“So… what backpack is that?”

In the sea of people waiting for the airport gate to open, she looked like she looked a little bit like me – a worn out female traveler about to backpack through Thailand.

I wondered what to say to her for the longest time as I felt my fear of being awkward grew. I knew we had some common ground with the fact that we both survived a layover flight to Shanghai from the States, but I didn’t want to sound stupid.

I’m an introvert. I’m shy. Just stay glued to the phone and don’t bother people.

I truthfully didn’t want that, though.

I was going to a completely new country solo and if I couldn’t work up the courage to talk to this one person, when will I ever with anyone else? Would I never converse with people outside of what was convenient for me? If there’s one place where you can reinvent yourself, it’s in a whole new country where you don’t know anyone.

I finally worked up the nerves to ask a question.

“So… what backpack is that?” I asked to a girl sitting right across from me at Gate 21.

“Oh this? It’s just a Bago.” She answered, smiling.

We ended up chatting the whole time before boarding and during the grueling hour of visa/customs. In the end, she asked if I wanted to split a taxi with her.

And that’s how I made my first friend in Thailand – not by staying in my comfort zone, but by taking the initiative to ask what backpack she was carrying.

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