Early this year, I was on a connecting flight from Doha and was stuck at the window seat of the row with two other passengers on my left side.
I thought the passenger next to me was throwing a lot of his weight around, literally. He was elbowing me away from placing my left arm on the armrest and did so without any misgivings.
He read a huge book and as I glanced over I could not determine what language he was reading. He read a lot from that book, and when he put down the book he engaged the other passenger to my far left in conversation.
I realized one can learn so much by just listening. I tend to be a person who prefers to keep quiet when I travel. If I am not reading something I prefer to contemplate life silently. And I cherish that privacy, and try to maintain it as much as possible. Sometimes, my biggest fear when I travel is I will be seated next to someone who wants to talk throughout a long haul flight, denying the quiet I so much cherish while traveling.
Not long after our departure from Doha, I glanced out of the window and saw a snow-covered mountain range. Our flight was just approaching the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. I later learnt these were the Alborz Mountains.
My neighbour to the left also saw what I saw and began recounting his experience of climbing those mountains. I thought that was an interesting coincidence. I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and was sitting next to someone who had also climbed these beautiful mountains in Iran.
|Photo of Tehran with the Alborz mountain range By Hansueli Krapf - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7065187|
When my neighbor exhausted his narrative, he asked the other passenger: "So, what do you do?" The response confirmed to me that I might have to reconsider avoiding conversations with strangers.
He responded he spends most of his time climbing mountains, and had climbed Mt. Everest several times. I have never met someone who has climbed Mt. Everest, but I sure have a lot of questions to ask someone who has, but I thought I would look awkward to suddenly have any interest in my neighbors, so I keenly followed the conversation between them.
The odds of this happening: three passengers sitting next to each other and having some mountaineering experience to share between them was just amazing.