I love to travel and tend to think that I’m a pretty good traveler. Why is that? Traveling is one of those activities in life that can be full of the unexpected. As much as one plans and schedules, if something can go wrong or change on you, it probably will. When I travel, I’m pretty good at rolling with the unexpected. To really enjoy traveling, you have to respond to unexpected situations and changes in plans with as little, or preferably zero, freaking out as possible. The situations can be stressful, yes, but that doesn’t mean that our responses have to be stressful on top of that. More importantly, I have found time after time that when I look back I can see great reasons why I was meant to miss that flight or why the hotel lost my reservation.
A prime example and my most recent favorite, is this past trip that I took to Spain. I arrived back in Denver just last Friday and am still seeing the end of the trip as my favorite part of the two-week vacation. Originally, I was supposed to arrive back in Denver Thursday evening. But as the traveling fates would have it, my first flight from Madrid to Frankfurt arrived late and I missed my next connecting flight to Chicago. Now, here is where I will be unashamed to promote Lufthansa Airlines because they provided great customer service. The gentleman that assisted me at their ticket desk was efficient and quick to get me re-booked on the next best flight and it did turn out to be much more convenient than my original flight plan. What I also appreciated was that he talked with me of the options and made sure to explain the benefits and negatives of the choices I had. By the time all was said and done, I was grateful to be booked on a direct flight to Denver the next day that left around noon and arrived mid-afternoon Denver time. I was also put up in a hotel complimentary of the airline and provided with a dinner voucher and breakfast. This gave me the chance to rest and enjoy a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed. I was actually excited because the two mornings prior, I had to wake up ridiculously early and I’m not the best at sleeping on flights so I was pretty tired at this point.
This first part of the story is what I like to think of as the “rhyme” of traveling. A rhyme has a rhythm to it, with beats and sounds that I like to see as the people and plans that unfold in one’s travels. In this case, my original travel plans took on a rhyme that involved the Frankfurt airport, the Lufthansa customer service personnel, and eventually my hotel accommodations and new friends I would soon make (we’ll get to that part soon). Now I believe that the most important and influential aspect of the rhyme is how we respond and handle the situation within ourselves and in our interactions with others. Here is where we have the most control and influence of the situation since we can really only control ourselves. I could have chosen to respond frenzied and angry, making for a stressful and unpleasant “rhyme”. Instead, I realized that it wasn’t going to help or change anything to react negatively and take things out on others. I just simply didn’t want the stress for myself either. And in those few minutes that I took to stand still at the closed gate, I chose to relax and be calm. This is where I started to feel at peace and at the same time excited….I realized, there was a “reason” for this happening.
So the “reason” part of traveling…I love this part because it is the take away of the whole travel experience. The “reason” in this particular story of my travels was to make certain new friends. And I’m so glad that I did. Into the story enters my first new friend, Mihel (as he refers to for English speakers, Michael). After getting taken care of at Lufthansa Customer Service, I was waiting for the free shuttle to my hotel and noticed after an hour had gone by that the only other person still waiting was Mihel. I asked him what hotel shuttle he was waiting for and it turned out that he was going to my same hotel, had missed the same flight as me, and was re-booked on the same flight the next day. We decided from there to share a cab, which he graciously paid for since he was traveling for work and it was a business expense. As a result, I had great dinner company and breakfast company, gaining a new friend who is from Croatia and travels extensively. It was so edifying to learn more about the culture of Croatia and what his life there is like and how he grew up. We discussed my own American and Hispanic cultures, comparing our countries’ points of view on everything from family to politics to religion. Overall, I found that my approach to life is very European (big surprise there).
From there, my next reasons showed up on the flight to Denver, embodied as two Israeli young men, Diego and Daniel. Can I just say, I had the best time on that flight and the three of us had to be having the most fun out of everyone on that plane. Not only that, but it turns out that they manufacture composite electric guitars for their company called Viktorian. I have a mother who plays Spanish guitar, I play acoustic guitar myself, and my two younger brothers have quite the talent with the guitar as well. Do you see a commonality here? It wasn’t just guitars and business that we discussed though. We laughed about accents, shared about our families and cultures, and learned new words in Hebrew and English. What was most fascinating to me was to hear their stories of life in Israel with the strong influence, many call it dominance, of the combination of religion and politics. There is no separation of the two in their lives and country and to hear their insight and learn of their perspective and how it affects them, was eye-opening. It has me thinking about things in a new way regarding my own country and culture.
I could go on and on about my new friendships, but it’s details that are still unfolding. Full of coincidences and what I love to refer to as “small world” episodes, the rhyme and reason of this part of my trip is very special to me. I can sincerely say that I’m so glad that I missed that connecting flight. After all, making friends is one of the most enriching things in life. Just like travel is. You could say that they both can turn out for our best.