Strike up a conversation with a total stranger

I’ve been hustling around the nation this week giving talks. First I flew to Indy, then NYC, then Vail and finally Denver. All since Monday. Lotsa plane time. Tons of tarmac time.

I’ve been in 15 taxis and car services too.

Before you think I’m complaining, hear me out. I had great time this week. I learned a lot of new stuff from total strangers this week. How?

I took the time to strike up a conversation with all my travel mates. The guy sitting next to me on the plane from New York City to Vail, the taxi driver that took me 30 miles to the airport to go to Denver and a frantic couple that got held up in security while their door was closing. I had great conversations and learned something just for you: You have a choice to hate or love travel. Silence is the key.

If you just sit in the back of the taxi wishing you were already there, you are not having a good time. If you sit in stone silence on the three hour flight where you are crammed in next to someone, you aren’t moving through the journey of your life — you are doing time.

I’ve learned that all you need to do is try three times, and you can usually get ANYONE to start talking. I do it when we first sit down, when the food comes and when they announce our descent. (note: they aren’t listening to their IPOD, working on their laptop or sleeping during those times.) Usually, they start the conversation on the first try. “Going back home”? is my favorite conversation starter. Not terribly creative or stylish, but it works.

Try it next time you travel and you’ll find that a three hour flight feels like a thirty minute radio interview. Time just flies when you’re having fun.

PS — You might make someone’s day too. You might be a friendly voice to them during a moment of travel stress. You might be a node in their network and give them a real lift.

Recommended read: Up in the air by Walter Kirn. A good friend gave me this book and I just LOVED it. Funny, stylish and abrupt, this novel helps you laugh at your life at 30,000 feet. When you click on this link to check it out on Amazon, forget a few bad reviews from people that would be better suited to ready Harry Potter or John Grisham, this book is a must read for the frequent flier.