You look like you’re having fun. I’m bored! — My neighbor
Travel to Turn Your Life Around
Those words come out somewhere over Manila. Leading up to this my mind was running on fumes. Little do I know that those simple words are going to fuel a great conversation with two new and amazing people. Days and small moments like this are why you must travel to turn your life around. Things hadn’t been going so well following a minor operation leaving me physically unable to do lots of basic things. Couple that with winter in a small town and the resulting boredom between December and March grows unbearable.
Fast forward to this Airbus A320 headed for Kuala Lumpur and the moments before my life-altering conversation. I’m not a big fan of crowded flights because my fellow air travelers tend to be…well…a bit pushy and rude. While flying towards international airspace another unfortunate fact quickly settles in. My two legs are too long for this row and it’s my own fault for lacking sufficient funds to buy roomier seats. At least I’m on the aisle with a Korean couple taking the inner two seats. All is good and well for the time being. The plane bypasses Taiwan and my assurances remain firm that this spot is all mine and the only thing lying ahead was sunny KL.
But even though I’m happy with the aisle something keeps bothering my cranky and sleep deprived mind. The neighbors keep getting up at the most inopportune times and it’s killing me! To keep calm on the outside, my inner monologue is raging. Reading while jotting down some notes seems simple enough when the staff starts to dole out another meal service. On budget airlines like Air Asia, one can prebook or purchase meals on board. Honestly, this is preferable because the other airlines just feed passengers way too often. Two meals for a six-hour flight is more than enough.
I ask (peace offering) the male neighbor if he wants me to get a flight attendant’s attention to buy something. He declines and then curtly asks, “Why did you ask me that?” I’m taken aback by this and defensively mention that some of the FAs didn’t speak Korean. Maybe this would help him but, alas, I feel shut down and sulk to my book and notes. At this rate we’re somewhere over the Philippines and the flight is at least halfway complete.
Meal service commences and, being stuffed from the previous meal, I prepared to decline the FA’s invitation to purchase another. There is always a moment of anxiety before speaking because, while flying, I always have the hardest time deciphering and understanding any sounds nearby. Thus, I always struggle to make sense of the words coming out of anyone’s mouth when they utter the simplest of sentences. But this one comes from another direction, and I’ll always remember it.
“You look like you’re having fun. I’m…so…bored!”
Now is the time to turn things around. My neighbor says that to me as I slowly look over to confirm that it is him speaking, and that he’s actually directing his words at me. The man has a big smile on his face and that moment instantly makes me think I have a new friend. And from then until the end of the flight we’re instant friends. We speak for at least two hours and I can’t tell you what about. I can’t even begin to remember. I just know that he and his wife are two of the nicest people that I’ve ever met.
We talk about religion, travel, Korean culture, and all kinds of other things as our plane flies over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Yujin is a kindergarten teacher while John runs a beauty salon in Seoul. This flight is the couple’s shorter of two and they’ll eventually travel to Perth in Australia for a visit with John’s cousin.
Our flight dips towards pre-landing altitude and Malaysia comes into view. Then, John does something extraordinary further furthers my hope for humanity. He actually THANKS me for the conversation and, though his trip would certainly be long, everything will be okay, he says, because of my taking time to talk with him and Yujin. I’m stunned and flabbergasted, and in a good way. No, a GREAT WAY.
Although I’ll never see them again, John and Yujin absolutely helped me turn it around towards people everywhere. If only I’d taken pictures so the memory of their faces doesn’t fade like other people long forgotten. Too late though.
Great people exist. That’s a fact. However, they won’t always come out and grab us. No matter where we live, it’s our responsibility to seek out those people because there’s always something new and exciting to learn. People like John and his wife are our example.
I was sitting in that chair all tired and cranky while I could’ve been chatting it up and learning more from two fantastic people during the entire flight. There’s always a bright spot at the end of a dark tunnel. It’s up to us to find it. That’s why you must travel to turn your life around.