BY CAROLYN TAMLER
July 24, 2014
My husband and I just returned from a wonderful trip with some Whidbey friends that took us to Italy, France and Spain. We were gone for a month and visited several places in Northern Italy, the Rhone Valley and Provence region of France, Southern Spain and ended in Barcelona.
People ask me what was my favorite place. I cannot come up with one answer: everywhere was my favorite place. What really stands out in my mind more than the places we toured is my impression of the people in all of the places we went. I know it’s a generalization and it’s just my interpretation of what I was seeing, but people in all the places we visited seemed so much more relaxed and happy than my experience with Americans in most of the places I have been to in our country.
We never ran into a single rude or abrupt person. Even though none of us spoke any of the languages fluently, everywhere we went people were very eager to help us and talk with us. We had several over-the-top experiences where someone reached out to us and helped us figure out a train connection, or encouraged us to visit them someday; in one instance a man got us “private” tickets for an amazing concert and has since sent me emails that gave me the translations for what we heard and provided us with additional information and videos.
All of our meals were excellent (Does anyone know why the coffee in these countries is sooooo good?). We quickly got into the local mode and found ourselves having long, relaxed mealtimes.
In the evenings we would go to areas with several restaurants that had outdoor seating. We saw people having extended dinners with their friends, talking enthusiastically and laughing. Musicians were frequently in our midst. Whichever place we chose, we had excellent, fresh food and we never had a waiter bring us a check until we asked for it.
As I mentioned, I have seldom had this kind of feeling when I have visited American cities. My experience here is that most Americans seem anxious, worried about their jobs, their money, their futures. Mealtimes often consist of grabbing a quick bite somewhere.
But, fortunately for us, we returned to Whidbey at the end of our adventures. Within our first week home, we visited farmer’s markets, walked around Langley, heard live music playing to happy crowds and noticed how friendly people are just visiting the local grocery stores (I have often told folks off-island that when I see someone I know in the grocery store, we don’t just say “Hello,” we have to hug and get caught up on each other’s doings).
Shortly after we returned, we went to Ott & Murphy to hear LocoMotion and heard them call out to tourists and welcome them. And, by the end of their sets, the room was filled with people dancing.
I know there are likely several places in America that project a more relaxed and happy feeling. But, I love and appreciate my home on Whidbey. We are blessed to live in a community, not just a place, where I believe there is a genuine feeling of caring for one another.
I hope we can always keep it that way.
Carolyn Tamler was a marketing research and community involvement consultant in the Seattle Area for many years before moving to Whidbey Island, where she has become known as a writer who enjoys telling the stories about the many businesses, entrepreneurs and interesting places on the island.
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