Having studied abroad, I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel alone a number of times. Travelling alone is doing a lucky dip, you are unaware of what you will get until you actually are seated and belted into a confined space. OK, maybe not exactly like lucky dip, but you get the gist. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the travelling to different countries bit and going home for the holidays is always refreshing, however the journey is a whole different scenario.
My experiences of travelling alone have been both fun and educational, however at times it has been boring and silent. My first move when entering the aeroplane is to spot my seat and smile at the surrounding passengers – it is best to familiarize yourself with the neighbours. I am usually one of the last people to board the flight so it is usual that the person is already sat near my empty seat. A smile. A nod. The first communication is all silent.
I try and make the first dialogue as soon as I am seated as it negates chances of an awkward introduction after 2-hours of sitting together. Whether it is, “Can you please pass me the inflight magazine?” or a “Would you like some gum?” This gets the initial awkwardness out of the way and gives you an indication of the other individual’s character. First impressions count.
My encounters have always varied, I usually instigate the conversation however it is obvious in the beginning where the relationship will go. I am aware that not everyone enjoys rambling on like me, so it is important to gauge the person’s talkative-meter. Having a conversation with fellow passengers always makes my journey more interesting. From sitting next to a self-confessed gambler who was blowing his money from his stint in Vegas, to an elderly lady whose husband was a magician, my journeys have been enriched with interesting passengers who turn out to offer me more knowledge than I thought a plane ride could.
Unfortunately, this has not always been the case and I have travelled with individuals who choose to sit quietly for 5-6 hours straight – without sleeping and headphones!! I am not judging, but even a simple “Hello” un-parches our mouth and lets you hear your own voice again.
To avoid awkward conversations, it is best to steer clear of political, racial, sexual and any other inappropriate type of topics. Talking about the destination and the place you are leaving from is the best way of making conversation and it reduces chances of offending your fellow passengers.
Awkward aeroplane encounters can be annoying, however its important to remember that no matter how boring or weird it gets – it always becomes a story to share afterwards. Like the time I sat with the rich husband and his young, beautiful and neglected wife. He would stop reading the paper to even let her sleep on his shoulder. At least she took my gum and we had an interesting conversation. Happy travelling!