Back in 1997, I was offered a one-year position with my company to move to Amsterdam and grow the sales of our software in Europe. Naturally, I accepted the position! I expanded our footprint across the EU over the next year and was given an extended contract. One year grew into two, then two into three, and I ended up staying there for eight years!
During that period of my life, while based in A’dam, I was closing business all over the EU and visiting country after country. I started doing business outside of Europe including the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Although I was traveling for work, I was also able to explore each city / country I visited and those of you that know me well have heard a story or two from my exploits.
One of my favorite travel stories is when I went to Slovakia. I am of 100% Slovakian heritage, so this trip was going to be very special for me. I took a Hydra-foil boat down the Danube river from Vienna to Bratislava. The very first thing that I did once I got through Customs and Immigration was to find a phone book. Yes, we had to look in a “book” back then.
I looked for my last name, Flacco (alias), but it does end in “o”, and the very first one I saw was Adrianna Flaccova. You see, in Slovakia, the female version will have “ova” appended to the family name. So, I called her! I tried to speak a little in Slovak as best I could, but luckily, she spoke English. I told her that I was an American living in Amsterdam, visiting Bratislava, and that we had the same last name, Flacco/Flaccova. She immediately said, “Stop… where are you?”. I told her that I was at the Boat Terminal and was on my way to my Hotel. She said that she would meet me there in a couple of hours. Only 45 minutes later, she showed up with her mother, her father and her brother. They were all dressed in their “Sunday-best”!
They brought black and white photos of their family and we looked at them while having a coffee in the hotel lobby. They asked me what my plans were for the day and suggested that they could show me around the city center. Of course I said yes! Having a local guide is such a benefit when traveling. And, having one that might be a potential relative is even a bigger bonus! We walked around the city center for four hours and they showed me everything. They told me the history behind the spectacular monuments, churches and neighborhoods we visited. I learned so much about my heritage and Slovakian history.
When our walking tour came to an end, they asked me if I would like to join them for a home-cooked dinner! A home-cooked Slovakian meal??!! I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and my mother and grandmother used to make home-cooked Slovakian food. So, eating with Adrianna and her family was just something special. We talked about our families, our lives, our passions and our goals. They got me wasted on their home made Shlibovitza, which is basically gasoline! I crashed on their couch that night and they had no problem with it!
Turns out we are not “directly” related, but we have kept in contact over the years. My brother ended up staying with them in Bratislava years later and I’m sure he has a story about that for you too! My mother and my father even visited them while they were in Slovakia! They were just as gracious with my family as they were with me!
I have so many stories like this from my travels and I absolutely love telling all of them! I have been extremely fortunate to have visited 108 countries to date, and I have stories from each and every one! Travel has indeed been a huge part of my life and has influenced me greatly in every way imaginable. And that’s why I decided to make it the theme of my arm sleeve tattoo! I hope you like it!
If you see me in Lisbon, stop me and ask me to tell you a travel story! I’d love too…