Life Stories

The Woman in Seat 7B Who Changed My Life

jo meets a woman who changed her life

It was that dreaded day that I realized I would no longer be living as a free spirit in a foreign country with the “study abroad” excuse. After a semester abroad in Paris, I said au revoir to my French host family, and I boarded the plane to head home. Let me take you back to that flight from Charles De Gaulle airport.

I’m stressed, I’m alone, I’m nervous, and I’m sweaty from lugging my six bags through the aisle to Row 5; In other words, I’m everything but at ease.

My three carry-ons, pillow pet, and I, shimmy past the overweight man in the aisle seat just to sit down and hear a middle-aged Parisian man-bitch yell at me, “Excusez-moi, yew need to…euh…mewve. That is…my…euh…zseat.” I attempt to squeeze all of my bags past the overweight man once again, but this time there’s the pressure of the Parisian man staring. Did I have to wear the stupid rain boots that choke my chunky calves? Did I have to wear the itchiest winter hat that screamed “American tourist?” And damn, did I have to wear four layers of sweaters in the middle of May to minimize the weight of my luggage?

​I make my way to Row 6, the location of my actual seat, and get resettled. As I’m opening up the latest copy of SkyMall, a perky, American flight attendant pokes me and requests that I move seats to make room for a couple. I move my million bags once again and follow her to my final destination: Row 7, Seat A.

Third time better be the charm. I take off my calf-choking boots and put them in the space in front of me as a blonde woman sits next to me and says, “the flight attendant is going to yell at you for putting your boots there.”

So I put them on again.

She slides into seat 7B – smack dab between me and conveniently, another overweight man.The plane is about to take off and I instantly feel more sweat accumulate on my palms. The blonde woman looks at me and asks “where are you coming from?” and I think to myself Oh, now you wanna be my friend? I try to take the look of anxiety off my face and engage in a conversation just because it’ll distract my in-flight phobia. “I was studying abroad in Paris, and now I’m going back to my old life, hustling in NYC.” The plane takes off and we have that shared, unspoken thought of yep, we’re all going to die. After I break the silence by admitting I hate this part of travel, she chuckles and introduces herself, “I’m Julie.” Names were shared, and stories of our journeys started pouring out during take off.

Somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean, Julie tells me that she had previously climbed the corporate ladder in a dance company. Despite society’s view of her success in having a fancy title in a prestigious company, it didn’t give her a joie de vivre, because it wasn’t her own company. After about five years in the same job, she took a leap of faith and decided to create her own PR firm. She has since sustained herself for ten years and takes full responsibility for her income as an entrepreneur with clients she’s passionate about.

She asks me what I’m studying in college and this is when it got real. I start rambling about studying International Management, but admit that my mission was to become the CEO of my own company. I just didn’t know what that company was yet…or did I? As I’m rambling on and on about doing my five internships in Management, Marketing, and PR, I realize that maybe she sat next to me for some divine reason.

I tell Julie that I had locked down a full-time summer internship, and that’s when the reality set in; after spending four months of actually living my life abroad, I’d be returning to the life of cubicles, resumé-building, and checking off “success items” on society’s to-do list, while never truly enjoying what I’m doing in the present. In other words, I was always thinking I’d be happier when I had more money, when I had more time, or when I had more experience. Basically any other time than now.

I switch gears, and tell her that I’d started filming these little episodes of my travels with my best friend Damon. She could tell I was more excited about these “little travel episodes” than any other internship I had ever worked, and to her it was clear, “Joanna, I say you go back to NYC, continue to film with Damon, build your fanbase, and embrace the fact that you’re a creative entrepreneur.”

Da woman hit the nail on the head.

It took a while to admit to myself that I was never happy in these corporate internships where I would try to blend in as possible to compensate for my big curly hair and brown skin. She pointed out that I speak various languages that were never used in these internships, that I have a big personality that I constantly felt I needed to toned down, and that a cubicle would never be the dream destination for someone with intense wanderlust.

WTF was I doing with my life?

Four hours into the flight, Julie had permanently sparked my awareness of how I had control over my life. She had reassured me that a life off the beaten path would be difficult, but comforted me by laying down some wise words, “you need to realize that luck is just preparation meeting opportunity.” I had to prepare and the opportunity, or “luck,” would come.

Two years later, Julie and I still keep in touch. Since sitting in Seat 7A, I’ve never thought about working for anyone else, settling for what society believes success is, and I never. ever forget to be happy in the present, because that is what matters.

And that’s the story of how the woman in Seat 7B changed my life.

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  • Dan

    Reading this makes me want to start my own company so bad. It’s crazy you almost never met her!

    • Jo

      Dan! You’re the man. Start your own business and don’t look back! The longer you wait, the more risk will be involved. Make moves! Thanks for reading :)!

  • Your story is inspiring. I’m not quite sure how to communicate all the things this article made me feel, but you and Damon have done something incredible. I was orphaned at sixteen and dreaming was the only thing that kept me here. Your work is inspiring and I’m so happy that you met this lady because your videos and articles motivate me to do better, be better, and go further than I’ve ever dreamed! It took me awhile to get the courage, but after watching your stuff–I’m so glad that I made the decision I did. Hell, I’m moving to Australia in less than a month for a whole year and I have no idea what I’m going to do. Anyway, I’m rambling, and being weird haha, but I’m so happy you’ve chosen to walk your own way and I can’t wait to see more! 🙂

    – Steph

    • Jo

      Steph! This comment is seriously one of those moments where all the bullshit we’ve gone through to keep up with our show is worth it! Thank you for this honest and raw comment girlfriend! YOU GO TO AUSTRALIA and kick some a$$! Cheering you on, really, you will inspire others also. Shoot, already inspired me.

      Keep in touch! Safe travels!

  • Candy

    Hello Jo! I just started watching your videos and have been on your blog for less than 15 minutes. You guys are awesome!
    I loved this post, and even though I don’t know you I can tell that Julie is right and she could totally read you. You’re made for this.

    Btw, are you guys going to be in NYC in September/October? I’m going there by myself (been to NYC once before but I still have a lot to explore), and I’d love some company. I subscribed to your channel because of the Roosevelt Island tram video. I can’t believe what a secret that is, I’ve read biillliions of blogs and tips and blah about NYC and not once did I read about the tram. I’m definitely doing that.
    Oh hey high five for being south american! I’m from Argentina myself 🙂

    xx

    Candy

    • Jo

      Hey Candy! Thanks for the comment, glad you like our content! Julie seriously made a lot of this happen, well at least our conversation did! I was a “planner” and worrier about everything before meeting her, I’m completely different now!

      We’re totally going to be in NYC in the Fall, shoot us an email (holler@damonandjo.com) and we’ll get coffee or something! Yay for South America! Besitos!

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  • Trin

    I know this is like suuuuper late (yay to late night over-analyzing) but I just HAD to say that you guys are beyond AWESOME. So excited to follow you guys on your journey and to learn from your experiences! I’ve watched/read pretty much all of your website and I am so motivated to get started on my own passions as well. I just took a leap of faith moving from LA to DC for my first post-undergrad job 2 months ago and was feeling really lost and lonely because I lost a huge sense of myself, but you and Damon’s content really made me realize that I was getting caught up in the mundane routine of 9-5 life and not taking advantage of the opportunities that are really in front of me: an amazing city to explore with incredible people to meet, time to self-reflect, and the opportunity to learn who I truly am. I am so happy that Julie came into your life with impeccable timing and that you were able to pay it forward to others! I am keeping these words with me: “Luck is just preparation meeting opportunity” 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration and all your hard work guys!!

    PS: If you’re ever DC again, I’d love to meet you guys!

    • Trin,
      Well, we’re the ones that are super late responding to this awesome comment! First of all: congrats on your move from LA to DC! You seem like our kind of person! We’ll definitely be in DC again and we’d love to meet you too! Find us on Twitter and reach out, let’s be friends! We want to hear how you’re adjusting to DC!

  • Sol

    Hey guys! this is probably one of the coolest story i have ever read! I’m so thankful for one day just looking up on youtube “How to learn PORTUGUESE” and you guys popped up, Damon and Jo you guys have changed my life, you guys have inspired me to stop worrying so much and just “Shut up and Go” (Pretty cheesy but its the truth). Im still in high school trying to figure out what i want to do with my life.. but one thing for sure is that i want to TRAVEL. Thank you for all the inspiration.

    Besos,
    Sol 🙂

    • Sol! Did you leave a video on our Skype?!
      We love this comment because it’s for this that we do what we do! Thank you for all of the love and support and know we’re sending it right back! Glad to help where we can!

  • chizoma

    is it crazy that i feel super jaded and stifled and i’m only 15? i live in new york, goshdarnit, but i don’t have the freedom to explore the city for myself. you guys inspire me deeply, and i love this blog because it shows that there are deep, insightful people behind those booming personalities.

    • Boo, why are you jaded?! Life is happening NOW! you have no time to be down in the dumps, ESPECIALLY living in a city that most people only dream of visiting! Sending the travel bug to bite yo butt. Thanks for reading!

  • Giacomo Oreglia

    Hi Jo! Thank you so much for this article, I really needed this in this stage of my life! My mind is filled with negative thoughts and feelings because I’m scared of the unknown that awaits me in the future.. I guess I just have to go with the flow and try to live just as it is, through the ups and downs of life!
    I really admire what you and Damon are doing and I wish you joy and success! May all your wishes become true.
    I am 19 years old and I’m moving to China for the second time in my life, but this time will be for university, so that means that I’ll be there for 4 years! Even though I love China and I am passionate about what I study there, something about that ‘unknown future’ scares the heck out of me. This is a very important moment for my path and I hope everything ‘irá sobre ruedas’ as Spanish people say. I’m crossing fingers and breaking legs!
    Thanks again for all that you and Damon do: it’s so great to watch you and read your blog! Keep up with the good work!
    Lots of romantic and passionate love from your Italian supporter Giacomo! Ciao!

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