It was his shaggy light brown hair and his hidden smile, which I could tell wanted to break out, that drew me to him. He sat alone on the ledge with his back against the glass, his hard, shiny carry-on suitcase in front of him. Though he looked content enough with his solitude, I noticed him looking our way every so often.
Little did I know I would find myself in a local pub with this man in just a few short days.
My friends and I were outside the gate, waiting for our flight; we took up a few more than our allotted four spots, but no one seemed to mind.
Our day had begun before dawn, with a minivan and too much espresso (if there is indeed such a thing as too much), in small town Missouri, and brought us here – John F. Kennedy Airport, New York. I was tired, and restless after our day, but exhilarated at the prospect of the adventure awaiting me.
Through that gate, a plane would bring me to Denmark, to five weeks of European travel, to people, museums, and palaces. Exhaustion had no hold on me – I was ecstatic.
I made my way down the terminal in search of a snack, and returned triumphantly to my spot with hummus and pretzels.
Happily satiated, with food to spare, I spoke to him and offered to share. Briefly, a look of surprise crossed his face, but the smile emerged and he took the container from me, audaciously asking if double-dipping was allowed.
“It’s all yours. I saw you eyeing it and wholeheartedly believe in sharing. Of course you can double dip.”
The interaction amused me, and we struck up a conversation. After all, strangers are simply friends I have not yet met.
I found myself sharing pretzels with a fellow North American who is one part musician, one part scientist, and full parts student, traveler, writer. Outgoing, and funny to boot, I obviously enjoyed our brief time together.
Plus, as a single, adventurous, travel-obsessed, woman, it is no secret I love to meet those who shares similar interests. Extra points if their passport isn’t from the same country as mine.
Then tragedy struck.
We parted ways, with 25 rows of people and 8 hours of flight between us. I fell asleep, lulled into a dream while watching Inside Out. By the time I woke, we were landing in Copenhagen.
As we left the plane, I looked for him, scanning the crowd for that shaggy hair.
Alas, no such luck. He was gone.
You might think I gave up, shot down by fate and destiny and the sheer improbability that I would ever see him again.
Well. That is not the story I have to tell.
Sometimes, fate and I disagree, and I decide to take things into my own hands. After very little debate on the topic, I decided to contact him and ask him to show me around his lovely city.
Just as I had hoped, he accepted.
This gorgeous city made me feel like a little kid in Neverland – it was colorful and vibrant and alive with wonder. Naturally, I was excited at the prospect of having a local show me around the nooks and crannies that make Copenhagen unique. We set a time and place; that was that.
A few hours before I boarded a bus for Berlin, I found myself in a dive bar with a Canadian I had known for a mere three days. Pure bliss.
For an hour and a half, we bantered, discussing Kurt Vonnegut, European culture, indie music, and our lives as single young adults who are simply trying to find our way in this world. We drank Carlsberg beer, inhaled a little more second hand smoke than I’m used to, and laughed easily.
It has been three and a half years since I sat in tiny plastic chairs on the streets of Saigon with fellow travelers, but this feeling is familiar. I can picture those tables, those faces, those nights, as if they were yesterday. I can recall those conversations, and as I spoke with this shaggy haired Canadian, I felt at ease.
Somehow, in a foreign city, with a man I barely knew, I felt at home.
Every opportunity I have to genuinely connect with someone is a blessing. I may never see him again, it is true. Regardless, that evening is one of my favorite memories in five weeks of Europe.
Life, I continue to find, is made up of moments. And it seems to me, all the best moments include other people. This was one I certainly am glad to not have passed up. It would have been easy enough to do, surely.
Long ago, I resolved to make my life about God, and people, and I’m not going to miss out on any chance for that to happen.
What I received in return was far more than I could have asked for, and all it took was a little bit of courage, trusting my intuition, and sharing my pretzels.