The travel philosophy of an extrovert
Let me spin you a tale about traveling with Daniel Wilson. Daniel is an eternal extrovert who loves meeting new people and has a high tolerance for risk. I love people only until I get tired (i.e. introvert) and am highly risk averse. Together we are the best possible match OR each other’s worst nightmare.
Joking aside, this year so far has been an invaluable time for us. We have learned each other’s limits while choosing to stretch our own. A concrete example of this, you ask? That would be our recent drive to Romania to meet up with our friend Joel.
The day started with a large good-bye at the airport for an American leaving after a year here. We hitched a ride some friends to the airport, leaving our apartment at 7:30 AM. The airport isn’t far, but the goodbyes were long and heartfelt. By the time we left, it was getting close to 10 AM.
Some unexpected twists can’t be prevented
So now we are ready to find a way to get to Romania! We asked our friends to drop us off at a bus station on the south side of town (only 20 minutes away). They were happy to oblige, and left us at the station with only 15 minutes to spare before our bus’ departure. Under normal circumstances this would have been no big deal. The first day after a week of holidays is another matter.
We went to the ticket counter to find that not only the 10:20 bus to Iași, but also the 11:15 bus were sold out. Our next best option was the 1:15 bus – more than a 3 hours wait. But what could we do? We bought the tickets (only $10 total), stashed our suitcase, and decided to take a walk to pass the time.
I’ll be honest, the area surrounding the southern bus station does not have a lot going for it. We finally found a playground with a decent view of the city. But wait for it – it was already kind of crowded with 2 women (sans kids) speaking a language that was neither Romanian, Russian, nor English. Daniel was intrigued. I sensed his enthusiasm and was already feeling the drain this was going to be on my limited energy supply. Ugh.
Just be ready to roll with the punches
But I still followed him to the park where he struck up a conversation with one of the women (the other took a phone call quickly after we arrived.) It turns out they were Dutch. One was visiting for a week and the other lives in Iași, Romania. They are both trained as therapists (the former physical and the latter occupational) and work with children. And – most importantly – the one was flying out today and the other was driving back to Iași that very day!
So, what do you know? They offered to drive us to Iași (which is like 2-3 hours from Chișinau.) They extended the offer while still leaving us with a very comfortable out (which I appreciated.) And we need to applaud Daniel here for realizing that I was medium uncomfortable with the whole situation – both because of my well-established stranger danger and my introversion fear of being forced to talk to a stranger for hours on end in an enclosed space with no escape. But ultimately – as a couple – we decided to go for out.
You never know if you’ll find a new friend…
We hopped into their old car and quickly realized just how lovely these two ladies are. I admit that I don’t know very many Dutch people (i.e. before this I knew none), but I now have a mind to meet more and become friends with them. These ladies were smiley and continually joking – making fun of themselves and each other in the most pleasant way. They were courteous – making sure that we were in no rush to Iași when trying to decide if we should go a more scenic route. And they were also wise – clearly laying down a strategy if we got too many questions about our relationship at the border crossing.
As I mentioned, we did have to say goodbye to one of our new Dutch friends almost immediately. For the second time that day, we found ourselves in the departure hall of the Chișinău Airport, waving at pretty much a total stranger as she walked through customs. It was strange, and yet lovely.
The rest of the ride to Iași was both uneventful and meaningful. We got to hear a little about Inge’s story and why a fanny-packed Dutch woman speaks street Romanian like the best of them. She navigated the border crossing with incredible finesse. We couldn’t help but be surprised and amazed at her. What is more, she told us about the foundation she developed over her 20+ years of working in Moldova and Romania. Check out her website if you are interested in learning more.
…Or whether that new friend might become a real friend
Inge dropped us off on the side of the street in Iași about a block from our meeting place with Joel. We exchanged contact information. And as we parted, we agreed to let her know if we are ever in Iași, and likewise she will tell us the next time she is in Chișinău.
I was perhaps a little tired at the time, so I refused to give Daniel as much credit as he is due. But truly Daniel makes each vacation an adventure. He seizes every opportunity to connect with people in a meaningful way. I’m happy to say that he also respects my stranger danger, and knows that we make decisions (even seemingly little ones) together.
So if you have the chance, I recommend a trip with Daniel Wilson. But fair warning that it means you will have to take one with me, too. We Wilsons are a package deal.