Since I won’t be taking a flight for the foreseeable future, I figure why not take a stroll down memory lane? I’m the type of gal who can strike up a convo with just about anyone, so more often than not, I tend to get to know my seat mates pretty well on long haul flights. So get ready to laugh, cringe and possibly shed a tear because I’m going to dig deep into the archives and fill you in on what talking to strangers on flights is really like!
The Holy One:
The most vivid experience that comes to mind happened during my most recent flight. Due to Covid-19 I decided to end my travels early and head home . Sad to leave new friends and have to endure the last bit of the Canadian winter, I wasn’t exactly in the best mood (read all about my stages of grief here!). When I landed in Tokyo to catch my connecting flight home, I realized I got the beloved middle seat. Once I got to my row I saw a guy around my age in the window seat and another man in his mid 30s on the isle.
As I sat down, the guy sitting on the window seat told me he’d be getting up a lot during the 12 hour flight because he can’t sleep well on planes. I suggested switching seats since I can usually sleep through most of the flight. Not expecting him to oblige, he did. Happy as could be, we switched seats.
We started talking and he told me he had been living in Japan for just under a year. I asked what he was doing there. I expected him to tell me he went for work but instead he mentioned he went there as a religious missionary. Politely, I asked a bit more about it and then eventually put my headphones in. Little did I know he was going to interrupt me every few minutes … He would say something to me in Japanese and then tell me the English translation. It was fine at first but there’s only so much I could handle when it came to unwanted Japanese lessons! Later on, he tried speaking Japanese to one of the flight attendants who didn’t know ANY Japanese 🙈. So cringy!
Things got even weirder when he pulled out a bag of dried squid, proceeding to eat it for the next hour. When the meals came around, I was starving. I took a bite out of the bun on my tray immediately and felt his eyes on me. Looking up, I saw the missionary sizing me up. He asked if we could pray together. It’s safe to say I’d never prayed with strangers on flights before but I went along with it.
Despite the constant interruptions and prayer sessions, he was a nice guy and all I can do when I look back is laugh.
A Small World Story:
After an eventful long weekend trip to Tassie with a friend, we headed to the airport. We may have indulged in a few too many glasses of vino while we waited to board the plane. I went to use the ladies room before the flight was scheduled to take off. Somewhere between the drinks and excitement from the trip, we somehow got the flight time mixed up. As I was finishing up I heard “Calling passenger Amy Rae and **** for the final boarding call from Tasmania to Melbourne”. You better believe that I flew out of that bathroom and we were the last people to hop on the plane.
As an avid budget traveller, I don’t usually choose seats on a plane to avoid extra fees so my friend was a row behind me. Once we took off I turned around to chat. My friend happened to be sitting next to a man in his 40’s who was from Melbourne. We all started chatting and we explained how we were both from Toronto, Canada. He told us that his next door neighbour was from just outside of Toronto. We shortly discovered she was from the city we both went to University in – Hamilton, Ontario. “Small world, eh”, we said as the rest of the wine had most definitely kicked in.
The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful but when we landed the man ended up called his neighbour. He wanted us to talk to her and we ended up having a lot in common. It was a strange but funny way to end our little getaway!
Thai Monk Meets Middle-Aged ‘Karen’:
When you embark on your first ever solo trip, there’s a lot of things you consider beforehand. One thing I didn’t give much thought was that the possibility of being stuck in the middle of an awkward encounter with strangers on flights …
Flying from Tokyo to Bangkok, the last leg of my journey at the time, I was thrilled to have a window seat. I got all cozied up when a Thai monk sat down in the middle seat. I discovered rather quickly that he didn’t speak, when the flight attendants would speak to him and he would only nod back. With that in mind, I respected his wow of silence and tried to nod off for the 8 hour flight.
Then the unthinkable happened. A ‘Karen’ rolled up and sat down on the isle seat. You know the type? A middle aged woman who looks for any chance to ask to speak to the manager. I could spot her from the front of the plane. Loud and obnoxious, already complaining about little things. I knew this wasn’t going to be good but I had no idea how awkward it was about to get ..
As the monk casually busted out his iPad to snap a selfie and I was minding my own business, ‘Karen’ leaned over him to start talking to me. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife as she kept rudely leaning into him. She was loud and couldn’t read the situation very well.
After about an hour of her back and forth talking and various complaints, she took a hint. Thankful for the silence I tried to sleep the rest of the flight.
Welcome to Hollywood:
So I hopped off the plane at LAX, with a dream and my cardigan 🎶 …. just kidding, I was actually on route to Melbourne, connecting through LA when I got a little taste of Hollywood!
I had done the treacherous 16 hour journey before so I knew to secure a window seat beforehand. The flight was delayed many hours before we took off so once I was in my seat I was so relieved. Just before taking off a couple took the middle and isle seat. We eventually got to talking when I asked my go-to question when meeting new people.
I discovered that the girl was from Los Angeles and her boyfriend was from Melbourne. Since it was going to be a long flight we chatted some more to kill time and they casually mentioned that they were actors. “Actors?! Have you been in anything I might know?”, I asked. The girl told me she wasn’t in anything big, just some commercials with Netflix, Google etc. I was still intrigued and asked about her boyfriend.
She continued telling me that he was in the show “Once Upon a Time”. While I hadn’t seen the show, I had heard of it, so I thought that was pretty cool! I asked what role he had and she told me he was ALADDIN! Okay, okay, I know it’s not anything close to sitting next to Brad Pitt on a flight but it was still interesting to me. It was awesome getting to chat to them about life as actors, how they met and just see how their lives differed from mine.
Wait up …
The story only got more interesting once we landed in Australia. Fast forward about 4 months, I was walking into the change room at my gym when I walked past a poster ad. I had to do a double take before realizing it was her! It was the girl from the plane. Later that night the same ad popped up in the middle of a YouTube video! This time she was singing and dancing on a plane in a full blown ad for Canesten. I ended up messaging her on Instagram to confirm it was her because I couldn’t believe it.
Definitely my most memorable experience with strangers on flights and funny how it really came full circle!
A Heart-Warming Tale:
Let’s end things off with the most genuine connection I made through talking to strangers on flights! I was on the way home from Sri Lanka last year, making a stopover in Doha, Qatar and then London, England. When boarding my flight from London to Toronto, I waited till the last possible second to get on the plane. This is the best way to switch seats before taking off 😏. The flight had a decent amount of empty seats and I found an entire empty row! I had struck gold in the world of flights. Or so I thought …
Just as I started getting comfy and spreading out over my three seats, a woman approached the row. With a smile on her face, she asked if she could sit in the isle seat. Of course, there’s no way I would’ve objected so I said “sure”. While I had just lost my make-shift bed, I decided to strike up a convo.
The woman was from Qatar originally but had recently moved her family to Canada. She told me she wanted to give her children a better life. She had been back in Qatar to work as a lawyer for a month and come back to Canada with the money. Sadly, her qualifications at home mean nothing in Canada.
After a while she opened up even more. She mentioned how she moved to London, Ontario because that’s where her husband was able to find work. She still wasn’t working and was finding it difficult to make friends. I couldn’t understand because she was so kind and sweet. I tried to suggest a few ways she could meet more people like joining groups on Meetup.
Later she offered to have me over sometime for dinner! Since I didn’t have a SIM card from home and proper number, she gave me her WhatsApp number. Sadly the number didn’t work when I was able to get wifi, so she must have mixed it up. I’m hoping she’s settled into life in Canada a little better and that her family is doing okay during this very strange time!
Before You Go
That just about wraps up all of the interesting people I’ve met on flights so far! With so much negatively in the world right now I hope you were able to laugh with me and find some joy in these stories. Sitting next to strangers on flights can end up being an amazing experience because you never know who you’re going to meet! If you end up with a bad flight mate, try to look at it as a funny story to share with friends afterwards 😅.
To follow my previous travels and see what countries are being added to my bucket list during quarantine, head to my Instagram!
See you next week!