We made it to the train station with plenty of time to spare. I had got our tickets online thanks to a quick google search (my #1 go-to for any planning) and got us tickets for 30 euros a piece. It was an easy hour and a half ride to Florence. We arrived without issue, then just had a 25 minute walk to our hotel. For me that meant carrying both my backpack and my moms, for an estimated weight of about 50 pounds (22 kilos). We walked passed a LOT of gelato shops and I figured this extra effort was probably going to be a wash.
We were going to be in Florence only 24 hours, so we hit the ground running. Florence is a very walkable town with lots of little shops to see. They also have a fantastic open air market with lots of purses, backpacks and belts, to name a few. I text a friend I made last time I was here, although we had never had the chance to meet. I have stayed in touch with him over the months and let him know I would be in town. We planned to meet late that evening.
In the meantime, another guy I had matched with last trip but never met wrote me as well. He had seen that I was in his town and asked about meeting. I said I would like to try, but time was going to be short. In addition to my short stay, I was pretty tired from only a few hours of sleep from the night before in Rome.
We walked the city center, got lunch right at the foot of the Duomo, and took a horse drawn carriage ride through the city. We sat on the Saint Trinity Bridge on the river and just took in the view. The weather was perfect for walking and we couldn’t have been luckier.
We grabbed a late dinner and the day was overall successful. Mom was pretty tired since we’d been pushing her to walk a whole lot and she was ready to go back to the hotel. I dropped her off and text my friend letting him know I could meet for 45 minutes before I had to meet my other friend at 10:30. He was only 200 meters away and met me within a few minutes.
We walked around and chatted a little bit. He is a designer by career and somehow coupled that with the gold and maybe silver industry. I wasn’t 100% certain I understood his job. Which I didn’t much care anyway. That’s going to sound ruder than I mean for it, so let me explain.
Back home in America when you meet someone it’s “what’s your name?”, “Nice to meet you”, then the inevitable “what do you do for a living?” The more I’ve traveled, the more I have come to LOATHE this question. Why do we ask that?
We ask that because our culture and society has put so much worth on where we are dedicating the most, and arguably the best, years of our life. We ask that because we evaluate, and often times judge, people’s worth on what their job is, either for the title or income. It’s sad, and I am actively trying to change that in my own life.
I went to college to get that degree from a “top-tier” University (see: massive debt), so I could get that “dream job” working 60, 70, 80+ hours for someone else, so one day I can hope to retire, and then spend my last decade on earth in decent-health (at best), to then travel and achieve my real dreams?
I think we were 30 minutes in to chatting before his occupation came up. When I’m out here meeting people, the question is “Where have you been? Where are you going? What was your favorite place (i.e.: what lights your soul)?
These. These are the questions we should be asking people. This is how you learn about people. This is how you connect to a person’s real insides. Find out what excites them. Find out where they’ve been and how they got to where they are today. Find out their goals and aspirations. THAT is how you evaluate a person. That is how I’ve been able to connect with people on an actual depth of a level. That is what I would hope more people would do.
You can find out more valuable information about a person when you ask questions with real meaning. Stop the surface level bullshit. Stop small talk..no one cares about the fucking weather. Ask real questions to people and then shut up and listen. For me, it opens my eyes and heart to just about everyone I’ve met. When you get to hear about their true experiences, meaningful experiences, painful and happy experiences, you get to find so many incredible humans overcoming and accomplishing life’s challenges, not just where or how they push papers to pay their bills. Try it, please. I can promise you won’t be disappointed. People are worth knowing, and worth loving, and it’s easier to love when you understand. Try to understand people, and for the love of God-stop asking what they do for a living if it’s not relevant to the conversation.
But I will digress on that, for now. He walked me to my meeting place to meet my other friend and said goodbye. I had really enjoyed my time with him and we said we’d stay in touch to hopefully get to cross paths again in thefuture. He’d also text me later to tell me he enjoyed our meeting and that I am healthy and “round”, but I am going to chalk that up as a difference in cultures for choice of words.
I was extremely excited for my next meeting as it’s a person I’ve laughed and joked with on text for months. He’s witty and well-spoken in English, so he understood my humor. We walked and got gelato, and he told me of his month backpacking trip he did along the entire country of Spain, 500 miles (maybe kilometers.. but I think miles). He told me how freeing it was and how it was his attempt to get some control and discovery in his life after feeling pretty depressed. He encouraged me to try it.
I considered it for a few days, but for those of you that know me, know I HATE hiking. Here’s a clip of my hiking attempt in Croatia, when I thought it may change my mind. It didn’t. I wont be doing the Pacific Crest Trail or any other any time soon, but hopefully never.
About midnight it was time for me to head home. I was exhausted and we were headed to Venice the next day. I hugged my friend goodbye and went to bed. We had a 5 hour bus ride to Venice in the morning.
You’ve been through a lot… I shared many of your philosophies when I was younger and able to show up at the airport with a pack to buy the cheapest ticket I could find to the most exotic location. I’ve since sold out and work the 9-5 and pray for retirement, but my kids have been the journey that put all my travels to shame. I hope you find what you are looking for as you journey, but all of it is worthwhile as it’s the only life you get. I love swapping travel stories, but I love bragging about my kids too. It’s hard to tell which journey has made me a better person.