Travel: Making Friends

I love to travel.

Although my preferred method of travel seems to be changing as air travel becomes more cumbersome and less friendly (remember when we used to “fly the friendly skies”?), I still love to travel. I also like traveling alone from tome to time. As my kids get older, they are more and more embarrassed when I talk to other travelers.

I have been traveling for a long time. The world is big and scary if I do not make friends along the way. However, there are some really interesting people in the world. We meet people all the time in random ways. We talk to the teller at the bank, we “network” at conferences, and we talk to the person sitting next to us on the airplane.

I stayed up all night on Tuesday night after going to see the Civil Wars and then needing to catch a 5 a.m. flight to Indiana for my conference on Wednesday. The normally crowded area inside the airport was pretty empty after midnight! As I surveyed the possible spots to plop myself down, taking into account my need for plug-ins for all of my electronic devices, I found myself drawn to a corner where a woman much my senior slept.

In true “Stacy” fashion, I watched until she awoke and acknowledged her. It did not take long before we talked as if we had been friends forever. Martha, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I count you as friend.

As I mentioned in a previous post, other people’s stories fascinate me. I love to listen. I love to talk. In our world filled with headphones and other means of tuning out those around us, I fear that we miss out. We are so afraid of the potential creeper, stalker, or serial killer that we just pull into our cocoon and ignore those around us. We put checks in the mail and send “trained” people out to touch the world. In doing this, we lose a part of what it means to be human.

I have met so many fascinating people over the course of my travels!

On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Martha shared with me about her life. I loved learning about her family, her own travels to places like Germany (by ship….can you imagine!), and how she became a director of musicals and plays. I was fascinated that she had worked at boarding schools and that her children now also work at boarding schools. It astonished me that her children had grown up in New Hampshire but attended college in the Midwest. What a culture shock! As often comes up, I shared with her that my husband is a minister. From there I learned about her faith journey. We each had very good reasons for spending the night in the airport…I had gone to a concert; she needed to be home in time to direct a choral concert honoring Holocaust survivors.

I could not make this stuff up! This is where story is found. Real people. Real stories. If I ever wrote a book, my characters would not be “friends” that I created…they would be real, wonderful people with whom I have shared adventure and a brief six hours of conversation.

Ten years ago, our family embarked on a grand adventure and moved to Scotland for a year. Kerry had been granted a scholarship that we could not refuse! Looking back, I know that many must have thought that we were crazy. Kerry and I were 27 years old at the time. The kids were only 4 and 5. With eight suitcases, four backpacks, and layers upon layers of clothing on our backs (including LL Bean rain coats for the wet weather in Scotland), we flew across the pond and started a year filled with adventure, wonder, as well as school and work (for me anyway…).

We contracted for a flat – sight unseen – and arranged for the children to attend school…all through internet research and email. Friends who had gone over the year before us collected us from the airport and delivered us to the flat. We attended a military tattoo (awesome!!!!) at the castle, and the kids started school. So much wonder!

Over the course of our year in Scotland, we met many people. Because Kerry was a divinity student, we made many connections with those in his program. New College had events and trips for students and families that assisted us in making connections. I took a job at Starbucks and made a dear friend there with whom, thanks to Facebook, I remain in contact even today.

The most fascinating person whom we met in Scotland, though, would have top be our neighbor – AJ Stewart – who believes she is the reincarnated King James IV of Scotland. She has written books detailing her first life (The Autobiography of King James IV…as remebered by AJ Stewart) as well as the early years of her current life (“King’s Memory” originally titled “Died 1513; Born 1925″). This woman became quite dear to me, and she challenged my thinking as well as enriched my life!

I want to be clear that I am not advocating that anyone throw caution to the wind as they travel. However, if we open our minds and hearts a bit, overcome the fear that overwhelms our society, and take off our headphones for a few minutes each day, we may find that someone interesting and exciting will fall into our life.