I am an internationalist–and a collector. Although I love my carpets, baskets, fabrics and cats from various countries, my prize collection is made up of women.
I met Katherine when we were college roommates, 50 years ago, and only managed to “collect” her as a Delight (our group’s chosen name) a couple of years ago. Cordelia was collected from Ankara, Turkey, in 1970; Ellie and I were both Peace Corps volunteers and shared a wild trip around eastern Turkey in 1971; Phoebe lived near me in Istanbul in 1973. I met Nancy when we both worked at Voice of America, in 1980. Fran was my neighbor in New Delhi, India in 1985. Janelle and I were in a book group together in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1994. Ginny and I met while our husbands served again in India in 1997. Later, Fran brought Lois into the group and Phoebe introduced us to Ricky.
In 2004, I invited the original group to my house for lunch to see if they could get along. Almost all are first children or only children. All were good friends of mine. It was a major risk!
Amazingly, they took to each other. All of us had experience traveling, but it had usually been in a family context. We had all had “bad” experiences traveling with people we thought we liked. We were all wary.
So, to protect ourselves and our potential travel group (at that first lunch, we thought only of a jaunt to Turkey), we set up making rules. First children, while bossy, tend to follow rules–especially if we have been allowed to help make them.
Rule One , we decided, was that whining would not be allowed.
“One free whine per day” became the rule. After that, prepare to buy wine for the group that evening.
Rule Two was “no nickel and diming.”
We would establish a kitty on every trip to which each person contributed the same amount. Group activities (lunch, ferries, tram rides, museum entrances) would come out of the kitty. Most of us drank a glass of wine with dinner. That could be included. (For other groups, you may want to revise that to exempt alcohol from the kitty.)
Rule Three was that, to avoid any hint of cliques, we would draw lots for roommates every time we changed hotels.
This has worked very well in establishing independent relationships among the Delights.
Rule Four was that, to cement the group, we would agree to all go to one special thing requested by each group member.
We went to a train museum once, and to various laundries, as well as to a hotel that some didn’t think they could afford.
Rule Five is that, since we are getting to a “certain age,” discussions of health issues are limited to 15 minutes at a time.
We want to focus on politics and economics, adventures and world events–not someone’s knee replacement.
Since that first trip to Turkey in 2004, the Delights have gone again to Turkey, to Egypt, to Morocco, to India, to Indonesia and to Eastern Europe. We attended the Key West Literary Festival one year and rented a house. One member lives in Chicago, so that became another Delights destination. This year we plan to visit Spain.
To make a group like this work (our average age is in the sixties?) it is important that everyone understand the phrase “go with the flow.” We have honed our tolerance, our patience, our intellectual argumentative skills. We help each other when we get sick; we suggest books to each other; we share information about the country we are visiting.
If someone wants to relax in a coffee house or at the pool while others go to the fossil museum, that’s fine. We’ve learned to guess fairly accurately what each person’s reaction will be to certain foods or experiences–and which shop they might have gone into while we were separated. We know which pair of Delights is most likely to get lost if they go off on an errand somewhere.
Since we can’t travel all the time, we get together as often as we can, for lunch, birthday celebrations, or on our private listserv. Intimate details are shared within the group, because we know they will never leave the parameters. We can expose our doubts and fears, our hopes, our successes, and our failures. We also share pictures or stories of grandchildren or animals.
Always, always, we respect each other. There is time to talk. There is time to be quiet. There is always time for each other. We are the Delights!
Peggy Hanson enjoys an international life and loves to share it with her readers. The Deadline series starring journalist Elizabeth Darcy is her first venture into fiction. The books reflect years of living in Turkey, Yemen, India and Indonesia, as a Peace Corps volunteer, international radio broadcaster with Voice of America, and teacher of English as a second language. Like many reporters, she always chafed at having to stick to facts. Elizabeth Darcy has no such constrictions and can go places that might be off-limits and deal with adventures as they come her way.
Peggy lives near Washington D.C. with her husband and two energetic kittens.