On Chance Encounters

“Serendipity”, what does it really mean? I can’t access the internet to look it up because the Beijing wifi network instructions are in Chinese, so I’ll just have to speculate. I think there was also a movie made called Serendipity but I never saw it. I have a feeling it has something to do with chance encounters that somehow seem preordained, as if they were meant to happen or must have some great significance.

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that whether or not you believe in serendipity, that the act of traveling creates many opportunities for such moments to take place, more so than when at home perhaps.

I can’t speak for everyone but I seem to hear many people complaining that they cant meet Mr./Ms. Right, or that they want to meet new people but don’t know where to look. Why is that? I think that it’s because we find it easy to switch on autopilot during our daily routine. We don’t go out of our way to meet new people and many of us don’t even interact on a basic level because we drive to the same places on a regular basis and are so plugged in during this commute, that we don’t even notice our surroundings. On our days off, we struggle to motivate ourselves to step out of our little comfort zones. Maybe then, life’s opportunities have less to do with serendipity, and more to do with a frame of mind that we are either in or out of.

When we travel, we are forced to interact with strangers, even when we don’t want to. And when we try to meet new people it’s surprising at how easily it happens. That probably explains why so many people claim to find Mr./Ms. Right at the wrong time, while on vacation half way across the world. On vacation we turn on “vacation mode” and out of nowhere we meet amazing people, see amazing things and then feel that we were destined to cross someone’s path because it’s been months or years since something similar happened last.

While in China, I made an effort to put myself in situations where I could make contact with people other than the models I was meeting on a daily basis. My daily trip to Starbucks is an example of this. I met Ramsay, who introduced me to Sam, whose girlfriend invited me to the opening of her new Thai restaurant, where I met one of her friend’s who owned a dance studio. A barista at Starbucks who ended up giving me a Chinese New Year gift invited me to a customer appreciation event across town where I met a woman from Australia who actually new a few of my friends already (serendipity?). Even Mandy, the Australian English teacher who I met through Gary the model would introduce me to people who randomly seemed to know each other. All these connections helped me, and some of them were so random and helpful, that it’s hard to fathom that they happened at all. Yet at home many people struggle to expand their networks and feel as though their lives are destined to be void of the serendipitous events and “ah ha” moments that seem to happen to everyone else.

The good news is that I think its all in our heads and in our hands I guess. The opportunities are everywhere, and can be found wherever we are. We just seem to see them clearer on some days and in certain places than we do in others. After all, a serendipitous moment gone unnoticed is just a moment. Two summers ago, my friend Jackie and I decided to have the best summer we possibly could. We were going to do things that we had always wanted to, and say yes to everything. That summer turned out to be one of the best summers Ive had in Vancouver for so many reasons. So open yourself up and put yourself out there and you’ll probably be surprised at what happens, serendipitously or otherwise.

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