This past Sunday’s 11-hour, two-stop-layover plane ride was a testament to my growing travel resilience and a simple undeniable fact: The world is really a lot smaller than you think it is. On the plane from Washington, DC to Burlingame, CA, I ended up sitting next to an unassuming, future friend.
At first, she was a random stranger, whom I shared an uncomfortable arm rest and SkyMall magazine with. At mid-conversation, I was enamored with her story. At last words, we swapped email addresses and shared laughs. Funny how life brings you a friend when you least expect it.
A stranger and a friend. A world traveler, public speaker and retired hippie from Evansville, Indiana; the most obscure city I’d ever expect to find such a warm soul, wise sage, soft-spoken public speaker and former hippie from San Francisco. Tina was her name. She was a gorgeous, older woman of 75 who looked like she lived a good, long life. The life of a traveling nurse by day and traveling hippie by night.
“Those were the years, San Francisco, 1967, so many parties, so many sights, so many memories. We worked hard and played hard. I find myself missing it even now.”
The lines around her fluttering eyes only wrinkled when she smiled and every word from her lips was lyrical and said with purpose, as if once speech-written and never presented.
“I once ran for public office in Indiana. Always thought if I could do it over again and not be a nurse, I’d do something more exciting like law.”
Somewhere in between her breaks in intonation and lean-ins to hear what I was apparently softly speaking, my nostril caught the scent of her gardenia perfume. That was my mother’s favorite. She reminded me of my mother 20 years from now. I’ll never forget what came next:
“From what I gather –– like you –– I had a restless spirit. I only married once for a year, and was miserable for about 364 of them. I missed having fun, exploring, living.”
Not letting her slip by for fear of something I don’t even know, I slipped her a smile and a bright pink sticky note with my scribbled email address.
“Good luck and follow what you believe is right, Lauren. Everything else will follow.”
Wow. I had been wedged in economy class with a world-class lady.