We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
My random conversations with travelers on the road:
During my travels, I have met many people along the way, absolute strangers, and have had random conversations with them, who turned into friends within minutes, some friendships which have blossomed into real keepsake friendships and some friendships which lasted only for that particular journey, as I had forgotten to take their contact details. This blog post is dedicated to all those random conversations I had with travelers whilst on the road.
I am going to touch upon the random conversations that I have had with many people along my travels and it is really strange, how we open up to people who are strangers, tell them about our lives, especially when you know you may never cross paths again?? But most importantly, something they said or I said which left a deep impact on me, even after many years? Which kind of evolved me into the person I am in some way or the other?
So how does one randomly just strike up a conversation?
Here are a few conversations that broke the ice (some started by me, some started by the other person), which really broke the initial awkwardness and made the whole journey much more interesting and enjoyable! Here I am going to use real names of people (but without their pictures), so I am sure it’s going to be okay and I hope through this post, if I am able to find any one them, it will be a shot worth taking.
1.Can I help you?:
One of my very first friendly strange encounters that I had was on my first ever maiden International flight to Dubai! It was the first time I boarded a flight (that too International!!) I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to expect while on a plane etc. Back at home, I was warned not to talk to strangers, which made it even worse (the kind of talkative person I was) and traveling solo at that time felt a bit intimidating!
So I boarded the flight and I had blocked a window seat for myself. It was a 3-4-3 seating configuration and as luck would have it, the middle seat remained vacant and the aisle seat got occupied by a gentleman (who seemed like a frequent flier). I settled in and after takeoff, I wondered how to watch movies on the screen in front of me.
I searched where to plug in the earphones, and then the gentleman in the aisle seat figured I was a first timer and he asked me: “Can I help you?” and he then helped me out. Then we struck up a conversation, with me only answering in mono-syllables and trying to be cautious and not divulging any personal information. Then the flight attendant came with her trolley, bearing beverages!! My neighbor chose to have whisky and I kept staring at him wide eyed :-). I had not expected hard drinks to be served up in the air!! But this gentleman had the courtesy to ask: “You don’t mind if I have a drink do you? I won’t have it if it makes you uncomfortable!” I was like, “sure..go ahead”. The flight went on smoothly. My neighbor was doing his work as well as chatting with me in between. I learnt a lot of things on my first flight, all because of this very kind and co-operative gentleman. I realized, not every stranger is out to get you or harm you. I realized that one needs to use one’s own common sense and follow one’s gut instincts and just go with the flow. I owe my very pleasant first flight experience to this gentleman.
2.Are you in the same bus with me on this tour?:
Another interesting conversation I had was during my solo trip to Ireland. I had gone to Glendalough, The Wicklow Mountains National Park in Ireland. The name “Glendalough” means “the glen of two lakes” in the Irish language.
(We had to walk through the mountains and go from the Upper Lake to the Lower Lake). The ruins of the ancient monastic city, two magnificent lakes surrounded by cliffs and rocks, nearby forests as well as waterfalls create unforgettable scenery.
As I was alone, I walked alone, had to be quick, because we just had 45 minutes time to reach both the lakes and come back to the bus. While walking, I saw this young girl (seemed my age) walking alone a little ahead of me, and she stopped and was looking around wondering whether she was on the right path. When I reached her I asked her whether she was in the same bus that I was in (mentioned the Tour bus name) and she said yes! I said great, and I started talking to her. We hit it off immediately. She too was traveling alone. She was from America and was in Ireland for 5 days and was the next day travelling to London for 10 days! I told her I too was traveling alone and that I was in London for 10 days and had now come to Ireland for 5 days! We exchanged notes of what I had seen in London and what she had seen in Ireland etc. Her name is Daniela. I have a picture of her, but forgot to take her contact details! I would have loved to keep in touch with her. Like me, she too had decided to visit a different country every year starting from that year! We felt we were like sisters! All this happened in exactly 45 minutes! Just a friendly smile, is all that it takes to start a conversation, which can blossom into a beautiful friendship, if possible.
3. Do you mind if I join you?:
Another time I was going to Yosemite National Park on my own. After reaching the Park (Which is huge and massive), we were informed that we had about 2-3 hours to roam around, explore on our own and then get back to the bus.
I started to explore on my own, when this young lady (Her name is Maria too) met me and asked me if she could join me. I was like, yeah sure, the more the merrier! She was from Spain and had come to USA to have her son settled into University and then before taking off back to Spain, she was doing a bit of sightseeing. We shared lunch together, walked together, clicked pictures of each other and I really liked her zeal and energy! All it takes is a kind gesture and openness and a willingness to allow the other person into your space. If I hadn’t met her, I would have walked my path and she would have walked hers, but in that one small gesture of her asking me if she could join me, completely changed the whole dynamics of my trip.
4. What are you girls doing this evening?:
Another very interesting conversation I had was with these 2 ladies in Ireland. These two ladies were from the USA and had booked the same B&B that we were staying in. Their conversation lit up the fire within me and also made me feel extremely ashamed of myself. We had checked into this B&B in Killarney, Ireland on a very cold, damp rainy day. The day seemed lousy and since we had got all wet and cold when we walked the distance to the B&B, after we cleaned up, my friend and I were in our pyjamas (in the evening at 5:00 pm) and in no mood to go out into the rain again).
So we were warming up by the fire which was merrily crackling away in the lounge and looking out of the window while it rained. Then we met these 2 ladies (in their Sixties). One of them was Nancy, I forget the other lady’s name. They had just checked in and were having a cup of tea, before they could set out and explore Killarney. They asked us: “what are you girls doing this evening?” We didn’t have an answer to that question (because before meeting these ladies, we were feeling super lazy and just not in the mood to step out in the cold rain again!) They were friends staying in different States in the US and now that their children were settled, they decided to take off on a holiday to a different country and explore the place. These ladies had rented a car in Ireland and were staying just one night in each place, otherwise they were constantly on the move, stopping at a place which intrigued them and on the spot itself book a hotel (no advance bookings nothing). These ladies were living their lives to the fullest. Then all four of us spotted 2 rainbows from the the window! When these 2 ladies left to explore the place, my friend and I were super charged by their enthusiasm and zest for life, which left us feeling really ashamed of ourselves! We both decided that very moment to just take our jackets and we left for a walk in the rains (in our pyjamas 🙂 and it was a night we could not forget 🙂 ) There is a separate story for it, share with you another time. Checkout this picture of me dining in my pyjamas that night 🙂
5. A smile that broke the ice:
There is another incident, which for a second scared the daylights out of me. My friend and I tired from all the walking around, decided to just sit down on a footpath on Grafton Street in Dublin. We were happily listening to the local musicians playing and watching people walking down the streets and shopping. Suddenly, a man walked up to me where I was sitting and clenched his fists towards my hand. I didn’t understand what he was trying to do, but then he smiled and tried to let us know that he liked and appreciated us sitting like that on the streets and was therefore giving me and my friend a Thumbs Up kind of signal with this clenched fists!! He was definitely trying to fist bump me (a sort of high five)!!. He didn’t speak much, but his smile broke the tension that enveloped me because at first I thought he was going to strike me. Later we realized he was one of the homeless guys who slept on that very spot we were sitting.
6. Please don’t stop playing:
This conversation that I had with this guy was really cute and inspiring. It was in San Francisco, my friend and I were staying in a hostel and we had just returned from exploring part of the city; it was around 20:30 hrs. and we were going up to our room which was on the 2nd floor. We first went to the dining room to have something (which was located in the basement) and as we were climbing up the stairs, I heard somebody playing the guitar. It was absolutely soul filling music, which filled the whole place. As we continued up the stairs, just outside the landing of the same floor (where our room was at the farthest end of the corridor) was this young guy sitting on the floor outside the dormitory room with a bottle of wine next to him and playing the guitar whilst referring to his Tab for his notes.
He stopped playing when we neared the landing and I smiled at him and asked to please continue playing, because it was really beautiful. But he felt shy and chose to wait till we passed and then he started playing again. I reached my room, but I wanted to talk to him. I told my friend that I will be back in a minute and I went back and started a conversation. We spoke about a ton of things under the sun. He was from Australia and had quit his job (He was a sailor) to travel the world on his own. He was simultaneously doing his higher studies. That was the common factor and starting point of our conversation. He described to me about his travels, how he was always on the move, he showed me pictures on his Tab that he had with him with songs for playing the guitar. We kept on talking till 22:00 hrs. In all this time, people kept passing us, walking up and down the stairs and we were both sitting on the floor chatting away to glory…then we had a sing song session (I sang and he played). There were a couple of other hostelites also who joined us. We never crossed paths again. His name is Cody. He was supposed to be in San Francisco just for a day and then leave for Florida and then spend Christmas in Mexico. Who would have thought that a simple thing as playing the guitar could initiate a conversation and a friendship even if just for an hour or so! Checkout this collage below which was in the hostel. One thing that caught my eye was: Enter as Strangers and leave as Friends!
I could go on and on about the countless conversations that I have had with strangers during my travels. These are all conversations with real people. They are all going through their own struggles and hardships in their lives. But in that moment, in showing kindness to another, we are for a brief moment allowing them and ourselves to forget all our struggles and strife and laugh away our sorrows. All one needs is to have an openness of mind and heart and to be able to have the wisdom to know, when to be discrete and when to reveal how much. One need not be personal at all, and yet can bring heart into our conversations by making the opposite person feel special and heard. Believe me; it makes the journey all the more meaningful and worthwhile.
Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
I hope this post resonates in someway with you! Every person has a story to tell, every journey has a story to tell, we just need to keep ourselves open to the opportunity of unraveling a magnificent story, all hidden beneath the layers of tough human display of emotions. You never know, when a kind word from you can open the flood gates of emotions of the other person in that moment.
On that note, keep traveling and keep sharing your travel stories here.