“I’m your travel angel”

by Rebecca Bricker on August 23, 2015

I have a secret life as a travel angel.

During my walks around Florence, I sometimes sense distress. It often comes from American compatriots, who have their noses in a map.

If it’s a couple, I usually hear the woman say, “Let’s just ask someone.”

At that point, I step forward and say, “Hello, I’m your travel angel. Do you need some help?”

Typically, in unison, the man says No and the woman says Yessssss.

Often, my job is easy. I simply point these lost souls in the right direction and send them on their merry way. If I sense imminent divorce, I might suggest a place to cool their heels and tempers. Gelato usually does the trick.

 

One day, I was waiting at a bus stop next to my favorite gelateria. There was a foursome nearby — an older couple and a younger couple, who looked to be related. The older man had a map of Florence spread out in front of him. His wife was insisting they ask for directions. The son/son-in-law was stage-whispering to his spouse, “Let’s just get a cab and go.”

A family splintering before my eyes. Emergency action was required.

“Hello, I’m your travel angel,” I said. “I sense distress. I’m here to help.”

For a moment, they looked at me as though they could see my angelic wings. I glanced over my shoulder to make sure my feathers weren’t showing.

Their immediate problem wasn’t serious — they simply had to get themselves to Rental Car Row, which was just a few blocks away.

I pointed the way and the son/son-in-law asked if they could hire me for the day.

Their bigger problem — and my bigger concern — was that they planned to rent motor scooters for the day.

“Have you ever driven scooters before?” I asked.

“No — well, he has,” said the older woman, nodding toward her husband. “But he ran into a pole.”

“Are you sure this a good idea?” I wrote my phone number on my card and handed it to her. Then I quietly sent up an alert to the Guardian Angel Division, which handles high-risk situations.

I suggested they take a short break at my favorite gelateria, by the bus stop, which they did. I waved to them as I got on the bus. They looked like a happy family, enjoying their cups of gelato.

My favorite travel angel encounter happened one evening at a pizzeria near my apartment. A young newlywed American couple were at the table next to mine. They were both in the U.S. Army, stationed in Texas. He had planned the entire honeymoon as a surprise to her. She didn’t even know they were going to Italy until the airline ticket agent at the counter said, “Your bags will be checked through to Rome.”

This new husband clearly delighted in the joy he was giving his bride each day. He had planned the day’s itineraries in advance — arranging for tours and tickets as needed — but allowing for spontaneity. Each day was a surprise for her as he took her on their first dream trip together as husband and wife.

At one point during dinner, when she slipped away to the ladies’ room, he asked my advice about the following day’s itinerary.

And then I asked, “I assume you’re going to Venice next?”

He nodded. “But she doesn’t know that yet.”

“I won’t say a word.”

As we said good-night, I wished them a happy life together. I gave him my card and told him to e-mail me if he needed any suggestions.

For the remainder of their honeymoon, I received an e-mail from him each day, asking my opinion about the next day’s activities.

On the last day of their honeymoon, he wrote from Venice, “We have one more day — what should we do?”

I wrote back: “If you want her to remember, for the rest of her life, how much she loves you today, take her on an evening gondola ride.”

His reply: “Will do! Thanks so much.”

I hope they’re living happily ever after.

I love being a travel angel.

{ 8 comments }

Thom August 23, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Boy, I could have used you in 2001. We were in Florence for one day (I know, I know, way to short a time). To make matters worse, that one day was a Sunday and too many things were closed. We headed to one of the main churches in town, we encountered two obstacles – a really long line and the fact that Joan was dressed in shorts and was to be denied entrance into the building for lack of modesty. No biggie, we drowned our sorrows and a fantastic bakery. And after that we needed the “Travel Angel.”
Joan thought it would be a splendid idea to walk back to the hotel. It was an ill-informed decision, as we only had the sketchiest of maps and a limited sense of direction. Needless to say we promptly got lost in a neighborhood where our English, Spanish, German, and limited French did us no good at all. Finally, through the international language of mime, we got back to a busier section of Florence, where taxi actually appeared. Our final solution was to hail a taxi, show him our hotel receipt (which had the address on it), and sit back and enjoy the ride humbled and defeated – but back home again.
We now always travel with better maps.

Keep on being angelic – there is a world of travelers who need it.

Thom

Rebecca Bricker August 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Thom, so sorry to hear of your challenging day in Florence. It’s difficult to hail a cab on the street in Florence – you need to find a taxi stand or call for a cab. The church rules are pretty strict – no exposed knees and bare arms. Always carry a card for your hotel, just in case you lose your way. (Glad you had that receipt.) And when exasperated, stop for gelato! :)

Jackie Lamothe August 23, 2015 at 10:00 pm

I can so see you doing this! Priceless. Oh…I wonder if that newly married gent has an older brother!

Rebecca Bricker August 23, 2015 at 10:01 pm

I could make inquiries, Jackie. 😉

Peg Ross August 24, 2015 at 3:58 am

Love this, Becky! I can just picture you floating over with your wings out behind you, discreetly offering a little guidance!

alyce August 24, 2015 at 8:09 pm

You are too cute!!!! I just love these stories….it is so true how men do not like to ask for directions….I think it is American Men….Pasquale doesn’t hesitate when needed!!! Very interesting phenomenon indeed….

Denise August 25, 2015 at 12:35 am

Loved this post!

Lisa August 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Indeed you are an angel and not just for travel.

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