Thursday, November 14, 2019

Travel Bonus: Making New Friends

Originally published in the Dunwoody Crier

I enjoy meeting new folks when I travel, and I’m always fascinated by their stories. It’s a bonus when they become friends, if only on Facebook. A few, those with whom there’s a special connection, have become email friends too.

Years ago on a bicycling vacation in Maine, a friend and I met two women from Manhattan. This was before Facebook, so we stayed in touch the old fashioned way. My Atlanta friend and I visited NYC, and they visited Atlanta. The four of us took additional cycling trips together. I saw them when I visited NYC on business, and they even came to my 1999 wedding.

In 2014, my husband and I took a Normandy cycling vacation and had possibly the best tour guides ever. Alan was especially knowledgeable about WWII history and appreciated my husband’s enthusiasm for the subject. Alan and his wife Marie live in Brittany part of the year and New Zealand the other half. We get annual New Year’s emails from them and dream of visiting them in both locations.

That same year, we met Rob and Alison on Amelia Island. When Rob discovered I was a columnist, we couldn’t stop talking about writing and his ambition to write a memoir honoring his dad’s military service and how it inspired Rob to go to West Point. Facebook and email kept us connected, and five years later, he asked if I’d edit the memoir we’d discussed. I was honored.

Next was the California family we met on a river cruise. We wound up together on many of the tours and often for meals, and we were always laughing. My email correspondence with Denise and the Facebook connection with both her and her daughter continue to make me smile.

On last year’s trip to England, we met a couple from Malta. Marilyn and I couldn’t stop talking about books, writing, and work. I knew she was a lawyer by day, but little did I know she was also a rock star. Seriously.

In 2009 on a whim, she started Cruz, an indie-pop band. With the band, she wrote and performed all over Malta and the sister island of Gozo—from the Great Beer Festival to MTV Music week. A crowning achievement was being chosen as the supporting act for Malta's number one band, Winter Moods, at a 2010 concert with 10,000 fans in the audience—a massive crowd for tiny Malta.

As her legal career took off, her music took a back seat. And so it went from 2013 until this year when she created Juno Valdez as an artist name for herself and returned to the recording studio. A lyricist before all else, the 31-year-old recorded material she’d worked on for several years and released “Muse,” the first track, to major online platforms—Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music—on September 30.

Suffice it to say, I’m in awe not only of the talent but also of the energy. You can enjoy the music video at  It’s charting in the top ten in Malta and has been picked up by a station in Milan. I’m clueless as to what it would take for her song to get air time on an American station, but when it does, I’m looking forward to saying, “I knew her when.”

I wonder who we’ll meet on our next trip. I have no doubt we’ll encounter interesting folks. The only question is whether we’ll get to add them to our list of friends.

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