Do you believe in coincidences or do you think that everything happens for a reason? Nine years ago, my wife and I met an old man with a grizzly white beard in the lovely mountain village of Apiranthos on the island of Naxos, who offered to pose for a photo with my wife and a young Italian woman we were traveling with. He was so photogenic that I couldn’t resist the offer, but the old pervert also took advantage of the moment, by trying to reach around and grope the women’s breasts.
In June, we returned to the same village, by chance rather than by design, and when we arrived, we didn’t immediately place the groping incident to Apiranthos. We split up so I could take some photos of the village and, at one point, passed an old man with a long, gray beard who looked somewhat familiar. I took his photo and thought nothing more of it, until I showed my wife the photo later on, and she immediately recognized him.
“That’s the same pervert who groped me nine years ago!” she exclaimed.I searched for the old photos and could only find one shot, but sure enough, not only was it the same guy, but he was also wearing the same shirt and same hat. I don’t know, perhaps the guy has only one shirt and hat, and maybe he had barely moved from the spot we first saw him nine years before, but it seemed like a bizarre coincidence.
That is, until I typed the word Apiranthos into Google images and noticed that a Canadian guy had photographed the same guy in 2011, and someone else photographed him and submitted it in a photo contest earlier this year. I kept looking and found another, and another, and another. In each photograph, the guy is wearing the same shirt and hat.
This past winter, I experienced another déjà vu incident in another remote mountain hamlet, San Sebastian del Oeste, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. I photographed the same man, sitting in the same square two years in a row. But that incident didn’t surprise me as much, because in San Sebastian, pretty much everyone sits in the town’s lone square all day long, and only a year had elapsed between encounters.
Less than two weeks after the Apiranthos incident, we had an even stranger travel coincidence in London. Prior to our trip, I booked a room at a chain hotel called The Premier Inn near the Earl’s Court tube stop based upon some positive reviews I read online. I wasn’t searching for a specific neighborhood, I just wanted a place that was somewhat affordable and in a central neighborhood near a tube stop.
As soon as we walked into the hotel, we had a strange sense of déjà vu that we couldn’t understand because on our last visit to London, ten years ago, we stayed at a place called the Comfort Inn. Still, I couldn’t shake the sense that we’d been there before so I asked the young woman at the check in desk if the place had once been a Comfort Inn.
“It certainly was,” she said. “It became Premier Inn about five years ago.”
Ten years ago, we were in London on our honeymoon and had been assigned the Comfort Inn by chance, through priceline.com and then we returned, again by complete chance, for our anniversary, ten years later. Given the fact that there are nearly 2,000 hotels and B & B’s in London reviewed on Trip Advisor, the coincidence is pretty remarkable. There’s no way we could have known ten years ago that we’d return to the same place, by chance, with two children in tow a decade later.
I’m the kind of person who is always conjuring memories of travel moments triggered by seemingly unconnected events. I can be driving down the street in Falls Church, Virginia, and suddenly think of a person I met in Cluj, Romania, or a meal I enjoyed in Uzbekistan.
I don’t know what triggers these memories, but I do know that while at home, time tends to slip past me as days run together in a forgettable blur. But while I’m traveling, I tend to remember the people I meet, the places I stay and the things that I experience more acutely – especially when my wife is groped by a heavily bearded senior citizen.
In case you’re wondering, the Greek gentleman didn’t remember me, or ask where my wife was, but then again he gets his photo taken more often than Brad Pitt does.