Defined once as “one surprise after another,” serendipity punctuates all of our travels. We are not world travelers like some of our friends and relations, but we have taken wonderful vacations all over the northwestern hemisphere. We’ve enjoyed road trips, cruises, rustic camping and luxury accommodations. And there is that one big adventure that took us over land and sea to Norway, some of the north Atlantic island countries, and home by way of Boston before arriving a month later back on the west coast. During every adventure we have been surprised by something that stands out as the pinnacle of the trip, a highlight that we love to share with willing listeners well after we’ve returned home and fallen back into the routines of life. Serendipity: a joyous and unexpected surprise.

Perhaps the fact that we are both friendly people, I more than my spouse, but he as eager to engage in conversation with friendly others, has invited the surprising benefits that come from offering and receiving a smile between strangers. I have always been a fairly self-confident person, but have not always been comfortable with straight on sustained eye contact. As a journalist I have had to write as I interview, thus have had brief eye-contact. As a traveler, I love the eyeball-to-eyeball attention I can give to others. It seems to unlock doors and gently deconstruct walls that we all so often erect. What a joy when suddenly a heart connection blooms and relaxed conversation reveals something, well…serendipitous.

That leads to our “Great North Atlantic Adventure.” At the tail end of a ten-day New England fall colors cruise in 2010, we briefly enjoyed time in New York City where we ordered lunch at a restaurant in the basement of Macy’s. I am a west coast country girl, way out of my element and enjoying the crazy crowded sensory experience of the city. The original wooden escalator in Macy’s tickled me like a child traveling down by magic for the first time.

There we sat in close proximity to other diners of all colors, cultures and languages. Of course I spoke to my nearest neighbors. As it turned out they happened to be visitors to the city as well, on vacation from their home in Oslo, Norway. She had emigrated to Norway from Asia and spoke very little English; he spoke it very well with a wonderful accent. My eyeballs glued themselves to his listening intently to their vacation story and their apologetic inability to help direct us to the subway station for the trip back to our hotel.

We, the older couple, they the young newlyweds, made a friend connection that lasted through email and phone conversations until Vidar surprised us by attending our 40th anniversary party two years after our chance meeting. His wife was unable to join him, but we entertained our Norwegian “son” for a week. Another two years of long-distance communication led to our month-long trip to visit the couple in Norway in 2014. Oh the stories of serendipity I could tell from that trip!

Fast Forward to December 2015.

Recently we drove through a coffee kiosk on our way to visit relatives over the mountains for another weekend adventure. My husband bantered with the young man inside while we awaited our order. Something clicked. Daniel is now another “son” we’ve decided to adopt. He has been over for dinner and plans to bring his girlfriend next visit. His family lives in Alaska, far from where he now lives and goes to school. He so very gratefully accepted our friendship. What fun!

Now it is 2016. Let serendipity reign!