The Accidental Tourist is one of my favorite movies, and I especially love the part when William Hurt’s character says something like, “I’ve come to realize that what matters in a relationship is who you are when you’re with that person.”

He’s talking about how he becomes an adventurous, deliberate tourist when he’s with Geena Davis’ character, instead of the timid, sheltered observer (“accidental tourist”) he is with his wife.  But I think you can take that same idea and apply it to your friendships and business relationships.

Last weekend I went to visit one of my best friends.  I’ll call her Susan, because she is a very private person.  I’d been feeling a little down for the past few months, partly because I always get that way when the trees shed their leaves, but also because of the current economic climate and the fact that I haven’t done anything very exciting lately.  I knew visiting Susan and her fiancee (I’ll call him Georgio) would be just what I needed.

Susan is what I would call an experience junkie. No, I don’t mean an experienced drug user, I mean she’s a junkie for new experiences.  She loves travel and adventure, and she’s always looking for new inspiration in the things she does or the books she reads.  When I’m with her I feel the same way, even if I felt like a complete dullard ten minutes ago.  We go for hikes and we talk about our ideas for the next big experiment.  I haven’t really had any adventures lately, but being with Susan and hearing about hers always reminds me that I used to be an adventurous person and I will certainly get there again someday.   If nothing else, we can always trade ideas from the books we’re reading or movies we’ve seen, or reminisce about some of the trips we’ve taken together in the past.  We’ve climbed Kilimanjaro in Africa, run marathons and competed in adventure races,  skied off-piste in Europe, hiked the Grand Canyon, and made an attempt on Rainier.  We have great stories that still make us laugh, like the time I was learning to mountain bike with clipless pedals and Susan had to pull me out of the water after I fell into a canal in Washington, DC.  Or the many times we got hopelessly lost while hiking because neither of us can read a map to save our lives.

Georgio always adds another well-appreciated dimension to my visits because he is European and oh-so-civilized.  He insists that Susan and I come home for a relaxed, sit-down lunch of, say, grilled salmon with fresh vegetables, curried rice and a chilled Savignon Blanc.  If we eat Doritos on the trail he is usually horrified so we’ve learned to hide them in the car.  Georgio always reminds me to slow down, take a breath, savor the flavors and appreciate the good life.  I need to do that more often.  At least, I need to stop eating my meals while standing over the kitchen sink.

I always come home from Susan and Georgio’s house feeling more energized than I was before, with more vision for the future.  And even if I can’t fly away for a new adventure right away, or maintain the sophistication of Georgio’s domestic life, I can feel more like the person I really want to be.

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