A few months ago I went on a volunteering trip with some people from my work, most of whom I never met before. On a plane, I got to sit next to a woman from the Korean office and in those few hours I got to know her better than I know my teammates after two years of working together. When you’re bound to a place and have nothing important to do, talking to a stranger becomes much easier. You are less likely to start prioritizing tasks or writing emails. And it feels less awkward to start a conversation there too.
By the end of the trip, it seemed really unfair we were living in different countries. Still, we decided to keep in touch and last Tuesday she told me she was in Sydney for work. But, despite staying for almost a week, she was always busy. And so was I, for the record. We found time for a quick lunch, joined by one of her colleagues, but it was not nearly as satisfying as being tied to a chair. In the office cafeteria, there is always a spectre of work which never lets people relax and let go. There is always something to do and somewhere to go.
People often dislike air travel, but the in-flight time is one of the few places we truly disconnect from our schedules and our emails. It may not provide a lot of space, but it gives us time and silence necessary to reflect and to communicate.
I wish I could travel more in my work.