Why Strangers Aren't So... Strange.
"I don't know you. You don't know me. Let's get to know each other."
As I sit and chat with this "strange", unfamiliar individual, all of my childhood lessons take a plunge into the sea of spontaneity. My mom always told me not to talk to strangers. My teachers always told me to never leave with strangers. The universe told me that is all bullshit.
Throughout my travels, I've met my fair share of strangers. Some remained strangers, some became friends. Some conversations quickly came to an end. And through every unique encounter, I've become richer in experience.
I. STRANGERS CAN TEACH YOU LIFE LESSONS
Who needs to pay thousands of dollars on a therapist or life coach, when you can go to your local pub and talk to the solo wanderlusting bachelor over beers at the bar? Whether you be the listener or rambler, talking to strangers allows you to draw off the experiences of others and take the advice that is applicable to your life. That Hoegaarden induced conversation with Mr. Bachelor may impact your life immensely. It is ironic that we are willing to tell strangers intimate details about our personal life. There are strangers around the world that know more about me than my closest friends do, and vice versa.
Let me tell you about a "stranger" I met in London, England this past year. Let's call him... "Ray".
LOVE & LOSS IN LONDON:
I met Ray at London Fashion Week this past September. After running late for a show and getting lost in SoHo, I was just about over the day. It was raining, heavily, and Ray appeared to be just as lost as me, chilling on the sidewalk. He was beautiful (as most models are). And, I instantly felt a wave of happiness and confidence upon sight of him. I don't know what possessed me to do this - I think it was his energy. But I walked up to talk to him....
Despite a little bit of a language barrier (He is Italian), there was an instant connection. I guess others saw our connection too because we repeatedly got photographed by street wear designers (Score!). We had such a great time, even greater conversation, and decided to meet up again in the week. Fast forward through meeting Justine Skye together (I'm a #unicorn at heart), a delicious home cooked Italian dinner date, a failed language exchange (mostly on my end), and numerous glasses of red wine...
I couldn't help but notice a picture of a woman on the background of his phone. He revealed that it was his late mother who had recently died of illness. I couldn't string together words strong enough to uphold the sadness and grief that suddenly came over me. I've never experienced the loss of a loved one, or the grief that comes with it. However, listening to Ray speak of his most cherished memories with his mother and explaining his coping mechanisms gave me such spiritual strength. Seeing and feeling his peace of mind, knowing that he cannot change life's events and can only focus on his future, taught me the power of transformation. It is the seeds of struggle that result in growth. The experience of pain transforms into strength, and motivates us to become a better version of ourselves. Ray taught me that it is the bond, memories and love we share with people that are most important. And through his experience and narration, I was equipped with the necessary tools and gained strength for my future battles.
And how did this stranger get the name "Ray", you ask? Because despite the sorrowful storm that suddenly came about, his positivity shined like sunbeams; Beautiful rays.
II. STRANGERS CAN HELP EXPAND YOUR MIND
My biggest life motto is to live empirically. That is, through personal experience. My knowledge has expanded exponentially through my travels and interactions with new people. I am gifted with opportunities to learn about different cultures and world views. I've gained fresh perspectives through intellectual conversations with strangers. Sometimes, it is these interactions that are necessary to reboot our crashed creativity, or to give us that motivating push when we we feel we have come to a standstill. A stranger's failure may aid in your success, and it is their knowledge and wisdom acquired throughout their biography that is passed on to the reader - you.
Let me tell you about a "stranger" I met in Barcelona, Spain. Let's call him... "Casa"
SOUL SEARCHES & STIMULATIONS IN SPAIN:
I met Casa in my hostel. It was my last night in Barcelona, and I had walked into my hostel room, expecting it to be full of the random females that were previously there. That wasn't the case. Casa was taking a nap on the top bunk across from me. Fast forward through the informal introductions, the "what brings you to Barcelona" explanations and summaries of our best travels. I learned that Casa is a young American traveler who had moved to Spain for work and in search of adventure.
We had the most stimulating conversations about the future of America - from politics, to crime, to police brutality. We talked about it all. I listened to his unique perspectives, and he listened to mine. I learned, and witnessed, that there is more peace and happiness beyond this familiar North American bubble we are accustomed to. Before my encounter with Casa, working abroad was never something that crossed my mind, but then it instantly became a goal. If I'm not happy with the Western world and the societal problems I am subject to, why not go explore other parts of the world and see what I am most comfortable with? And I did.
As I write this, I scavenge through my inbox in hopes of finding our last online conversation (Thank you, Facebook! #firstworldsolutions). He wrote, "You're a beautiful soul. Take care and don't forget to live the dream." Thanks to his inspiration, wisdom and motivation, I am.
And how did this stranger get the name "Casa", you ask? Because he taught me to never get too comfortable with the familiar. Comfort can be destructive. Change is inevitable and change is good. "Mi casa es su casa" ; Being in a country so unfamiliar, he made me feel at home.
And here I am today. A "stranger" in a "strange" country, encountering the unfamiliar on a daily basis. My advice to you is to put your smartphone down, take a walk, focus your eyes and open your ears. Ask your taxi driver how his day is, or the guy in the elevator what makes him happiest. Take the opportunity to ask open ended questions and listen to answers wholeheartedly.
EVERY person in this world has their own story and are their own narrator. It is their choice to read it to you, and it is your choice to serve as a plot twist. Whether you become the antagonist or the hero, you have the potential to influence a stranger's storyline
- their life.
I believe that everyone has a purpose in your life and that no encounter is by coincidence. I think the greatest aspect of meeting strangers is that there are no obligations. Strangers can potentially evolve into lifelong friends, even soul mates, if the connection is genuine and free of bias. Or, strangers can remain temporary company for the time being. We have the power to choose to form relationships. We have the power to engage in conversation, or simply continue walking. We have the power to spark a light in someone's darkness, or watch them struggle to find their night vision. We have the power to give a "stranger" a new name. And with this autonomous power comes an enlightening message: That strangers aren't so strange.
Have you had a unique encounter with a stranger while traveling? Let me know in the comment section! Thank you for reading! Until next time; xo