The Power of Observation: Learning in the Strangest of Places

I have a reputation for having tremendous experiences when traveling. Thank goodness for that because I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately. As many of you are well aware, air travel often provides you with interesting new acquaintances, plenty of reflection time (whether it’s scheduled or forced upon you), and a seemingly endless array of opportunities to learn through observation whether you’re in a terminal or cruising at 30,000 ft.

On one of my flights, I was seated beside a gentleman from Oklahoma. We chatted and he revealed that his father, upon successfully raising his children, was now following his lifelong dream of building a wagon and driving it all over! Yes, you heard me. He built a large wagon, complete with solar panels on the top and a huge water container on the back. He found himself a team of two mules and the rest is history. Kind of takes tiny houses to a whole new level!! As a wannabe cowgirl, I immediately began considering all of the ways I could include this in my life! And yes, we also shared photos of his pup, a min pin named “Cujo” who was trained to bark on the work site whenever someone said “contractor”! In spending some time listening, I was reminded of the power of a dream and the sense of accomplishment one feels when hard work, commitment, and dedication guide the way toward the fulfillment of that dream.

I suppose that checking email and social media has its benefits, but they’re nothing in comparison to taking advantage of real, genuine human interaction. With four hours to kill between flights in Grand Rapids, I had the good fortune of overhearing the most patient man on the planet try to sort out a funds transfer mishap with a customer service representative. I was awe-struck by his poised persistence while repeating the nature of his predicament for the umpteenth time. The trouble seemed to center around the fact that his home address happened to be a boat. Did he say they lived on a boat? I immediately closed my boring laptop and redirected my attention to the fabulous couple working through their customer service trial who were certain to become my new friends.

She is 75 years young, he 84. They’ve been married just under two years. He was a barge driver widowed at 80 who never expected to find love again. She was an engineer, prior Navy, divorced in her mid 30’s, single for 40 years, who was quite content to continue her adventurous lifestyle. Hearing the story of how the lives of these two tremendous mariners intersected reinforced in me the sense of wonder that comes from never knowing exactly what is in store for you and the incredible art of embracing the unknown.  

And then there was the young lady at the boutique store in Detroit who was incredibly helpful in solving a dilemma for me. After spending some time with her, I discovered she had a hunger for leadership and approached her path toward professional development by being the best follower she could be! Well, I had a copy of A Message to Millennials in my bag (shocking, I know) which I proudly gave to her. She reminded me in the simplest of ways – a true blue conversation – how your faith in others can be restored in an instant just by hearing about the path that someone else is on. Something you can so often miss when your head is down, buried in the latest newsfeed, like or post.

So keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. Take advantage of the chance encounters and random interactions. There are many you won’t remember, but there are just as many that can change your life. You’ll never know who can bless you in the strangest of places, and yes, even in a cramped airline seat. It’s the unexpected joys and lessons you can find all around you when you aren’t looking for them. So eyes up and smiles on everyone so you don’t miss a moment with any of your fellow travelers along the road of life.






Your experiences here struck me, Tracey, not only because I think you’re wonderful and am not surprised at all by how much you interact with people and turn “strangers” into friends, but also because it brings to mind how fascinated my mom was by my conversations with people whom I did not previously know.

As she accompanied me on local errands, she would ask me after an encounter with someone at the grocery store check-out line, or at the Post Office counter, or while waiting for take-out food, how I knew whomever I ended up talking to. (And a tip: always carry a couple of business cards in your wallet b/c you never know who will ask you for one…even while waiting for ice cream.) When I told her I didn’t know them until we started talking, she would be amazed at my ability to have such conversations.

I, too, find more satisfaction in person-to-person in-person exchanges than online, which is why I am creating Idea MindTeam business groups I intend to grow to an international presence so that thousands of entrepreneurs who work alone, and employees who are siloed in organizations, gain the richness of sharing ideas, learning from, and collaborating with each other in-person rather than in isolation online.

Sometimes we do learn – and grow – in the strangest of places!

Rachel Martin

Rachel Martin

Your message about being present in life is one that we all need to think more about. God has so many blessings for us each day if we will only allow our eyes and ears to be open to them. Thank you for your beautiful and loving spirit!

Marcia Sinkovitz

Marcia Sinkovitz

Love those tremendous ‘teachable’ moments!

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