I found myself being jostled into the conscious world as I awoke from my uncomfortable position on the United Airways plane. I never can seem to get used to sleeping with my knees scrunched up against the seat in front of me. It was my first time flying alone and I was nervous, but before I could so much as yawn, a man in his 40’s, sitting to the left of me, began the usual flight chat. He asked my name, where I was from, and where I was headed. Now, I am rather speculative about giving out personal information to strangers, but this man had a kind smile and soft eyes, reminding me of Mr. Rodgers on an old television show. I told the man about myself and mentioned that I was headed to Clearwater, FL, to spend the week with a friend and his Grandmother. He listened tentatively and nodded, saying the beaches were magnificent down that way. That was when I noticed it. There was something different about this man. He was curious and honest, almost like an inquisitive child would have been. How odd was it that I had picked my seat next to this man of integrity and wisdom? Aren’t airplanes supposed to be filled with snoozing business men and impatient travelers? I could have picked any random seat. I listened as he told me about the business trip he was on. He had been working out of an animal shelter in the northern states. His demeanor rubbed off on everyone who came in contact with him, that which I was for sure. Then out of no where he began to tell me how he had met his wife and married her 4 days later. I explained to him there was no way he could have been sure he’d met “the one” within a period of 96 hours. He let out a laugh and said he and his wife will have been together for 38 years next month. The man continued to ask questions about me, inquiring as to where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to major in. I told him that it has been my dream to be a neonatal nurse practitioner since kindergarten. He told me that was a respectable dream and to hold on tight to it. He continued saying that college can easily get the best of anyone and that I should be careful when making decisions but never to be scared. Through this man’s few words of wisdom, I left feeling a little bit more confident in my future and its uncertainties. When our plane touched down at Tampa Bay, the man in the seat next to me showed me where to get my baggage and took me to my baggage claim. As I watched him walk away forever, I was excited to tell my twin sister about the interesting character who sat next to me on my flight to Tampa Bay.
I love to travel and I would be the first person to hop on a plane with an unknown destination. But I always seem to taking the trip for the destination itself. I was able to learn through this experience that it’s not all about where you’re going. Sometimes you learn the most through the journey itself and the people you meet along the way. So pick your seat, you never know who will be sitting next to you.
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