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November 30, 2010
The unexpected hospitality of strangers
This time of year, I love the frequent occasions to get together with the special people in our lives—whether hosting a Lewis family dinner or accepting holiday invitations from friends. But while I enjoy spending time or sharing a meal with loved ones, there’s something indescribably affecting about the hospitality of strangers …
Several years ago, some friends joined me and Alan and me on a trip to Croatia—where we sailed among some of the many islands dotting the country’s Adriatic coastline. For us, the trip was really a chance to relax, spend time with our friends, and experience the earthy delights of sailing off this Central European nation.
One day, as threatening, rain-swollen clouds crowded the horizon, our captain maneuvered the boat into the harbor of a small, settled island. As we walked into the village with the captain—seeking a tavern to escape the impending rain—it began to pour. Within minutes, a local woman called out as we passed, gesturing for the five of us to take shelter in her home. Grateful for the timely invitation, we followed the captain, a native Croatian who doubled as our interpreter, into the modest farmhouse. For the next hour or so—as if they’d been expecting us to arrive—the gracious family shared with us a simple, but delicious meal of skewered lamb, sliced tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Although there wasn’t a lot of talking during the meal, a quiet sense of comfort enveloped us all—as if we weren’t two sets of strangers who didn’t speak the same language. Even the family’s two young children, who rode their tricycles around the house, seemed perfectly at ease with our presence at their table. When the rain eventually slowed to a drizzle, and it was time to return to the boat, our new friends even lent us umbrellas for the short walk back.
As a frequent traveler, I’ve learned that untendered hospitality—even towards strangers—is not uncommon in villages and remote areas where people need to look after one another in order to survive. But as an American from a big city, I’m still pleasantly surprised by—and always grateful for—such generosity.
During your own travels, have you ever enjoyed the unexpected hospitality of local residents? If so, I’d love to hear more. You can share your thoughts and experiences with others by posting your comments below this Journal entry, or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the coming weeks, we’ll spotlight our Central American adventures in Costa Rica and Panama, as well as in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. If you’ve explored any—or all!—of these fascinating destinations with OAT, I hope you’ll send your stories and pictures to me at email@example.com.