I was a younger man, I was enthralled by the prospects of my business travel. Now, put a shovel or a book in my hand, send me to the farm or to the beach, and I’m a happy guy. Not so my wife….she has a zeal for travel, for the exotic, for the new. But I have a zeal for her, so off again I’ll go, some day. But hopefully not soon!

    • Jack, I am more of a travel enthusiast than Jeff is, too. But I think he enjoys it a good bit even if he’s not that eager to plan anything. Cruising works for him because it’s the perfect blend of predictability and surprise. It works for me since the planning is a tiny bit easier (meals and room are covered), and I always get stuck with the planning. I do find that the older I get, the more I like staying home, which has come as a sort of surprise. I can’t imagine ever NOT wanting to travel at least once or twice a year, but I may get there. Meanwhile, keep tagging along with your wife on her journeys – I bet it will be fun!

  5. raynard

    Julia i read this earlier and the first thing that came to my mind . 1 “( cough cough “Who are the people in your neighborhood, followed by ‘Age of Aquarius and then “Do you know the way to San Jose”..( Did I not join the Navy cause I get seasick watching it on TV ? lol Your experience at ship is sorta like ours taking the train to go to the flower show. i think my wife said next year for a cruise( is this the part I sing”On the Good ship “Lollypop .. lol be blessed….

    • Raynard I love all of those songs! Very different from each other, but all of them bring back memories. What’s so funny about that song “Do you know the way to San Jose” is how dated it sounds now – it makes San Jose sound like some sort of small town (“LA is a great big freeway”) – Just before we left NorCal, the newspaper said that San Jose was actually bigger than San Francisco and I can attest that the traffic there can be almost as horrendous as LA. Almost.

      I hope your wife will get you on a cruise ship eventually. I bet you would love it. Tell her I’m pulling for her!

  6. That’s all such great information Julia. I always think It’s a lot of fun to meet other travellers and you’re right about there being friendly and helpful people all over the world. We traveled through Europe on a hosted tour which we loved. Had a great time with all our travel mates. Some from New Zealand, America, Australia, Japan and Canada. The more people you welcome into your life, the more you know we’re not all that different from one another (except maybe for our cute accents).

    • I totally love meeting people, so if I had my way, I’d stay in B&B (or Air B&B) and guest houses all the time. However, Jeff is an introvert and gets way more conversation than he needs at work and home, plus he likes predictability, so he prefers familiar hotels. I hope in retirement he might enjoy doing some more non-traditional travel. I’d love to do home swaps, for example. But even just overnights with people (or them overnighting with us) would be fun I think. The internet makes so many things possible (good and bad things, so I’d be cautious) but I love the way we are so connected to other countries now. I think it’s so cool that we had our little tea crossing thousands of miles and even the international date line!

  7. I can understand Jeff’s preference for Hotels. Jim’s much the same. We actually had to check out of a B&B that I had selected on line for our first visit to San Jose last May. It turned out to be rather run down. The AC was an old noisy window AC that rattled all night but didn’t cool the room. So we decided to just open the windows but they were painted shut. We got one open but it wouldn’t stay up and because it was windy, it rattled really bad. LOL It was a bit of a gong show. The topper was the burn and super hard waffles for breakfast outside with the power tools. Hubby was fixing the pergola. We checked into a Hilton and got a good night sleep. Breakfast was also included with Wi-Fi too. That was the first time we ever had to leave an accommodation. Even when they were a disappointment, we always make do, but this particular place was really, really bad. At least in a Hotel, you can ask for a new room.

    Our virtual visit was such a treat. I don’t know if this happens to you, but I find my self saying something in a British accent if I’m talking to a brit or southern talking to you Southern Belles. I really have to correct myself at times. Hopefully I didn’t do it on our Skype. It’s totally unconsciously done, LOL. What a goof.

    • I do the very same thing with the accents, and more than one person has called me on it. I didn’t notice you doing it at all, but I know I do it and sometimes I catch myself. I do think for some of us it’s just a natural reaction, a way of trying to communicate in the same language. I was very bad about it in Hawaii; I think I drove people crazy with my singsong response to the local inflections. They say that babies learn to talk by imitating the sounds they hear and I guess some of us never get past that. 🙂 But I do have a fascination with other languages and maybe it stems from that also. I must not be very good at it, though, because when I was trying to learn Mandarin (in a continuing ed course a few years ago) I could not master the four tones to save my life. I’m not good at hearing or speaking them correctly.

      Luckily we have stayed in B&B inns so seldom that we’ve never had a problem, but I do use Trip Advisor and similar sites pretty frequently. Even photos can be deceptive so I like to read reviews. There are always a few cranks who will write a bad review anyplace you go, but I find that the general trends are fairly reliable. If 80-90% of the reviewers like a place, I probably will.

  8. See, now I feel normal about the whole accent mirroring thing 😀 Thanks hon !

    You’re so spot on about Trip Advisor. It’s true, you can’t please all of the people, all of the time and then there is the odd traveler who will never be pleased. If we didn’t care for a place, we just refrain from posting anything at all. Not even the San Jose place. It’s their source of income and I wouldn’t want to affect that in a negative way. That’s what municipalities are for. I assume at some point, someone inspects the accommodation and/or kitchen to renew licenses etc. Beside’s, maybe another traveler adores burn’t waffles, LOL.

    • I’m with you, I HATE to leave bad reviews unless I feel like the person was fundamentally dishonest. We all have bad days and would hate to be judged by our worst day. If one travels enough, the odds suggest we’ll eventually connect with someone else’s bad day! I do like to leave suggestions that I think might help improve the business, such as when I see an overworked front desk clerk who clearly needs some help, or am awakened by bright sunlight very early in the morning when a simple blackout shade might make a difference. But too many people get on there and vent all sorts of ugly stuff that probably is more a reflection of way more than the hotel, which seems unfair. When I have a good experience at a poorly reviewed place I try to document it. But I don’t always make the time (see page 846 of Volume 28 of Julia’s Exhaustive Encyclopedia of Good Intentions).

      • LOL, you are not alone on that one Julia but you did make me laugh. Leaving suggestions is a much better way of managing a disappointment, I like that. I like to leave commendations for anyone who may have been extra friendly or extra helpful during our stay. I remember how much they meant when I was working.

        • Yes, I think our tendency is to complain when things go wrong, and say nothing when things go right. I used to love it when I worked in retail or the airlines and someone would go out of their way to write a letter to the management thanking them for my service. It’s so much easier for us to do that now. Reminds me, I need to do an Angie’s List review about a great painter who came to do my outside trim yesterday.

  9. Good morning, Julia!
    Cruise Critic has info on covid-19 travel:
    There are also articles on how an old ship is broken up, which I had never really considered.
    Well, with vaccines coming, we may be able to indulge again one day (I’ve not yet been on an official “cruise”).

    • Susan, I cannot wait to start cruising again. Jeff and I took eight cruises together, and of course there was the one we were supposed to have taken…it was our favorite way to travel. Thanks for the link, I’ll explore it when I have time. Cruise Critic is a helpful site, by the way. We’ve met travel companions to share a cab at various ports, in advance of sailing. It saves money and time, and it’s great fun.

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