“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”Dr. Seuss
When I graduated high school, I received a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go,” signed by all my high school teachers. I read that thing a couple times and stored it away in my keepsake box in my closet. I now realize the wisdom hidden within those pages. I realize that Dr. Seuss might have actually known what he was talking about. Crazy.
While I do love “the places you go,” one of my favorite things about traveling (if not my favorite thing) is the people you encounter on your journey. Whether it’s in the airport or walking through a tiny side street, there are so many unique moments I’ve experienced with total strangers.
I have decided to dedicate this month to them–the strangers I have met along the way. Perhaps they may find these posts one day. Perhaps we will never cross paths again. But may these glimpses into my travels inspire and remind you that beautiful experiences surround us all.
Let’s meet the first guest.
Pierre, the French boy.
(Yes, his name was actually Pierre. Cliché, I know.)
My roommate and I survived the most turbulent flight I’ve ever taken.
I’m not kidding when I say I thought we weren’t going to make it. First of all, I spent a good 15 minutes convincing the airport workers that I was the person I said I was. They thought my passport was fake because my photo looks nothing like me anymore (thanks, blonde Kristen). Pro tip: Do NOT get an updated passport right before you completely change your hairstyle/look… Unless you’re a spy. Then do.
Once we actually got in the air, the tiny airplane was dropping throughout the flight like the Tower of Terror at Disney World, and I was praying with every ounce of my being. We landed, and I silently praised God while literally shaking as I stood up to grab my bag. I glanced over at an elderly French lady who had the same reaction as I did. We smiled at each other nervously and took a deep breath.
Funny how you don’t need to say a single word to understand one another in moments of stress.
Glad that’s over.
With the flight behind me, the next battle was getting into the city. We were trying to make our way to the train stop, despite the construction outside the airport and the incessant London rain, when I caught a glimpse of a kid a little younger than us struggling to communicate with the local airport workers. They had translating apps up and running on their phones when I noticed he spoke French. I wasn’t going to say anything. We have technology for a reason, he can figure it out.
I hesitated for a moment before deciding to intervene. “Excuse-moi,” I said. “Je parle français. Si tu veux je peux traduire.”
Relieved, the boy replied, “Oui, je veux bien.”
I asked for directions to the proper train (which was helpful because we needed that information too). I told him to follow us, and my roommate and I invited him to sit with us as we got on the train. Conversation inevitably continued, the way it always does when one feels obligated to thank someone for helping him/her.
Pierre is 19 years old. He is a first year university student in Caen. I cannot remember where he was from in France, but I do know that he was going to see his girlfriend who lives in London. She was studying business. He was bright-eyed as he told us how long they had been dating, what she was doing in London and how excited he was to see her. “Ça fait six mois qu’on s’est pas vu,” he told me. It had been six months since they had seen each other, which translates to an eternity for any 19-year-old.
My roommate and I smiled as we noticed how thrilled he was to be there, exploring the city. The train pulled into Liverpool Street Station, and Pierre looked at us, his face suddenly turning very serious. For a moment, he no longer resembled the boy we had just met. “I’m really nervous,” he said. We reassured him it would be fine as we got off the train. We wanted to see him reunited with his girlfriend, but we didn’t want to be weird, so we trailed behind as he thanked us again for the help and ran off with his big, blue travel backpack strapped to his back.
I doubt I’ll ever see him again. I hope he had a good weekend in London.
Pierre taught me that it’s okay to reach out and help translate for people (even if you might make a fool of yourself because you do not speak perfectly either). He also taught me that it’s important to remember to glance back at your seat on the train before getting off (I left my phone on the train car and had to run back to get it). Thanks, Pierre.
Did you like this short little story? Stay tuned for more; I can’t wait to share more of my travels with you! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for all my latest posts!