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Joy

13 strangers became stranded at an airport, so they set off on a road trip together

The unlikely friends went viral online after documenting their 10+ hour journey.

strangers road trip tiktok
@alanahsotry21/TikTok

From strangers to friends in one night.

Sometimes the greatest friendships are born out of the most unlikely circumstances.

Thanks to a canceled flight, 13 complete strangers found themselves stuck at Orlando International Airport on their way to Knoxville, Tennessee, with no way to get to their destination.

What started off as a disaster quickly turned around into an impromptu adventure, as the determined group banded together to rent a minivan and drive more than 500 miles from Orlando to Knoxville. Along the way they documented their travels, and the story was quickly picked up by news outlets like CNN, spreading like wholesome viral wildfire online.


The band of merry travelers hailed from different parts of the U.S. and Mexico, and didn’t all speak the same language. Plus each had their own reason for wanting to get to Knoxville. One college student was trying to make it back in time for her final. Another was hoping to tour her dream college with her mom and dad. A well-known farming influencer was set to deliver a keynote speech at a conference. A mother wanted to go fight for custody of her son, while another woman wanted to meet a friend to help her move. Others were just there to have fun.

Regardless of their differences, their road trip created unexpected community and a memory they won't soon forget.


Alanah Story, who was traveling with her mom, had the passengers give a quick introduction on TikTok before hitting the road, knowing that others would probably get a kick out of it.

@alanahstory21 I cant make this up. Road trip! 🚐 @The Farm Babe @StarrPuck @doerksen92 @Renee @robinwharton976 @CozumelAutentico ♬ original sound - Alanah

"If I thought that this was crazy, I knew other people might think it's crazy also," she told CNN. "And so I just figured, this is a very unique bunch of people, we're all very different. So I don't know, maybe other people would want to see it too, because things like this just don't happen on the regular."

Clearly the group had bonded by the time they stopped to fill up on gas. Alanah posted another video where each member of the group—now numbered 1 to 13—gave a lighthearted update, joking about being there for the snacks and the liquor store. Obviously the funniest quip belongs to the sole Black man in the group, who said “Y’all know I’m dyin’ first.”

@alanahstory21

♬ original sound - Alanah

Alanah’s original post had already begun blowing up online, and people were invested in the journey and looking forward to more updates. Several even commented that this story should be a Hallmark movie.

The gang finally made it to Knoxville at 8:30 a.m. the next morning, arriving early enough for no one to miss their event. Alanah posted one last video as the group said their goodbyes.

@alanahstory21 Replying to @lul.ken and thats a wrap folks! #roadtrip ♬ original sound - Alanah

Number 1, the driver, said “I’m really grateful to all these guys who are here … we made our 10 a.m. appointment all because of a community that got together.”

Number 13, the keynote speaker, learned along the way that two other passengers would be attending the same conference. Those same two guys were apparently dubbed “Russian spies” by commenters, but rest assured, they are but friendly farmers.

All in all, it only took a few hours and one minivan to turn these strangers into friends, with plans to keep the friendship going. The experience, both for the group and for those who watched along, became a heartwarming reminder that humans are capable of doing great things together when we choose to connect and help one another.

"I feel like this situation for me specifically kind of restored my trust and humanity a little bit," Alanah told CNN. "There's definitely hope for people—people, they can be good. And also, if you get the opportunity to go on a crazy adventure, you should take it, because you never know what's gonna come out of it."

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Woman shares the powerful impact of a 'hardcore' gym bro's words of encouragement

Previous experience had her feeling nervous when the man approached her at the gym, but what he said brought her to tears.

Steph shares how a few simple words made all the difference.

Going to the gym can be a daunting prospect for a lot of people. It shouldn't be—the whole point of going to the gym is to exercise, which is something that should universally be applauded—but sometimes it can feel like there's pressure to be at a certain fitness level or have a certain physique before stepping foot in the door.

For people who are heavier, gym culture can be especially intimidating. Unfortunately, not everyone remembers to practice kindness and fatphobia appears to remain a fairly tolerated prejudice. That shouldn't stop people with big bodies from enjoying all that fitness centers have to offer, but all too often, it does.

It hasn't stopped a woman named Steph from working out regularly at her gym, albeit with some trepidation. As she shared in a hugely viral TikTok, she's experienced some unkind behavior at the gym that made her nervous when a man approached her recently. But her description of the encounter ultimately demonstrated how powerful a few positive words can be.

In a video made from her car just after leaving the gym, Steph explained that a "hardcore" gym-goer who is "super tough" and covered in tattoos had came up to talk to her. Her initial response was to be afraid of what he was going to say to her, based on previous experience. She shared in the video how hard it's been to stay steady with her workouts, especially with medications she's on making her body hold onto weight, but she's been working hard to be consistent. She steeled herself for whatever he might say.

She didn't expect it to be this: "I've seen you in here every week, almost every day. I've seen you in here every week—and I'm proud of you." Nor did she expect that such simple words of encouragement could make such a huge impact.

Watch her tell the story:

@steph5468

#gymprogress #workputjourney #keepgoing #healingjourney

People had a lot to say about the interchange and Steph's emotional response to it.

"People do not realize, how one person can change everything," wrote one commenter.

"Girl you are CRUSHING IT," wrote another. "That man you encountered is what real men do. Encourage. Support. Be human! It isn’t hard! ❤️"

"No one knows your story, your struggles. You're doing the dang thing and that takes courage and strength. You. Keep. Going. I'm proud of you too!" shared another.

More and more words of encouragement flooded Steph's comment section, and people on Upworthy's Instagram page weighed in as well.

"I'm a fitness coach and this made me cry 😢 just having someone say they are proud of you can move mountains for so many of us who didn’t/ don’t get the praise growing up," wrote one person.

"Who knows? He may be going through something too and saw a determined, consistent, fellow traveler," wrote another. "You share your Truth so powerfully. You may not know how many people will see this and be encouraged by your honesty. I’m in awe that you show up for YOURSELF every day. And as for the rude and ill-mannered? Well they struggle too—just to be decent kind human beings. Some people have not been shown Empathy and therefore do not know how to use that muscle. You are beautiful, smart, articulate, wise and a woman who knows where she’s headed. Keep walking, head up knowing there are many many more who do empathize, who see you and are on your side❤️"

"It’s amazing to think about how this man’s single act of kindness, spread through you to affect us all in a positive way," shared another. "This made all of our days, and I’m crying tears of joy while I write this. Please thank him from all of us the next time you see him, if you’re comfortable with that. And thank you for sharing! ❤️"

Indeed, thanks to both Steph and the hardcore, tattooed gym bro for being wonderful examples for us all. We never know what a small act of kindness or a few words of encouragement will do to make someone's life significantly better, but it's always worth trying.


This article originally appeared on 9.5.23

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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