I recently took a trip to Denver, CO to attend the Denver Levitt Pavilion’s inaugural concert. Because I’m leading a Levitt effort in Sioux Falls, I was eager to go. Nobody else from town could attend this grand-opening with me, but no matter. I was going, with people or without. I would know a couple of people affiliated with the national Levitt organization at the Denver gathering, but mostly I would be alone. However as my trip unfolded, I realized I wasn’t really traveling solo. Instead, I connected in interesting ways with others that never would have happened otherwise.

Flying for the First Time

On my flight from Sioux Falls to Denver, I was relieved to see that my seat-mate was a petite young woman. We would have lots of room to move, despite our cramped seats in a regional jet. We didn’t chat much before taking off, but as we taxied for an unusually long time, she asked me if I flew much. I thought about it for a second and then told her yes, I probably flew almost every month.

I asked her how often she got on a plane. She told me that this was her first flight ever. What?! Ever? She was heading to Los Angeles to visit her older brother for five days. Her mom hated to fly, was prone to airsickness and had warned her daughter about the horrors of flying. My seat-mate told me that what was true for her mom wasn’t necessarily true for her. I admired her maturity.

Despite her calm demeanor, I could tell she was excited. And as our plane lifted off, she looked at me with shock and delight in her brown eyes, her jaw dropping open in awe. She had never felt that feeling of leaving the ground before and couldn’t hide her amazement.

Sitting next to her, I pretended that I had never flown before either. I looked out the window and admired the views of homes, businesses, parks, rivers and farms. Looking down at the ground with fresh eyes, I actually felt frightened to be so high up and wondered what was keeping us from falling to the ground! I had to stop thinking about it in order to not scare myself. Soon, we were above the clouds and could only see white below us. We settled into our books.

By talking to her, I got to vicariously experience the miracle of flight again. It’s not often that somebody gets to go on their first flight ever more than once.  If I had been sitting with someone I knew, I would have missed out on this.

Meeting a Horse Wrangler

After a delightful inaugural concert that evening at the Levitt Pavilion, I boarded the shuttle that would take us back to the hotel. There had been a downpour midway through the event and we were all soaked, but happy.

The bus was very full, but I found an open seat and sat down next to a tan, middle-aged woman wearing a sundress and a black baseball hat. She told me she lived in an artsy part of Los Angeles, Topanga Canyon. Her daughter was going to get married next year. She also told me that she was adopted and that it was hard not knowing where she came from biologically. I agreed that that must be difficult.

While she had never been good in school, she always adored horses. She had turned that love into a career. She owns a couple of horses, trains them and they are used in TV shows and movies. She prepares them for their role in the months before the filming and then handles them on set. Initially, the actors don’t listen to her instructions very well about working with the horses.  But after they have a mishap with such a large animal, they quickly become excellent students.

I’ve never met a horse wrangler whose animals perform in movies before! Thank goodness I was a party of one and could sit in that open seat.

Breakfast with a Little Boy Named Madden

The next morning, I had breakfast at a casual restaurant in downtown Denver. Two parents and their three blond kids sat at the next booth, obviously on vacation. Their stroller and bags were overflowing into my booth area. The dad apologized for encroaching on my space. I told him no worries; I actually liked it. It felt cozy.

I read my favorite newspaper and ate my scrambled eggs, spinach and fruit. I overheard familiar and funny comments from the nearby booth. “Eat your bacon.” “You need to share the orange juice with your brother.” And “One bite at a time, dude.”

Their two-year old son and I were done eating at the same time. He was waving to the passer-byers out the window. He slid between the side of the booth and the window into the seat in front of me and started talking. His name was Madden, he liked baseball and was looking forward to riding the nearby bus.

After a while, he was ready to go. As a sign to his family, he climbed from my booth into his stroller and waited for them to get the signal. They did. Breakfast was over. The family got up and we wished each other well. Their vacation day had begun. Mine had too.

Madden wouldn’t have come to visit me if I had been dining with others. I would have missed out on meeting this sweet boy and watching his sincere family interact.

A first-time flier, a horse wrangler and a sweet little boy. I wouldn’t have met any of them if I had been traveling with people I knew.

Of course, I prefer to take trips with my family and friends. Some of my best memories have happened on excursions with loved ones. But sometimes that’s not possible. And when that happens, I need to remember that I’m not traveling alone. I just haven’t met my fellow travelers yet.

May you meet some new fellow travelers this summer too.

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