I stood waiting at the corner of the street for a bus. The local bus would take me to Old San Juan. It was a lovely day to explore Puerto Rico (rich port). The colorful summer dresses flowed carelessly through the streets, music played by a local musician filled one’s ears, and my stomach was filled with seafood Mofongo and Cuba Libre. My decision to take a local bus was driven, not only by cost, but mostly because I knew it would give me a glimpse into the everyday lives of Puerto Ricans. An hour later, I gave up on any hope a bus would arrived and hailed a cab to Old San Juan. Are you judging me? Ever tried standing in the sun for an hour after having a Cuba Libre? It’ll test even the patience of Mother Theresa (if she partook in such libations) I digress. The cab drove past El Morro right into into the heart of Old San Juan. We turned the corner to unveil colorful buildings that boasted remnants of the city’s past relationship with Spain. Over to the left- a canary yellow house. A little to the right -an aqua blue one. I hopped out of the cab, grabbed an ice cold drink and made my way through a few winding roads. My aim? To get lost then make an acquaintance or two en route to getting found again.
I wove in and out of touristy stores with little intent to buy anything. Opting instead to strike up conversations with store owners and locals in the area. I walked into a small store at the end of a block where a bald gentleman with kind eyes (I love kind eyed people) greeted me. Within a few minutes, my soul was somehow drawn to this store owner. There was something incredibly humbling about him. I stayed. We swopped stories of our travels around the world. He spent three months each year traveling the world. One month in Italy, another in Spain, another on a cruise around the world. “You are very fortunately, I remarked. “I’d love to visit Italy” He looked at me with his gorgeous brown eyes, and said words that would become my travel anthem for years to come- “keep it in your heart and your feet will take you there” It’s been over three years since I met that kind man. I make it a point to stop at his shop when time and chance permits. I consider him a friend. I’d like to think he feels the same way about me. Last time I visited him, I told him my feet had taken me to Rome because I kept it in my heart.
Fun Fact: Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States. Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the general elections.