It was Thanksgiving weekend. Six thousand miles away, people were eating turkey and mashed potatoes, sharing what they were grateful for and passing out on couches with the dull roar of football playing in the background.
I was doing none of those things ... because I was in Slovenia.
I'll be honest. "I'm in Slovenia" is not something I ever imagined I would say--except for that one time I met a Slovenian soccer player while on vacation in Mexico and was convinced for a day that I would marry him. And yet there 1 was. There we were. My husband, Michael (who does not play soccer), and I were wandering around the quaint, slightly damp cobblestone streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital. And though we missed Thanksgiving, I felt distinctly grateful. Not only for the fairy tale city we had just stepped into, but because I'd just heard one of the best sales stories of my life.
Before I go any further, I should tell you something. Stories are my life. They are my work, my currency, the way I see the world. I told my first story when I was 11 years old. And ever since that day, stories have followed me, sought me, and now I spend my days speaking about using stories strategically and teaching others to tell theirs.
In fact, stories are the reason I was in Slovenia. I was invited from the U.S. specifically to speak to nearly 1,000 marketing and brand managers, media execs, and advertising creatives from across Eastern Europe on the power of storytelling in business.
So you can imagine the irony, or at the very least the intrigue, when I--the story expert--witnessed the greatest story coup of all time.
It happened in the evening hours of that late November weekend. Though Slovenians don't celebrate Thanksgiving, the city was festive and alive as they celebrated the beginning of the holiday season with an annual tree-lighting ceremony. Michael and I walked among thousands of Slovenians enjoying local wine, chestnuts roasting on the open fires of street vendors, and more wine. The night sky was dark, the air was wet and chilled, and the streets glowed with soft, warm light from the Christmas decor suspended between every building. The faint sound of carols echoed from the city center, and the shop windows lining the streets sparkled, calling to us, inviting us to come in and explore.
Well, that's not entirely true. The shop windows were calling to me, not us. Shop windows do not call to Michael, because Michael does not shop. He doesn't window-shop, online-shop, bargain-shop, or anything-shop. He purchases almost no things. The elastic waistband of his underwear disintegrates before Michael buys another pair. He, in fact, may not even have a wallet.
As our European trip progressed, this fundamental difference in our shopping preferences developed into a rather repetitive conversation.
Me: Oh! A local designer's boutique. Let's check it out!
Michael: [Acts as if he didn't hear me. Keeps walking.]
Me: Oh! A local rug-maker's shop. Let's check it out!
Michael: [Doesn't hear me. Keeps walking.]
Me: Oh! Everything in that shop is made of cork. Let's check it out!
Michael: [Pulls out his cell phone, though it doesn't...