In my recent trip to Italy, I garnered lots of memories, experiences and most importantly, life lessons, along the way. After completing a two week-trip from Bergamo down to the southern most region of Italy and back up again, I met many magnificent people, some of whom weren’t even Italian.
Traveling abroad as an American, especially one whose worldly explorations have only just begun, my visit to this beautiful, boot-shaped country was a real eye opener. One scenario in particular taught me the importance of remaining open and humble. Similar to a previous trip to the western part of Ireland, I was traveling with my Brazilian road crew – a younger group of students who also happen to be my current roommates.
After arriving at the Bergamo airport, we rented a little four seater car which doubled as our lodging whenever saving money on hostels was a must. It is important to note that vacationing and traveling are not the same thing. Vacationing typically involves relaxation and comfort while travel often necessitates sacrifice and strategic planning. But being the adventurous type, we never resist a temporary inconvenience if it results in an ultimate travel destination.
One evening, while searching the alleyways in Rome for a place to park for the night, an older gentleman dressed entirely in black suddenly appeared from out of the shadows and directed us to a perfect spot that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. After being guided the entire way into the narrow slot, we exited the vehicle and thanked this mysterious stranger.
But just as I already began to suspect, he stated frankly, “You just need to pay me!” He then said, “Just give me a couple of Euros.”
I immediately went into defense mode because the thought of being taken advantage of boils my blood. But as any good strategist will tell you, a solid offense is what ultimately wins championships. Still, with a tone of disdain in my voice I asked for his credentials, since it was evident this alleyway was in no way a sanctioned parking lot. But without skipping a beat he asked me for mine. And there we both stood, neither one of us backing down.
If you have the chance to be right or to be kind, always choose kindness – that way you’ll always be right.
So while I remained firm in my position, he maintained a calm demeanor and began asking me friendly questions like where I was from. He smiled, and only a single tooth was visible from his upper row. Now, whether it was catching a glimpse of that peculiarity or his insistence on remaining kind, I couldn’t help but smile back. Meanwhile, the Brazilians were busy gathering coins together just to move the situation along.
To break the ice even further, he told us he was from Albania. Immediately afterwards I was compelled to tell him about my hometown in San Antonio. Eventhough I knew zilch about Albania, let alone the language, this Albanian was able to speak my language, quite well in fact. He named several other cities throughout Texas he’d visited and listed a slew of other destinations within the United States that were as familiar to him as Rome itself.
It was in that moment I realized that he, like myself, was just trying to hustle to survive, and do something without asking for any hand-outs. He essentially was an entrepreneur seizing an opportunity to provide a service, which I could totally relate to. Not only was I shown the importance of remaining calm and kind in order to achieve your aim, but he indirectly reminded me of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Furthermore, he demonstrated that putting others first truly does pay off in the end.
After we parted ways that evening, I was inspired throughout the remainder of our trip to keep an open mind and to continually see the best in other people just as I would wish for others to see in me. And in case you’re wondering, his name was Albert, and he’s living proof that good guys do indeed wear black.
If I could leave you with anything it would be to always show hospitality to strangers because many of you have entertained angels without even knowing it. These divine beings in disguise can teach us plenty about ourselves – be grateful, stay humble, and never judge a book by its cover.
Love & Aloha,
Alexander DemetriusBrowse Front PageShare Your Idea