Last month my entire family went on a vacation to Croatia. Why Croatia? It was easy access for my son who was joining us from Italy, fairly cost-effective for a European trip, none of us had ever been there, and I like Mediterranean culture. Truth be told, on a psychological level, after an entire year of familial turmoil, illnesses, and deaths, visiting a war-torn country that is now on the mend seemed like a good place to start our own repair.
I normally map out our entire vacation, striking a fine balance between cultural attractions, living history, relaxation, quirky attractions, outdoor activites, and as much sampling of local cuisine as I can squeeze in. This time around I was unable to get hold of a map, had found only one tourism book, and was only sporadically able to access the internet. This meant much of our travels were left to whim and spontaneity.
That's how, while my son and husband napped, my daughter and I ended up in front of a very historical synagogue. From one of the doors came a welcoming voice with a Boston accent, waving us inside to be a part of the Friday evening service. We begged off using the excuses that we weren't dressed appropriately and that we were soon meeting the rest of our family for dinner. This man was persistent and finally convinced us to at least come inside and see the beautiful interior. We caved. Most fascinating to us was that no locals were in atendance at the services, only foreign visitors. And what an amazing group! For starters, the man who coaxed us inside was none other than an International War Crimes Judge; his wife, a performer with the Bostom Pops.
After the service (yes, of course, we stayed) we met my son for dinner while my husband slept off the rest of his jet lag. We made sure we didn't over-stuff ourselves because we wanted to go to the Egyptian Gelato place that The Judge (as we now officially referred to him) had recommended. And when we got to the gelato place who greeted us at the door as if he owned the place? The Judge. We sat with him and that pretty much filled up all the seating in this teeny tiny shop. My son had been jeaolous that he missed meeting The Judge and now the two of them were gabbing away about war and politics like they were old friends.
All of a sudden The Judge leaned over and whispered in my ear, "The General is here." I had no idea what he was talking about, but in walked an unassuming-looking older man in his eighties. A minute later I was chatting with none other than Jovan Divjak, the Major General in the Yugoslavian Army. At the start of the war when the Yugoslavian army split in two - Serbs and Bosnians - and the shooting had just begun, he bravely walked in between the two factions and convinced them to stop the gunfire. And there we were, eating ice cream with a man who had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Just last year he was arrested by the Serbs as a traitor and put in prison. Ten thousand people came out to protest that a peacemaker had been wrongly jailed while the criminal Serb leader was free.
I politely asked if we could pose for a photo with the General as a great souvenir. I was so excited, I couldn't wait to tell my husband every last detail about both The Judge and the General. I assumed my kids were equally impressed. Back at the room, my well-rested husband asked why we were so late getting back from dinner. In the most nonchalant way, my son said, "It was a typical night with mom; you know she talks to everybody."
Of course, he was only joshing and within seconds both my son and daughter were talking over one another trying to be the first to tell their dad about their adventure.
Where's the business lesson? That's an easy one. It's the Women's Yellow Pages motto, "I may look like I'm not working, but I'm really networking." You never know who you are going to meet, wherever you are, so do your best to talk to as many people as possible.. especially if you are in a gelato shop in another country.
Ellen Fisher, Founder, Publisher and Mirotvorac (that's Croatian for Peacemaker)