The flight from Lima to JFK was set to leave after midnight which made the last day in the city quite long. Having toured the Incan ruins at Pachacamac in the morning and the Magic Water Circuit at night, I was pretty exhausted and looking forward to a bit of sleep on the plane. The ride to the airport at night took me past the same neighborhoods, casino, fast food restaurants, I had seen on the way in – streets empty of life at night, empty of the crazy buses, just empty. It was such a contrast to the daytime life in the city where the traffic was too plentiful, vendors sold their wares in the streets and daily life moved along.
As i was flying business class home, i was able to use the lounge. Before you get all “wow, the lounge sound like a lovely oasis”, this lounge was small and the decor a 1970’s brown wood paneled basement effect. The drab interior gave way to some seating, a buffet setup with some sandwiches/drinks and a bar. I luckily found a seat, grabbed a bottle of water and settled in for my flight to be called. I had spied the bar full of a myriad of devices charging so i tipped the bartender and added my ipod to the group.
As the boarding time approached, i walked to the gate a bit early only to see that the crowding of the gates is universal. LAN, however, set up boarding lines by row which was meant to create order before the gate security but of course, only the opposite. People were everywhere trying to figure things out. I was people watching as I like to do and creating stories in my head. I was intrigued by the young tattooed guy at the front of the business class line – what was his story?
He was in his early 20’s, if not still in college, with tattoos on his neck and arms with a distinct look of a model or actor. I thought he might be a musician, and if so, have I seen him before? Was he famous? He was much more interesting that the ladies in front of me talking about fashion couture – I wanted to know more about him, actually, I wanted to know if I was right, was he a musician/model/actor? But you just can’t push your way up front and casually start a conversation of “are you a famous musician/actor/model?” Usually, my curiousity and stories go unanswered.
Now, my luck in seat mates over the years is abysmal. There are stories, suffice it to say, no one has been friendly or interesting so far ….until Noah.
As i walked down the aisle toward my window seat, i saw the young “musician” and realized he was going to be my seat mate. He said “Hi” and was super nice to the flight attendant (in Spanish) so we started chatting a bit before take-off. I mentioned my use of points for the flight and found out he is also active in the points community – gotta love finding another points geek! My rock star dreams were shattered as he was not a musician, but at his young age, just out of college, he has lived quite an interesting life so far – I could tell I hit the seat mate jackpot and the flight was going to be good.
He travels internationally to meet with interested students who want to come to New England to attend boarding school. It was an interesting position that led him to the road at least twice a month flying business class around the world. He spent time after college living in Argentina and working at a vineyard. He talked about his love of movies and when I mentioned the film festivals that I attend he peppered me with questions on had i seen this and that and if not i needed to right away. It was fun talking with someone so full of life and interested in the world, especially at his age. I envied his youth and the opportunities he has -it wasn’t something open to me when i graduated college so many years ago but I try my best to make up for it now.
We kept on talking and after dinner said our good nights to catch some sleep. With the heavy, warm duvets and my tired state, i fell quickly asleep and did not wake until breakfast was served. As we neared JFK and the immigration forms were handed out, we both said no “we have Global Entry”. Upon landing, we raced each other to the Global Entry kiosks to see who could get through first – he won, but only by a few seconds. While waiting for baggage we continued to talk about our travels and life. His bag would come off practically last (so much for priority bags) but he had time before his connection whereas i had to get a cab to Penn Station to catch Amtrak home to Philly (my planes, trains, automobile travel day). We exchanged contact info before saying goodbye and are now connected on Facebook.
Years ago, when i started travelling, i met many interesting people along the way, and if you were lucky you received a letter by air mail. Making travel friends was easy, keeping in touch much harder. Email helped some more, but social media, for me, has really changed the game as I can keep in touch with travel friends around the world.
Meeting Noah provided a wonderful end to my vacation in South America. South America surprised me, challenged me and rewarded me, all of which changed me for good, which is why I travel.