While she didn’t know it until the race had begun, she would be touched by the runners in a way that would stick with her forever.
Here’s her story (hint: the human connection is an important part of impact travel).
1. During your trip to Europe you attended the Berlin Marathon. How did this experience impact you?
I woke up on the day of the race intending to go shopping and walk around the city. My friends headed to the race to find Thomas, so I decided to tag along. Plus, many of the streets were blocked off, and many of the stores were closed.
We stepped up to mile six, and I remember I started to tear up. There were people from all over the world waving flags and cheering in different languages. They were cheering for their family and friends and strangers. You could see the faces of people who had been training for months, all for this very moment. Runners smiled at each other and waved. Others tried ever so gracefully to drag their tired feet across the pavement. Thomas passed us, and we waved and shouted. A few seconds later, he was headed into the sunlight.
We stopped at miles 11, 18 and the finish line. Each stop gave me goosebumps. I watched as thousands of runners from across the globe ran together. You could see runners helping each other, pacing each other, saying “you can do it,” running next to each other. They weren’t running against each other. They were running together.
The Berlin Marathon reminded me that we’re all in this race called life together. We might all have different goals, but we’ll get further if we work together and not alone. It was an amazing image to see the world cheering each other on, especially when we all feel divided most of the time. If we treated life like the Berlin Marathon, we’d realize how important it is to come together and work as a team, despite our different views. I’ve never seen so many happy people in one place. All I wanted to do was hug everyone who cross the finish line!
2. How do you think travelers can go about forming more human connections on the road?
Be open to random conversation. Sit at the bar instead of a table. Ask the locals questions, because they love to share their stories. Treat everyone as if they are your friend, not a foreign stranger. Don’t be shy!
3. For those looking to make a positive impact on the places they visit, what advice would you give?
A positive impact can come from just being respectful of the culture of the place you are visiting. Don’t prejudge the people before you get to your destination. Be open and accepting of new experiences and the people. Remember that the people make up a place. If you respect the people, you will make a positive impact.
4. Who is one person you’ve connected with while traveling, and how did the interaction impact you?
The day after the race we left for Munich. Despite having train tickets, we found ourselves, along with about 30 other people, locked out of our train cabin. For two hours, we all miserably sat in a hallway of a train on top of our luggage. Many of the people on the train were in Berlin for the marathon.
Soon, we found ourselves in our seats, offering to keep our eyes on a Guatemalan family’s luggage. In return, they bought us a round of beers and we all cheered to a wonderful race. I never got any of their names, but it was a true reminder for me that kind people exist. And a good old fashioned beer can bring strangers together.
5. What have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from traveling?
“Being human isn’t extra.” A German bodega owner told me this when I tried to tip him for letting me plug in my cell phone at his store. It’s our duty to respect, help and accept each other. We might all be different nationalities, but at our core we are all humans. We are all the same. We all have the same hearts.
About Annie Pryatel
Annie Pryatel manages and writes for her travel blog, The Overpacked Suitcase. Her blog tells the stories of the people she meets on her travels. Her love of traveling has taken her to cities, big and small. When she’s not exploring unfamiliar lands, Annie is studying people in her role as a Brand Strategist and hanging out with her cat, Lincoln, who is, unfortunately, a homebody who doesn’t enjoy traveling.
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