Thursday, 16 August 2012
Consider yourself...one of the family
I have been overwhelmed by the welcome extended to me and my family during our stay in Texas. It has led me to consider what prompts people to open their doors and their lives to other people and to what extent do we do this in Britain?
I suppose it goes without saying that just to invite us to their home for 3 weeks was a huge gesture by my friends Stephanie and Greg.
Stephanie will, I am sure, agree that it was the kindness of strangers that brought us together in 1988. We were made welcome in Germany where we were both studied (loose definition) at Oldenburg University by not just the local people (one of whom I still consider a very dear friend) and the families with whom we lodged but also by the people who gave us lifts in their cars and the families who gave us beds in their homes as we travelled around. I wonder if these very acts of kindness were some of the most important lessons we learned as students.
From that year on Stephanie and I have taken it in turn to visit each other but I have seen the trips snowball and their influence affect others around us. Initially, it was our own husbands who were touched by the travel bug. My own husband had to be persuaded to go to America but soon appreciated what an incredible experience it can be to not just 'visit' another country but live the life of another native for a brief period of time, actually seeing the country through their eyes.
Then it was our children who quickly learned the huge benefits of travel...from the food to the TV programmes.
This trip, my children have eaten TexMex, tried out American football, trained as a cheerleader and, of course, learned the lingo. ("I'm going to sue you" now being added to their play-talk!)
I feel the link we have developed is having ripple effects through our wider friends and family.
Stephanie has stayed with both of our families (mine and my hubby's) enabling her and her family to see various parts of England from Gloucester to Edinburgh. They have benefited from the generosity of our friends- staying in Portugal at our friend Andy's villa for example. And, conversely, we have been able to travel and stay everywhere from Texas to New Jersey with Colorado in between thanks to the kindness of Stephanie and Greg's family and friends.
I only hope now that those verbal invitations I have left with the people I have met will be taken seriously.
My experience of travel is defined as cultural immersion, broadening horizons and, in short, coming home feeling you have brought back more than a suitcase of souvenirs but a heart full of memories.
Now -maybe it's time for a holiday - all that travelling is quite tiring!