Seat Buddy

I met a kind soul on my flight back from Denver yesterday. He introduced himself at 5:35am as “your seat buddy,” then later as Greg. His scraggly hair peaked out from under his flat billed skater hat, acne speckled his chin and he sipped a McDonald’s smoothie while he offered to hold my soy latte as I got situated in the dreaded middle seat on Spirit airlines flight.
We shared stories about our trips to Colorado as the flight attendants reminded us how to buckle our safety belts and where the exits are in case of emergency. I learned that Greg has dreams of bridging the gap of those awkward computer geek type and the saavy businessmen, “I’m good with both,” he says, “I want to do IT but bring my social skills to the game.” While telling me this he devoirs an Egg McMuffin. He asks why I was in Denver, what I do in Chicago–he was fascinated by my stories of travel and how I’ve ended up where I am now. He listen intently until the person across the aisle sneezes, “bless you,” he says with out missing a beat then continues asking me questions and answering mine.
As our bodies remember that we had to wake up at 4am to make the six o’clock flight our conversation wanes. The captain announces that we’ve reached 35,000 feet and Greg offers me a headphone with softly playing music pumping through–the band reminds me of high school. A band I’ve literally listened to for a decade and a half. We both nod in and out of sleep for an hour and wake to notice the sunrise happening above the clouds near the heavens.
We chat more, about the music, about the sunrise, about how I’m turning 28 next week and how he hates living the in the suburbs–he shares that he knows he needs to finish school and stay home to help his mother who has fallen ill in the last year.
As the plane lands we acknowledge we survived. “I never get this tight with people on an airplane. It was a pleasure meeting you Sloan.” He hands me his cell phone to put my number in to “Ya know, grab a drink in the city sometime.”
“For sure,” I say as I hand him back the phone.


Don’t Be My Friend

Don’t be my friend. I’m searching for a friendships that will leave me guiltless when I leave after six months or a partner in crime that will come with. A circle of friends that will give me community for a short time and let me belly laugh and smile mischievously as we plan adventures. Hang out with me if you’ll let me tell my stories and inspire you to make stories of your own. Most likely if it’s winter I’m dreaming of the year I spent hot and sweaty climbing Buddhist Temples and praying at the foot of a thousand year old statue, drinking warm beer and hot coffee on the street. If it’s summer I’m cursing the tourists who come here for a week and forget to notice the enormity of the Lake, the power of the Waves and the beauty of each Sunset and Sunrise we can witness each day.

Don’t be my friend if you expect me to not make a game out of mundane activities and to not connect with the people I’m surrounded with. Please remember that community is important and an interesting conversation can be had at the bar, at the beach or on a bus tumbling through a far away land. Don’t be my friend if you don’t want me to question you, I expect to be questioned in return–because I like to talk and share and most of all I like to listen. Don’t hang out with me if you can’t handle hard questions.

Don’t be my friend if you don’t want me to encourage you to try yoga with me tomorrow morning before work, or after work. If you don’t want me to try and spur up your deepest dreams or suggest you download that flight searcher app and play hooky with me to go try a new brewery. Don’t hang with me if you don’t want to be pushed into a diagonal weird direction you never though you’d go.

Don’t be my friend if you don’t want to hear about my confusion of ‘life’ and how I might be ‘missing out’ by not being ‘somewhere else’. Don’t be my friend if you can’t attempt to reel me back in, calm me down and remind me that where I am is where I’m supposed to be for the moment. When I freak out could you remind me that there is a huge, incredible, beautiful Lake down the road that just by looking at it lowers my heart rate, softens my eyes and brings on a true smile.

Don’t attempt to be my friend if you don’t appreciate those kind of moments because those moments, those small seemingly insignificant moments, are the ones I live for. They are the times in life that we look back on to appreciate. Those moments are the ones we call upon when we’re in a bad place, in a physically or mentally dangerous situation that we think about to lower our blood pressure and remember that there is something that you can come back to. Coming back to the breath and the seemingly small moments are the ones that play a huge roll in life. Don’t be my friend if you don’t understand this.

Travel Hangover

I’m here. I now live in Greensburg, PA. I have a job, (looking for another,) I have an apartment, (well, privacy curtains in my friends living room) I have a gym membership, a couple bars I like, the lady at the coffee shop knows my name. I have a routine. I’m here.

But then I pulled out my small backpack. It fits my computer perfectly so when I head to the coffee shop I throw my weathered Macbook in there, grab my wallet and gear up to write, read, write letters–general coffee shop ‘things’. But last weekend I really looked at my back pack. I noticed how dirty it is. Months worth of sweating through SE Asia, being thrown on buses, running a 50k ultra marathon, transporting bottles of beer and water.

Then I noticed the random things I had tied on when the zipper toggle broke: a friendship bracelet from my native ‘tour’ guides in Sa Pa, Vietnam, safety pins, hair ties, whatever random things I could find that would work. Digging through the inside pockets I found a tin of Tiger Balm from Cat Ba Island when I got thrown off a motorbike, I found the equivalent of a few dollars in Malaysian Ringet. I found more dirt. I found Thai Baht. I found candy wrappers from treats my students gave me.

I found memories.

And then I remember: I’m here. I’m in Greensburg, PA furthering my career, saving money, making connections. And I wonder why I continue to look elsewhere. I run around the hilly neighborhoods and notice the architecture of such a historic town–then I remember the park I trained in with the 1000 year old Buddhist Wats. And I’m pulled back into the world of memory. I hate that world. I remember how hard it was to be in Thailand. I remember how much I wanted to ‘be’ somewhere for a while.

I found memories and now I need to begin making memories, here. And for some reason this is the hardest thing, for me. Travel is great but the travel hang over seems to last for months.