If you've ever been daunted by the prospect of international travel, perhaps all you need is a good, like-minded friend at your side. Margaret Peale Everett explains just how wonderful an experience that can be.
- Posted on Feb 26, 2016
What makes a trip memorable? I’ve had the pleasure of going on several of the tours Guideposts and Collette Travel offer to our readers and every time, no matter where we’ve gone, people agree on the biggest highlight.
More on that in a minute, but let me tell you about some of the wonderful things we’ve seen and done, like wandering the narrow streets in Old Jerusalem or standing on the banks of the Jordan River. On that same trip we explored the ruins at Ephesus, in Turkey, where Paul preached some two thousand years ago. If those stones could talk...
There was the trip to Ireland where we kissed the Blarney Stone and warmed up in a traditional Dublin pub. We also visited Trinity College to see the golden pages of the Book of Kells, a beautifully illuminated manuscript of the Gospels done by Irish monks at the Abbey of Kells in the eighth century.
Later we were scheduled to go to the Cliffs of Moher. It was a gloomy day and our guide kept saying they could be obscured by fog, but just as our bus pulled up, the clouds lifted and the sun rose like a curtain and lit up the cliffs as though they were meant just for us.
I felt the same way on our trip to Italy when we gazed up at the newly cleaned ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, seeing long-familiar images with new eyes.
The guides we’ve had have been wonderful—warm, welcoming and wise. But I have especially vivid memories of the people I’ve traveled with.
I remember one woman who came on the Ireland tour. She’d been hesitant about traveling by herself. That feeling didn’t last long, and soon she made such good friends that one of them, a recent widow, asked if they could be roommates on the next Guideposts trip.
I’ve made good friends myself, including a couple from Texas. The man gave everyone on the trip angel coins, a token I still treasure. More recently he and his wife came to New York City and took me up on my offer of visiting the Guideposts editorial office (he’d had an article in a recent issue of our magazine Angels on Earth). No surprise that he handed out more angel coins.
Is it just because everybody has Guideposts in common that my travel mates are all so nice? On our journey to the Holy Land, a woman who used a wheelchair wondered how she would be able to maneuver through the crowded, uneven streets of Jerusalem. This was a pilgrimage of a lifetime. She couldn’t miss it.
Her daughter helped her, and then so did we all, taking turns pushing her wheelchair, making sure that the way was clear.
Moments of prayer happen naturally, like grace at mealtimes, and there are spirited spiritual discussions—nothing scripted, just good conversations between like-minded people. Recently, on our trip to Portugal, one woman asked our guide if she could help us honor Veterans Day. Everybody agreed.
And so, while we were still on the bus, she had a man who was a veteran read aloud the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” and we had a moment of silence. It was moving and profound.
If I glance back through my photos, I can see places we visited, like Assisi, Italy, where Saint Francis walked, and the Mount of the Beatitudes, where our Israeli guide read to us from the Book of Matthew. What really makes me smile even more are the people in front of the landmarks, companions who became friends.
“I’ve never had such a wonderful group, so easygoing, everybody getting along,” our guide on the last trip said. Maybe he says that all the time. But I wouldn’t be so sure. At the end of that trip I asked everybody, just to be sure, “What did you like best about this trip?”
“The people,” they said. It’s the same answer every time. The people are what makes the journey so special.
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