Travel karma. Yup. It’s real. Like regular ol’ karma, it can be a good thing or it can come back and bite you in the ass.
The first time I traveled overseas I didn’t know I was experiencing travel karma. But, it turns out, I was. I was in Spain – a little town called Vejer de la Frontera in Andalusia. Being on a budget, I didn’t have a car, but was using the busses to travel from place to place. I wanted to get to some of the beach towns that weren’t that far away along the Costa de la Luz. If I had a car, I would have jumped in and taken off. So, at breakfast, I asked the owner of my guesthouse if I could get to El Palmar, which was only 5km (no more than a couple of miles) away. I was seriously thinking about walking if it was safe. He told me, in Spanish (he didn’t speak English), that some other guests, a couple, were thinking of driving to El Palmar and some of the other coastal towns. So, he introduced me to Sylvie and Manfredi. She was French, a Parisian, and he was Italian, from Milan. Each spoke a little English, Sylvie a bit more. Yes, I could go along with them. Wow! They didn’t know me from Eve, but they were willing to let me tag along. I felt really lucky.
So, off I went with my camera and Sylvie and Manfredi, a middle-aged couple who were very nice. Manfredi was also into photography. He told me to let him know if I wanted to stop to take photos. He was quite accommodating and I loved listening to the Italian accent. And Sylvie was sweet, making as much conversation as possible in English for me. Her English was better than she originally lead on.
We stopped in El Palmar and watched the surfers. Then the Lighthouse at Cape Trafalgar to take in this historical site. We stopped at Barbate (a little too touristy). We drove by wind farms. We ate fried sardines at a beachside restaurant. We ended in Bolonia, watching kids fly kites. I ran up the sand dunes there, feeling young and free – and quite grateful to the universe for sending me Sylvie and Manfredi.
As we returned to El Cobijo de Vejer, Juan, the owner, asked us how our day was. We told him how wonderful it was. He was pleased, seeing his guests from different countries, come together to help each other out, and have a fabulous time. The united nations of Juan of El Cobijo de Vejer guesthouse! This experience is one that really stuck with me from that first fateful trip overseas.
So, 6 years later I found myself in the little town of Fumane, in the Valpolicella wine region of northern Italy. I had a car this time. My plan was to drive around, photograph the gorgeous scenery and stop by some of the vineyards for some tours and tastings. On my first evening at the small B&B in the vineyards, I was sitting out in the courtyard, working on my laptop. A lovely young couple, Mel (Melissa), an Aussie with Sri Lankan roots, and Ernesto, also an Aussie originally from El Salvador walked out into the courtyard. Mel asked if I spoke English. “Yes,” I replied. She was quite excited to find someone she could converse easily with.
They were a young couple traveling together. I had seen them earlier as they were walking from the bus stop to the B&B, large backpacks on their backs. We chatted about where we’d been and where we were from. We ended up going for a walk up the hill and through the vineyards, chatting more, as the sun sank over the hills. They were interesting and very easy to talk to. They reminded me of my nieces and nephews.
I told them I was going to some vineyards the next day and they said they were planning the same. I asked them, “Why don’t you join me? I have a car and I’d be happy to have the company.” They readily agreed.
We visited Corte Aleardi which is one of my favorite vineyards in the area. We stopped for lunch after the visit. The conversation was easy. Then we went onto Boscaini Carlo for more tasting. After returning to our B&B, we agreed to have dinner at the restaurant here at our B&B, Enoteca Valpolicella, which was known for its wonderful food and comprehensive wine list. We capped off our day with more delicious food, more incredible wine, and more wonderful conversation. Regrettably, they were leaving the next day.
I think about this turn of events – how someone offered me a ride, and their companionship and how I then paid it forward and offered Mel and Ernesto a ride and my companionship. Karma. Travel karma. I still keep in contact with Mel and Ernesto even though I don’t with Sylvie and Manfredi (they did not use email at the time). I truly believe in karma. And especially travel karma. I think that what you do or don’t do can come back and bite you in the ass or, alternatively, bring good fortune to you. Maybe it’s heightened as you travel, being away from home and your comfort zone. You come to rely a bit more on strangers and they, you. Keep that in mind as you travel. It really does pay to be kind. And, let’s face it, it’s usually the right thing to do.
Am I even now with the universe – now that I’ve paid it forward? Maybe. Maybe not. I know I’d do the same thing again if it felt right. And I hope that someone would be kind to me too, just as Sylvie and Manfredi were all those years ago…