To Those People I’ll Never See Again

Have you ever met someone for only a brief period of time — maybe for only a few hours or even a few minutes — but walked away feeling like that person had just impacted your life? Perhaps it was a stranger you talked to at a party that you ended up having a surprisingly meaningful conversation with. Or maybe it was a chatty taxi driver who told you a story you still find yourself thinking about years later.

This past summer I spent six weeks interning at a media company in Melbourne, Australia, and had the time of my life. From koalas, kangaroos and coffee to rainforests, beaches and mountains, Australia did not disappoint. I grew a lot both professionally and personally over those six weeks working nine-to-five and having to live relatively independently in a foreign country.

I also met a lot of new people, which was definitely the most valuable part of the entire experience for me. I learned so much from my mentor and became friends and travel buddies with the other interns. These people obviously impacted my life and were the cornerstones of my experience Down Under. However, there were certain people I met over those six weeks whom I only talked to for a brief period of time, yet, those conversations and short encounters left an impression on me, and I still catch myself thinking about them to this day.

To the girl who discussed tampons with me at my boss’s awards celebration:

It upsets me that I have no recollection of what your name was, because I truly felt like we became friends in those several hours we worked together. Thanks for sneaking sushi and macaroons from the guest trays with me and for helping me dump that giant cooler of ice into the tiny toilet. I was so impressed by your maturity and by the life experiences you’d already had at just 22. Growing up in India, going to college in North Carolina and now getting your master’s in Melbourne — you were so worldly, yet so humble about it all.

It felt weird saying goodbye to you at the end of the event because I knew I’d likely never see you again in my entire life. Even though I’d only known you a few hours, it seemed like you were the type of person I could become good friends with. I mean, if mutually complaining about the weirdness of Australian tampons doesn’t bond two people, I don’t know what does.

(Also — full disclosure — when you asked me if you were right about which type of wine glass and champagne flute was supposed to go with which drink, I honestly had no idea. I just agreed with you because you seemed to have your life together.)

13442455_10153874097795817_6254890717292603402_o

Left to right: Girl I bonded with, my boss’s employee, Katy, from Brisbane, me

To the young man who was my Uber driver home from the book launch event:

I can’t imagine what it must have been like growing up in Kabul during the war. When you told me that, my brain exploded with so many questions I wasn’t sure were appropriate to ask. I’m glad I did ask some of them, though. Honestly, it was really surprising to hear how much you liked Americans and America, and it made me feel sad when you started explaining how Islam doesn’t preach hate and that terrorists shouldn’t even be considered Muslims. It pained me that you felt you needed to defend your faith so adamantly — I hope I made it clear I completely condemn Islamophobia.

I also recognized how unique that moment was: In a 20-minute Uber ride, an Afghani-Muslim guy and an American-Jewish girl had an intelligent conversation about how we both thought it wasn’t fair that Muslims and Americans have a bad rep with the rest of the world.

Good luck finishing your IT degree, and I hope you and your wife are able to go home and visit your mother in Afghanistan soon! Oh, and if I’m ever in Kabul, I’ll totally take you up on your offer to be my tour guide.

To the startup company co-founders I chatted with in the bar at the afterparty:

Dang, can I just say how in awe I was with the fact that you both were just a few years older than me and were already co-founders of an award-winning startup? I knew you were both smart and accomplished (I mean, you designed an app that uses artificial intelligence to help blind people), but explaining how you studied in Italy and California and casually mentioning how you’d just flown in that morning from delivering the keynote at a conference in Sydney had me thinking for a second: Okay, these people are actually talking to me.

Thanks for conversing with me for so long about American politics — I hope I sufficiently convinced you that not all Americans support Donald Trump! Thanks for teaching me about the Australian political system, as well — I didn’t know voting was compulsory for Aussies. I really appreciated the advice you gave me about work ethic and never letting other people talk you out of your goals. A lot of people say these things, but hearing it firsthand from a woman who has done it, who is semi my age and who looks like me was more inspiring than usual.

****

Travel is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I’ll admit, I’m as thirsty as the next person for that good Eiffel Tower selfie, but I’ve come to realize that moments like these can be even more memorable. Those spontaneous conversations and serendipitous encounters — you might not have a photo of them, but if they’ve impacted you, you don’t even need one.

Advertisements