When I travel there is never a shortage of things to see and discover. But, over the years I have noticed that a lot of the stories I bring back from my travels actually happen when i’m in between
destinations. Whether it’s in an airport, on a train or waiting for a taxi. Here is but one of those tales…
We have all heard the phrase “It’s a small world.” But, when you start actually seeing more of the world — and realizing you will never be able to truly see it all, you really don’t believe it to be so small. Until…you start to meet other people along the way. My Mom famously recounts how her and my Dad ran into an old high school classmate of his after not seeing him for twenty years — in a bar in Hong Kong. I have gone off to graduate school and met people from Seattle who shared a mutual friend. Or, in Prague I befriended a fellow traveler who grew up down the road from where I worked in Washington state. But, nothing quite tops the true exemplification of “small world” like the fateful 4 a.m. flight I took in December 2007 from Dublin to Nice after a weekend of touring Dublin pubs and very little sleep…
I had been in Ireland for two days with some friends after finishing finals during my semester abroad. I was going back to the U.S. in two weeks and this was my last hurrah. At the end of our two days in Ireland our group was splitting up with two going to Amsterdam and three of us to Nice. I was part of the trio and our flight was at 4 a.m. In a very irresponsible decision, rather than get some rest — we all decided to stay up throughout the night and make one last lap of the Irish pubs in the Temple District of Dublin. So, by the time we arrived at the airport we were all thoroughly dazed with exhaustion and copious amounts of Guinness and Irish whiskey. The idea of sleeping for the three hour flight to the south of France was a met with huge anticipation.
We made it to our gate with little trouble and out of the corner of my eye I saw a tall boy ahead of us with close cropped reddish blonde hair and a thick black sweater talking to two girls. I blinked and looked again. The boy was so familiar. He looked just like an old friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in four years. My two traveling companions asked me if something was wrong. I told them about the shock of familiarity and that there was a slight possibility it could be the same friend. We hadn’t spoken in quite some time but we were Facebook friends and I had noted that he was doing a study abroad program in France at the same time I was in the U.K. But, it was still so unlikely.
My friends’ response to this was to start saying the guys name aloud (in true mature fashion) to see if he turned around in response. Nothing. This was obviously not the same person — just someone who looked a lot like him.
We finally boarded the flight and as we entered the plane, we were asked for our boarding pass stubs (RyanAirs odd policy). I suddenly realized I couldn’t remember which pocket of the many pockets I had put my stub. My two friends went ahead to find their seats while I apologized to the flight attendant and scrambled around in my bag for a few minutes until I located the scrap of paper. The plane was mostly empty and the few people in it had apparently noticed my fumbling around at the entrance. As I gave my stub to the flight attendant and made my way to the back of the plane I heard a surprised, “KEELI?!”
There — now in full view of me was the same guy I had glimpsed earlier now staring at me in surprise. I had been right. It had been the same friend I hadn’t seen since I was 16 from a small town in Washington state. Now, here we both were 20-years-old and meeting on an empty RyanAir flight from Dublin to the south of France at 4 a.m.
Coincidentally, he had seen me earlier as well and wasn’t sure if it was me. Only when I was fumbling around for my boarding pass (at a total loss) was he certain that it could only be me.
I would not get the much needed sleep that I was hoping for. My friend as it turned out had no time to spare when he got back to France as he had finals. We spent the whole three hours of the flight catching up (while my travel companions luckily got sleep). Hours later after bidding farewell to my friend at the airport and continuing onto Nice; I would literally begin to fall asleep mid-stride as I was walking the streets near the Mediterranean. It is still the most exhausted I have ever been to date.
In life and especially in travel — there are so many moments we get to experience. These gems that you never would have found had you stayed in one place. One such moment is that very isolated time of being on a plane in-transit on the other side of the world and talking to someone you hadn’t seen in years. That moment gave me a real sense of how small the world really is.
Photo Credit: By Jacob Axford (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons