On the Road: Making Friends for the Moment

Last November, I ran 8 miles of the Big Sur half marathon with a fellow runner whose name I don’t remember, but I can tell you why she started running, how long ago, and how much she loves racing with her daughter.
On any given trip, dozens of chances arise to connect with someone new. The stranger in line ahead of you at the pastry shop, the guy sitting next to you on the street car, or the server at that little seafood place the guy on the street car told you about. Often these chance meetings are interesting, sometimes useful, and other times, just plain bizarre.
But every once in a while you connect with someone, and it’s almost magical. These are the moments that make a trip uniquely yours. And these are the moments you remember years later.
I’ve bonded with a front desk clerk over riding motorcycles in a rainstorm, shared dinner stories with the couple at the next table because they’re also from Texas, and discovered why a scuba diving instructor in Cambodia decided to sail yachts in BVI.
When I was younger, I felt the need to get names, exchange contact information and promise to stay in touch with everyone I met on one of my adventures. Now I take these meetings on their own merits, and realize (with only a twinge of regret) that our paths will probably not cross again.
One of my favorite chance meetings happened in St. John. I never got his name, but he singlehandedly made the rented condo in Cruz Bay feel more like home. He just appeared on my second story balcony the first morning of our stay, and hopped in my lap.
Then he came back each morning and evening thereafter. After a few days, we bought a couple of cans of food and fed him on our patio, but mostly, we would just sit on the balcony together and watch the sun peak up over the bay.
The couple across the way from us told us they have visited St. John every year since their honeymoon (except the year they sent their first kid to college). They  said the feline was actually the condo cat.
It turns out, the feline population in Saint John outnumbers human residents, and more than half of them are homeless. Thanks to a trap-neuter-return program, the island has helped spay and neuter strays and kept the homeless kitty population from spiraling out of control.
It was hard to part ways with my friend at the end of our journey, but I like to think that every morning he is sitting with a new companion watching the sunrise over Cruz Bay and helping them fall in love with St. John like I did.
Do you have a story to share about meeting someone on a trip that you have never forgotten? Please feel free to share.

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