By Reba Campbell
We’ve just returned from a glorious two-week adventure in Germany, Austria and Hungary – most of it spent traveling with friends we’ve known since our young adult days in DC. During the trip, I posted photos of the lovely scenery, the magical markets and our laughing, giddy faces. But they tell only a part of the story of this trip.
As I’ve eased back to real life trying to unpack, sort out gifts we bought and get holiday plans finalized, I’ve happily shuffled through slideshows of our daily outings in my head and smiled. But I suddenly realized that – during this season when we often forget to be present with our blessings – I was overlooking the biggest blessing of all – the gift of presence. It was our good fortune to spend so much of our time on this trip being completely present with each other and acknowledging our deep gratitude for this gift of friendship we were able to live out while traveling together.
Thirty-plus years ago in DC, a group of young couples with Mississippi roots formed a supper club that gathered monthly to share a meal, maybe play a few board games and just laugh a lot (I’m the only one of the bunch who isn’t a Mississippian by birth or college affiliation). Little did we know that here we would be 30+ years later with a deep and rich friendship that has sustained us in ways we never would have imagined all those years ago.
All of this is why the ten days traveling with several of this group marked more than just time with fun travel companions. I’m sharing just a few of the God-winks I took from our time together.
1 – We’re all part of a greater humanity where kindness is really the only true currency. We met a young woman working in a souvenir booth in Budapest. She was a Ukrainian teacher of English who had fled the war leaving behind her “able-bodied” husband to fight while she traveled to an unknown city with their four-year-old son. She gave us the gift of her story and a reminder that kindness goes a long way. She put a face on a world tragedy in a way I’ve never experienced before. Travel always reminds me we are mere spots in this huge world – but mere spots that can make a difference.
2 – We’re never too old to truly enjoy the childlike wonder of Christmas. Sparkling lights, hot toddies in special Christmas market mugs, just wandering with friends, the universal language of Christmas carols played by a hearty brass quartet or sung by a kids’ choir – we soaked it all up with the enthusiasm and giddy laughs usually reserved for second graders.
3 – Age has given us the gift of accepting ourselves – and each other – just as we are. It didn’t matter a bit who got up early and who came sliding into breakfast at the last minute. We dressed for comfort, not style (although we did buy cute boots along the way). No one made fun of my adult version of the “elf on the shelf” who traveled with us. We did our own thing when it suited and went along with the group when it suited.
4 – If laughter is the best medicine, then the laughter resulting from the combination old friends, shared memories, and new experiences means we are safe from any plague for a really long time – and we have thousands of photos to prove it!
Sure, we probably looked like typical American middle-aged travelers with more well-earned wrinkles than we care to acknowledge, creaks in our joints and a few dings in our psyches, but the gift of long-standing friendships overlaid with the gift of travel leaves me grateful beyond words this holiday season.
Reba is passionate about travel; writing; learning to play the uke, guitar and keyboard; and staying connected with old friends. She can be reached at [email protected]m, @rebahcampbell on Instagram and Twitter. and through her blog, Random Connect Points (bit.ly/RandomConnectPoints).