My wife and I just returned from a 17 day trip that we dreamt about, saved for and planned to explore the many wonders of Italy. As it turned out we experienced more than just a tour of Italy.
This post is not about Italy; which is a historic wonderful culture that is full of new things to explore, learn and do.
This post is not about the Odyssey Tours itinerary: which had us visit 5 separate regions throughout Italy that gave a diverse view of the history, culture and people.
This post is not about our guide, Enrica; who was full of passion, information, care, excitement and created a unique glimpse of Italy for her new American friends.
This post is about the 23 new friends we made during the trip that we will never forget.
Enrica was our Italian guide and the 24 American clients came from many states from all around the country. Our ages ranged from the mid 50’s to 70’s and a young person in her 20’s traveling with her grandmother. We are all middle class people who worked hard for all that we have; independent, self reliant, fiscally responsible, family supportive, respectful of others with a measured lifestyle; these are some of the key values that are core to each one of us. As it turned out, Enrica our guide was in our age group with the same set of core values with her personal Italian twist.
Everyone talked about hard work, the ups and downs of life and the sense of achievement prior to entering this stage of life. We all shared the belief that we must take advantage of this time and resources because life can change in a second. There are many different personalities, but the one thing that bound us together was the common respect for each other and recognizing that there are many different ways to go through life. We all have free choice to pursue our happiness as we define it, which is at the core of our American system.
I had to change one of my favorite sayings:
That is why God created so many flavors of gelato (ice cream)
Most of the group is retired, some work part time, some of us are still working and the traveling granddaughter is just starting out in her nursing career. We all saved money and sacrificed other things for this trip to ensure we were getting the traveling experience we desired. Travel is important to all of us, an interest we share and believe it builds memories that money cannot purchase. With many of the major family commitments behind us we are free to pursue our own version of happiness because we prepared for it.
My wife researched the many types of travel options that would meet our needs and expectations for Italy. We are seasoned travelers and have always taken the independent approach to travel, but for the first time we chose the Odyssey Tours small group adventure. As we packed our bags and left for Italy we were excited and knew we were going to see a variety of what Italy has to offer. As we met the group and started the tour I realized that exploring Italy was half of the value of this trip. To my great surprise our 23 new friends, which became a family, was the better half!
The group mixed with who we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with; which created a bond that made the exploration of Italy that much more diverse. All had a different perspective and it added to the conversation, learning experiences and the insight to the many historic events and places we toured. The evening discussions were a recap of the day’s discoveries over food, wine and the appreciation of the Italian culture. A few of us even enjoyed an evening cigar, scotch and conversation at a remarkable place with a view of Tuscany that was spectacular.
My wife and I learned much about life from this group, most were a handful of years older than us and it helped us shape how we want to enjoy this stage of life. It was refreshing to escape the current political situation with a wonderful distraction. Politics were discussed at a minimum, but it was very interesting to get their perspective of where we are and the direction we are going as a country. It is a diverse group and I suspect all political parties were represented, but the one thing they desire is to help the very small percentage of people who truly need it and kick the others in the pants to be self reliant. We all believe in tough love, some had to use it on their kids as they were growing up, but we wanted them to be independent and self reliant just like we are.
In our current volatile political environment, it is clear to me we have to make a choice. Create a culture like our 23 new friends that have core principals they stand by and do not expect anything but the opportunity to work hard and succeed on their own merits. Or, we can continue to call “wants” a “Human Right” and spend money we do not have and expect future generations to pay for it.
Like our 23 new friends we choose the hard work of choice and freedom, not the selfish path of expecting someone else to pay for our tab.
Our 23 new friends do not spend money they do not have; they planned and prepared for this time. We can all learn a lesson from them. It is simple, get to work and make it happen with sacrifice and accept the ups and downs life brings as we go through the many stages of life. We have the freedom to pursue happiness as we define it and the choices we make are a direct result of our own personal life style that we have created.
As we vote in November we must evaluate all the candidates we vote for, not the party. Make sure they represent the choice you desire for our local community, State and country. Whatever the choice that is made, there is hard work ahead and sacrifice to get where we need to be. When I look at our 23 new friends, this is what they did in their own personal life and what we need as a philosophy and the core principle in our country.
Freedom is the pursuit of happiness as we define it and our only right is the ability to create our own personal success. You do not gain by taking things from others; you gain by creating your own situation and take personal responsibility for it.
We will forever remember this adventure and the added surprise of our 23 new friends.
Daryl and Robin Patrishkoff