It was a photo of my sister and I sitting with a large Italian family in Venice, having warmly been invited to dinner at one o'clock in the morning after asking for a six o'clock wake up call. Not wanting to decline such a touching invitation nor the food that had been prepared, my gut instinct told me nothing like this might ever happen again.
With very little knowledge of Italian on our end and limited English on theirs, we proceeded to spend the remaining four hours, eating delicious Antipasti, Bolognese made from scratch, and freshly baked bread while all the time drinking bottles and bottles of Chianti. We spoke with our hands. We laughed. We drew out photos to ask and answer questions, but more importantly, we were able to share a love between a family that was kind enough to invite to traveling sisters to their table.
We could have declined the invitation and received our five measly hours of sleep. But that would have been the tourist thing to do. Unselfishly, this family at a small Venetian boutique hotel, after a long day of work opened their life to us. I know I may never get an opportunity again, but if I do, I will accept it in an instant. Knowing now, it was the moment my sister and I became travelers, not tourists.
With summer vacations underway, keep your hearts open to such adventures. With a photo or two, songs that played that evening, or having a random bottle of Chianti could take me back to that moment in an instant. If you're a restless soul and love to travel, may you experience moments like this one.
Another thing I learned, travelers engage until the point of exhaustion and sleep on trains, buses and sometimes while standing in line---tourists are always on schedule and miss the beauty of the world they are trying so desperately to see. Try not to be the latter.
Safe travels, traveling souls.