The other weekend was one of my favorites of the semester, and it all had to do with the people I spent it with.
My high school's band, choir, and orchestra perform abroad every spring break, taking turns each year. I toured my senior year with the Homewood-Flossmoor Master Singers, singing in churches and plazas in Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that the choir was touring Italy during my semester abroad! I double checked my schedule as soon as I could, and the plan was set: I was going to catch them singing for Sunday Mass in the Duomo of Milan.
As soon as I checked into my hostel, I waited eagerly for people to ask me where I was from and why I was in the city. "It's 12:30 this Sunday if you want to come! It's free!", I'd say to anyone who'd hear.
Of course, it was understandably met with polite promises to attend that didn't carry much intention of going. Except for one! An Italian I met named Sergio said he would gladly come, and bring along his friends in the Erasmus program at the University of Milan. He's bald, and his mustache reminds me of Dalí's. He's a really nice guy.
Sunday comes, and I start walking. As I round the corner, the Duomo comes into view with a familiar sea of red robes and my old choir director at the head of it. We walk in, and I sit in the front row, ready to be thrown back into memories of cold cathedral air and the last notes of the performance ringing out in echoes that seems to last forever.
Mass ends, and I say my goodbyes to everyone, realizing how surreal it's been to line up the details to cross paths again when the last time was a continent and three years away. I turn around to find Sergio and his friends sitting right there in the pews!
We leave the cathedral and walk into the sunny plaza outside. They immediately tell me how great the performance was and invite me over to the residence hall for lunch. We grabbed some small desserts from the grocery store, went up to cook in the kitchen, and just like that I was eating pasta and lemon gelato on the terrace of an Italian university with friends I hadn't known two days before.
In the same day, I spent time with people I had intimately known for years and with people I had only started to know that afternoon. There's something poetic to be said about how I felt the same love when I was with both of them. I think that weekend spoke loudly to me about the real reason I travel.
All people are so different, and so very much the same. I travel because I like getting to learn that lesson over and over again.