Category Archives: europe

Ingredients for a powerful friendship

Adam in Geneva
Adam Grantzidis (on the right) and I in Geneva – September 2016 – we worked together at the TD Bank in Montreal in their credit card customer service department.

This is my friend Adam Grantzidis – we worked together some years ago and lost touch until we reconnected in Geneva today. Although we only had a couple of hours, there was so much to talk about in a short amount of time.

Although Adam and I have shared vastly different life experiences, there was a strong connection between us as we shared some of the challenges each of us has faced over the years and the lessons we learned from those. There was this distinct feeling of being with a trusted old friend with whom I could share or ask anything. It even felt like I had just seen him yesterday. It made me wonder : How is such a powerful connection possible after so long? Well, I’ll try to answer that question with some reflections on ingredients for a powerful connection and friendship. 😉

Genuine mutual interest
First, Adam and I both had a genuine interest in reconnecting and hearing about all that has happened over the last 15 years. I noticed that he had a sincere curiosity to hear about my news and a great ability to listen. He asked real questions that arrived at the heart of the emotions I was feeling. In turn, I was excited to hear about what he had been up to. This mutual interest helped recall that connection and friendship from so many years ago.

Honesty and authenticity
A second important ingredient is that Adam and I had “give and take” in our conversation. Not only was he willing to share some of the hardships and challenges he has experienced, but he asked me about mine too. Asking questions necessarily means you must also be willing to answer them, and be authentic and open about how you feel. This is what creates a bond of intimacy and a strong human connection. Of course it’s wonderful to share successes and all the good and great things you are proud about.

Being honest in your relationships means avoid hiding how you really feel and being willing to share the experiences that have hurt you, your failures, the memories that cause pain, the thoughts that cause worry and anxiety, the events that left scars on your soul. These are the experiences you might hesitate to tell because you don’t want to burden the conversation. In order to create real intimacy you have to take the risk and face the possibility that someone may reject you or may not react the way you want to hear. When you are willing to face the possibility of disappointment is when you are at your most vulnerable. So when someone asks you that question – ask yourself – are you willing to answer? To really answer from the heart?

Shared values
A third element that comes to mind is the idea of a kindred spirit. Some may call it that “soul connection”. This doesn’t always need to happen but when it does it is awesome. Kindred spirits have shared principles and outlooks on life – a system of values that guides how they operate and make decisions. From my side, this means a willingness to try new things, be open to new ideas and experiences, to take risks, look out and care for others, relate to people on an intimate level, and see the world through a kaleidoscopic perspective.

During our short reunion, Adam and I not only shared all that we had been up to, but exchanged knowing looks and laughs about some of the memorable experiences we have been through. Having a common worldview or philosophy with someone creates an immediate and awesome connection and helps establish a foundation of trust (because you just “get” each other). Of course, establishing trust is possible without this kindred mindset – it may just require a bit more work and emphasis in showing interest and being honest and authentic (refer back to points #1 and #2 above).😉

Investment of time and effort
A final thought – over the years, the unstable and transient nature of my life led me to forget the basic and simple truth that friendship and relationships require time and effort to grow stronger. And this has come at a great personal cost to me. You can have all of the above but you need to invest effort and commitment over time. For many years it was convenient to ignore this in favour of a desire to see the world and be “independent”. And while I value solitude greatly, I wish I had deeper personal connections.

So, 14 years later my path crosses again with this old soul, and little has changed – still the warm and tender smile, a genuine curiosity and compassion for others, and a desire for adventure that burns strong. The years go by but it is like time never passed.

Thanks Adam, for reminding me of the power and potential of a true and strong human connection, and some of the important ingredients for building a powerful friendship.

Talk to you soon buddy.

Do you have any reflections to share on what’s made your friendships stronger? Please comment below. :)  Click here to read more reflections on Live Passionately.

Solo hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian
A male ibex and the Mont Blanc massif in cloud. Photo by Alamy @ The Guardian

A few days ago I posted a National Geographic article about great long distance hiking trails in different parts of the world. The first one on the list – hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc – caught my eye and I decided to book the trip! Continue reading Solo hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Bungee jumping on the Corinth Canal in Greece

In 2006, on a visit to Athens, Greece, there was a sign on the wall in the backpackers’ hostel where I was staying. It screamed: SEEKING THRILLS? JUMP WITH US! 79m FREE-FALL OVER WATER. I needed no further convincing to try bungee jumping for the first time. But …easier said than done…

The Corinth Canal is a 6.4km long and extremely narrow man-made channel which cuts across the Pelopennesian peninsula in Greece. First conceived and proposed in 7th century BC, its primary purpose was to save ships a 700km (and several days) journey around the peninsula. Over a period of two thousand years one leader after another attempted to build it but either failed to complete it or abandoned the idea. It was finally built in the late 19th century. While most modern ships today are too big to use it, it is still a very useful shortcut for many small ships engaging in Greek or Mediterranean commerce, as well as cruise ships – as many as 11,000 boats each year.

The Corinth Canal in Greece

In 2003, some pioneering entrepreneurs built a bungee jumping deck across the 21 metre span enabling thrill-seekers like me to free-fall out over the water – a 79m drop. According to this website, it is one of the top 10 bungee jumping destinations in the world (top 20 if you ask these guys). They charge about 60 euro, and an additional 10 for a dvd copy.

This is an easy afternoon trip from Athens and it only took me an hour or so to get there from the bus terminal in Athens. If you’ve ever tried bungee jumping and were scared to do it, then you know exactly how I feel. As I signed my name on the waiver form absolving the jump operators of all liability, I started to have my doubts. I had come this far, though and resolved to follow through with it. I gave the thumbs up and they strapped me into the harness.

Getting prepped for the jump by Zulu Bungy staff

I walked out on to a metal platform which is about 10 feet wide. Through the grate you can see the cold blue water of the sea below. I started to get jitters just from the height. My heart started to beat faster and my breath caught in my throat.

The bungee jumping platform

All of a sudden I hear cheers and laughter. I looked over to my left and there was a group of locals gathered there to watch tourists do the jump. The instructor laughed and said, “You can’t back out now!” He handed me off to his colleague who took me through the process of the jump, while he organized the video camera. I paid attention carefully – this was not something I wanted to screw up! In particular, he said, it is important to dive as far out as possible in an arc off the platform to give yourself some swing on the way down. I really didn’t know how I was even going to jump off at all, much less dive out as purposefully as he suggested I should.

As I stepped out on to the platform, the instructor gripped my harness to steady me. I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Seize the day”, I thought! From behind me I heard him count down from five: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … I hesitated and stepped back.  I looked back and said: “I don’t know if I can do this. Can you push me?”

He said no way – you need to do this yourself! So we tried again and I did it. :) So glad I got this video. What happened to me when I jumped happens to very few people, they told me. Listen carefully, near the end the cameraman exclaims “Malaka!” This means “Idiot” in Greek. :)