Encounter on a plane

You know you’re travelling too much when your own apartment feels more like a hotel.
I am back home, beyond exhausted, and yet, cannot sleep. Too much adrenaline, I suppose.
After six flights within the last week- two of which, granted, were self-induced – I feel ready to stay put on solid ground for a while. Whether that is achievable or not is largely beyond my control.

However, I thought I balance my usual complaining and outline a brief episode that speaks to the benefits of frequent travel. You see, one good thing about flying often is that it presents the opportunity of some interesting, totally random encounters. The other day, for example, on my way to Copenhagen, I found myself seated on the plane next to an eccentric-looking lady, who I could tell hated flying just as much as I do, by the way she was grimacing at every turn of the plane.

….Turbulence hits and we’re suddenly best friends – after-all, this might be our very last human encounter!

It turns out this very funny lady used to live in Rome (my favourite place on Earth)…and Paris, and Madrid. She tells me she hates flying, despite having had 20 years of flying “three times a week, to the point that I never was quite sure where I am”! Interesting…
Then, in the course of conversation I hear she hates North America (“plastic land with plastic people’), even though she had some success there ‘in films’….She doesn’t like the Danish much, either, even though she’s one of them, because “they pretend they’re so happy, but then why do they drink so much, why take drugs and have such high suicide rates?”. The lady is certainly opinionated, and caustic enough for me to take a real interest in.

It turns out this lady was, way back when, the most famous Danish model ever, former Miss Universe and famous throughout Europe in the 60s and 70s. She had lived her life on different continents, had fun with famous people (how many people could say they got wined and dined by Cary Grant?) and subsequently retired into a sedate family life back in Denmark.

Needless to say, I only half-believed the story. But then I asked her name, googled it later at the hotel, and, sure enough, everything she said is all very true. I’m not going to put her name here, since I am a proponent of privacy, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.

Interestingly, she said something that I’ll try and remember and take into account from now on. When talking about careers, she said the most important thing and the key to all success is to believe in yourself AND share that belief with the world. She said one’s career is like a shop: if you don’t invite people in and show them all the wonderful things you have, they may never think of buying them, and might walk past the shop altogether. So you have to believe in yourself and make sure you engage people to also believe in you. It my sound corny, but I think this is actually very good advice. And here I am, all prejudiced and thinking all models are, by definition, brainless.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about how travel can enrich one’s life beyond the joy of seeing beautiful things. And how such seemingly random encounters can shape your own life in unexpected ways.

For example, two years ago, while travelling through Italy, while in Verona, one morning I went down for breakfast in my hotel. At an adjoining table there was this older man (in this 80s), who was pensively listening to the opera being played in the background and tearing up with emotion. We got to talking about opera (the famous Arena di Verona festival was on) and I found out he was originally from Italy but living in Canada. And that he adored opera and, every year, he would come to Verona for a week during the festival. He had been doing it for 20 years in a row!!! At the time I thought to myself only someone wealthy would be able to afford keeping such a tradition. But life is funny that way, and this year I’ll be attending my third Arena di Verona festival myself, while the lottery is still beyond my reach. So a random travel encounter and hearing about someone else’s tradition, combined with some unexpected twists of my own fate, led to my adopting that extravagant tradition, myself.

I guess the point to this post is that travel, whether for business or pleasure, brings the opportunity to meet people who can, completely unexpectedly, surprise, and help you enrich your own life. And that perhaps all these random encounters are not that random at all, but rather little signs from fate telling you that there is a purpose to all human interaction, and that sometimes the most inconsequential encounters can have a profound effect on one’s life. Which may also mean that those people who stay put and never leave their small geographical comfort zone may miss out completely on this whole other layer of experience that is, in theory, open to all.

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2 thoughts on “Encounter on a plane

  1. I always thought traveling changes you in many ways…
    I admire you for finding the time to express and share your thoughts here. Keep doing it. It gives me and whoever reading your post a great pleasure.

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