Humans of International Education #3: Curry College’s David Crisci

 

Bradley’s third Humans of International Education interview takes place with David Crisci, Director of International Student & Study Away Services for Curry College. David served for six years as the Director of the Office of International Affairs at Regis College prior to his recent move to Curry. He holds a Doctorate in Education from Regis, as well as a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration.

 

For the transcription of this conversation, Bradley’s dialog is in blue and David’s dialog is in black. Enjoy the read!

 

Want to listen to the whole interview? Check out the recording below to hear David and Bradley converse.

So, David, I’ll start you off with a tee ball: what was your first travel memory?

 

I used to live in Pennsylvania and my parents would take us to New Jersey – to the Jersey Shore. It was about a four hour ride, but I used to look forward to that day every summer; that was my biggest thrill. I remember the anticipation of getting there and being at the beach for the whole week. Those are my earliest memories.

 

How did you like to spend your time on that drive?

 

Oh, I remember it vividly. Obviously back then, there was nothing entertaining in the car except the games in the car, or coloring, or aggravating my brother. But it was so exciting to think about what we were going to do for the week, looking to see how things have changed from the year before, things like that. The funny part is, I always remember on the drive back home, I was so sad being that it was over. I often thought to myself, “oh my goodness, it’s over and it’s going to be a whole ‘nother year before we’re back.” I have some very, very fond memories of that time. Just like it was yesterday, I can still smell the ocean and the beach. Every time I go back, it still brings back those memories.

 

Do you still maintain that tradition to this day?

 

We did for a long time. What was funny is that we did that in the seventies, in the eighties, and then get into the nineties. When I was getting a little bit older, the area wasn’t as nice. It changed a lot. When I got married and my wife and I had our son, we didn’t have much money. It was probably a good ten to fifteen years since I was even there. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we wanted to get away, so I said to my wife, “Let’s just go to the shore. We’ll go to Wildwood and we’ll only go for a couple of days.” So she said, “Okay, let’s go.”

When we went, I couldn’t believe how much it had changed. It was so different than when I was a kid. There used to be a lot of bars and things like that, and the boardwalk was all different. When my wife and I went, they now had condos and they got the bars out of there. Now it was a real family atmosphere, kind of like when I was a kid but in a different sense. So my wife and I started going every year right up to even two years ago – after we moved up here to Massachusetts. So even when we were up here, we were driving all the way down to the shore. In a sense, we are keeping that tradition alive, but now it’s a little harder because the kids get older and we have to balance schedules, you know.

 

How did you feel that experience impacted your confidence when it came to new places?

 

I think it did, because it was going from a different state and a whole new experience to me. Being young, that was a whole new world to me. I think it did build confidence; confidence is a good word to use. And then, sometimes, we would do trips to Niagara Falls. We were also the family that would just go on a Sunday drive. We’d just get in the car and drive and explore new places. That’s still embedded with me years later, as my wife and I will just get in the car and go. So I think that has been embedded in me since I was a young child. Did that come from that those experiences? Probably.

 

Did your parents have any type of international travel background at all?

 

No, no never. Even to this day neither of them have been out of the country. Except for the edge of Niagara Falls.

 

So how did you first get exposed to traveling internationally?

 

What happened in my particular case is I got into business. I owned a business and my family owned a business. I worked for large companies like Frito-Lay and Bank of America. Because of my work, they gave me opportunities to travel across America – all over America to different places. I never really thought much of it. It wasn’t an adventure type of thing for me. I’d get on a plane and got to go to these places and I really didn’t think much of it. I was pretty much used to it.

But I had a passion and I wanted to go back to school. I was getting tired of being in business. I knew I liked history and I liked kids and I liked teaching. So I said, “you know what – I’m going to go back to school.” I wanted to be a history teacher – a high school history teacher.

So I said to my wife, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to be a history teacher.” She was very supportive of it, so I started going back to school. From there, I had an opportunity to go on a short-term study abroad trip to Oxford. At first, I was like, “eh, I don’t know if I should be doing this, I’m a little bit older…” And my wife said, “No you absolutely have to. This is an incredible opportunity for you.” So I said okay. But I was nervous. I had to go get a passport, never even owned one. So I went.

So the trip was to England. I was just awe to go on this adventure and when I came back, the school I was going to asked me to write an article for the paper about the experience – and I did. They asked me to do a couple presentations – and I did. Then before I knew it, they offered me a part-time job being an advisor to students that wanted to study abroad. I thought to myself at the time that this was okay, I could do this part time. This also gave me the opportunity to get my student teaching in, so when I started doing it and working with students and working with some faculty, I really enjoyed it. I was talking to students, telling them about my one adventure, and they wanted to have that same adventure. I really got the itch so I said, “you know what, I’m going to dive into this little bit more.”

So I switched my masters degree from secondary education to higher administration. I often say I’ve been around the world since. Since then, I have been to over 50 different countries. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been around the globe.

 

Wow – I had no idea you had an entirely different career. What is interesting to me is often people start in this field because of some earlier experience in undergrad or even high school. If you don’t mind me asking, about how old were you when you started your career in international ed?

 

I was probably in my late 20s or early 30s when I first started. It’s funny, because when I first started getting into to higher ed and into this field, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of opportunities for people to get into this field. So if you were to look back and ask how many opportunities are there for study abroad advisors or study abroad offices – they were out there, but not nearly as much as now.

Most of the people in the field back then, I’d even say 10-12 years ago, if you were to ask people in this field, how did you get into it? Most of the stories you’d hear are like, “Well, I didn’t plan on being in this field.” There wasn’t a plan – you just ended up in it. If you talk to people a little bit older, like myself, almost everybody says that they didn’t plan on being part of the international education field. But I think most people in higher education have that passion, where they want to help students.

But I have been truly blessed. I’ve had the unique opportunity where I get to help both sides. I have been around the world and recruited students to come to the United States. I’ve met young men and women all around the world and helped them to meet their dreams and come to the United States to get an education. I’ve also had young men and women come to me who have never been on an airplane and helped them achieve their dreams by studying abroad. I’ve really been blessed to see both sides of the coin.

 

Yeah – usually, the way a lot of departments are structured, you work strictly on helping students with their experiences outside of the country. Or, you’re at an entirely different part of the University – like Admissions – where they might have a subset of international admissions or something along those lines. There might be some overlap, but usually, you’re right: they’re very distinctive rolls. As a Director of International Program, are you responsible for incoming international students at Regis?

 

We structured it a little differently. The office has been open for 5 years now

 

And you were the founding director, right?

 

I was the founding director, yes. We came in, put in some policies and procedures and structures, so it’s the center for Global Connections. The key there is the connections. The president wanted this office to open because she saw these pockets of international activities happening on campus and she wanted everything connected. We needed a hub where all of this could come together. Once we had the policies and procedures for safety and study abroad, we started to look at our international market. We started with, “okay, this is how many international students we have – how did they get here?” Most of it was word of mouth, so we started to go out and actively recruit. In order to actively recruit, you need a good five year plan. Many prospective students had heard of Boston as a city, but not Regis. So you got to get the word out there, and that was one of the things we started to look at. We hired a recruiter and that was his job; we did that for about a year. I was also recruiting by traveling through Asia, the Middle East, and things like that. But I wanted to back off, as I had been doing that for a long time and it’s tiring. It comes at a price. We did that up until the election of 2016; when that happened, we saw a shift was starting.

The day after the election, I had an international student in my office asking if he was going to get kicked out of the country. It was just a mindset we started to see – not across the board – but students were thinking, “oh boy, if this is happening here, then what’s going to happen with applications?” So we didn’t want to put all of our resources or money into one thing. We put the brakes on the recruiter. We are working with some agents and we have an endowment to bring some students in, so we’re pretty much doing what you call “armchair recruiting.” Will we be ramping that back up? Probably; I would imagine within the next year or so, we’ll start to turn that back up. What I’m focusing on now is more curriculum, study abroad, faculty-led, grant-writing, special projects – things of that nature.

 

You mentioned doing this travel for recruiting came at a price, to some extent?

 

Any international travel comes at a price, but particularly so when it comes to recruiting. When you talk to people in this field who are going to travel somewhere internationally, typically there’s either one or two things: you’re doing a site visit – those are flexible. You could go at different times and you can kind of make your own schedule, but you’re still going to be away from family and friends. You’re not in your own bed and you’re not in your own environment, so the little things like that come at a price. Or, number two: you might be going on a structured program through your school with other students. That is really hard, because you have to be on the whole time – that is really, really hard work.

If you are doing it for recruiting, you can’t pick the time that you go. There are times that you have to go – like these are the only times that you can go to certain countries. At certain times, you have to go. So no matter what’s happening back in the United States – which could be anything from your friend’s birthday party to a child’s graduation – you may be gone, and there’s no getting around that.

There are things that I have missed. I have missed the birthdays and holidays and things like that. That’s a heavy price to pay. I’m missing a couple of things this year. I’m going to be gone for Easter – this one I knew ahead of time and I talked to the family about. The kids are older now, so it’s not like they’re getting an Easter basket anymore. It’s not too big of a deal; they were okay. I’m going to Vietnam and in Thailand, so I will be gone for Easter.

But now – I’m heartbroken over this one – my only son is going to be graduating high school and I’m going to miss his graduation. I’m going to be in Argentina and I can’t get out of it. It’s a special project and we got a grant for it. It’s a very complex, big project that we’ve been working on for well over a year. It’s even to the point where I’ve tried moving some dates around, but I couldn’t get around it. I’m going to miss his graduation. So there’s a price to pay for this work. But my family is very supportive and understanding. I’m going to have to bring him back a very special gift – now there are two prices to pay!

But it’s not easy. You’ll hear this a lot of times – they say, “Oh! You’re visiting here and you get to travel there – you get to see all of this!” And it’s like, “Yeah… maybe I can see it out from the window of my cab! I’m there to work.” Over the years, you learn to build things in and you try to plan it accordingly. So on this trip, I’m going to Thailand first and I’ll be there a couple of days early before the program starts. I can relax for a day or so, and I can visit some places I want to see, or meet some friends or whatever. It’s nice to do that. I’ve done that a few times, where I got to see some sights and visit temples or things like that to try and build some of those things in. So it’s not like you’re off the plane and you start working.

 

So you’ve discussed a number of costs that come with the territory. Can you think of the last time you experienced that moment of awe and just thought, “wow – this is all worth it.”

 

Oh, there are so many. I have seen such things that have been blessings on me that people wont see in ten lifetimes. I had the opportunity to be in Italy on Palm Sunday with the Pope. I have interactions where I’ve had meals out in the desert in Iraq with a family, just sitting on the floor and breaking bread. That will be with me for the rest of my life.

One of my most cherished memories was when I was in Greece and – do you know worry beads? So, worry beads – they are just a string of beads. What they do in Greece as they sit down on the bench, hold them, and there’s a special way that they hold them and flip them. So we were walking down to visit this one site, and there were these three old men sitting on a bench looking out at the ocean. As we’re walking by – I don’t speak Greek, and they didn’t speak English – I stopped. I had my camera and waved my hand like, “Do you mind if I take your picture?” And they all sat up and you can see them smiling. I just thought it was so cool: these three old men, just sitting on a bench and talking about life and the day, looking out at the ocean.

So we went down saw the historic site. On the way back, they were still sitting on the bench. So I stopped, and I asked our interpreter if she could ask the old men if they’d mind if I sat down with them. I wanted to have my picture taken with these old men. So she did, and I sat down with the men. They got the biggest kick out of it as I took the pictures. As we were sitting there, one of the old men was playing with his worry beads. He hands them to me and starts to try and teach me how to flip them. Now I’m trying to flip them and I couldn’t quite get it, but I’m trying my hardest. After a minute or two, I go to hand them back to him. But he’s pushing them back to me. I said, “I think he’s giving me his worry beads.” And our translator was like, “No, no, no – there’s no way. They keep those.” So I said, “Well, what is he saying?” Then she starts talking to him and next thing you know, she’s crying.

I said, “What’s wrong?” She said, “He wants you to have his worry beads.” So he gave me his worry beads. You can see they’re all worn, and Lord knows how long he’s had these, just sitting on the bench flipping them. In the original picture that I took, and the picture of me sitting with him on the bench, you could see these worry beads sitting in his hand. I tell students, that’s what travels all about. That’s what study abroad is all about. I didn’t understand his language, he didn’t understand my language, but he loved the fact that I communicated with him and tried to learn something about him, so he gave me these.

So I went back to a gift shop and I bought a cheap set of worry beads to bring home, and I told my son this story. I gave him the worry beads and I showed him the photos and I said, “When you get older, I will give you these worry beads and you can retell this old man’s story. He is probably long passed by now, but his story can go on through you – through this.” I often tell students that’s really what travel is all about: when you can’t communicate through the language, but you can communicate in other ways. Those are the best experiences in travel that you can have.

 

That’s a beautiful story. I think it encompasses so many elements. When you take a step back from your life and you really ask yourself, what are the moments that you’ll always remember? What are the moments that made all the little frustrations, all the little challenges, even all the major challenges, worth it? I think you bring up a good point because to me, you’re not just communicating, but your communicating with the human soul.

 

Absolutely; that was the human soul right there.

 

You were able to sit down with him and, even though you might not have gotten a deep lecture hall style analysis of their culture, in that moment, you could show your appreciation for where they were and enjoy what they were doing. Even without totally understanding it. And then, on top of that, for them to have the same kind of respect and appreciation for your ability to capture their story a little bit. Now this goes so far beyond that one moment; that moment has now extended this man’s story past his physical life.

 

Another thing which kind of parallels that: I often hear students say that they want to go somewhere they know the language. I say, no you don’t. You go and have these types of experiences when you don’t know the language.

I was gone on this one trip for about three weeks, and Japan was my last stop. I wanted to go visit this temple in the southern part of Japan. As you get outside Tokyo and major cities, they speak less and less English.

I get on a train and I figured out how to get from point A to point B. I know where the temple is, even though nothing is in English. I’m so proud of myself because I get from one point to another. I get to the train and get off. I make it to the temple, take some great pictures. The sun is going down and I am walking around this little city. And then, as the sun goes down, I realize I’m lost and I don’t know how to get to the train station.

I’m going around trying to talk to people, but nobody speaks any English, not one person, and I can’t figure out how to get from here to there. So I thought – it must have been at least an hour at this point – I’m going up to everybody I can. I’m trying to talk to them while pointing at the map, but nobody can help me.

Finally, I come across a couple walking down the street. I go up to them, but they don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Japanese. I’m pointing to the map and they start talking to each other. Then they’re looking at a building, and then looking at me, going back and forth. Then they point up at the top of this building and I can see just the top of it, and at the top is a light. They start pointing to the building and then they point to the map, and suddenly I knew what they were saying: go to that building with the light.

So I went through these streets, and I kept looking up, and I’m getting closer and closer. I worked my way towards that building and, sure enough, it was the train station. So I was so proud of myself, it was the greatest feelings. I had this incredible sense of confidence because it was such an incredible experience. I never spoke the language and I got to where I needed to go. So I tell students, you don’t need to know the language; you can get where you need to go.

 

I find with the language element, it’s uncomfortable – very uncomfortable – especially since you’re in a different environment. I even remember when I was in Sevilla, the Spanish was so different because of their dialects. I knew a couple words, and I knew what some words looked like, but overall, taking that extra effort and learning the language brings so much confidence. It’s the kind of experience, like not being able to communicate with your server about a menu item, or have questions about a dish, or even trying to engage with a tour guide. At the end, when you’re finally able to have a full conversation with your house mother about her own life – it’s that progression, that build up, that makes someone feel empowered. Not someone who is simply going to sit and watch the tour bus go by, thinking about all the cool things they could learn and experience. Instead, they are the one who takes the bus out to the desert to go experience it themselves and push themselves to meet somebody new.

 

I tell that to my students all the time – to get off the beaten path. To go and explore, and to push yourself, because you will get that confidence.

I was traveling with three young ladies in Italy. We did some tour or something – I forget what we were doing. There were a bunch of students there and we got done with this one tour, so everyone had some downtime. These three young ladies said, “David, could we go with you?” They were thinking that I knew everywhere to go and how to get around. And I was like, “I don’t really know where I’m going.” And they said, “what do you mean you don’t know where you’re going?” I said, “I am just gonna walk. I am going to get lost.” I had a card and I knew where I needed to be at the end of the day, but that was it. So I literally told them I was going to get lost and they were more than welcome to join. So they did.

I’m walking down this one street in Rome, and in the middle of the street was a church. It was set back in the middle of the block – it just looked out of place. Some of the buildings were newer, but here was this old, old church. It just looked out of place. So I said, you know what? I am going to check it out – I love old churches. So they followed me and I open up the door and it’s this old wooden door, you have to step over to get in. And we realize that it’s an active church – so there was music playing. So okay, we were all quiet. And we’re walking around and people are lighting candles and we were looking around and it was just so beautiful and moving. There are statues everywhere, just really intricate. I’m reading the history and some other things. And we all go around in a little horseshoe to get to the door.

As we’re going back out the door – we were in there for about 20 minute or so – as I’m walking through the door, the young ladies were behind me and I hear them crying. And I’m like, “Oh no, what happened? What’s wrong?” Now all three of them are crying, so I’m thinking, what could be wrong? They said, “Did you see the one crucifix in there?” And I said, “One crucifix? There were like 800 in there, it’s a church!” They said there was a giant crucifix that was white. I did see it, but I didn’t read about it. Well, they read the plaque on it. This crucifix – this big, giant crucifix was made of white birch – it was pure white. The story behind it was that the church burnt down in the 1300s, and the whole church burnt down, except this cross. It was the only thing that survived, and it was pure white. It didn’t even get dirty. This was the whole story. Then they took it and put it in this church. It moved these three young ladies so much that they welled up and started crying, just by reading that. And I told them, “See? If you didn’t get out of the beaten path and explore, you’d never would’ve had that experience.” And they will have that for the rest of their lives, that experience. Get off the beaten path – that’s the advice I tell them all the time.

 

To go a step further, that experience by itself is a magical moment for them. But now I want to ask, what will the lesson lead them to?

 

Yeah, there should be one. I mean, obviously I can’t speak on behalf of them. I think the lesson for me personally, what I do – we often become complacent. I am privy to this myself. When I come back from Vietnam and Thailand, we complain, because it’s gotten colder and we have snow. You know? We don’t like the meal we’re having. I’ll be coming back from people that are begging for money in the streets, who don’t know where they’re getting their next meal. Not that we don’t have that here, but there are more resources here, so they can possibly get another meal or find shelter for the night. Whereas there – there is no upward mobility. They will never have a chance to try and have a dream to own a home or anything else. There’s nothing else. So for me, to see some of the things I have seen and to put them into perspective of what we have. I try to stay grounded, and it helps me to try to always give back. I think that’s important.

The one thing I’ve often said is, if you break everything down, in all the travels I’ve done, almost everyone wants the same things. We want food in our stomachs, a roof over our head, and we want something better for our children than we had. How we go about doing that may be different from the next person, but if I can have an understanding of how you go about it, that’s going to help me be compassionate and maybe help you, and you help myself.

 

I totally agree with you. The only thing I would add is the connection – the human connection. I think that’s something that is so undervalued. Especially now, with the US in its current climate – there’s a lot driving apart the two extremes, right? Really, at the end of the day, when you boil it down to what these groups and humans hold in common, it is the ability to connect with each other: to show that compassion and feel a sense of belonging with another group. I think that’s something we don’t emphasise a lot, because we shield these things with ego, and insecurities, and emotional feelings. At the end of the day, we just want to feel like we are heard and belong.

 

Sure.

 

I like you other points, too – about the idea of providing something more for your children and the basic survival needs – absolutely. So drawing back… I think this will be kind of funny. I want to touch back to this trip you made to Oxford in the beginning because you made a point to not go to a place that shares the same language. When you were on that trip to Oxford and you had this first international experience, what were some of the realizations you made on that trip that opened your eyes, or even made you open to the idea of the advisor role in a study abroad office?

 

Well immediately, I picked up on things just from that trip alone – things that I noticed from being in London to being in Oxford, because we were there for awhile. I was based in Oxford, but we traveled to London and visited the outskirts. Being an American who wasn’t well traveled and hadn’t traveled internationally, you have this idea of London and England. You see the Tower of London – that’s England, that’s London for you. When you are in Oxford, that’s totally different – I mean, night and day. I’m in London and I’m seeing Ferraris and, you know, all these other things. I’m in Oxford and everyone is on bicycles and in little cars, and so the dynamic changes. You get to know the locals, because you talk with them and sit down with them.

I had this one guys – I’ll never forget this – he was taking me for a ride in his car. I don’t remember how it came up but we were talking about cars. He says, “did you notice anything different in my car?” Besides the fact the steering wheel was on a different side, of course. I’m looking around the car and I say, “No, why?” He says, “Do you see any cup holders in here?” I’m looking and I’m like, no – no cup holders! He says, “Do you know why? Because we don’t care. We don’t need cupholders.” Then he says, “Do you see how dirty my car is?” “Yeah, I guess – it seemed a little dirty.” He then says, “Do you see any car washes around?” “No, not really.” “Yeah, because we don’t care. A car is to get us from here to there. We are not all about looks, and we don’t need a cupholder.” He says, “You Americans have to make sure your car is nice and clean, you have your cup holders.” Then I thought about it for a moment and was like, wow, you’re right – I’ve never thought about that. There’s a car wash in every corner. He says, “Yeah, we don’t care. Some people might be different, of course, but for the most part, a car is to get you from here to there.”

It’s the little things like that that were a real eye opener for me. I was very self-centered as a typical American. I wouldn’t think outside of that, as far as getting outside of my own little bubble here in the state. That’s why it’s important to break that bubble. You got to break that bubble.

 

Now was that one of the moments when you were like, I should be doing more of this?

 

Oh yeah, it definitely was. It was one of those moments where I wanted to learn more. Everything I could do was to learn more. I think part of it is that I’ve always liked history. I’ve always been a history buff prior to travel. So by adding that travel aspect to it, I’m going back in time. The oldest thing that I had seen in America was the Liberty Bell from the 1700s, or maybe something from the 1600s. With travel, I’m seeing houses with straw roofs that have been there for centuries and centuries, and gravestones that you can’t even read. I was just in awe, thinking we don’t have anything this old, not even close, around me. So that was a moment I knew I wanted more. What else can I see? Where else can I go? I was just in awe and wanted more. So yeah, it definitely gave me the bug. And that’s still there – I always get excited.

 

I think you bring up such a good point. It’s not just about seeing the history, but about living in it for a moment. I think about my own travels, where one of the most interesting moments to me was having a beer. But it wasn’t just having a beer – we were having a beer in the oldest bar in Brussels that predated the US Constitution and it hadn’t been renovated at all. The walls were white originally, but now they’re mustard-yellow from all the smoke and history.

 

Wow, so you were in the original.

 

That moment when you realize that someone from that time period would come in here, fill their cup, get their beer for the day, with children running around – it would be a gathering place. The conversations that must’ve happened in this room… If this room alone could tell a story, the things it could pass down to us… It was so cool to just be there and live in it for that moment. There is more to the world that what I’m seeing right now.

 

We sat in The Eagle and Child and ordered a beer, my buddy and I, and a Cuban cigar, because that was were JRR Tolkien and CW Lewis would go – we sat in the booth they sat in. It was the booth where they had a Cuban cigar and a pint, and it was so disgusting, but we just had to do it because this was the booth they sat in. We had no idea what they were talking about back then, but here were these two famous authors – you have the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, Narnia… Could you imagine these two guys sitting here, having a pint of beer and a Cuban cigar? It was just so cool.

The first time I saw the Sistine Chapel… This, to me, was one of the saddest and most moving things. Here I am in the holiest of holy places. I’m looking up and seeing the painting – Michelangelo’s painting – and I am just sitting there like, oh my God, so incredible. You’re seeing it for the first time. You’ve seen it your whole life in books and here it is, right in front of you. And then I realize, I’m having this experience and my wife is not with me. Oh man – to have that high and then realize the person you love isn’t with you – it was such a mix of emotions. It was hard.

The first time I went to Venice, I had students riding the gondolas. They were like, “Come on!” And I wouldn’t do it. They said, “Why not?” I said, “I am not having my first gondola experience with you guys – I am going to have it with my wife! I’ll be at the bar having a drink. You go have a good time! I’m not having that experience with you guys. I’ll wait and do it another time.” So there are things you have to balance out.

 

Absolutely, absolutely. Well, I want to end on one last question. So – now that you’ve had all these experiences, and you’ve had these travel moments – if you could go back and relive one of those experiences, what would it be and why?

 

Wow – oh man, Bradley.

 

I know you’ve shared a couple good ones already.

 

Boy, that’s tough. Honestly, I don’t know if I can answer that. There’s so many of them, I don’t think there’s any one. That’s an incredible question. I always get, “What’s your favorite place that you’ve visited?” I guess if I had to pick, it would be something recent. This one brings a smile to my face, so I am going to go with this one for now.

So of all my travels that I’ve had, it’s hard for me to bring family. Now that the kids are older, I’ve taken my wife with me a few times. France was her first trip. I was – where was I? – I was in Whales, Scotland, I went to Oxford and London, then I had to fly over to France. I was in the South of France for awhile. Then I took the train up to Paris and I flew her over to Paris. That was her first international trip. I met her in Paris, which was pretty neat. Then the next time, I was in London for a week, and at the end of the week, I flew her over, so she was there. So the third one – she’s only come along three times – I was in Cyprus for a week. From Cyprus, I flew over to Italy, so I flew her over and met her in Rome. I had business, so I tried to mix both business and time with my wife. In the afternoon, I took her to the Vatican and in the morning, she’d come to the meeting. So we worked our way up to Florence, which is where we were staying. I was doing school visits during the day and stuff, but we were starving at the end of the night. It was getting late and we were just so hungry. She said to me, “We’ve got to eat.” As you’re walking down the main part of Florence – and this is in any city. I don’t care if you are in Boston, wherever you’re at. In any major city while you’re walking down the main drag, you have every restaurant trying to pull you in. Have you ever been to the Italian part of Boston – the North End? So if you’re on that main drag, they are pulling you in. Have you ever gotten off to the side ones? So if you go off the main street, there’s little Italian restaurants down there. So it’s no different in any other city.

So back in Florence, she says to me on the main drag, “We just have to eat.” I said, “No, that’s where the tourists go. Trust me, we will find something. Don’t worry we will find something.” So we are walking and walking, and we go down this alley, and then down that alley, and then down another one. We finally go down this one, and it’s kinda dark; there’s no way anything is going to be down there. But then in the middle of the alley, there’s this little Italian restaurant and there was a woman singing and a guy playing the guitar. It was small. It was almost closing time. There was the Italian owner and he was all excited. We asked if he was still open and we sat down. We go to have our meal and this guy was so happy that we came in. It was an incredible meal and they’re singing these beautiful Italian songs. It was just like something out of a movie. The music gets louder and people are walking up and down. Some people try to come in, but the owner said they were closed, so we were the only ones there. Now he’s pulling instruments off the wall and trying to play them, then he gets us up to dance. It was just this true Italian feeling. It was absolutely incredible. And to be there and share that experience with my wife was awesome.

 

Wow – it almost feels like you got an extension of his home.

 

Well, this was his home. He lived right above it. That’s what is was. The restaurant was the bottom part, kitchen in the back, and his home above.

 

Wow – so this was a true experience.

 

Yeah, it was like stepping back in time. It was just unbelievable. It was so neat. Then they were singing American songs for us. The woman didn’t speak any English, but she was singing these American songs – boy, what a voice. What an incredible voice. It was just the neatest experience.

 

Sounds like it made up for the Sistine chapel, right?

 

Exactly. I did get a chance to bring her there. We booked a private tour of the Vatican.

 

Did you make it to the gondolas?

 

Nope, we didn’t make it to Venice this time.

 

Well, there’s something to look forward to.

 

Exactly.

 

Well David, I can’t see a better place to end this. I really appreciate you participating in this and I believe the stories you shared captured some of the core reasons why people get involved in this field.

 

Sure thing. I hope this helps!

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