“On the road, you also find very little pretense. No one has their guard up. No one questions your motives or wonders what you are after. There is just you — as you are in that moment. A simple hello and before you know it, you are traveling with people for months” ~ Nomadic Matt
Talking to strangers when you are travelling, can be an intimidating experience since you are going to a new place filled with people you don’t know. But if you give it a chance it can be incredibly rewarding! That’s why we’ve put together this collection of stories from some great travel bloggers, hoping to make it easier for you to talk and interact with strangers on your travels.
Meeting A Stranger By The Sea
A small-boned man of Indian origin, Ravi was a fisherman by profession and an occasional peddler of seashells at the resort. His disarming demeanor immediately struck a chord with me, and we delighted in each other’s company as the sun sank below the horizon.
We talked late into the night; I was curious about his life on the island and he about my solo sojourn in Mauritius. His eyes lit up each time he spoke of his encounters at sea; just that morning, after a futile fishing session, he jumped off the boat into the deep sea to snorkel, and spotted a swordfish!
While many of his friends sought higher incomes in factories, he chose to be a fisherman so he could feed his family even on days when he made no money. He pointed to some dim lights at the far end of the beach and called them home, but went on tell me that he considered himself very lucky to be able to live by the sea, afford a nice sweater to keep warm in the not-so-cold Mauritian winter, and meet friendly people at the beach who took him around the world with their stories.
In Ravi’s adventurous spirit, I saw a little bit of my own; in vastly different ways and worlds, we are both trying to choose the things we love, over money. The difference though, is not that he lives in paradise and I continue to seek it. But that he has realized that paradise is nothing more than a state of mind, and a way of life. ~ Shivya Nath
A Once-In-A-Lifetime Meeting With A Stranger
We are very often caught in our own lives, jumping from one destination to another. We rarely pause in our journeys to simply observe life or catch a random conversation with a stranger. And yet, in my recent trip to Japan, I realized what it is like to fall in love – not with a destination or its culture or traditions but with the people. My latest crush is Toshiaki saan, an adorable 65 year old man who was our guide in Kyoto. He was warm and affectionate the moment he arrived at our hotel and was concerned that we would lose our way. The ice broke when I spoke a smattering of Japanese, a language I had been fascinated since my college days when I studied it.
He asked me where I would like to begin and I said, ” Naan demo ii desu” – a quintessential Japanese phrase which meant I was ok with anything. And that built a bond that lasted beyond an afternoon in Kyoto.
Toshiaki saan taught me one important philosophy that the Japanese believe in, a word – Ichi go Ichi e . It literally means “this time only” or possibly “once in a lifetime” or “never a chance again” It’s a concept that Japanese believe in – treasuring moments and meetings with people .
Japanese believe in the power of now and they treat every meeting as if it was the last time they would meet the person. “It is probably the last time that I would be seeing you and hence would like to treasure it in a way that one does not forget ,” he said . And so I learnt not just a new word, but a new way of looking at life and people. ~ Lakshmi Sharath
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The Kindness Of A Stranger
We offered him a ride back to the point where we had picked him up. He refused. Deb offered him money. He shook his head “no.” This wonderful Turkish man did this out of the kindness of his heart — helping complete strangers find their way to their hotel.
My friend and I had rented a car and were traveling around the country staying in various small towns. The GPS had quit on us and we didn’t have a detailed map. When we arrived in this particular town we had made a very long drive and we were smoked. And we only had the street address for the hotel — no map to even know which streets to turn onto.
We drove around a bit, but couldn’t find it.
I saw some locals hanging around a small shop so I stopped the car at a corner in hopes of getting some information. Deb, my friend, got out of the car to ask where our hotel was, figuring if we at least had a general direction, we would find it. But since we only knew about 5 words in Turkish and most Turks don’t speak that much English, we knew it was a long shot.
Deb approached the small group of people as I looked on.
The next thing I knew some man (maybe in his mid-50’s) was opening up the back door of the car, pushing our belongings on the seat over and sitting in the back seat. Deb, in the meantime, had taken her position in the passenger seat and looked at me as I looked at her. I knew we were both thinking, “Is this a carjacking?”
But the kind man in the back seat directed us — giving back seat driving a whole new meaning for me — using hand gestures. And we arrived at our hotel — safely.
We offered him a ride back to the point where we had picked him up. He refused.
Deb offered him money. He shook his head “no.”
This wonderful Turkish man did this out of the kindness of his heart — helping complete strangers find their way to their hotel.
I have seen this over and over as I have traveled. The goodness of people. ~Paulina
Coconuts with a stranger
I was apprehensive about entering an open field and talking to a stranger who was holding a sickle. A tricky situation. All of a sudden along with the waving hand came a pleasing smile which eased the curiosity inside me.
More than 1000 Kms on bike can be one exciting journey where you explore untrodden destinations, gobble local food and meet quirky strangers. I did explore the less trodden beaches of coastal Karnataka, had delightful coastal cuisine and met a few amazing souls. My frequent breaks during the ride from Bengaluru to Gokarna and back were either at the Coffee Days or the Kamats which are ubiquitous on the highways of Karnataka.
However there were instances when I could not find any coffee shops or restaurants and had to stop in the middle of nowhere. During one such break next to a coconut grove near Shimoga, I had my bike parked by the road and was staring at the beautiful grove, when I saw this person with a sickle in his hand waving at me. At first I was taken aback as to why this stranger was interested in me. I looked around and found no one else in the vicinity. So that wave was definitely directed at me.
I was apprehensive about entering an open field and talking to a stranger who was holding a sickle. A tricky situation. All of a sudden along with the waving hand came a pleasing smile which eased the curiosity inside me. I decided to take the plunge and walked into the field of coconut trees. He slammed the sickle on to the trunk of a tree and asked me in Kannada- Yaavu Ooru? (Which place are you from?). When I said Bengaluru, his eyes gleamed and the smile broadened. He picked up a coconut from the many that were lying on the ground, slit it open and offered it to me. I was awed by his humanity towards this travelling stranger. ~ R Niranjan Das
Don’t judge a book by its cover
I had to stop and take a breath at one point and realize I was the only thing in the way of myself having a blast for the final segment of the trip. That small battle with myself helped me let go of my judgement and chill the heck out!
In the event you don’t get along with someone, give it time and you might surprise yourself. Towards the end of our road trip, we had an unplanned addition to our group. Angela was a sweet girl from L.A who I liked, but I was nervous of the impact her arrival would have on our group dynamic. Because of my own stubbornness, I essentially willed myself into not giving her much of a chance. I had to stop and take a breath at one point and realize I was the only thing in the way of myself having a blast for the final segment of the trip. That small battle with myself helped me let go of my judgement and chill the heck out! Now, she’s one of my favorite people and she only added to the positive learning experience. ~ Ellie
Making friends on the road
Conversation easily flowed between us when we found out we liked some of the same books. But what probably bonded us most then was that it would both be our first time to dive, and the fear and anticipation that came with it. I know this now from hindsight; I didn’t realize this back then.
That time, a friend invited me for free scuba diving. Without hesitation, I took the three-hour bus ride to Subic, Zambales. There, I met first-timers and old-timers in diving.
“He was one of the first-timers. Conversation easily flowed between us when we found out we liked some of the same books. But what probably bonded us most then was that it would both be our first time to dive, and the fear and anticipation that came with it. I know this now from hindsight; I didn’t realize this back then.”
On the way home, we talked non stop about books, films and everything under the sun, with an ease of friends for years. Our connection was undeniable. But, instead of being overtaken with the heady rush of romance, as I was prone to with men I felt this kind of connection, I curiously only felt a warm companionship.
We became fast friends, and even unofficial siblings, with my parents and brothers warmly welcoming him into the family. During our friendship we saw the best and the worst in the other, and slowly learned to accept what we saw”. ~ Claire
We hope these stories help you have an easier time connecting with strangers on your journeys. You never know when someone you thought of as a stranger might turn into a lifelong friend. So keep an open mind and talk with as many people as you can on your travels! 🙂