September 5th 2014

Wayfarers Friend Hillary Willett explains how what could have been a travel nightmare turned into a taste of freedom, thanks to the kindness of strangers. A bit anxious about traveling on your own, but still wanting to pack some adventure into your days just ahead or just after a Wayfarers Walk? Well, remember some of the reasons we are Wayfarers – to see new sites, to be introduced to new people and cultures, sample new foods and…(fill in your own reasons here!) I made my first trip to Spain in May and enjoyed the Camino de Santiago Walk immensely. Having been on several Wayfarers Walks, that wasn’t a surprise. What did astound me, however, was just how much I relished a few days in Madrid on my own ahead of and after the Camino trek. The two segments of my trip couldn’t have been more different – and each contributed to a fantastic vacation. First off, I wasn’t even supposed to be in Madrid long enough to know whether or not I would like it. But talk about turning lemons into lemonade: a weather-related flight cancellation delayed my arrival into Madrid, meaning that I had to forgo a planned excursion to Barcelona, where I had a contact. Instead, I was in Madrid, not knowing anyone and unable to speak the language. Being on one’s own when plans go awry can mean panic – and freedom. Freedom to set your schedule spontaneously. And just when you need them, trust me, helpful people abound. I walked in to an athletic store to check out the running clothes and left with a snazzy bright cap, plus a restaurant recommendation for dinner that included an introduction leading to a prompt seating at a comfortable table. Then, at the train station, while waiting for an English-speaking clerk, a bilingual customer offered to translate for me. The taxi drivers were helpful too. Language barriers were remedied with slips of paper with the hotel’s name, address and phone listed. I’d provide them to the driver and would soon be on my way. Also, where I knew that a flat rate fare applied, that was written on the paper as well. In all cases, the drivers tried to return my tips, thinking that I had inadvertently overpaid them. How often do you hear of that happening? Now that I’m home and a visitor asks me for directions or assistance, I try to return the hospitality – mindful of the many strangers who helped me in Madrid. To find out more about The Wayfarers, visit our website.

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