The Power of Hello – Turning Strangers Into Friends

The views from Sandia Peak stretched across the mountain horizon and into the city below.  I was in Albuquerque for three short days and I fought the urge to plan each moment of my time there.

Each day, except for a Tuesday meeting, I awoke with no agenda and allowed my whim to carry me around Albuquerque.  It was my first time traveling solo and provided a fabulous learning experience.

On the flight over, I’d picked up a few magazines and this book called, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  In this memoir, Gretchen embarks on a journey to increase her happiness by tweaking her behavior.  During her experience, she develops rules to guide her during the project.

One of her “Twelve Commandments” is to Be Gretchen.

That commandment resonated.

While I didn’t have the commandment to Be Michaela, I’d been battling the urge to abide by trivial expectations.  I’d also been pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone during travel.  I guess my commandment would read something like Be Michaela 2.0.

So as I stood waiting to board the descending tram, my comfort pushed to the max during a second day of solo exploration, I was caught off guard when a stranger approached me.

“Hello. We noticed you were alone and wondered if you’d like to have dinner with us.”

I stammered over my response, struggling for a good reason to decline.  I came up with nothing.

A hundred thoughts flew through my mind as I followed the lady back to the High Finance Restaurant and Tavern and I vowed to transform this uncomfortable situation into a great experience.

It turned out that I didn’t have to try hard at all.  I had the perfect hosts who live in the Washington, DC metro area (like me), has a son who’s in Peace Corps (a program I’m interested in) and believes that there are no coincidences (ditto).

As the sun set into a landscape of perfectly hued colors, I realized that fear has no place in travel – or life.

This view fit perfectly into Gretchen’s Happiness Project.  By accepting the invitation to dinner, I took advantage of the opportunity to 1) squelch the fear of the situation and 2) try something new.  The saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”  I’m grateful for the domino of events that led perfectly to such an fulfilling lesson.

Be Michaela 2.0. It’s a mantra not only to be me, but to push myself to become the best Michaela ever.

Feel free to reuse the mantra – insert your own name, of course. ;-)

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  1. […] best way to learn about a culture, is to rub elbows with individuals.  Put yourself with the locals and participate in the customs.  Eat the food, wear the clothes […]

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