Baptism Celebration in Skopje

It’s All About The People You Meet Along The Way

Derek Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro 27 Comments

Baptism Celebration in Skopje
My current trip around the Balkan region of Europe is coming to an end. Right now I’m in Skopje, Macedonia but tomorrow I shall take the bus to Sofia, Bulgaria where I’ll spend a night or two before hopping on a bus back to Bucharest.

While I wasn’t able to see everything I wanted on this trip, I did manage to see a decent amount as I traveled from Montenegro to Albania and then to Macedonia. I spent time at the beach, climbed fortresses high above fairy tale-esque towns, wandered around interesting cities, relaxed at picturesque lakes, hiked through canyons and soaked up the atmosphere of ancient villages, among many other things.

So as you might imagine, I am certainly satisfied with how this trip turned out. In fact, I am absolutely thrilled with how this journey turned out.

And yet, despite the places I’ve seen and the activities I’ve participated in over the past month, it was something else that made this trip such a complete success for me, something that, time and time again, has proven to be far more important and rewarding to me than any other aspect of travel.

It’s the people.

When I sit down and think of my time in Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia, I can guarantee you that the people I met in those countries will always be the first thing that enters my mind. And I shall always be smiling when I think of them.

Even right now, when I think of my time in Ulcinj, Montenegro, I think of Mr. and Mrs. Redzepagic, the sweet and generous owners of the amazing apartment that I rented in that town. When I think of my time in Tirana or in Berat, Albania, I think of the people I came across every day, from the staff at the Theranda Hotel to the clocktower watchman to the locals I met at restaurants, on buses and in the streets.

Apartment Owner in Ulcinj

And finally, it will now be impossible for me to ever think of Macedonia without remembering the Manojlovski family, a family that began as friends of a friend, and after welcoming me into their home and community for five days, quickly became good friends of mine.

It was this family who picked me up from the bus station in Skopje, cooked for me incredible amounts of local food, shared with me their home-made wines and rakia, took me all over the city, to museums, to cafes, to the old Turkish quarter, to restaurants, to monuments and more, providing me with a personal tour that I simply could never have experienced on my own.

And it didn’t stop there. My wonderful hosts took me to the top of a local mountain, brought me to a lake and beautiful canyon situated outside Skopje and they even invited, practically insisted, that I tag along with them to the baptism ceremony for their friends’ one-year old son which was to take place inside of an impressively preserved 12th century church.

So I joined them.

Then, immediately upon arrival at this church, everyone I met was so very kind, welcoming me, a complete stranger, as if my presence was expected. In fact, right in the middle of the ceremony itself, the father of the son being baptized was reprimanded by his mother and other guests and was told to be quiet because he started talking to me, asking me questions and just trying to make sure I was comfortable and enjoying myself.

Church in Skopje, Macedonia

Once the ceremony was over, the group of about fifty people then went into a nearby restaurant, with tables situated next to large open windows that offered perfect views of Skopje down below. And here is where I experienced a Macedonian feast, which had more to do with the conversation, the laughter, the jokes being told, the stories shared and the constant displays of friendship than it did with the endless plates of food and the endless glassfuls of beer and local brandy.

Feast in Skopje, Macedonia

For four hours we all sat there together having such a great time and when the restaurant closed and we all finally had to leave, I absolutely felt as if I had just spent a night with a group of friends I had known for a very long time.

This is why I travel. It is all about the people. It always has been and it always will be. And if I didn’t have such rewarding interactions in most of the places I visit on the planet, I’d certainly have stopped traveling a long, long time ago.


Any experiences to share about meeting new people while traveling? Or is there another aspect of travel that is more important for you?

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Comments 27

  1. Irene

    Hello Earl! I have been following you for quite some time now and I just stumbled upon this article. Of course its great, but Earl please, PLEASE stop calling Skopje, ‘Macedonia’. Macedonia is one and you can find it in Greece.
    I know you will propably not see this but I just had to say it.
    I am Greek by the way, thats why I care about this. And anyone who has just a bit of knowledge for the history of the area should know this.
    Sorry for my bad english.
    You are great Earl! I really admire what you are doing! Keep being a great example!

  2. Jeff

    I might be the only one who disagree but I travel first for freedom and sceneries. Nothing is more rewarding to me than a great landscape or a wonder i’ve always dream to see coming true. I think the people you meet on the road add up to the experience and still very important but I recall visiting cities without meeting anyone and still enjoying it a lot.

  3. Jérémy

    “This is why I travel. It is all about the people. It always has been and it always will be. And if I didn’t have such rewarding interactions in most of the places I visit on the planet, I’d certainly have stopped traveling a long, long time ago.”

    Gold. Nothing more to say. Thanks Earl !

    Wish you the best !

    Jérémy, french traveller/writer/blogger, currently in Sweden.

  4. Sabina

    I agree. The people make the place. Almost everywhere I’ve traveled in my life the people have been friendly, making everywhere infinitely easier to like than if the people were mean or disagreeable. But sometimes, as you’ve written, you find those special people who make your journey not only nice, but special and wonderful. If it wasn’t for the people we meet along the way, our travels might be full of nothing but sights, food and the occasional adventure. While that would still be great, it’s not as awesome or fulfilling as interacting with great people along the way.

  5. Audrey

    Hey Earl,
    I was wondering about if/how you stay in contact with the people you meet. I have met so many really cool people in hostels and locals in places I visit, but when the time comes for me to move on, it doesn’t ever seem right to trade information. It’s sad to say goodbye, especially when it’s probably forever, but “staying in touch” via Facebook usually doesn’t pan out the way you want it to either. On the flip side though, it is nice to have connections and friends over the world, as you seem to have… What’s your secret?

  6. Pingback: Travel - It's All About the People

  7. Will

    Earl,
    People are what makes traveling very interesting. I met many people during my travels to Hawaii and Phillipines and still remember the experiences with them. It was probably the best learning experiences of my life meeting and talking to these people.

    1. Earl

      Hey Will – Learning from other people is definitely the greatest aspect of travel and it involves something that you simply can’t experience when visiting an actual sight or place!

  8. EJ Juen Jr

    Hi Matt, that’s a great experience. On top of the people’s inherent kindness and friendliness, great cultural icons, structures, artworks, unique colorful dresses, etc. are also made by people which makes every country interesting to visit. So I definitely agree that it’s about the people. A country is its people.

  9. Steve C

    Traveling 101, and you’re the Prof! Yes, yes, yes. People make a trip. I’m very much into seeing the sites, but the relationships formed along the way with both locals and other travelers are what make traveling my passion. I’ve had so many experiences over the years with people stories, I don’t know where to begin or end. When you meet someone new, you never know where the relationship is going. Sometimes it goes in a direction that is unbelievable and other times it’s a quick dead end. The trick is to allow yourself to be in the position where these meetings happen.
    Good luck on your Indian adventure! But only 10 people? It’s the right size, but I think you’re going to be overwhelmed and you’re going to have to hire a staff in the future.

    1. Earl

      Hey Steve – That’s what I always try to say…you never know who you will meet along the way so the key is making sure you are in that position to meet as many people as possible! I’m sure you definitely have some great ‘people stories’ from your travels…I look forward to hearing about them when we manage to meet up.

      And yes, with the India tour, 10 people is the max. Anything more is very difficult to organize. So far it hasn’t been overwhelming at all and I’ve even started a second departure due to the high demand. We’ll see how it goes!

  10. Craig O

    Earl. You really are rubbing off on me. I am trying to be a good ambassador to the foreigners that come to the USA as well. This weekend, I was heading from my home in Reno, NV to Las Vegas, NV and took a different route that took me through part of California. I stopped in a one horse town about halfway called Benton, CA. While getting gas, I heard a young couple talking to the cashier. They were concerned because the oil light had come on in their rented car and they couldn’t figure out how to get the hood open or what to do. They were trying to get directions from the cashier on how to use the phone. Turns out, they were from Holland. Anyway, I asked them if they needed help, and got the hood opened for them, and checked the oil. It was fine. I told them that these cars have automatic oil light sensors that trip every 3000 miles or so. They were very relieved for my help, and what instantly came to mind is how you extol the virtues of the kindness and generosity you have received around the world, and I hope, in some small way, that people that come to visit our country receive the same kind of treatment. Thanks!

    1. Earl

      Hey Craig – That’s excellent to hear and that’s a great story. We should always remember how we would feel if we were lost or stuck in some town while traveling and then act accordingly if we see other travelers in the same situation while at home, or anywhere for that matter. Continue being a good ambassador and you’ll meet the same kind of people during your own adventures!

  11. Tyrhone

    Thems the facts, after awhile, as cool as the sites are to see, they tend to blur into one a lot of the time. It is the local people who bring their countries to life. In China at the moment, and the people are amazingly inviting and freindly, they really have, as you say, made travelling so much more worthwhile.

    1. Earl

      Hey Tyrhone – That’s right and I find that the excitement of each sight I see lasts for a much shorter period of time than the excitement attached to the human interactions I have, something that stays with me for a long, long time. Keep on enjoying your time in China!!

  12. Chris

    Awesome experiences! I couldn’t agree more. In my travels this year I’ve seen some cool places and things and had some great times, but it has always come down to the people I’ve met along the way.

    1. Earl

      Hey Chris – Absolutely and I’m sure you’re similar to me…whenever you think of a place, it is always the people who you think of first.

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