Traveling Coincidences: Who Else Have You Seen?

Brett’s post on famous people you’ve come across in your travels reminded me of other traveling coincidences. It’s neat to see famous people for sure, but what about the people who aren’t so famous? What about the people from other parts of your life who show up in places where you least expect to see them? This is another aspect about travel that facinates me. Does the universe just put us at the same time on the same corner of the world with someone from another part of our life far from where we normally reside for a reason–or is this just luck? Some people say it’s just luck. Others say there is some greater purpose at work. Regardless, I’ve run into people where I didn’t expect to see them for perhaps no other reason than it gives me a thrill. Often I didn’t find out the connection without a conversation between us first.

Here are my stories: One New Year’s Eve I was shivering in the cold at Times Square waiting for the ball to drop. I heard “Jamie!” called out in a loud voice. It was one of my close high school friends who I hadn’t seen for a few years. We just happened to be on the same block.

Years later when I was crossing the street at Grand Central Station, also in New York, I heard, “Ms. Rhein!!” When I turned around to see who called my name, I saw one of my former 11th grade American Lit. students who I taught when I lived in Singapore.

Another time when I was on a ferry going from Le Havre, France to Ireland I saw a young woman wearing a Penn State sweatshirt. I asked her if she went to Penn State. She said she was from State College. After I told her I had lived in State College when I was in the 4th and 5th grade we found out that we had gone to the same elementary school. Turns out her brother was the cutest boy in my class.

When I was trekking in Nepal there was a woman at one of our stops who looked familiar for some reason. It turns out she was also teaching internationally. After a few more conversation details, I remembered talking with her in a hotel bathroom in San Diego at a teachers’ hiring fair. She was in the bathroom to change out of her interview garb into more comfortable clothing.

And once when I was traveling from Albuquerque to Cincinnati on my way to a family gathering at a horserace at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky, I changed planes in St. Louis. As I was traveling on the moving sidewalk, I heard some call my name. It was my cousin who lived in Pennsylvania at the time. He was heading to Texas, but had plans to be in Kentucky later that week.

I’m not sure if the universe is any better because of these happenstance meetings, but they do make me smile when I think of them. If you run across someone who looks familiar, it never hurts to start asking questions. (This photo, thanks to phototo penguin on Flickr is of the corner where the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.)