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  • Traveling person to person

    Once when we were returning from Jerusalem our plane hit some strong turbulence and started rocking back and forth like a cradle.

    The Jewish passenger sitting next to me and I started to pray. It was strange but we were both invoking God’s name with the same words, ‘Ya Rabbi...’ People come together as partners in worry, in joy, and in travel!  The one understands the other and vice-versa.

    If we are the gregarious sort, plane trips make us partners to other people’s stories. Sharing pleasant conversation is an indispensable remedy on long trips. I can still picture my flight companions in my mind’s eye: So many stories that I never tired of hearing, so many lives over which a shadow had fallen, always the same human vulnerability for some reason. What’s more, I am a psychiatrist and people’s stories always capture my attention. The only thing that can make the time pass more quickly on a long flight are warm thoughts of the place you’re going to and and the warmth of a friendly conversation.

    I think the longest flight I ever made was on a trip to Hawaii which stretched out over a day and a half with all the stopovers. On my return from the island, where I had gone for a conference, I accidentally overdid my dose of sleeping aids. Although the journey was over in the blink of an eye, I have no recollection of where we stopped or what places we toured (for example, it seems we actually left the airport at Paris and toured extensively around the city). Instead I seem to have been living in a virtual twilight zone. When a person travels a lot, his memories get blurred. More than memories of places, I tend to remember people, interactions with people, and stories that stand out. And on a plane if somebody who likes to talk is sitting next to me, then I remember that journey even more fondly.

    When I was younger, airports used to seem like dream spaces to me. Think about it. You get on a plane and wing your way to a completely different world. In times like this when we live in a global village, we are not leaving another place behind no matter where we go. The souls of big cities are fading away with the insignia of global brand names. More and more, every city resembles every other. But the story of a person is always one and unique and different from all others.

    Ah, let me not have expended all this breath in vain. Now that you’ve read this piece to the end, just turn to the person next to you and say a few words. Since the old stand-by question on buses, ‘Where are you going?’, isn’t going to work on a plane, you can start by talking about the weather, or the state of the nation.

    The best journey, believe me, is the one from one person to another.