Someone once said to me that every time you step on a plane there is a chance that it might change your life. A group of a hundred or more total strangers of all ages and backgrounds trapped in a confined space for anything up to 24hrs and forced by their proximity to one another to engage in often awkward conversation. However, sometimes a connection is formed and the speed with which barriers are broken down impelling; the discourse more intimate than that which is usually had with a stranger. A lady on a business trip away from her husband is treated with more consideration by the total stranger sitting in the seat next to her than she has ever experienced from her partner of 20 years or a chance conversation prompts thoughts and self evaluation in a world where people increasingly leave insufficient time for reflection. And then, before you know it, the plane lands – the figure next to you who had fleetingly seemed so familiar is a stranger once more and you are free to continue on the next stage of your journey.
Take my journey from El Calafate to Buenos Aires on Friday for example. During the course of one bus ride and two flights I discussed the state of the international stock markets with a New York banker, swapped stories and images with an Italian photographer using a mixture of pigeon English, Spanish and sign language and was invited to stay at the farm house of an Argentinian cherry growing consultant on my next return to his country.
Three totally different experiences requiring varying means of communication, but all equally rewarding and each leaving me with thoughts to take away.
In many ways this is indicative of travelling in general. Some people you will remain in touch with, but many exchanges are just fleeting discourses with people who have a common interest. However, this doesn’t in any way diminish the magic of a shared experience and often the willingness to act on impulse and take advantage of opportunities which present themselves can lead to an amazing experience when you are least expecting it.
Arriving in the town of Bariloche in the Argentinian Lake District at 9am after a 20 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the surrounding landscape; a mixture of lakes and mountains and a dazzling array of greens and blues. Despite being tired from my journey, I was itching to explore and pretty soon I had joined numerous other sweaty bodies on the route 20 bus, bound for the seventeenth kilometre: Cerro Campanario. By chance I struck up conversation with a young couple who were also bound for the same destination. By the end of our day together I had accepted their invitation to join them and three other friends on a three day camping-trek in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi.
The trek which followed was perfect; awe inspiring scenery, crystal clear skies both day and night and above all great company – a vital ingredient in any successful expedition. By day we walked amongst the rugged mountain peaks and by night we camped by the side of crystal clear lakes under a sky with stars so numerous that words simply cannot describe their beauty.
A truely unmissable experience which I will never forget resulting from little more than a chance conversation on a bus …