A Chance Encounter Leads to Reflecting About My Journey

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

11 December 2018

How one big decision leads to amazing meetings and conversations.

I’m on a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in Thailand. The car I’m in is second class and fascinating. Seats face each other on the floor, and above them is a closed compartment. That compartment ends up storing bedding for two beds and lies flat to create an upper bed. The bottom seats slide together at night and form another bed. Each seat /bed area accomodates four people. My three “roommates” are 20-something guys from Braga in Portugal.

View inside the sleeper car to Chiang Mai.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

I’m able to have a wonderful conversation with the guys about their country, the Port wine and the scenery because I spent almost two months in Portugal in April and May. I mention the city of Coimbra. I went there not realizing it was graduation week from all the city’s universities and a huge party time. One of the guys says I must stop talking about Coimbra because he went to school there and will start crying. I know he’s serious not just because he looks it, but because I saw the students there crying because they would miss one another and their experience.

“I love how circumstances make you reflect on the impact of your decisions.”

It turns out that after visiting Thailand the Portuguese guys are heading to Vietnam. They have no specific itinerary. Since I’ve recently come from almost three weeks in Vietnam I’m able to give them lots of insights, suggestions and helpful recommendations.

Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018.

These are the conversations and meetings that would never take place had I not dared, taken a risk, and changed my life. I wouldn’t be in this sleeper car, I wouldn’t have anything in common with people from Portugal and I wouldn’t have the wealth of travel knowledge about places like Vietnam. If I hadn’t said no to what I don’t want and yes to what I do this whole story would never have been created. (Even more amazing, upon returning to New York, I needed help from technical support for a website issue. My support technician ended up being from Thailand. After a discussion about my travels there she rolled out the red carpet and gave me the most fabulous support and help ever! Wow!)

As I journey onward I’m in constant awe of all the people I might never have met, the places I might never have been and the experiences I might never have had. I’ve learned so much about myself through adapting to different cultures, eating strange foods and surviving on a different lifestyle. I look forward, each day, to the adventure to come.

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