How in the living hell was that possible?
That’s the only thing that went through my head as I walked away from my ex-girlfriend after bumping into her in downtown Sydney.
The population of Sydney is over 5 million, but on that day — it’s like we were the only two people in the entire city.
We both came from two different countries, dated for a while, broke up, and somehow crossed paths in an entirely different place.
Here’s how I ended up bumping into my ex-girlfriend on the other side of the world.
This all happened a few years ago, but it often plays out in my mind. I’m from Canada and met an English girl while traveling in the States.
It’s not the typical start of a relationship, but I had also been living in England, so it could work.
But after a year, things were falling apart. It all ended around November, and I went back to Canada for Christmas.
I wasn’t sure what to do next, but I have family in Australia and went there for 6 months to work — also to get a break from everything after it ended.
I left in January and knew she had plans to travel with friends around the same time. She had booked a journey through South East Asia and the Philippines.
Little did I know she had booked a side trip to Australia and Tasmania.
For all I knew, she was still somewhere in Thailand, but around mid-May, as I walked down Oxford street, I saw someone ahead that held a striking resemblance to her.
By the time I realized who it was, it was too late for me to bail and cross the street in hopes she hadn’t seen me. But there was no avoiding each other, and we met right in the middle of the sidewalk.
Did I mention she was also with another guy?
Realizing we had to stop and say something, it was as awkward as you’d imagine. The other dude went off to give us a moment, and all I could think to say was, “how are you liking Australia?”
I was trying to not appear rattled — as was she — but there’s no ignoring how ludicrous this whole situation was. I honestly have no idea what we even talked about.
It felt like one of those situations where you’re watching yourself.
It got to the point there wasn’t much left to say, and she said she had to go. That was fine with me as I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
I was so rattled that it’s a miracle I didn’t walk into oncoming traffic. I had to immediately call some people and try to talk through what had just happened.
Each person had the same response: “What the hell are the odds of that?”
I was doing fine up to that point, and it had been over 5 months since I had seen, or had contact with her. That was all undone within a few minutes.
It would take quite a while to process all this, but when I did — A few things occurred to me.
1. The World is A Lot Smaller Than You Realize
I’ve run into ex-girlfriends before in my hometown in Canada — but that’s to be expected. It’s not a big city, so the odds of it are pretty good. Also, when you take my horrific luck into account — it’s guaranteed.
But when you take the entire globe into consideration, it shocks me how small it can seem. I’m sure you have your own stories of random encounters in different cities and countries that baffled you.
In the same month that I ran into my ex, I also ran into a girl I worked with in England in downtown Sydney, too (what the hell is it about that city?)
I then ran into an old roommate coming out of a bathroom in a mall when I was visiting Auckland.
These chance encounters are so mind-boggling that you just can’t help but feel the world is smaller than it seems.
I went scuba diving not long after that and was expecting my high school gym teacher to pop out from behind some coral.
2. There Are Some Things You Just Can’t Prepare For
In a relationship, you often go through “what if” situations, and some worse-case scenarios. In this situation, there was no way to prepare or anticipate running into her.
Neither of us knew the other was in Australia. I often play out how I would react in certain situations — but this scenario had never even entered my mind.
It just seems too implausible. I probably should have bought a lottery ticket that day…
In this situation, I had no choice but to deal with it and process all the emotions. There’s no playbook on how to handle relationship scenarios like this. You’re just left to your own devices.
You’ve probably dealt with your own bizarre relationship situations, and there’s just no planning for them. All you can do is try to learn from them and move on.
3. You Can Get Through Any Situation
At the time, this was the absolute worst situation in the world. All I kept thinking was why me and, “what the hell are the odds of this?” What if I had taken another street, or left 5 minutes later? I could have avoided the whole thing. Life often has other plans.
But with many things, the moment ends up being worse than the anticipation of it. I think it's more about being caught off guard that is most shocking.
However, the only thing you can really do is assess the situation, regroup, and move forward. And like many other relationship trials, you get stronger from it.
After this, I feel like I can handle any situation. Our worst-case scenarios are never as bad as we think, and I hope you take away the idea that our greatest fears often lie in anticipation.
These days, it makes me laugh to think of how insane the whole situation was. Most people I tell this to don’t even believe something like that could happen: but it was all too real.
During the moment, it felt like an absolute nightmare. But the more time passed, the more it felt like something that never even happened.
But I don’t plan on visiting Sydney ever again…