As a traveler, it is difficult to be shy. There are so many people you encounter along the way, how can you resist making friends? With social media and faster technology, it becomes even easier.
Having grown up in theatre, talking in front of people has always been natural for me. That has translated into being able to create small talk at the drop of a hat; elevators don’t get quiet, train rides become entertaining, and I come away from these encounters with interesting stories and sometimes small tokens of the accidental friendship.
Last night, I left my cyr class and walked to the bus stop. There was a fella standing there when I arrived, and he asked if I knew when the next bus was coming. I replied “Nope, but at least it’s warm tonight.” This seemed to spark something in him, because he replied about how cliché it is to talk about the weather. I laughed and asked if he would rather talk of something else. This was the beginning of a conversation that lasted the entire bus ride.
In the middle, he pulled a box out of his backpack and asked if I would like a paper crane. Delighted by this, I selected a brightly colored one from the box.
I was on the bus heading towards a Couchsurfing meet-up. Couchsurfing is my preferred method for traveling – you search ahead for a couch to crash on with a local in the destination town; it’s free and opens up a side of the city you may not have seen otherwise. My network has grown over almost every continent because of Couchsurfing. The Chicago meetups happen regularly, but I rarely get to attend. A few beers, an amazing cashew butter and jam sandwich, and belly-aching laughs later, someone dumped a handful of origami on the table and offered them up for grabs.
Amused, I extracted the tiny little crane I had gotten on the bus just two hours earlier and showed them. The gifter chuckled and plucked a large turquoise crane from the pile, offering it to me, a mate to the little one. I don’t even remember her name, but I remember her face and smile, and the smiles on the faces of other giftees.
Now, the two little cranes sit atop my computer monitor, brightly colored and about to take flight. Each reminds me of the people I met with a simple salutation.