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 It’s only recently that I realized the beauty of traveling solo. I know traveling by yourself isn’t for everyone, but personally, I find that it's one of the best ways to decompress. What I like about it is that you can literally do anything you want to do. You can also meet people who you usually wouldn't,like other people who are also traveling by themselves. A friendly cafe staff might start talking to you because you're eating alone. All you have is Google Maps and no one else to rely on, so you ask a stranger for directions. When traveling, you make memories of going to beautiful places and eating delicious food, but I think those unexpected encounters are what make traveling more personal and exciting. 

Lisbon, Portela airport. My trip was almost over. I was on my way back to London after my short trip to Portugal. Due to an ongoing strike in France, a lot of the flights were either canceled or delayed. The airport was packed with people, and it was stressful just to find a seat. 

I was doodling on my iPad as I waited for an announcement for my flight. Then out of the blue, a girl sitting next to me started talking to me. "Is that an apple pencil? Do you know if you can use that for any of the iPads? I was wondering if I could use it for my model as well". Partially surprised and unprepared for the question, my brain didn't work for a second. I answered her question and also let her try my apple pencil. She kindly thanked me, and that was that. She was around the same age as me and seemed nice. There was a moment of silence, but since we were both stuck in a super crowded airport doing nothing, the conversation went on. 

It turns out she was also flying to London on the same flight. Born and raised in Portugal, her long dream of going to London was about to come true. She seemed super excited for the flight, in stark contrast to me, who wanted to stay in Portugal. I told her how much I enjoyed my time in Portugal and she would tell me places to go the next time I come back. I also recommended places for her to visit in London, and warned her about the cold weather. She was really talkative with a contagious smile. I was enjoying our conversation so much that it made me forget the time and the stress of our delayed flight. She was a complete stranger but even told me about her recent car accident. Finally, our gate number was announced, and we started to move. 

We got to the gate and waited in line. Our cheap plane ticket only allowed one carry on at boarding, so we had to bundle our luggage into one. My carry-on suitcase had enough space for my tote bag, but the Portuguese girl had a problem. Her suitcase was fully packed. She was hoping to get away with hiding her purse under her coat and saying, "I'm pregnant!" but she was caught by the staff. So we shoved her purse in my suitcase until we passed the boarding point. We barely knew each other, and yet there I was trying to help her avoid a penalty fee. We just happened to sit next to each other in a crowded airport, I happened to use an apple pencil, kept talking, and became her hero. I returned her purse, and she thanked me many times. 

It was time to say good bye—we were finally boarding. 

"Have a good time in London!" and that was it. 

I still wonder if she had a good time in London. I wonder if she got an apple pencil. I wonder if she is doing fine with COVID-19. I have no idea, and there is no way to find out. Although we talked for over an hour, we didn't even exchange names. Now that I think about it, I kind of regret not asking for any of her social media. But I think these fleeting encounters are the real pleasure of traveling. Isn't there something romantic about a once in a lifetime encounter that can only occur in your travels?

My solo trip to Portugal was probably one of the best trips I've ever had. I fell in love with the beautiful city, the people, the warm sun, the food—the list goes on. But meeting this girl at the airport also was a big part of it. It made my trip special until the very end. 

Hope you enjoyed our travel articles this week! Next week we'll be publishing articles on music. Stay tuned!

Ellie Eshima

ICU Japan '21

Ellie is currently a senior at International Christian University, majoring in Psychology.
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