In December of 2013, I took a writing hiatus in order to fully enjoy an adventure to Australia and southeast Asia as part of a goal to hit all seven continents before April 2015. Although I wasn’t writing, I continued meeting strangers over coffee. This is the first of several posts chronicling those international conversations.
It’s a beautiful sunny day in Sydney, Australia as I sit with Alexandra Petre, Cup 7, at the rooftop cafe within the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s a picturesque scene. The Harbor Bridge to our right, the Sydney Opera House to our left and the sounds of locals and tourists intermingling along the waterfront below us.
I actually “met” Alex in Canada two years before when my friend Asad, whom I met via Twitter, invited me to speak at the TEDxQueensU event he was organizing. The theme was “Nomad,” which made me a fitting speaker as I was in the middle of a yearlong nomadic adventure (74 cities in 14 months). Alex was the photographer for the event; however, we didn’t have a chance to connect. A few months later Alex was preparing for a trip and Asad introduced us via email. We exchanged a few messages and became Facebook friends.
Our coffee came about when I posted a photo of my travels in Sydney and she commented, “I’m here too, we should meet up!”
She suggested the museum for coffee and after we met up and ordered, the conversation quickly turned to travel. “What brought you to Sydney? Where were you coming from? Where are you going next?”
Alex, like myself, has a love of adventure and wanderlust. Her stories sound like so many of mine: adventures and misadventures happening in foreign lands with new connections made and insights gained.
At 23, Alex has an enviable travel history. Born in Romania, she moved to Toronto at age 16 and has since lived in Singapore, London, and India with trips throughout Europe, southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia.
While attending her final year of University in Canada, Alex received an email about opportunity to work for a startup in India. She applied and was offered a yearlong contract but after relocating her life to India she realized the opportunity wasn’t a good fit. She decided to be true to herself, she needed to get out of her contract early and look for new opportunities. The result was a consulting opportunity in London starting in April 2014. That meant she had a few months to fill, which, like any serious traveler, she filled with adventures to visit friends in both New Zealand and Australia.
Alex has a great sense of adventure, a bubbly personality and a warmth and openness to meeting new people. As a result, she has a network of friends around the world. The day after we met she was taking off to San Francisco to meet up with even more friends. I could resonate with her experience. What I intended to be a solo adventure in Sydney had turned into a week spent with really fantastic friends.
The first was Angela Shetler, Cup 24 from my first round of Cups, which was especially meaningful as we had never met in person. At the time of our conversation she was teaching English in Japan and our conversation took place over Skype. She offered to show me round Sydney and was a delightful tour guide.
The second was my friend, Jenay, whom I’d met in San Francisco a year earlier. She was the roommate of my best friend in San Francisco until a job opportunity moved her and her boyfriend to Sydney a month before my trip. While we weren’t close friends before the trip, she was insisted that I crash on her couch while I visited and was a fantastic host that made me feel like I was at home with old friends.
There was almost a fourth friend encounter—while I was at the airport leaving Sydney I discovered a friend I’d met in Austin, Texas was in the same area I’d been in just hours before. It’s funny how life works out sometimes.
The more I travel and make connections the more frequent these serendipitous encounters happens and it’s one of the reasons I love meeting new people.
Within every new connection exists a seed of opportunity.
Cup 7 illustrates how small and unexpected the world becomes when we are willing to reach out and connect with others without knowing where those connections will lead.
The conversation you strike up with the person next to you on an airplane may last 45 minutes and disappear from your memory but it could also lead to exchanging emails and starting a cherished friendship (believe me, I know from experience).
I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d meet someone in Canada and cross paths with them two years later halfway around the world. But that’s what happens you develop a routine habit of connecting with interesting people, staying in touch and reaching out when you have a chance.
It’s a recipe for creating wonderful memories.
And I’m so grateful Alex reached out and reminded me of that.