A Life Lesson During a Long Flight Home

Updated on October 4, 2019
Deb Vesco Roberts profile image

I love to review and share our adventures, which include running/racing, backpacking, camping, road trips, traveling, especially cruising.


The Long Flight Home

The wind-down from all the excitement had now begun. While to many observers, this trip was just another vacation. To us, it was the trip of a lifetime. My first time in Europe and a dream come true. But more than that, it was my 50th birthday gift from my husband, with nearly 9 months of intense planning and execution to pull it all off.

In my past marriage, I had done all the travel planning, the worrying, the reading, the researching, the budgeting, the cleaning, prepping, arranging house care; all of it. This was the first time I didn't have to worry, plan, or look for the best options. All I had to do was enjoy the journey. I didn’t even have to do any of the driving through in and around eight different countries; not a single mile!

This journey took us on (2) 8-hour flights round-trip and 1600 miles of driving for over two weeks. It was nothing short of amazing. The best part is where we went. My husband didn’t just pick some pre-planned itinerary on the internet or off of some travel site. He invested hours of planning and researching to give me (us) the ultimate European experience. He knows what I like and what I don’t like, what I expect, and what I look forward to. We had only been together a little over 3 years at this time, but he knows me better than anyone ever has. I watched him sleeping so peacefully in the seat next to me and knew how exhausted he was from driving and navigating us through eight countries; and yet how satisfied he had to be knowing he pulled this off without a hitch. It was utterly perfect in every single way.

I stayed awake the entire flight. I planned to watch the in-flight movie and then take a nap, but I ended up writing this story instead, because something happened after the movie that made this flight an unforgettable one.

I scrolled through the movie options, and while I usually opt for a mindless comedy or a sappy romance, the Disney cartoon/movie “Finding Dory” stood out at me. The inner child and now empty-nester said “why not? I haven’t watched a Disney cartoon since my kids were young". Little did I know I’d find myself bawling my eyes out and trying to hide my emotions from my neighbors!

Finding Dory trailer

Inflight Movie: Finding Dory

If you've never watched this movie, Dory, the blue and yellow toddler fish, becomes lost from her parents. She suffers from short-term memory loss and her parents are super-protective, yet understanding of her forgetfulness. She is also carefree and innocent, which ultimately leads her to getting caught in an undertow and lost from her parents for several years. She grows up all alone, until one day she meets a father looking for his lost son, Nemo. (The first movie in this series). They became friends and eventually venture off together in search of Dory’s lost family. They end up on a wild goose chase of chaos, danger and dead-ends. The moral of the story, at least for me, is that the bond between parents and children is [should be] unbreakable and everlasting.

That’s where I got emotional and my own dysfunctional relationship with my mother came into the equation...it always does, in some form or another. Dory didn’t mean to lose her parents. She didn’t run away or become suddenly rebellious, and they didn’t abandon. She got lost though natural causes and neither gave up hope of one day being reunited.

Despite Dory's deficits and the barriers that kept them apart, she eventually found her parents again. She fought like hell to make it happen and she took risks. I always say "the best things in life happen by chance and there’s always a way". Dory says “you just have to swim faster”. The storyline also suggests you have to try harder, think positive, and take chances. I think this is why I got so emotional. This is how I live my life...and I miss my own mother, who abandoned me during my divorce and my father's death, due to anger, grief, and nonacceptance of my choices. It seems everything is a trigger of that pain, and this movie was no exception.

Everyone Gets Lost at Some Point in Their Lives.
Everyone Gets Lost at Some Point in Their Lives. | Source

An Unexpected Ending

As the movie came to a close and I’m discreetly trying to wipe away my steady steam of tears with my dinner napkin and complimentary blanket, an older gentleman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I feel bad that you’re feeling emotional and I just want to come up there and comfort you”. I didn’t watch that movie, but I can see what an effect it’s having on you”. I was embarrassed, but comforted at the same time. The woman beside me chimed in and said “don’t feel bad, I cried too when I watched it”. The older gentleman said “I just went on vacation for two weeks and learned that my best friend passed away while I’ve been gone, so I’m feeling emotional too”.

So here I sit and two total strangers with woes of their own, felt empathy for me and expressed it, without hesitation. I experienced the compassion of total strangers and at the same time, realized there are so many battles we are all fighting within ourselves, that we often feel we must be the only one whose emotions can be triggered by something as innocent as a children's movie!

I am trying to have a different outlook on life and see the best in everyone I meet. We all have a story, we all have hidden pain. I want to have more patience, more understanding, and more empathy. I don’t want to judge, criticize, or critique others. Instead of feeling frustrated with the endless screams from the child in front of us the entire flight, I should have sympathy for the parents and what they were going through to keep her quiet and occupied. They are trying their best, like we all are; like Dory did.

Life is about enjoying and living in the moment and doing it with compassion and patience. We all endure issues that are out of our control. We make choices, take chances, and run away from things we shouldn’t. We feel sorry for ourselves, blame others, hold grudges, and think the world is against us. We know people we wish would think and behave differently, but we can only control what we think and do ourselves. Because of this, I choose to live like Dory…to not give up and to just keep swimming!

What Lesson Did You Learn From a Total Stranger?

I'd love to hear about your personal experience. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Debra Roberts


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      • profile image

        Jennifer Peyton 

        8 months ago

        I love hearing stories of kindness from strangers. It's so rare anymore and it's so uplifting.

      • profile image

        Erica (The Prepping Wife) 

        8 months ago

        This is the kind of story that always renews my faith in humanity and I’m reminded that good people still exist in the world. It always touches me when total strangers show so much compassion and understanding like that. It sounds like you had an amazing trip!

      • profile image


        8 months ago

        I would be lying if I told you that animated movies never made me cry. It absolutely amazing how certain things can resonate with people and invoke feelings of joy, sadness, or anything in between

      • profile image

        Charmaine Daisley 

        8 months ago

        I'm sorry to hear about you losing your mom to misunderstanding and prejudice. It's family that hurts us the most and getting over that is never an easy feat - if it is possible at all. I wish you peace for yourself and a change of heart for your mother. I don't know your entire story, but it might be worth it to reach out again - sometimes we have to stoop to conquer. All the best to you.

      • profile image

        Lavern Moore 

        8 months ago

        So sweet how Dory touched your heart. Seems like a great flight and trip!

      • profile image


        8 months ago

        I am so much into cartoons

      • profile image

        Live Learn better 

        8 months ago

        I used to cry watching movies back then, until my father took me to a movie set to show everything we are rehearsed and scripted.

        Still can't stand horror movies but less emotional now.

        Glad someone that really love you took his time to package a memorable trip for you.

      • profile image

        Subhashish Roy 

        8 months ago

        Your hubby and me are both alike. I too love to do intensive planning for our summer holidays and the planning starts almost 8-10 months in advance. My wife just enjoys the holidays. I too haven't watched a Disney movie for long and this one Finding Dory sounds interesting.

      • profile image

        Tracy C 

        8 months ago

        I love that you've found your soulmate and that he is so thoughtful. My husband (also thoughtful) was supposed to plan my 50th birthday trip, but somehow I took over. It's okay--I love to plan trips. You are so correct about living in the moment and showing kindness and compassion. It's so important, and yet so few people go out of their way to do so.

      • profile image

        Despite Pain 

        8 months ago

        What a sweet story, Debra. I wish more people in this world of ours could have empathy. I'm sure it would be a happier place. Sometimes people feel awkward about what to say, but often nothing needs to be said. A look or a comforting hand on an arm is often all it takes.

        By the way, what an amazing 50th birthday gift from your husband.

      • profile image

        The Sunny Side Lifestyle Co. 

        8 months ago

        First off, congratulations on finding a partner who truly loves, sees and cares for you. As a spouse trying to plan that unforgettable vacation, I understand how much work he put into the trip! There are so many opportunities to experience true compassion; even on a long flight. Your words of 'I want to have more patience, more understanding, and more empathy' really spoke to me. This is a mantra we can all learn from.

      • profile image

        Scott DeNicola 

        8 months ago

        What a great story and what wonderful people to comfort a total stranger. The world would be a better place if we all just took care of each other more. It’s always best to learn and just keep swimming.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        9 months ago

        Yes, I know what you mean. Sometimes even mundane events can be wonderful memories.

      • Melody Dunithan profile image

        Melody Dunithan 

        9 months ago from Indiana

        It's amazing what simple things can trigger such an emotional reaction. It can take us back to memories and experiences that we think are nicely tucked away. And in the midst of everything, we meet people who can understand and empathize with us. What a wonderful thing that is!

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        16 months ago

        That was obviously a wonderful vacation for you. Your story about the inflight movie and it's after effects is powerful. Thank you for sharing.


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