December 18 2016
Or just strangers in general for that matter.
I had forgotten this was a thing, and I now realize it’s most likely the most important thing.
It’s so hard to explain, but the feeling of connecting with strangers on your travels is kind of like finding a five dollar bill in an old jacket you just pulled out of storage.
Actually, it’s exactly like that. Hearing the lilt of an American voice from behind you or beside you, and you have no choice. You have to say something. The connection is almost always instant because they are from the other side of the Atlantic and you are, too.
It has to be one of my favorite parts of traveling. It’s why I also insist on doing walking tours in cities because that’s where all the rando’s who don’t belong gather.
But it doesn’t even have to be people from your side of the pond, it can be anyone traveling.
When I was in Brussels, I met a guy from Australia and his friend from Sweden. Turns out they had just met each other at the hostel.
The Australian had been traveling for almost a year. His stories were insane. He talked about the time he thought he was going to be killed traveling on the outskirts of Africa. How he had dinner with a family and they acted like he was family. The man from Sweden was traveling as much as he could while saving money for a big trip to South America that he had been planning for years.
In Zürich, I met a couple from California that were doing the last ten days of their three-month journey. They had been all over Europe. We talked about all the different places we had been, places we still wanted to do, and the last leg of their trip. I asked about their plans after and they were heading back to California, and she was into freelance and he was into education. They had been saving for this trip for years.
I met a woman on her way back from Barcelona. She had been there with her husband on work-travel. She was going home for Christmas to visit her step-daughter who had just gotten engaged and was planning her wedding. They had been living overseas for many years now. They had only been living in Switzerland for about a year. She wished me luck on the rest of my program as we stepped off the plane.
A few years ago I was on a plane home from Denver. I was almost moved to tears by the story a stranger shared with me.
And all these encounters, they are important and good, and all those people are people that I will never likely see again. But that is what makes it so rare and amazing. To connect for the sake of a single day or a single hour, and then continue on with life.
Every traveler has a different story of how they got there. They are normally just as poor and random in their choices as you, and it's exhilarating and comforting in a way nothing else is.
You aren’t crazy. You aren’t crazy for quitting your job and spending ever penny you own on a flight and staying in strange cities with strangers or pulling all-nighters or drinking a beer with someone you just met five minutes before. You aren’t crazy because they are doing it too, with even crazier plans than you.
And that, right there, is awesome.
I forget sometimes what a blessing this is. When I listen to what others have sacrificed or the amount of time and effort they have put into exploring the world, I remember. Like a flash of lightning, it wakes me back up and reminds me that this is now, and now is fleeting.
Traveling is hard and expensive and often almost impossible. But I’ll say it now, with all that I’ve seen and heard and learned from others, it’s worth it. It won’t get easier and the excuses won’t lessen, but the world might fade from your grasp. So go. Travel. Sell your soul to the dark side and dare yourself into an adventure.
Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy.
There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.