Life is short and the world is small


This is Drew Meyers.

Strango smoothies at Mrs. Pa’s, in Chiang Mai

I met him in Chiang Mai, along with the usual suspects of smoothie-imbibing. We’re actually drinking strango smoothies (strawberry mango),  my favourite flavour, and are seated at Mrs. Pa’s smoothie cart near the Chiang Mai gate. He was staying at Smith Residence and quickly became friends with the random group of misfits that were living in Chiang Mai earlier this year. He was looking to build out a new business in the following months, and used his time in town to ask questions (and eat well.)

As one does.

This is Scott McLeod.

Scott McLeod in Bali another serendipity moment
Scott McLeod in Bali

Several years ago, I was in the Kuwait airport on a layover back to New York. I was heading back to surprise my family for the holidays, and the cheapest fares were via Kuwait. The long layover notwithstanding, it seemed like a good idea. Until I got the hiccups.

The Kuwait airport is already a fairly obtrusive place to be a 5 ft tall white lady. While I didn’t have my head covered, I did wear loose pants and a loose sweater and looped my scarf around my neck and torso to cover as much more as I could. It didn’t stop the stares and glares, half of which seemed curious, and the other half slightly less friendly. I then got the hiccups, which completely ruined my “stay in the corner quietly” plan because there is nothing quiet about my hiccups. In fact, I got kicked out of class in high school because they were so distracting, something my teacher characterized as a “cross between a cow in heat and a dinosaur.” *  His words, not mine.

A few minutes into my hiccuping I tweeted something about how I was already getting stared at, and now I was definitely getting attention because it had been quite awhile and my hiccups (my awkward, awkward hiccups) were not going away.

Next thing I know, a young guy walks up to say “Hi, are you legalnomads?” His name was Scott and he was on the same anxiously long layover as me, except he was with his family. With so much time to kill, he did a Twitter search for people tweeting from or about the Kuwait airport so that he could see who was there. As the only person hiccuping awkwardly in a corner, clearly he figured out who I was.

The rest of the layover went more quickly. I met his family, we talked social media and business entrepreneurship, we boarded our respective flights. In the last few years, save for a tweet or two I haven’t heard much from him. Until yesterday, when he tweeted a hello.

It turns out Scott is in Bali. And Drew, he is also in Bali. So of course, I put them in touch thinking my random hiccup-saviour should meet my smoothie-loving friend, especially since both are from the Pacific Northwest.

Well, it turns out that not only do they know each other, but they were sitting right next to each other while I tweeted at them.

I asked for a picture for proof and got one.

Mind, blown.

* * *

This is not the first story of serendipity that I’ve shared on the site. Long-term readers might recall my post from 2008 of climbing on the Great Wall of China and sneaking a sleepover on a crumbling, closed part of the wall near Jiankou, only to have later discovered that a Twitter acquaintance was there the very next morning, and that I was in her photoset from the trip, sleeping in the turrets. I finally had the pleasure of meeting that Twitter acquaintance, Helen, in London, in late 2011. A former food and travel writer, we swapped stories over coffee and marvelled at the randomness of our eventual encounter. For people who asked who I was meeting for coffee that day in London, I could only shake my head and say, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

I told Helen’s story at the same time as I told my equally surprising tale of corresponding with a gentleman in Antarctica that I had actually met in Indonesia months prior, of course during a lunch of pumpkin curry. And then there was the wonderful email from Legal Nomads reader Azita, who found my photo of her love lock from Montevideo and wrote to tell me the story of her relationship. Of course, I had to share it here.

Interspersed within these larger stories of small worldness are the tiny and important connections between people, forged during travels or during a long travel day.

I’m sharing this new tale of serendipity because it is an excellent reminder of life’s tiny joys, the infinitesimal flashes that lead to new friendships and smiles. Or as someone noted on Twitter yesterday when I tweeted out the Drew/Scott connection.

From Scott himself:



* Thank you to Alex Berger for supplying me with a ridiculous photo illustrating precisely what my hiccups might sound like:



29 thoughts on “Life is short and the world is small”

  1. I loved this story. I am a true believer of serendipity. There have been too many coincidences in my life that have pointed to it’s true existence. Including how i met my husband. but that’s a story for another day.

  2. I love stories like this. Recently my friend from Australia was traveling in Europe, and a photo popped up on her facebook from her trip. With closer inspection I saw my friend from Brazil, she ended up traveling around with him! I had met them in total separate journeys in my life. It’s not like 3 people from the same town coincidentally knowing each other, it was 3 people from 3 different continents in the world knowing each other.

  3. Definitely a fan of these types of stories. It always shocks me how small a world it can be at times. One of the great things about travel and about reaching out to connect people!

    Also, definitely a fan of epic prehistoric hiccups!

  4. What a great travelers’ tale! Our lives can criss-cross with people’s in unexpected ways without always knowing what the connections are. How wonderful that you were to see one of those connections happen as it was happening.

  5. Great stories. You nomads restore my faith in humanity. If only all of us went out in the world on a daily basis with the exuberant sense of discovery and joy you guys do what a different world it would be.

  6. I met a girl in Australia who had “serendipity” tattooed down her spine. Whilst I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, it’s certainly something I believe in. Nice story :)

    1. Yeah, the only tattoo I’d get is an olive with a red line through it (I really hate olives), but believing in and abiding by the notion that serendipity is but a blink away does lend a loveliness to life! I have to remind myself many times too, because of course that kind of lightness doesn’t come easily in the world we all live in. But I think tis worth the effort to try and think of everything as connected in this way – we all benefit. See you in a few weeks! :)

  7. This always seems to happen to me: I met a girl in Argentina who lives 20 minutes driving from me, another man in Buenos Aires who lives across the San Francisco Bay from me and sat next to a couple on a boat tour in Paris who lived about 40 miles from me. My tour guide had a hat of a nearby college, though he never has been! The world truly is a small place!

  8. What a cool story! And ooooh public hiccups are so embarrassing. During a recent case I hid in a stall in a public restroom so I could try a new hiccup cure I’d heard about: pulling on my tongue. It didn’t work! I’m sure everyone in the bathroom thought that there was a cow or a dinosaur in my stall…

  9. Big fan of moments like this! A recent one happened when I hosted a Couchsurfer this summer in New Hampshire — who just happened to be a former business partner of a guy I knew while living in Miami years ago. :)

  10. Perhaps not pure serendipity, but… Call it coincidence, I recently made a (5 day) dash into Chiang Mai (en route to a month in Mongolia, after living here in Saigon this past year) to recon it as a possible resettle spot and…

    I too checked out Smith Residence and am seriously considering it as my next “home” for at least the first month or two in Chiang Mai. May I ask what you think? i.e. did you like your stay there? And/or, any tips for a newbie expat in CM?

    1. Hi Dyanne, I didn’t stay at Smith – I was actually staying elsewhere in town. However, if you look at A Little Adrift, Shannon has quite a few tips for Chiang Mai and how much it costs, and also see Got Passport’s “what to do in Chiang Mai” post. For more general advice, see Enjoy! It’s lovely.

  11. I had a serendipitous moment last week that made me think of this post.. I got stuck in the Copenhagen airport for the better part of a day in July after getting bumped from my flight and having my follow-up cancelled due to a mechanical issue. A guy from California was in the same situation, and we commiserated in line for our re-bookings. Last week I was attending the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco (attended by 90,000+), and we bumped into each other!! This time we finally made official introductions and exchanged contact info. Such an incredibly small world…

  12. Pingback: Serendipity

  13. I am just visiting your blog for the first time today (directed from Roads & Kingdoms via Naomi Duguid). I had a heart stopping moment of kindred spirit recognition because I drop out regularly to travel, although admittedly not for as long as you have!

    I loved your post about the Why of it all. It always bothered me to no end when people assumed that some kind of life crisis brought on my travels. No, travelling and daydreaming about travelling brought on more travels!

    I also loved your post about buses in Laos, because one of my favourite bus stories to tell is my trip from Luang Namtha to Muang Sing, during which the Akha woman in front of me hung her bag of live rats from the overhead luggage compartment. They spent the entire trip scrabbling their way out of the bag, until I had a kind of rat sling hanging in front of my face, arms and legs frantically waving through the holes looking for a grip on my hair, my lunch, my book…. Good times. I’m temporarily grounded now by small kiddies and a research project, but I’ve always got a journey in the works ;)

    1. Thank you for reading and for the comment! That bus ride sounds like quite the trip and I’ve no doubt you will find many more, family with you! Good luck with the research and safe travels.

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