May 10, 2017

Last week, I attended a conference in the culturally rich city that is New Orleans. I filled my brain with knowledge, networked my heart out, and ate my way through the local fare. And while my time in the city of jazz was eventful in itself, the real adventure began when I checked my bags at the airport and prepared for my trip back home.

I walked through security, business, as usual, only to be greeted on the other side by some of the most dreaded words of air travel: flight delayed. So, naturally, I grabbed the best snack the small airport afforded me (popcorn!) and sat down at my assigned gate (read: started pacing).

Every time an airline representative made an announcement over the PA system, the people sitting around me started giving each other looks, then rolling their eyes, and eventually laughing together. Soon these nonverbals developed into full-on conversations. “Were you in town for the conference?” “Where are you from? Oh, really?" "So you’re worried about missing your connecting flight, too?”

While the delay was a bummer, I made the most of the situation. We all did. I befriended a young man yearning to return to his girlfriend in San Francisco, a couple of enthusiastic journalists from Portland, and a startup founder from San Diego. And together, my mismatched troop sprinted across the vast Houston airport

And this—making friends along the way—is common while traveling. There’s something about being out of your element that makes you more open to connecting with other people.

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My cross-country travel woes pale in comparison to the rocky—and sometimes dangerous—road that classmates Clare and Joey experienced while en route to Ethiopia from Abu Dhabi. The girls weren’t close friends when they embarked on the trip, in fact, they were stuck together by unfortunate chance... but after a 20-hour trek across rural Ethiopia, their bond was set in stone. You’ll hear about their life-changing adventure—full of scams, shouting strangers, and an intoxicated bus driver—and more this week on the Relate podcast. Who knows, maybe it’ll even inspire you to plan an adventure of your own.

The Relate podcast: a show about how we connect, work together, and understand one another. Basically, we'll explore every type of relationship except romance—that’s on you.

Sara Lighthall is a content marketer at Zendesk and a student of life. When she’s not demystifying the Millennial generation on Relate, you can find her with her toes in the sand and a latte in her hand. See what she’s up to on Twitter: @saralighthall.