In our daily routines, we tend to surround ourselves with people more or less like us. It's the natural thing to do. But on the road, you meet people you'd never connect with at home. In my travels, I meet a greater variety of interesting people in two months than I do in an entire year back home. I view each of these chance encounters as loaded with potential to teach me about people and places so different from my own milieu.
For example, one of my favorite countries is Ireland — not because of its sights, but because of its people. Travel in Ireland gives me the sensation that I'm actually understanding a foreign language. And the Irish have that marvelous “gift of gab.” They love to talk. For them, conversation is an art form.
Actually, more Irish speak Irish than many travelers realize. Very often you'll step into a shop, not realizing the locals there are talking to each other in Gaelic. They turn to you and switch to English, without missing a beat. When you leave, they slip right back into their Gaelic.
The best place to experience Ireland is in a Gaeltacht, as Gaelic-speaking regions are called. These are government-subsidized national preserves for traditional lifestyles. In a Gaeltacht, it seems like charming and talkative locals conspire to slow down anyone with too busy an itinerary.
I was deep into one conversation with an old-timer. We were on the far west coast of the Emerald Isle — where they squint out at the Atlantic and say, “Ahhh, the next parish over is Boston.” I asked my new friend, "Were you born here?" He said, "No, ‘twas ‘bout five miles down the road." Later, I asked him, "Have you lived here all your life?" He winked and said, "Not yet."
About This Entry
You are reading "Connect with People", an entry posted on 13 May 2009 by Rick Steves.