ITALY. There’s all of that fascinating history and so many great cities and the vibrant culture (i.e. FOOD, WINE, etc.). I experienced all of the above my trip to Italy, but the most incredible aspect of my trip was the people I met along the way.

I don’t believe in coincidences. We’re all here to teach and be taught by those around us. The people who we come into contact with serve a purpose in our lives, whether we realize it or not. So when I travel to new places, I always have a sense of curiosity when it comes to who I meet along the way.

With that, I want to share some stories about the wonderful people I met while in Italy and the lessons they taught me. And here’s part 1:

You know those people who stand in the middle of popular tourist spots and sell annoying, useless things on the street? I mean, the things they sell have Furby-levels of uselessness. It’s the man with a bouquet of roses, trying to guilt the men into buying their girlfriends a rose or the dude selling cheap, light-up plastic trinkets of all colors. I don’t think I’ve ever said more than two words to these insistent salesmen besides “no, thanks” in any given language.

Two dark-skinned men approached me holding an armful of stuffed animals as I stood sipping a beer in Rome with some new friends. After we politely declined the man’s tired sales pitch, one of them turned to me and said, “You’re Christian, yeah? Aren’t you? You don’t talk to me because I’m Muslim.” His tone could have been condescending but I think he said it more out of frustration from a long day. Then he started to walk away.

“Love is my religion, brother,” I responded, quoting one of my favorite Ziggy Marley songs and sounding more hippie than ever before.

He turned around, and a smile flashed across his face.

“That’s what I’m sayin’, my sister. We’re all humans first,” he said as reached out for me to shake his hand.

Even this short interaction reminded me how no matter what society, religion, culture, or whatever else is telling us that we’re different, we are all human. We’re all going through life trying to be happy and hopefully make a positive difference in our world.