Summer is approaching fast and chances are you’ve planned a vacation. Are you looking forward to relaxing on the beach, tasting some culture and history on your holiday or going on adventures? Don’t forget to enjoy getting there! A recent encounter I had, reminded me of how great unexpected meetings are when travelling.

Like many other people, I have the tendency to take my own life as a reference for that of everybody else. Since I live in Antwerp, a city that is easily accessible, where I could buy chocolate milk at 3am if I wanted, I sometimes forget that is not the case for everyone. The other day, I got in contact with a 75 year old lady. The occasion wasn’t that promising: we were both planning to fly home from San Francisco when our flight got cancelled. In order to exchange our plane ticket, we had to queue for hours. The woman had been in San Francisco to help her 77-year-old sister, who was ill. Now my fellow traveller had to go back home since her three months stay in the US came to an end.

She was returning to her home at Fair Island, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the United Kingdom. Only 70 people live there. The island has one nurse, one shop that is accessible two hours per day and one pub that only opens on Saturday evenings. The islanders have 1 ‘Chief’ that represents them in the council on the principal island of the region. To go shopping in a supermarket, the lady had to take two boats. In order to get home from the US, she was flying to London and then transferring to an internal flight to a regional airport. The cancellation of her flight meant she would be delayed for a few days, since only two boats per week navigate from that airport to her island. That is such a contrast with my own life that I had a hard time imagining what living like that would be like.

So we had a nice talk about the pros and cons of living on a small island. If you live on a remote, windy location with only 70 people, you obviously know everything about each other. That means you empathize. So when a baby was born the year before, the islanders organized a big party. But then the wife of a newly arrived couple with two kids had an affair with the shopkeeper. Her (now ex-)husband moved to a different island with the kids. Which means there are now only five children left on the island…

After queuing for three hours, it was our turn to exchange tickets. 
The lady surprisingly gave me a kiss on each cheek and thanked me for keeping her company…

 It’s not always simple, enjoying the moment. But like the saying goings: every cloud has a silver lining.

So remember to treasure the unexpected things that happen, since you’ll never know what they’ll lead to. And whomever you meet on the road, be prepared to learn from them.

Connie’s comments: Experience peak moments with others especially those you love

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