Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Art of Hospitality


From Paris to Zurich, I declared that I would absolutely throw out my itinirary. Literally. I cancelled all of my hostels that I'd spent hours reserving before I left the States and said, as it is my motto, fuck it.

As I sat under the "big clock" at the train station in Zurich waiting for Barbara my "host" I had no idea what I was doing....I was in a strange country, that's coffee costed eight dollars for a small cup and there wasn't a "Heidi" look alike or anyone from a Ricola commercial anywhere in sight. When she rode up on her bicycle and recognized me only from a picture I knew staying with the locals was a much better choice than staying alone in a hotel.

The next two days were full of several white wine spritzers (this is the Swiss drink of choice for the ladies) and her roommates were kind enough to cook me fondue, since I was a fan of the "cliches" and upon departure to Milan, they left me a few Swiss chocolate bars (and a map, sicne my sense of direction is for shit), since it was "the best in the world." Which, it is.

The whole experience was such an eye opener.....when Europeans say they want to help, when they open their doors to strangers or when they offer to cook dinner, they genuinely want to. American's say, "come visit" or "absolutely, no problem I'd love to have you over" then when people follow through they're mostly waiting for them to leave so they can get back to their normal routine and not be "put out" having to "entertain."
...
After leaving Switzerland reluctantly, I hopped on a long (but beautiful) train ride to Italy....where I am now sitting in the garden of a Villa in Tuscany, writing this.
The pictures on the internet looked amazing, but I knew pictures can be deceiving. Not only was I not deceived but my expectations were beyond exceeded. More to come on the shenanigans of Tuscany later on.......

The first day the family of the villa offered to drive me into town, then when it was too difficult to get a taxi (since the town I'm in is so small I'm not sure that it even has a name) they drove through the winding hills in the pitch black to pick me up.

The only other people staying in the villa are a couple on a honeymoon! from Australia and noticing that I'm stranded without food (I didn't think to get a car?) they offered to cook barbecue and share their bottles of red wine, which we enjoyed (after a wine/olive oil tasting) over four hours and talked of life, yoga, travel, spirituality and hospitality.

Traveling has taught me this most definitely; people, are good. We get so caught up in our day to day lives so often that we forget to acknowledge that we're moving about amongst other people just like us, searching for a connection. We walk past each other without making eye contact and turn our heads so often even when we notice that someone else, may just need an extra hand. Rather than putting ourselves "out" we instead, act as if everyone else around us can figure it out on their own, when sometimes if we just offered a little hospitality we both may be better off.

I've had incredible conversations with complete strangers on this trip, people from different countries and of different ethnicities or religions and because we both stopped to engage, to recognize that we are living on this Earth together, no matter how different we may be, we've found even through our differences, we are very much the same.
Check Spelling
Everyone can use a little help sometimes....if someone looks lost with a map, stop and ask where they need to go. Individuals are all striving to be happy, to feel like they're living full lives that are of substance. We all want to be healthy, we want our families to be happy; we all get stuck, or confused. We get lost....sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively, but knowing that there people around you going through the same thing, no matter what country you're in is indeed, very comforting and reminds you that we ALL could be a little bit more hospitable....eventually, it may be you that needs a helping hand or a friendly face.

29 comments:

Deutlich said...

I'm really all kinds of stoked for you & your European endeavor

all. kinds. of. stoked.

Peter said...

anyone from a Ricola commercial anywhere in sight.

That cracked me up.

Sounds like an exciting trip.

step right up said...

I love reading your travel stories and I am so jealous of your time in Tuscany. I think sometimes when you are alone you actually meet more people than when you have someone with you.

JD said...

Chelsea, has anyone over there commented on the Presidential race? I would be interested in hearing what people over there are saying!

dancednvr said...

you are beautiful. inside and out. love and miss you...

Nic said...

I loved this post. Love, love, loved it. What you said at the end there....can you imagine if more people thought that way? If MORE AMERICANS thought that way?

Sister Libby said...

Here here! I really agree with the idea that when a European says "let's meet up sometime", they mean it. That's how it is in Sweden, anyway. I love hearing about your travels!

teabelly said...

Travelling definitely gave me back my faith in people. For me it was sitting by my friend's hospital bedside in a remote town in Guatemala, unable to speak the language, and being astounded by the kindness of the doctors, nurses and everyone else who worked there.

I'm so glad you're having a wonderful trip. I have found too that Americans often say they're happy to have you over or meet up, and then never followed through (learned from bitter experience during my year abroad there).

Look forward to hearing more about your adventures! But it's making me want to travel again!

~*~Lilly~*~ said...

Ahhh it is so very true. Not everyone is bad in our world. Unfortunately the bad apples in society help us to forgot that most people do mean well. :)

nicoleantoinette said...

I'm so glad to hear you're meeting people and having the amazing time you deserve. Wish I was there!

xoxo

ps- email soon. promise.

notthelifeiordered said...

Excellent post! I love reading your adventures and this one really warmed my heart to hear of the wonderful hospitality you are receiving. People do need to remember that we all live in this world together and should try to make everyones existance as enjoyable as possible, it will only enhance their own!

Have so much fun in Italy!

Camels & Chocolate said...

Ha, did I not tell you your itinerary would drastically alter itself within days??? =) I did the same as you my first three-month backpacking experience--I had everything plotted out and after my first two stops (London and Paris, like you), I went north instead of west and was totally fucked.

And SO glad you're enjoying your CS experiences! European hospitality is unsurpassable!

Hillbilly Duhn said...

I envy you. You are doing something that so many of us can't do or never had the chance. And never will.

Good luck to you. Keep writing, I can't wait to here what happens next!

Catalyst said...

Hey! Very cool. Sounds like you're on a living and learning experience.

I'm from England, living in America now, I've lived in Norway (8yrs), Australia (1 yr) Bahrain (Middle East) 5 yrs and now USA (getting my green card). I'm single, lived in these places for the adventure and I absolutely encourage everyone to drop the excuses, the "I can't do that", and do some traveling!

It sure is an eye opener and i truly believe it changes your whole outlook on life. Changes you for the better. I think you are fabulous, absolutely charming and I'm enjoying reading your discoveries and adventures.

You're giving me the willies... i feel like jumping on a plane and going somewhere...hmmmmm :)

Dolce said...

You just highlighted my experience in Europe! I'm so glad you're having a good time!

mack said...

So true! I'm loving reading about your adventure. It is taking me back to my adventures around Europe. I definitely encountered and was amazed at how helpful and friendly some people were to us lost Americans.

kris said...

How is it possible that we did not meet up in Italy last week? Seriously?

Ben said...

Sounds like everything is going swimmingly (well, that is). I agree that people generally are a lot more friendly than you would expect if you just talk to them. Something a lot of people don't do for some reason.

Would love to explore some more of Italy. Visited Milan a couple of years back and loved it (having a fluent Italian speaker along really helped there).

Look forward to hearing about what you get up to next.

transienttravels said...

I loved this post.

Per JD - I would also be interested to hear what they are saying about the Presidential race.

inkpuddle said...

"We get lost....sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively, but knowing that there people around you going through the same thing, no matter what country you're in is indeed, very comforting and reminds you that we ALL could be a little bit more hospitable....eventually, it may be you that needs a helping hand or a friendly face."

Very well said. Enjoy your travels!

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

JD- Ah, yes I will do a WHOLE seperate blog on this....

Catalyst said...

RE: PRESIDENTIAL RACE: THE WHOLE WORLD ARE WATCHING. What happens will effect the world after all.

I think many people all over the world are disappointed that America, being the no. 1 world power, can only produce these candidates.... I know Officers in the military stating they don't want to vote for either :o

I'm glad i can't vote to be honest.

irunwithscissors said...

im soo excited fo you... sounds like you are really getting a lot out of this!

La Petite Chic said...

I'm so happy that you've found 'helping hands' all throughout your voyage. What a great way to really discover the people.

Katelin said...

seriously your adventures sound like something right out of a movie. so glad you're having such a great time. amazing.

lois said...

hi, been reading your blog ever since i started blogging..and i'm simply loving it..

it's a nice thing to know that some people appreciates others hospitality..and with you it simply shows your a nice person..have a nice trip there..:)

Princess Pointful said...

There is something about traveling that leads us to letting our guard down in a way we never do in our regular life. I think we are both more willing to be hospitable, and are better at attracting it, somehow.

Surfergrrl said...

When i went to Europe I found the same thing to be true. I think you are also more open and receptive when you travel alone. You just notice things more.

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