Lana Kanchik, the 61st person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, lights up when she talks about travelling the world.

It’s just as well that Lana works as a travel agent. But for much of her life, she could only fantasise about visiting other countries: Lana grew up in the Soviet Union, where international travel was forbidden.

Lana spent 15 years trying to get permission to emigrate: finally, in 1988, Lana and her fiancee (now husband) received authorisation and were given two weeks to leave. After a sojourn in Italy, they arrived in Sydney in 1989, with no money, no English and no contacts.

Lana and her husband worked hard to build a life for themselves and their two children. When Lana started her own business, she tirelessly promoted her services to one stranger after another. Her first client turned out to be her taxi driver; years later, he’s still a client.

Working in the travel industry has its perks. Next month, Lana is being flown to Turkey to research accommodation options for her clients. That will give her another chance to see Istanbul, which she describes as one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world.