I met a man from India while sitting on a bench at the bus station in Hartford. It was a cool Saturday morning, and we were both heading to New York City for the weekend. We acknowledged each other and before long we were in an engaging conversation about each others’ travels. We shared sadness about the pollution in Shanghai and distaste for the stomach-turning smells of questionable food in China, and we reveled in the sweet juiciness of Southeast Asian fruits such as rambutan, dragon fruit, mangoes and jackfruit. He told me about the vibrant life in Mumbai, where he grew up, and about where he wants to travel. And I told him about the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve met.
At one point during the two and a half hour bus ride, our laughter rang as if it was echoing throughout a lonely cave. The bus was quiet. Most people were sleeping or plugged into their electronics. They were looking out of their window with a vacant seat next to them where they placed their belongings to indicate that they’d rather be alone during the commute.
One thing I have taken away from my experience abroad is the ability to fully engage in face-to-face conversations with people. Everyone has a story to tell if only we stepped away from the distractions long enough to listen (and not just with our ears, but our eyes as well).
My interaction with that man might have lasted for only a couple of hours on a Saturday morning bus ride to NYC, after which we went our separate ways, but we became friends. We listened to each others’ stories and learned from each other, and we related to each others’ experiences despite how different we appear to be on the outside. It goes to show that we are more connected as a human race than we might think.