Stranger things have happened
It’s a small world they say. At least that’s what we said when we took our first Rick Steve’s tour in 2016. A guided tour of Italy. At the kick off meeting of the tour, we met a lovely family who coincidentally were from the exact same town as us: Boulder, Colorado. What are the odds that on the other side of the planet, of all the families and people who would could be part of our tour group, there was this family of 4 from the same town where Anne and I lived and grew up? It was nice to have so much in common with this tribe as we toured around Italy.
Fast forward two years. Anne and I are atop the Aiguille du Midi summit in Chamonix, France. Acclimating to this spectacle is not for the faint of heart. The tram ride is overwhelming in its drama… the heights, the elevation, the magnitude of the mountains, the valleys and their great depth… it will amaze most everyone, and set some in a panic. Anne was somewhere in between these two states of amazement and panic by the time our tram reached the summit. We did opt to stop for 20 minutes to acclimate at the halfway point of Plan de I’Aigulle which we recommend, so long as the trams are not crowded that day.
Nonetheless, by the time we reached the summit, Anne was nearing a full panic attack. The tram had gotten stuck at the top, 5 feet from the exit deck, and everyone was packed into the car like sardines. We dangled from the cable for what seemed like hours. Once we exited, we tried to walk it off, and sat on the deck of the viewing platform (well away from the railings, and in just partial sightlines to the expanse that surrounded us). Anne tried to talk it off a bit with me and a fellow tour member or two who happened to be at the summit at the same time.
Even for me, and adrenaline junky, being atop the mountain, gazing at the great heights was making me a bit queasy. We were trying as a traveling pare to calm the nerves so that we didn’t miss a chance to experience the magnificence of seeing something so special. Slowly, if through nothing but exposure therapy, Anne began to calm down. We started walking in increasingly wide circles around the viewing deck, towards the railings and their great heights, small steps, baby steps, no hurry.
All of the sudden, Anne turned to a woman on the deck who was taking a picture. I could see the grip of fear melting away as she spoke to the woman, “Excuse me, this is going to sound so strange, but do I know you? Did you go on a Rick Steves tour of Italy in 2016?” Minutes later, I still was in amazement at what was happening. At random, 2 years after we had toured Italy with them, we had run into the same family here at the top of the Augille du Midi. They were not part of our tour and had opted to take this trip on their own (but still were packing a Rick Steves guidebook).
Again, I found myself asking, what are the odds that this same family, from our hometown, who we had met at random in Italy on a tour, were now standing in front of us again, on the other side of the world, in the shadow of Europe’s tallest peak - Mont Blanc??
We caught up for several minutes with the family, and traded a few recent travel stories. This bit of friendly familiarity seemed to thaw the grip of anxiety on both Anne and I, and we were able to finish touring around the summit - and yes, even look over the railings at the great heights we were perched upon.
The world most certainly can be a very big, and very small place, all at the same time.