Monday, August 30, 2010

Chance Encounters

I've been fortunate to have had a career which has given me the opportunity to travel around the world. Over the past 30 years I have traveled to both hemispheres and all continents other than Africa, all in the name of work, often luxuriously and always fast-paced. (Once, I flew all the way to Hong Kong just for the meeting which took place on the plane-ride over. I know, crazy!)

When the recent opportunity was presented to me to come to Scotland to speak, I jumped at the chance for a few reasons, though luxury was not to be a part of this trip! Having never been to Scotland, I was curious to see whatever wee bits time would allow. But in addition, I was interested in experiencing travel with open eyes, travel affected by neither a husband nor kids waiting at home, nor the broken heart which had wrecked my last trip, nor a lover to share it with, nor the temptation to stay connected to my Blackberry's umbilical cord. I saw it as an opportunity to, simply put, be present.

What an experience! No sooner was I in a foreign airport waiting for a connecting flight when I made a different kind of connection. I met a man who I suspect I will know for the rest of my life. As a person who rarely engages in conversation with the person next to me on a plane, I realized then that being open to the possibility of a chance encounter with a stranger was a whole new way to see the world, begin a new relationship, be present.

Aside from my scheduled presentation, I had no plans for my precious few days in Edinburgh. None. And so I just let it happen - the serendipitous findings of art, the getting lost, the impromptu meals with a wonderful new friend willing to take me under her wing, the awareness of being terribly alone and sometimes lonely in a city teeming with people, the celebration of Scotch and raucous music by myself in a whiskey bar, the intoxication of conversation and wine with someone new.

Having recently seen "Eat, Pray, Love", I couldn't help but compare some of the situations depicted in the film with my little experience. There's no book to be written from my trip, but some pretty profound realizations. Ansel Adams said of photography, "Chance favors the well prepared", and I believe that the same holds true for life in general. Being prepared for, or open to, the chance encounters of life is in great part a matter of staying present. It's taken a while, but I think I'm getting it.

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