I just returned from an adventure with a close friend, Debbi. We visited New York City on our own before heading across the pond to capture that picture of the Matterhorn. I could fill pages describing our experiences, but that’s not why I’m writing. Instead, I want to tell you a story about a Canadian couple from our tour group, and its effect on me.
We landed in Zurich and had a free afternoon to explore the city. The Canadian couple boarded a train and headed to city center for a walking tour. They were standing outside the rail station studying a map when a middle-aged stranger approached them. He asked if they were Americans. They replied no, and the man immediately unleashed a Trump rant. He calmed down after a bit and guided the couple to their destination.
Later that evening, our tour leader gathered us for an orientation and dinner. We introduced ourselves, sizing one another up. We had ten days together, and I silently wondered how we’d mesh. I find most travel groups to be microcosms of the world, and this one was no exception. Various nationalities and professions were represented. Ages ranged from the late twenties to the near eighties. Some were married; others were single. Some folks kept to themselves, while others initiated conversations.
As days passed, we began to reveal personal stories. We laughed and yodeled and ate meals together. We learned how to airdrop photos into each other’s phones. We shared medicine advice, and made sure everyone stayed hydrated. US politics eventually seeped into conversations, and the Canadian couple relayed their Zurich story. I grew disheartened. I briefly wondered how that angry Swiss man would have treated me once he learned my nationality.
Throughout the trip, the US president’s name surfaced in negative ways. Swiss magazines profiled Trump on their covers. The images of him—and our country—were not flattering. A few individuals on the tour offered helpful political perspectives that inspired hope. I experienced the best of humanity with this travel group. My fellow travelers reminded me of how quickly strangers can mold into friends by embracing curiosity, respect, and openness.
I will continue to fund a travel account so I can experience new languages, cultures, food, and ideas. I will share my love for this great country with anyone who will listen—especially people like that man outside the Zurich rail station. Lastly, I will do my part to remind others that America is so much more than a single face or solo voice.