Motorhome Meetings - A Multilingual, Multicultural Unexpected New Years Gathering

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Monday 4 January 2016

Motorhome Meetings - A Multilingual, Multicultural Unexpected New Years Gathering

Our plan to see in the New Year had been a rather low key one - off to bed around 10.30 as normal! That said, for all our plans of sleeping through, it was an unexpected blast of a ships horn that saw us taking part in a nocturnal, impromptu gathering at midnight with our beach parking compatriots celebrating and welcoming in 2016. Later that January 1st the same group gathered once more to enjoy each others company - four couples, four languages, uncountable jokes and lots of laughter. Who would have thought that a random collection of 'strangers' on a beachside car park in Spain could come together and create such a feeling of hope for better communication and togetherness for the New Year.

After our dinner and a few phone calls and text messages home we settled into to our evening routine. Even though we didn't plan to stay up, something about the evening did mean we were still dozing rather than fully gone by midnight. However, moored just outside the port of Valencia there seem to be a fairly constant array of large ships queuing for the port and as the New Year ticked into being they decided, en masse, to start blasting their horns (I suppose there's not much else to do while bobbing on a peaceful Mediterranean Sea?) Waking us up from our dozing state, the prospect of a few fireworks on the horizon sounded a good one, so we slipped on a fleece and poked our heads out the back door, to be met by a much better sight than some distant pyrotechnics. Instead, we found our beach parking neighbours, a lovely mix of Belgians, Dutch, Germans and us, the English, were also all stepping out as well.

Having been very lucky to have stumbled upon this relatively stable group of 5 motorhomes on our chosen beach parking we'd all chatted briefly in the previous few days, but out in the dark of the Valencian night we were all like long lost friends, wishing each other all the best for 2016 in a plethora of European languages. It was so natural and sincere - and so very, very festive in it's unexpectedness. Some of the older couples even made a beeline for the largest motorhome to have a shared drink or three, putting us sleepy youngsters to shame as we headed back to bed within half an hour. (we later found out it went on until almost 3a.m!)

Day time bought a peaceful start, slightly later than normal, and the sunny afternoon saw a repeat gathering emerging of the same multicultural, multilingual group all with a common joy and love of life. There was a big spread in ages, backgrounds and languages. The German husband spoke a little English, but the wife only spoke German. The Dutch couple spoke only Dutch. The Belgians spoke Dutch, German and a little English and we added our own English, Dutch and some stumbling German to the mix, but despite the lack of a single, common language it was clear that everyone could speak 'human'. Nibbles and wine flowed fast, as did the jokes (especially the inappropriate ones), hands were waved, smiles shared and everyone understood exactly what they needed to.

For us, having parked up here a little over a week ago expecting a quiet place to rest up, the unexpected community feel and generosity of kindness really gives us a huge burst of hope for 2016 and for human relations in general. We have noticed that sometimes in motorhome aires people often group by nationality, or even don't talk at all, when they are heads down, focused on their own journey. But this impromptu coming together really touched us deeply.

The joy even spilled over into the next day when another couple hosted a similarly unplanned gathering and we introduced our own new favourite game, Finnish Skittles, to the group which was especially good at bringing people together, particularly those who only spoke one language.  Who won? Who lost? Who cares? Fun was had.

We have found that sometimes in a motorhome it is all to easy to isolate ourselves from other people when moving around frequently or being busy. There have been times when we've not spoken to anyone other than each other for days on end (especially when in remote places).  Some times when we're tired or focused on the journey, we have forgotten how important it is to get out and say hello even if we don't feel like it.  We've regretted some missed opportunities but sometimes we've gotten a second chance to meet people.  Recently we sat 2 days next to a British couple in Dax without saying hello as we were so tried from the long drive from Holland, only to see them later in week at another aire near Biarritz and have a lovely chat and time together.  And on that same aire, knocking on a door to offer some books we were finished with, turned into 4 wonderful fun evenings.  These recent experiences and this first few days of the year, have reminded us the importance of always trying to say hello and engage with our motorhoming community, even if we've had a 'busy' or 'bad' day. We never know who we might be lucky enough to meet.  In fact, it is the things we learn from fellow travellers that usually guides our own route, activities and we learn little tricks and tips to make motorhoming smoother. It is one of the things we love most about travelling - meeting some wonderful, kind, generous and inspirational people and this group has been all of those things.

Also, it's started 2016 with a big burst of hope.  Before we started travelling we used to put off by what we read and saw in the news.  Sometimes it seemed like that safer meant being separate and keeping to yourself, especially with some recent events in the world and previously open borders being policed once again.  Yet, meetings like the one which spontaneously took place over the past few days between strangers without a common language, really turn that feeling around and give us hope for the future that communication is always possible.  We are all human after all!

Happy New Year Everyone

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