I play a lot of poker. Too much actually but that’s another story. It was while at the Amsterdam casino I met Greg. Greg was really friendly and offered to show me around Amsterdam. I was a little disarmed by his exuberance and friendliness, because here was this guy who’s been losing money to me, now offering to take me out and show me the city. You always hear stories about locals ripping off travellers and so, with a lot of his Euros in front of me, I graciously declined. A few days later though, I saw him again and we talked. He ran a poker club and told me I could come by any time. By this time, I found out he was on the level and supposedly a great guy. Sadly, I was leaving for Spain the next day. “I thought you were here for awhile?” he said. “I was. I was here for a week. That’s a long time in this city!” I replied. “I wish I could stay longer but I have a flight booked. I’ll be back sometime though.” In two weeks, I was back. In Spain I felt the lure of the city call me, so I boarded a flight and went back.
Greg and I became good friends during my stay in Amsterdam. It was because of him that I met many locals and had a “Dutch experience” in Amsterdam. Yet before I left, I couldn’t reach him to say goodbye so I told another friend to tell Greg good bye and that I’d be back to win some of my money back from him.
Sadly, I wouldn’t get that chance. A few weeks after I left, three men entered Greg’s poker club and, as they robbed his house, shot him. I only knew Greg for a little over a month but in that time he changed my impressions of people. His friendliness and welcoming attitude was disarming. On the road, you put your guard up to avoid bad situations yet at the same time want to be open and interact with the locals. It is a constant struggle to find the right balance. Greg showed me that there was no reason to always be on your guard – that sometimes people are just being friendly.
Greg epitomized the idea that travel is about whom you meet and not where you meet them. I could have met him in any city in any country and he still would have treated me like he had known me for years. I’ve travelled to places I feel in love with despite of the people, people who made me fall in love despite of the place, and travellers who just made a bad place a little more enjoyable. When you meet others who fill your day with excitement and joy, nothing about the place really matters.
That was Greg. Greg was the local we all hope to meet. The one who has the key to the city’s door and is willing to open it and expose its secrets. I’m not sure where Greg is but wherever he went; I know he left an impression on many people. He left one on me. His goodness shines on and it won’t be the same without him.
So Greg, wherever you are, this is my goodbye and this is my thank you.
Because it’s people like Greg, that make this nomad travel the world.