Celebrity run-ins are as much a part of travel as lost luggage and passport stamps. Perhaps we never expect the stars to cross our paths, but when they do, it offers us a never-fail travel story. I know, because once I saw Princess Di in London, another time my dad jogged past Robert Redford, and my cousin once shared an elevator with Paris Hilton. And we’re all still talking about it.
Oprah Winfrey happened to show up in Australia on the same day I did, which is a remarkable coincidence. I told her how busy I was–that I just didn’t have time to hang out in Sydney, but she insisted I attend the back-to-back tapings of two of her very special shows in Australia. I relented because I hate to disappoint Oprah. And so I showed up bright and early to witness what will likely be Oprah’s biggest moment in the Southern Hemisphere.
OK, alright, full disclosure: Before coming to Sydney, I had never seen a single show of Oprah. For one, I’m not her demographic (female, age 25-54) but that sure didn’t stop me from getting sucked right in by her charm. Sitting in a room with Oprah was about as warm and fuzzy as a pink sunset and a jubilant church choir wrapped into one. She even looked right at me (see photo!) and I kind of melted.
As a very serious traveler with a very serious mission (“Discover Australia!”), I felt a bit sidetracked by America’s most popular television queen showing up on my turf. Yet I listened carefully because fellow travelers are often the best resource for information and inspiration. Oprah had just come back a week of travels to places like Uluru and Hamilton Island and I was genuinely fascinated by her travel tales. We were both discovering Australia at the same time–for the first time–so I could relate to her general reaction of awe at the size and beauty of this country.
What I hadn’t realized is that despite her fame and infinite wealth, Oprah hasn’t traveled all that much. She confessed that she had never been to Asia and that one of the reasons she’s wrapping up her incredibly successful show is that she wants to have more time to travel and discover the world. “My first trip will be to Egypt,” she announced, revealing her own lifelong travel dream.
Listening to Oprah confess her deepest travel longings made me like her all the more. “She’s just like me,” I thought, which is the exact same reaction experienced by millions of women (and a few men) every day across the globe (Oprah’s show airs in a whopping 145 countries!). And so to my sky-high pile of travel fantasies, I’ll add this new one: I want to ride camels to the pyramids with Oprah. I’ll just throw that out there before getting back to where I am right now, which is Oz: a land that feels a lot like the other side of the rainbow.
And because all of you insisted on Twitter, here’s a wee bit of homemade video from Oprah’s big day in Australia: