If you are anything like me, the majority of the time you spend traveling is spent in the airport or in the air because where you are and where you want to go is too far to drive. Or you could drive the distance, but it just would not be as efficient. Whatever the reason, you’ve spent so much time in the airport that flying has inevitably lost its luster.
When I was little I loved the airport. Everything about flying and traveling was an adventure and I could not get enough of it. But as a reach 20 years of life, the statement, “I’m over it” could not be any more accurate in describing my feelings towards flying.
Also, if you are like me, sitting next to strangers for extended periods of time isn’t exactly your thing either. I’m all about personal space and with airplane seats progressively getting smaller and my legs getting longer sitting on planes is just uncomfortable.
Normally, I’m a cell phone or magazine type of person. My head is down, I don’t usually make eye contact, I speak if spoken too, and if awkward eye contact is made, then I’ll flash my, no teeth smile to make things a little less awkward.
Well recently I broke my own mold and decided to have a conversation with the passenger flying next to me. My flight was from Charlotte to Atlanta so the total time in the air was about 40 minutes. I thought I could spare 40 minutes of my life to step outside of my comfort zone and actually communicate with someone instead of pretending that they were not there.
To say the least the experience was a positive one. Though I did not get this person’s name, he kindly broke the ice within our row on the plane by offering his pretzel M&M’s to us. He was sitting in the middle and the flight had just begun when he broke out the candy. “Would you like some?” he said. I replied by saying, “No, thank you.” Then he said, “Are you sure?”
Now I know this was a small gesture, but it was a friendly one at that. It was friendly enough for me, the anti-social flyer that I am, to consider continuing the conversation, and I did. We talked about UVA, basketball, baseball, D1 athletics, banking, sports broadcasting, different airlines, constant air travel and much more. Remember, this flight was only 40 minutes so we covered quite a bit of ground in such a short period of time.
By the end of the flight I knew a little bit about him which was pretty cool. I new that he had a younger daughter, really liked baseball, was from Georgia but worked in Charlotte and frequently traveled back and forth between the two cities every week.
The likelihood of me ever seeing this man again isn’t very strong, so getting to know him and learning about him might seem like a complete waste of time to some, but the take way from this conversation for me was much bigger than just getting to know a stranger.
What I learned was that everyone has a story and that we are more alike than we think. Someone once said, “You’d fall in love with everyone if you took the time to hear their story”, and after this travel experience I could not agree more. Everyone has something going for them, something interesting, something you can relate to, and something that can cause you to feel different emotions and change your perspective.
In this conversation, I realized that though we seemed very different just by appearance, we actually had a good amount in common.
My biggest take away from this is that often we get so consumed in ourselves and what we are doing; what’s going well, what’s not going well, etc. that we forget to pay attention to the people around us.
My Challenge: Next time you are out in a public setting, take the opportunity to talk to someone you don’t know. While the idea can be intimidating at first, you have to realize that people are more friendly than we give them credit for. I can almost guarantee that you will walk away from that conversation having learned something new, and maybe even have a new perspective on people, allowing you to reflect upon your habits in public settings. Just try it. You won’t regret it.