Listening to a CBC radio program, I was interested to hear a retired teacher say how she’d lost her confidence in talking to people since she’d retired. Her work colleagues had been her social grouping as well and now she was lost. So, she’d decided to start a blog called, “A year of strangers”, where she would talk to strangers 365 days of the year. Sitting next to strangers on a plane can be either a terrible or fascinating experience.

Over the years I’ve been lucky. In my case you are with them for 18+ hours. You eat with them, sleep in close quarters, listen to them snore, watch a movie, talk and laugh with them. I either learn something new from these human beings or learn something about myself (diplomacy or patience mainly). Like the Californian engineer who took up meditation 20 years ago because of a stressful job and is now teaching others.

The young man from Toronto who’s been in Australia for two years, and is going home to surprise family. As a mum, I pictured his mother when she opens the door and sees him. The 12-year-old Aussie kid who was celebrating his birthday on the plane and was so excited when I told him he gets the same day twice when you cross from Southern to Northern hemisphere. Two birthdays and a trip to Disneyland. It doesn’t seem to matter what culture or language people have, we share similar beliefs; that family is important, and experiences they’ve had far outweigh what they own. You find the common ground even 1,000s of miles in the air.

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