I have never seen A Streetcar Named Desire but I love this line from it – ‘I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers’. As kids we’re told not to approach people we don’t know, not to talk to strangers and not to run off. As we get older that changes and now all I seem to want to do is talk to people I’ve never met and run off on different adventures. I don’t know who said this but I really believe that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. I’m one of those guys that enjoys real people and would rather hear about someone in Ireland saving a burning house oppose to a certain celebrity getting liposuction. If you are out travelling (or planning on it soon) I encourage you to take the plunge and talk to someone new. Maybe the person next to you on the train, someone in the bed next to you at a hostel or even the cashier at a bakery. It will either be short and lead to nothing but a smile, or it could be the best spontaneous decision you’ve ever made.
I’ve done it thousands of times and had some of the best experiences whilst travelling that I’m sure I would never of a) known about or b) had the opportunity to do otherwise. This is a new segment I’m calling Up & Adam where I’ll just talk about tips, tricks and my experience travelling (warning this particular one is text heavy). I thought for this post I would share a few brief encounters with strangers in different situations and the outcomes.
Pictured above are Rachel and Kyle. I met Kyle briefly in New York this spring for just four hours and we walked around Central Park and talked a bunch. Since then he moved back to Canada and we kept in contact here and there on Facebook/iMessage. When Rachel and I were planning our trip to Vancouver I hit him up for recommendations and he kindly offered to house us and personally show us round. Not only did we save money but we also got a true insight into Vancouver and White Rock from a local. He showed us the hot tourist spots but also took us to pizza joints, sangria happy hours and indulged us with cheap parking haha. I think doing a day or two of tourist junk is important but if for example you’re in Paris there is way more to see than the Eiffel Tower, and having someone who knows this and is willing to introduce you to their lifestyle is incredible. Thanks Kyle!
A few months back I was flying from Louisville to Charleston (I’ll link my post on Louisville haha). Due to bad weather my flight got delayed for several hours and then cancelled, it totally sucked. I was put on the first one the next morning and had to figure out what to do that night. Because all flights ended up being cancelled most of the hotels were getting full and the prices were going up and up. I decided to take a chance and go on Couchsurfing. Luckily the first guy I messaged got back to me and offered to come pick me up and give his futon. Yes it was spontaneous and yes it could have gone horribly wrong but it didn’t. He was just a nice guy trying to help someone out and it worked out pretty perfectly for me haha.
As I fly alone quite a bit I always try to talk to the person next to me on the plane. About 30% of the time they are totally uninterested or just scary but the other 70% are down. I’ve sat next to some really cool people from all different countries that do all kinds of things with their lives. Grandma’s, kids, art assistants, camp counsellors, pharmacists, daredevils, backpackers etc. Back in January I flew from London to NYC and sat next to someone else called Adam (meant to be I know), and we ended up talking the whole flight. I had these pre-set plans that I was going to watch two movies and then nap but it all went out the window. We just got carried away and by the time we landed he felt like someone I could tell anything to.
I have a bunch of these stories and they kind of get dotted into posts like my one at Juneau when the guy took me on a helicopter (this is probably my most surreal stranger encounter). I think you just have to be open to the possibilities and be kind back. There’ll be times when someone else will need some help or a friend for the night and it’s your time to shine. The best part is that with technology these days strangers are pretty much a thing of the past. Unless you really hated their company you can stay in contact so easily with Skype or Facebook or email or anything! One of my first solo trips was when I was eighteen and I went around New Zealand alone. I made about eight really great friends and still today (some five/six years later) we chat regularly.
If going up and talking to someone isn’t your thing, there are ways to meet people/be forced into the situation. Couchsurfing is great if you’re open to it and then staying in a dorm room at a hostel will automatically give you some people to talk to. In Russia we found this website called Sputnik that features people who want to show their unique spin of the city. You pay a small amount and then meet up and they’ll take you to their favourite food places or to the best vintage stores nearby etc. It’s a great idea and almost like a sure-fire way to have a friend (at least for the three hours you’re paying them hah).
There is a level of comfort in booking organised tours, staying in a hotel complex and going to the tourist spots to eat but if you really want an authentic or unusual experience then get out! I could ramble about this for days but I’ll ssh. Any questions let me know!