Somewhere Over Europe...

October 28th, 2013, 10pm

It was 8.9°C with few clouds. The breeze was gentle.

Some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met are nameless to me, and I to them. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Unnamed strangers, not to be seen again share a little bit of their story. Sometimes it’s just the latest chapter, sometimes the highlights, and sometimes the whole ongoing saga.

Somewhere over Europe I found myself next to the latest. A trilby panama donned on chaotic hair betrayed the calming demeanor beneath. This was a traveler. Unlike those that keep tallies of places been or crave photos as proof of accomplishing a checklist, this passenger revered relationships made instead, and treasured the potential impact those connections have.

Memories were shared and all maintained a common thread. My “single-serving friend” was a hospital volunteer in Afghanistan prior to and during the American invasion, and the most enthralling stories were of visits to the market and bartering with “his favorite bearded old man” - not the brushes that were had with exposure to soldiers to get there. Next was a motorcycle road trip through Pakistan down the coast of India that passionately lingered on the company shared during a dinner - not the military checkpoints passed in bribery to get there.

In our conversation, it was evident that the thrill and the exaltation my companion felt, came from opening up to everyday strangers, and that getting to know a culture and a place meant getting to know its people, not its art or cathedrals.

Shortly after landing, we remained unnamed, but not necessarily strangers, and slipped into the crowds of the airport. I then spent the rest of my layover thinking of a trip to India.

Next time you’re on that plane, hold off on closing your eyes and putting the music on right away. The person you’re ignoring next to you may be the most arresting and insightful part of your trip and may inspire the next.

Ragini, Cassie, Adrian, Christine and 3 others said thanks.

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Jeffrey Bay

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