We stood there.  Watching the conveyor belt go round and round.  The two pieces of luggage left were not ours.  They were the dejected bags no one had claimed.  And after five minutes, or maybe fifty, we shuffled over to the ticket counter and with a fake sense of hope and forced smile, I said, “Hi.  Ourluggagedidn’tmakeit.”

“Why not?” the airline rep joked.

It was not funny.  Surprises like this never are.  They throw you off balance.  Interrupt the rhythm.  Frustrate and annoy.

That’s the thing about traveling.  You are at the mercy of everything and everyone around you.  You trust the pilots.  The weather.  The safety features and mechanics.  But, inevitably something comes up.  Something changes.  Life happens.  Surprise!

And the longer you live, and the more you travel, the more stories you collect.  The more missed flights, the crazier where-did-this-person-come-from? passengers, the more bumps, more turbulence, more everything.

This past weekend, my entire family trekked to Orlando for my granddad’s 90th birthday.  What started as two (my nana and granddad), has now turned into forty plus.  The branches of the family tree getting bigger, more twisted.   Some grafted.  Some broken.  But all connected.

And I was talking to my uncle about life now, with a severed branch.  I told him how hard relationships are at this age – since we all, me included, have more baggage.  More hurts.  More life experiences.  He soberly responded, “Imagine what it’s like at 60!  It’s even harder at my age.”

The thing is, I can imagine.  A few weeks into this dating game, and I feel the overwhelming urge to go back inside the terminal.  To sit and watch the planes take off from the safety of the airport.  It’s nothing like I expected, perhaps because I didn’t know what to expect.

I knew that I was broken, with a long maintenance record and refurbished parts/heart, but I hadn’t counted on everyone else to have the same.  Every. single. one.  We’re all rusty and worn.  Anyone at this age has seen a lot of places, met a lot of people, and had a lot of heartache.  It’s expected.  Traveling will do that to a person.

But, traveling also provides some great stories.  Some unexpected surprises.  Like the time I found myself walking into a proposal tunnel at Redmond airport.  Half of the strangers looked at me with bated breath wondering if I was “the one.”  (Spoiler alert:  I wasn’t.  Instead, I grabbed an extra sign, joined the tunnel, and watched the sweetest marriage proposal between two people I didn’t know.)

Which means, at the end of the day, I can’t let a few unfortunate experiences keep me from traveling.  Yes, losing your luggage is frustrating.  Extremely so.  But, now I know to reframe my expectations.  Hope for the best.  Prepare for the worst.  Collect some great material along the way.

And leave time, plenty of time, for the journey.

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