Someone asked me the other day, “What is a lesson I have learned by traveling?” There are a lot, but the first that popped into my mind was: “Make the effort to talk to Strangers. You may make a good friend.”
It is pretty incredible to reflect on what the practice of talking to strangers has done for me throughout the years during my travels. Most recently I was in Anguilla and struck up a conversation with a woman in the pool. What followed was the most delightful afternoon of cocktailing with a fascinating charming person. We’re now connected in social media as well, and she’s a riot.
One of the places where talking to strangers can be especially beneficial and rewarding is when you are on a plane. You definitely have to feel out your audience, because not everyone wants to talk. However, if you are in the mood, and the person in the seat next to you is feeling it, you can simultaneously acquire a new friend and make the duration of your flight fly by (pun intended) at the same time.
Now, disclaimer: Obviously I am not saying you should strike up conversations with random people in unsafe locations, or with people who are clearly dangerously mentally ill or violently drunk/drugged. Use discretion, but traveling can be such a perfect time to get something that a lot of us have been missing in our lives, especially during corona: connection.
There are a couple things that I believe that have guided me in connecting with strangers. For starters, I believe that our relationships are an essential part of life. In fact, studies have shown that people engaged in healthy relationships live longer and more healthily.
The other thing that I firmly believe is that everyone has a story, and everyone has much that they can add to your life. And, I believe that I have a lot to offer other people to. The most recent example of this was when I was on a flight a few weeks ago and the passenger sitting next to me and I gave each other our top suggestions for activities and hotels in Peru.
For me, talking to strangers is the most rewarding when the strangers are locals in the destination I am visiting, and part of a completely different culture. I love sharing our differences and commonalities. I can be entertained for hours hearing authentic stories of people who live in the destinations I love so much.
Talking to strangers while traveling is about connecting to the local culture and to those you meet on your adventure. It is one of the best parts of the travel experience.