My parents told me to talk to strangers

Remember when you were little and your parents told you never to talk to strangers?

Well, they were wrong. 

(At least if you have taken that advice into your adult life. If you’re a toddler reading this, listen to your parents for now).

I have vivid memories of my parents meeting and connecting with random strangers.  Whether it was when we were having a picnic in a local park or walking the beach during a Caribbean vacation, they would end up meeting fellow park enthusiasts or vacationers and soon would be enthralled in long interesting conversations. In some cases, not only would they swap cool stories and travel advice but also contact information to become future global friends. The adolescent Tania remembers being annoyed that my parents spent so long talking to strangers when I wanted to go back to the hotel to play in the pool.  The adult Tania has a different opinion. I want to say a big THANK YOU to my parents for in-directly teaching me a vital life skill: how to network.

The first time I noticed my adeptness for talking to random strangers was during orientation week at University. With so many new faces around, I immediately wanted to rush up to people to introduce myself and hear their life story (or at least what program them were in).  Sidenote: I laugh each time one of my closest friends from university recalls the moment when I propelled myself upon them with endless questions and my cell phone number. You know who you are…

Now, the urge to start speaking with someone around me is so integrated into my DNA that I just can’t stop myself.  I find it’s become a useful skill during my world trip as I usually gain bounds of excellent travel advice- everything from the best off-the-beaten path cities to visit to which bus companies to avoid. The truth is, talking to random strangers (aka networking) is a useful and vital skill any time in life. In the end, I guess I have become my parents’ daughter.

There are probably a millions reasons why but here are my top 3 reasons why talking to random strangers is a must:

Reason #3: You never know who is standing next to you.

When I was visiting the Ubud Palace in November, I noticed a gentleman with a cool looking head-dress. I approached him and asked what his hat was all about. We ended up chatting for 20 minutes about the history of the temple, traditional ceremonies and Balinese customs. Near the end of our conversation, he gave me his email address and invited me to a local temple ceremony that evening. It wasn’t until recounted the story to my guesthouse owner that I was informed that the man was the Prince of Ubud’s brother! Moral of the story, you just never know who is standing next to you, so just talk to them!

 

Reason #2: You push yourself outside your comfort zone

I’ll admit, it’s not always easy to walk up to a stranger and engage in conversation. Will the person look at me like I’m an alien for talking to them? Will they see me coming and run away? Will they even speak English?  Truth is that 98% of the time it turns into a fruitful conversation and I walk away from the conversation with a sense of community, useful information and a huge smile on my face.

And the other 2% of time, I am proud to have had the courage to put myself out there and take the risk- even if it wasn’t reciprocated. It’s really no big deal, sometimes it’s a language barrier or just that the other person truly doesn’t have time to chat. Laugh it off, let it go. The world will go on.

 

Reason #1: It’s FUN and people are super interesting!

With billions of people living on the planet and each one of them having a unique story, just imagine the possibility of super interesting tales!  Random conversations have led me to meet traditional healers, astrologers, ex-commercial airline pilots, people travelling the world without taking a single flight, couples biking New Zealand, people I travelled with and shared hostel rooms with and many more fascinating people- each with their own riveting chronicles of past experiences, life lessons or inspiring dreams to come.

 

So, next time you see an intriguing stranger or you need advice or have a question, turn around and talk to a random stranger. Be bold. Be you. Just do it! (and share you experiences with myself and other peeps visiting this forum. We’d love to hear your learnings!)

 

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6 Responses to “My parents told me to talk to strangers”

  1. I am still laughing about the title… Love this post and your take on “talking to strangers” – it’s so true!

  2. Peter & brenda Says:
    January 7, 2013 at 4:03 am

    Hello Tania,
    We are honored that you have dedicated a blog in our name. True, we are still meeting strangers around the globe who have become our personal friends. Global networking works, although, one has to use sound judgement.

    We are delighted that you are traveling to parts of the world that we can only dream about and experiencing the adventurous world out there.

    We enjoy reading your blog and looking forward to you coming home soon!:)

    Much love

    Mom and Dad

  3. Mel Dmello Says:
    January 13, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    I just love your blogs.

    You truly have the Dmello trait….. talking to a lot of new people… No telling what you can glean. Your mother and I truly love talking to one and all. Good to see that you have picked up that “gift”.
    Story of the Ubud palace was truly memorable.

    Keep up the world travel. Did not know that Sucre was the capital of Bolivia… like all others I thought it was La Paz and was taught this in school – in large measure because the seat of power was in La Paz and so is the palace and the Congress offices.

    Keep up the good work and continue to write!.

    We love you, my dear!

    Uncle Mel

  4. I loved reading both this article and Random Acts of Kindness. Thanks for sharing.

  5. The Global Sponge The Global Sponge Says:
    February 23, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Thank you for all your comments and support. I am a lucky girl to have family like you around the world.

  6. Every once in a while I have a look into your blog and I’m always positiv smiling when I read your texts – well done and fully truth. I definitely see lots similarities – even with my mom. ;o)

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