When the stars align, I now believe you can’t stop what lies ahead. Like Meghan and Harry falling in love.
In February, I was conflicted about taking a trip to Germany for a friend’s special celebration. The question wasn’t whether I wanted to go, it was did I deserve to go. Struggling a bit with running my own business and feeling as if all I do is spend money, I didn’t think I should go.
But fate sent several signs that I was meant to go. I had just enough award miles to pay for a round trip ticket for one thing. The only cost for the flight was in the airport fees and taxes. I stayed with a German family, and they were so gracious that I didn’t pay for much else other than the 1.5 kilos of chocolate that I brought home for my family.
The weather was uncharacteristically cold at the time in Europe. We arrived in Paris on time from LAX, but it was no surprise then to be delayed for most of the day waiting for my connecting flight to Munich. You can find exquisite chocolate and macarons for sale in the airport so I had to reconsider my “bad luck” at having a flight delay.
Fate gave me another sign when I ended up in a small café where I had a conversation about expat living with the only other customer there, a Colombian expat who had been living in Germany for 15 years. In one simple statement, she captured the dilemma expat living causes for anyone who has done it. In her own words, it was the circle person moving to a square country.
Her own statement was so profound, and I thought, how did this happen? I shouldn’t have even been in that café that morning.
I finally realized I was meant to go on that trip when a short essay I wrote about the incident in the café was accepted for publication in the travel section of the LA Times.
It’s hard to believe that it was that trip that got me my first byline in the LA Times. It was a short trip, and to Europe, which for me couldn’t have been easier. I didn’t have to make hotel reservations, as I had the luxury of staying with my friends who live right in the city center of Munich. I also didn’t have to think much about what to do as the plan was for a weekend party at a resort area outside of Munich.
The best part of being there, although every moment of weekend party was fabulous, was just hanging around them each day doing what they did. And this is when it happened, such a seemingly minor incident in less than 24 hours of my arrival to Munich. It reminded me of why travel is so important to me.
I have written so many stories about elaborate trips and life overseas. I take dive vacations I write passionately about and have beautiful photographs for. Stories about exotic places around the world where I have left a little piece of my heart. Yet, it was a trip that wasn’t even about me that landed me my first byline in a major media outlet.
I could have cried “I have jet lag” to my friend Jörg the first morning and slept in. I could have been not so interested in running around the city at below freezing temperatures on some very routine errands with him. I could have protested against the person who sent me to the café. I could have said nothing to the woman sitting across from me.
It could have just as easily been the story that never happened. I shouldn’t have been there. But I was.
When I came home, I felt compelled to write about the experience. It fit perfectly into the theme of a monthly column published in the LA Times travel section that “explores the ways in which travel changes us.”
Only 700 words. I wanted to cheat, but I edited the story down to 695 words. I took the time to find the editor’s name for my pitch letter. A week later, I received a lovely email saying that she wanted to publish the article for the next scheduled column. It was the cherry on top of the Hawaiian toast.
The stars were really aligned. I had to go on that trip. Sometimes you just have to say yes.
The trip cost me nothing in the end, and I got a byline in the LA Times. Or maybe not. Maybe I had to write about all of those other trips first…
©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com