Stranger Things Have Happened

November 21, 2011

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Prompt #21: When we travel, our senses are heightened. We feel more alive and we’re more free to do things we might not at home. We can be who we want. There’s an air of urgency to everything we do – we know our time here, in this place, and with these people, is limited. If we want to do something, we have to do it now. It’s no wonder then that many travelers have relationships on the road. Tell us about a “special someone” you met while traveling.

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.” –Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When you’re traveling, you’re constantly meeting people. As I said about finding “my people” in Greece, sometimes you spend an afternoon together, sometimes you run into people a country later, sometimes you end up traveling together for weeks. You never know who you’re going to meet and that in itself is half the adventure.

On my first solo trip, I started my final day in Panama City, at a coffee shop near my hostel. There was only one other person in the coffee shop and I finally worked up the nerve to say “Hola” and ask him if he spoke English. As it turned out, he did — he was from Spain. My new friend was also leaving that same afternoon, and had been staying at the same hostel as me. Also, as it turned out, he was a much better Spanish speaker than I, but didn’t have a map of the area, while I was a much better navigator (and had a map), but didn’t have more than the basics of Spanish. So after we finished our cafes, we ended up wandering around the city together, visiting several museums and shops, walking all around Casco Viejo, snagging some Sangria after wandering into a party near one of the Embassies and generally have a fun morning.

It was the perfect end to Panama City. It turned out he also had a friend who was driving him to the airport, and I had about five seconds to decide “do I go with them, as he’s offered me a ride, or do I play it safe and just get a taxi?” My mind said “this could potentially be a highly-detailed scam to kidnap you”, and my gut said “highly doubtful, go for it, but don’t write home about it.” I ended up just catching a free ride to the airport and of course, it all turned out fine. And a year later, when I came traipsing through Spain on my round the world trip, my Panama City stranger showed me around his city of Madrid.

Sometimes the perfect chance encounter of spending the day with a complete stranger and pretending you’re old friends is more exciting than a “love affair” on the road.

Have you ever had a random chance encounter?

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