By Katherine Wright 

Traveling can be strange, stressful and personal. 

Some people like to take their time, move at their own pace and would much rather take trips in complete solitude. Others prefer to be surrounded by friends and family, welcoming distractions and the added entertainment of conversation — or, at the very minimum, someone to watch their luggage while they go to the bathroom.

No matter where you stand, we can pretty much agree that traveling sucks. We spend so much time sitting around doing nothing, are constantly at risk of delays or weather-related issues and have to deal with the complex combination of simultaneous stress and boredom.

However, once you board your train or bus or plane, you’re pretty much set. The frustration of waiting in lines or the fear that you’ll miss your flight has finally passed and you can relax, read or eat in peace. 

At this point, there’s nothing to do really do until you arrive at your destination. 

More often than not, we come prepared with a plan as to how we will kill time during the transportation process. Sometimes we want to nap, and other times we want to take advantage of the time blocked off for nothing other than productivity. But, we always have a plan in mind. That is, unless the stranger next to you forces you into an entirely different itinerary.

It typically starts with a basic conversation about who you are, where you’re headed and what you’re doing when you arrive. If the questions end after this, you’re lucky. You’ve established a friendly relationship and can now move on to your respective movies, with only a few casual glances at what the stranger is watching.

But if the chit-chat lingers beyond the pilot’s loudspeaker announcement, you can expect a very long, chatty trip. Get ready to dodge personal questions and stare longingly at your tucked-away iPad, thinking back to the three-and-a-half-hours of content you downloaded this morning. 

When that idle banter continues, wave goodbye to the possibility of productivity, napping or watching that movie you’ve been meaning to see forever.

All you can do is sip quietly on your Diet Coke and take it all in, acknowledging that life is weird, unpredictable and things don’t always (or ever) turn out exactly how you planned them.

So cheers to new memories, new stories and new friends — even if you would have been perfectly content with a pack of airplane cookies and a second-rate movie.