Curiosity Matters

An Exploration of Branding, Design and Cultural Trends

Perfect Strangers


While packing and I don't get along, I love to travel. My adventures started a few hours before I hopped into a cab towards the airport bound for Minnesota. I sat in a cafe a block away from my new apartment. Moments after I sat down, the guy across from me struck up a conversation. He's a successful composer who's created some fairly famous music. He talked about how most New Yorkers have headphones permanently plugged into their ears. We're constantly surrounded by the sounds of the city - rarely left to hear our own thoughts. Recently, my friend came to visit me from Northern, NJ. He had taken an hour long subway ride without his headphones or even a book. "But what did you do? You mean you just sat there?" I asked him in complete disbelief. "I just listened to my own thoughts, let my mind go blank." I walked home from the cafe for one block listening to the sounds of the city and was promptly given a generous "hello" by an old man on my street.

My adventurous path had a slight hiccup. Others call it Laguardia Airport. This was one of the first times in a long while that I've flown on an airline other than Virgin America or Jet Blue. I can't tell if it's the type of passengers who were sitting next to me or the lack of personal entertainment systems - but I learned more about the lives of those sitting next to me than three year long Manhattan neighbors.

I met a banker who grew up in Norway but moved to Chicago for college. While raising his kids, he lived in Hong Kong and Florida. He joked about wanting to be independently wealthy and could no longer stand the constant travel his job required. Kind, well dressed and well spoken, he dreamed of a life beyond banking, a profession, he noted, that was now hated. It was interesting to see his perspective and even more interesting to note that he was sitting in coach.

The woman next to me was from Chicago but recently moved to Denver. She's a single mother of two college aged twin girls. Her dream was to start her own business but she was coming back from New York for a job interview. She constantly had a new question for the Norwegian who was equally as inquisitive.

I just finished reading this delightfully entertaining and inspiring book "Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding her Inner French Girl." It goes beyond superficial advice and delves into the cultural differences between the French and Americans. For instance, in France, one is not defined by their job. And one does not share their life story and private dreams to their fellow passengers during a two hour long domestic flight.

Finally, As I was waiting in O'Hare for my connecting flight to Minneapolis, I struck up a conversation with a young, friendly girl while waiting for the "charging station." She was from Texas and a recent college graduate who was on her way to Russia. She's visited a Russian orphanage as a volunteer through her church organization twice and this was her first trip going without church, to visit those children who are now her friends. Many of us cynical, non-religious New Yorkers tend to judge and fear conservative middle America or Southern church organizations. But it often seems that as we sit in a cafe, drinking our lattes and reading the New York Times about an article that's criticizing the far right, and role of the church in America, those church-goers are raising money so they can visit an orphanage in Russia and bring a smile on someone's face.

I got on my short flight towards Minneapolis sitting next to a young man who I suspected was in the army. We rolled our eyes as we listened to a two year old screaming with an unnaturally loud set of lungs but didn't talk. I thought, when we're left to our own thoughts, we dream about leaving the banking business, starting our own creative business, leaving Texas to go to Russia, leaving New York to live in Paris, or simply, realizing how similar a perfect stranger can be to ... ourselves.