When you look at it, our friends today started out as strangers we met at school, at work, during a party, or even while traveling together on a bus. Yet for some reason we are naturally inclined to ignore unfamiliar people when we leave the house and go out to the bigger world. After all, we do not know them in person and they have their own business. People also differ in principles and attitude. When interacting with others wherever we are, the last thing we may have in mind is to start an argument probably ignited by misunderstanding.
Going places does not just mean having lunch at a themed restaurant, appreciating the fine arts in a museum, swimming off a beach, or climbing up a mountain peak. It also means spending time with people. We tend to encounter strangers while enjoying such activities. An avid traveler must also learn to meet new people with positive results. He or she can benefit from making new friends, learning more about the place, and even get easy help when it is most needed.
However, not all people have good intentions. It pays to be wary of others, especially in places with a high incidence of poverty and crime. We should not rush into decisions when dealing with strangers. Instead, observe how they behave so we can determine who is trustworthy and who is not.
Once we feel comfortable with people we meet for the first time, a conversation breaks the barrier even further. This is another reason why I promote spontaneous chats with strangers we have begun to know. As mobile devices enable us to communicate with friends and loved ones who live in another town or even country, we seem to devalue face-to-face conversations, especially with those unfamiliar to us.
When traveling with family or friends, you probably stay by their side most of the time and limit meaningful talk only with them. You have spent months, years, or a lifetime with significant others while you are not even sure how others would react if you initiate a conversation. In my own experience, I missed opportunities to know strangers better on certain occasions because I got too attached to my companions. The barrier becomes greater when we have reservations about the other person’s physical appearance or if he or she is from another country. However, we can expand our knowledge and understanding of the world when we open ourselves to others. This is also a remedy for prejudice. If only we could chat with our seatmate in the train or bus rather than spend the trip staring at a lit handheld screen.