BY TAYLOR WADE
I spent 2 hours, 40 minutes completely sedentary on a flight from Guatemala City to Houston. Relieved to finally stretch my legs, I pranced through the airport to the passport control only to be held in the back security office for another 45 minutes. I was escorted there after showing my Canadian passport and trying to explain my dual citizenship. I had absolutely zero proof of my American legal status. After being asked a slew of completely random questions, the officer let me go, but not without invoking fear in me first. “If I ever catch you attempting to enter the United States without your American passport again, I will make sure you never step foot in this country again," he spewed. I thought it was a bit dramatic, but nodded nonetheless.
I barely caught my connecting flight to Chicago. I threw my luggage in the overhead compartment and took my seat in the middle of two older men. One appeared to be a mute, which was fine by me, and the other quite the contrary, which turned out a blessing in disguise. He had neatly jelled white hair that resembled Anderson Cooper. He spoke with such enthusiasm, as if not one word was less significant than the next.
He owned a financial planning firm, which normally wouldn't spike my interest, but his enthusiasm! He left me hanging on his every word. His clientele were families seeking guidance in planning their entire lives, one major financial decision at a time. He helped them plan for their children's future, such as saving for college tuitions and weddings. He was there every step of the way, and because of this, these families were an offshoot of his own family.
Rather than developing a God complex for possessing control over the future of multiple people, he had an attitude that illuminated gratitude. His gratitude sprang from the opportunity to come in contact with so many different types of individuals, each teaching him something unique, enabling him to have an eclectic world view.
He had a wedding ring on. I proceeded with my normal slew of questions, including the entire story of how he met his wife, how he knew she was "the one," and picking his brain on what constitutes a happy and successful marriage.
He said, “If I were to give you any piece of advice, it would be to surround yourself with people from all walks of life.” He went on, “Spend time with people twice your age, three times your age, from completely different worlds. Go to a Church group. Go to a chess club. Join a volleyball league. Put yourself in places where you are forced to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet."
He explained, “This will have the highest impact on not only your personal life, but on your dating life. When we create our social circle, rarely do we step outside of this comfort zone. We see the same people, we have the same conversations, and while these relationships are meaningful and enrich your life in other ways, you will never grow and you will never expand your dating horizons. You may start dating someone from within your social circle, and comparatively speaking, he is great.” He emphasized the word comparatively.
He continued, “Then, you meet a new person or a new group of people, and everything changes. You are introduced to a new kind of guy that brings this light into your life you didn’t even know was possible. He will add color to your world, add flavor to everyday situations. This, my dear, is when you will know you have found the one and it is only possible by expanding your social circle and being introduced to different world views. If there is one piece of advice to offer you, it is this, and one that has brought me to my beloved wife.”
I thought a lot about his words. Finding the elusive 'one' doesn't merely rely on the statistical fact that by meeting more people, you're increasing your chances of finding the right person. Yes, this is true, however, it runs deeper than that. It's finding out that your most desired quality in a partner is something that has never previously crossed your mind. It's discovering a need you didn't even know you had. It's realizing a specific characteristic that compliments your personality style in an unimaginable way.
A traveler roams the world to gain a new perspective into his or her own life. The traveler does this by seeing new things, meeting new people, and being immersed in new cultures. Similarly, being an explorer in your own dating life allows you to gain new insight into your innermost wants and needs. You don't need to plan some big, extravagant worldwide journey. All it takes is the motivation to learn, grow, and discover what it is that makes you tick in a relationship. It takes courage to throw away pre-conceived notions of what constitutes the "perfect guy" and to open your mind.
I had a feeling that my flight companion had a collection of advice assembled over the years. I wanted to adopt him as my second father so that he could bestow his wisdom on a daily basis. I would be so wise! Knowing that wasn’t possible, I asked for his business card instead. Our 2 hour, 4 minute flight had ended, and we parted ways, but his enthusiasm for life and wise advice remained. I went home that day and threw out my list assembled over the years of desired qualities in a man. I wiped clean the image in my mind of what his appearance needed to resemble. I hopped online and I signed up for an event I never thought I would attend.
I was going to be a traveler in my very own dating world.