Meeting Muhammed Ali & the serendipity of travel

Picking up a scrawny 7-year-old (that would be me) was no effort for legendary boxer Muhammed Ali in 1976.

“Muhammed Ali’s on the plane!”

News like that spreads fast–especially in 1976 near the prime of his career. Muhammed Ali, one of America’s greatest sports legends, turns 70 today.

I was only 7 when our paths crossed. He picked me up while greeting passengers on the way to Hawaii. We were moving to Oahu for a year, a rather magical one that meant being the only white kid in the entire third grade and included posing with Jack Lord, star of the original “Hawaii 5-0,” on the way to school one morning.

Never knowing who you will meet ranks among the greatest joys of travel. It can be a sports legend such as Muhammed Ali or serendipitous small-world reunions of old friends in unexpected places. I also love the joy getting to know strangers, who open your eyes to lives you’d never imagine, whether it’s a bonsai salesperson from Japan or archaeology professor from Africa.

It was pure luck that Muhammed Ali was one of the first people I ever met while traveling. I hope to someday soon make it to Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to learn more about his remarkable career as well as his extensive humanitarian work at the Muhammed Ali Center. 

Here’s wishing you the joy of good connections as you travel–not just making your plane on time–but celebrating the human experience along the way.

 –Lisa Meyers McClintick