A flight from Chicago to Peru takes approximately nine hours. Unfortunately there are no direct routes, so a two hour layover in Texas was necessary when I traveled this past Saturday. Most people would dread the idea of an 11 hour voyage, but like all things, I tried to make the best of it. What could be more interesting than flying across the world with total strangers? Slightly uncomfortable, but the possibilities for conversation are endless.
I boarded the plane from Dallas to Lima and was excited because seats were filling up, but the one next to me was still empty. I thought I might just be lucky enough to have both seats to myself. Suddenly a shadow consumed my row and I looked up to find a big dude standing over me. He was at least 6’3”, had a scruffy beard and a shiny bald head. His name was Dan.
I waited to see if he would initiate conversation before I jumped into questioning him. I was curious.
He said hello and we started with small talk. I told him I was heading to South America for a travel writing course and eventually got the opportunity to ask my burning question. Who was he and why was he going to Peru? What he said took me by surprise.
He was a monk from Denmark full of spiritual knowledge and enlightening ideals. That was unexpected to say the least.
He was headed to the Amazon to spend 20 days in the jungle with a friend and planned on experiencing Ayahuasca – a super powerful hallucinogenic (the same stuff that Jennifer Anniston tripped on hardcore in the movie Wanderlust).
I was instantly intrigued and wanted to know everything about this man.
The first two hours flew by. He told me about hard times in his life that led him to become a monk, we talked about Buddhist ideals and he referred me to books that would awaken the soul. We discussed what it really meant to be enlightened and to fully develop your sense of self. Anyone who knows me well knows I’m captivated by that stuff. The spirit is something I could talk about for hours, and I’m constantly looking to better myself and to be deeply inspired.
I couldn’t help but think it was fate that I ended up next to Dan. He refreshed my perspective and reminded me to live in the moment on my trip rather than focusing on what was yet to come or waiting for me back home. He also ordered wine each time the flight attendant came by and gave it to me since he was fasting before his “trip”.
It’s amazing how one stranger can open your eyes. My mindset completely shifted into a new direction and it was a moment of clarity. I’m sure Dan is somewhere in the rainforest playing with parrots and jaguars right now, but I hope he knows he’s had a positive impact on my life and I’m thankful I flew six hours south next to him.