In Canada, we’re taught “stranger danger” from a very young age. It’s deeply ingrained in our consciousness that talking to strangers is not what one does. People look at you funny if you do.
Travelling alone can be an isolating experience. In the “here to there”, we’re left without roots, structure, or responsibility. There’s just the hope of where we’re going and the grief of where we’ve left. It’s relaxing — but also lonely, especially if you don’t have a friend.
I started talking to strangers because it felt healthy. Most people when they get on a plane look straight ahead and don’t introduce themselves to the people they’re sitting with. Headphones go on or eyes close and nothing gets said for 12 hours of being together. It’s actually weird and awkward if you think about it.
I disciplined myself to make a habit of introducing myself to people around me. Handshake, smile, and name — it’s easy, and not awkward at all! Sometimes it opens the door for more conversation, sometimes not. Either way, you’ve broken the ice and the awkwardness is gone. There’s more small talk that can be made travelling than just about anywhere else. “Where are you going? Why did you come? Do you travel much?” are a few questions to get you started.
You meet interesting people and sometimes even make a friend. Musicians, business people, journalists, high and low class — all with stories to tell. I’ve had invitations to people’s homes in places where I’ve gone, just from being friendly. People like friendly people — stranger danger is the exception, not the rule. There’s no better way to get to know a new city than to meet some new friends who show you around!
Try it! It’ll make your travel experience far richer — guaranteed.