Traveling is a deep desire we all share. It’s a constant ache, familiar to all, whether you have the opportunity to travel often or scarcely. When we do get the chance to pack our bags and embark on a dream trip, it becomes so easy—blame it on our generation—to get caught up in the image of it all. These foreign destinations provide the perfect backdrops for our social media posts.
But when we stop to take it all in—the scenery that brings about awe and wonder inside our souls, the smells, the sounds of the place—we can appreciate our travels on a deeper level. We move beyond telling the story of our trips through our Instagram posts and simply get caught up in the story.
This intention to take it all in is important, and it should include people. Because when we travel, focused as we are on documenting our every moment, the moments become about ourselves. Instead, I think we ought to focus a little bit more on who surrounds us.
We call them strangers. There’s the person who becomes your seat mate on your flight. The driver helping you reach your next destination. There’s a hundred people all around you as you navigate your way in a new place. When you step into a city foreign to you, strangers are everywhere.
It’s so easy for us to keep to ourselves and our friend as we make our way through our travels that we lose the magic of connecting with those different from us. Just think of the stories the stranger next to must hold or the potential friendship that may come out of the encounter.
For some, it may be your natural tendency to communicate with whoever is around you. Others may shy away from small talk with strangers. I encourage you to set an intention, the next time you travel, to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know. Or perhaps, someone else will initiate the conversation with you, and if this happens, try to see it as a special opportunity--to return the kindness by showing your interest in the other person, be willing to hear their story or just their random thoughts.
These moments can lead to dear friendships, or they can be a simple encouragement as you start on your journey. You might end up having a travel guide who can show you what the city has to offer, past the tourist spots and on to the true magic. Some may just chat with you about their life story, and although you may never see them again, you’ll walk away thankful to have heard it.
Personally, I’ve encountered the more talkative types on flights I’ve taken. While air travel makes me nervous—especially the feeling of taking off thousands of miles an hour heading straight for the sky. Engaging in conversation has been a way for me to relax and it takes my mind off the nervousness.
I once chatted with someone on a flight for the entire duration - 1 hr and 20 minutes. Our conversation was mostly random thoughts about our lives, where we were coming from and where we were going. And while I don’t remember the man’s name or the details of the conversation I do remember this—when he first started talking to me I sort of hoped our conversation would be short lived. I wanted to stick with the music I was listening to and keep to myself. As I walked off the flight a short while later I found myself thankful for the experience. The conversation was simply a time to connect with a stranger. In that encounter I was reminded of how often I keep to myself or gave all my attention to my phone, and perhaps this is you as well. I think we are made for human connection and we shouldn’t let ourselves lose that.
Be mindful, wherever this desire for travel is taking you next, of the strangers you are surrounded by. If you don’t know what to say, find a local and ask them to tell you about the city. What are the best places to eat and the hidden treasures that are a must-see?
Ask them why they live where they do and what they love about it.
It’s okay to get caught up in the excitement of your travels and stick to those you know best to experience the place with. Remember, though, that encountering strangers in a new place can be just as rewarding as fascinating scenery or the photographs we capture. So step out of your comfort zone and turn a stranger into a human soul.
For the dreamer - For the adventurer