Let this story be a lesson to you: When you feel an inkling to meet new people—a group at a party, someone standing by you in line, or the nice couple parked next to you at the RV park—introduce yourself. You're going to feel a little bit awkward, but if you have the impulse, do it.
There's even a TED Talk about using a "5-second rule" to get moving. Motivational speaker Mel Robbins encourages people to marry impulses to actions within five seconds of when the idea strikes—before the brain has time to kill the idea due to potential discomfort.
Too bad I hadn't yet watched that talk when we were parked at the Flat Creek RV Park in Thayne, Wyoming. We would see our neighbors come and go from their trailer throughout the day, but we never crossed to their side of the water hose to introduce ourselves. Being a little lonely and a tad bored in small town Wyoming, we would've loved to share road warrior stories and a dinner with other traveling sprits. But, we hesitated.
We'd been curious about these neighbors from the moment we parked. Their pickup truck and trailer were branded with the words "Walleye Freak" circling a neon green fish. Who were they? Where were they from? Why walleye? Yet, we never followed that initial impulse to walk over, knock on their door, and ask.
Two weeks later, on our last day in Thayne, Dan and I were outside packing when the neighbors walked up.
"Are you guys leaving?" They asked.
The ensuing 20 minutes of conversation proved that we'd truly missed out by not introducing ourselves sooner. Like us, Michelle and Jimmy were on a cross-country adventure, and Jimmy, an incredibly skilled fisherman, was gaining fame in the fishing world thanks to their travels.
High school sweethearts, the two had graduated in the '80s but broke up when Michelle's dad forced them to shake hands and say their goodbyes. Over the next 30 years, Jimmy moved to Montana while Michelle, hundreds of miles away, worked and built a separate life.
But her work wasn't fulfilling. "I don't want to work a job where I wake up everyday with a sick feeling in my stomach. I don't care how poor I am," Michelle told us.
Thirty years after their forced split, she and Jimmy reconnected over Facebook. They began dreaming a new adventure—together. Jimmy loved fishing for walleye, and had created a logo that he evolved into an apparel company. He wanted to sell hats, shirts, decals, and more centered around the bright green fish. Michelle, unhappy at her job, knew she could help the company grow.
The two worked out a plan to bring Walleye Freak gear to fishermen and women across the country. They moved into a trailer and followed the walleye east.
Michelle took over the Walleye Freak Facebook page, and before long, built the community from 89 people to more than 4,000. While they were on the road, she updated regularly about where they were and encouraged local people to fish with Jimmy.
The couple spent weeks in walleye states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Word got out, and whenever Michelle posted their location to Facebook, people from states away joined the locals to fish with Jimmy.
In August, Michelle and Jimmy finished the first leg of their journey at the Maumee River walleye run. Then, they sped back west so Jimmy could find a few construction jobs to more quickly build their savings again.
"We were out fishing every day," Jimmy says. "Now we're back here to be closer to family and work more. We're still on this journey. We just have to fill up the tank."
But even after a long day of construction, Jimmy would return to the trailer in Thayne to fish. We saw Michelle some days setting up their chairs by the creek behind our trailers, where they would watch for those flashes of underwater movement until dark.
As we said goodbye and lamented our lost time together, Michelle and Jimmy offered to take us fishing...if we could just stay one more day. But we had to be up north in Montana, had to get back on the road.
If only we'd introduced ourselves in those first five seconds—lesson learned.