There’s a corner market about 50 meters from the guesthouse where I’m staying in Saranda, Albania.
Only it’s not really a market—just a little shop in a family’s house and when you ring the bell they come and let you in.
I’m waiting outside for them to come and there’s a mother waiting with her little daughter.
They’re both very friendly and the kid is all smiles.
The mom doesn’t speak English but she speaks a little Italian and we make small talk while we wait.
The little girl won’t stop smiling at me.
“She likes you,” says the mom. “Sing something.”
Now I’m feeling a little awkward, but the girl is looking at me like she’s waiting for a song.
So I sing, in a narrow alley behind a house in Albania.
The only song that comes to my head is New York by Italian pop duo Benji and Fede (I memorized the lyrics when I was learning to speak Italian).
From the first note the girl squeals with delight, twisting and clapping in her mother’s arms.
I start laughing so hard I can’t even sing the words. Pretty soon all three of us are laughing so hard we have tears in our eyes.
When she finally came to let us in I’m sure the shopkeeper was wondering what all the fuss was about.
I hope I’ll see them again.
One of my friends has been talking recently about valuing kindness over intelligence.
He’s a smart guy who grew up around intelligent people and he’s always valued intellect more than anything.
Maybe the years of travel have softened him.
But he got me thinking about my own experiences. The best times were always spent with the kindest people.
It was friends from Argentina sharing beers in Prague. It was the stranger who helped me find the right bus in Kyiv. It was every kind and open-minded person I’ve met along the way.
Without people you’re not traveling. You’re just moving.