I visited a club in Barbados last night, after meeting a woman from Barbados a few weeks ago in North Carolina. I was in North Carolina at the invitation of someone I met in Saskatchewan the week before that. He and I were the only ones who showed up at the meeting – apparently the Saskatchewans knew something we didn’t – so we chatted for half an hour and exchanged contact information before calling it a night.

These meetings were all virtual, of course. I attended them while sitting in front of my computer, logging on via Zoom or another online platform and connecting with members of other Toastmasters clubs around the world. In the three months I’ve been doing this, I’ve visited clubs in twenty-six countries, twelve states, and two Canadian provinces. In the process, I’ve had some adventures and challenges, I’ve made new friends, and I’ve learned a lot. In fact, if I’m ever a contestant on the game show Jeopardy and they have a category, “Time Zones,” I’ll have it sewn up.

Until then, I’d rather share a few of my observations – and the lessons I’ve learned from them – on other topics. One is that if you have even one or two things in common with other people, your differences don’t matter that much. You can still build a connection, a bond, a friendship. At the meetings I’m attending, we all have Toastmasters in common, with core beliefs, traditions, and practices that establish a rapport and sense of camaraderie right from the start. Unfortunately, we all have the coronavirus as common ground, too, although it’s at different levels in different places. Still, it’s something everyone understands and can relate to.

Another observation I’ve made is that people whose native language isn’t English often have a better command of the language than native English speakers. One of the roles at Toastmasters meetings is that of “Grammarian” – a person who makes note of clever, interesting, or unusual words and phrases used during the meeting, as well as any misuses of the language. Although non-native-English-speakers sometimes apologize for their command of English, I usually find them to be eloquent and articulate. I enjoy hearing what they have to say, and I love hearing the way they say it.

Something else I’ve noticed is that it’s easier for my body and mind to handle a meeting in the early hours of the morning than one occurring late at night, which means my internal clock had an easier time adjusting to meetings in Tokyo and Sri Lanka than ones in California. I’m not sure what the lesson in that is, unless it’s that the direction in which you’re traveling is sometimes more important than how far you go.

I’m looking forward to whatever adventures, discoveries, and surprises are still ahead as I continue my “travels.” I can’t wait to visit other places I’ve not yet been to. To learn about other countries and cultures from the  people who live there, rather than from books or TV specials. To cross paths again with other travelers and explorers I’ve met along the way.

And, someday, to get back to Saskatchewan.

August 21, 2020
©Betty Liedtke, 2020

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