- Lush green in the awesome woods of Vermont, Summer 2015.
I admit that conversation generally comes easily to me and I guess the fact that people approach me so often makes it even easier. For example, a few days ago I was at a park and a skater came up to me. We spoke for somewhere between three to four hours and had a really great conversation. It was thoughtful, insightful, and awesome! I think we were both incredibly happy with the encounter and I was so glad he'd approached me. The way he did so was how I would, too; friendly and open. We are like minded in our approach to life and being that that is not the most commonly found one, connecting like this was a lot of fun. I look forward to more experiences like it.
In my post "Alone and Not Lonely
" about traveling solo, I ended saying striking up a conversation can be easy and that a solo traveler may be even more welcome into a conversation. I imagined some people reading that and thinking how they haven’t found it to be the case. I know it isn’t for everyone. I thought I’d share a few ways, like the one above, I have experienced it.
First, people have noticed I am alone and approach me whether they are alone or with others. I toured a state home once with a woman and her adult son(probably around my age) and we were all talking before the tour, during the tour as we discussed the rooms, and later when we were outside and happened to see each other again. Situations like this have happened various places and could be a way to meet people, if you wanted to explore a place with others. You’re all there to see the place so that gives you something to talk about.
Second, kids approach me. I love this. I take it as a good sign just as I do when happy animals approach. The conversations I have had with kids have been interesting and fun. I love their honesty and perspectives. I love their questions and ease with learning more.
Third, older folks. I have enjoyed conversations about topics such as older technology(a counting machine that gave you an arm ache because you were pulling the handle hard all day), weather and outdoor activities, traveling, and whatever else. Their perspectives and experiences can be really interesting to hear about and I feel like, when they notice I am genuinely interested, it brings an excitement of sorts. It’s not just because someone wants to listen, it is because someone much younger wants to listen. More on that in a moment and a note: unless you're one of the oldest people alive reading this right now and "older folks" aren't really to be found, the actual ages don't matter much as "older folks" and "younger folks" are relative for everyone.
There are people my parents age who treat me like I get the sense they do their own children. One night I asked if a couple heading back to their car could get out passed me all right since I parked slightly angled and the response I got was hilarious. Something about them being "old" but they could handle it. It was said in jest and I said, “Have a good night.” We smiled and went separate ways.
Then there are people closer to my own age who immediately treat me as an equal. They talk to me like they would a friend, strike up conversation easily and, if I am in a place where there are a lot more older(and maybe even younger folks, too), seem to give a feeling of letting loose a bit and relaxing. No need to be proper, I suppose. Some of these conversations are the most comfortable. I really enjoy that aspect of it, that it is so easy and they feel they can just be themselves. A funny thing is they also seem to curse more.
- Even if you feel you stand out, you also fit in. (Another picture from Vermont in Summer 2015.)
It is amazing how differently people can feel and behave and speak depending on who they are with and how they perceive them. How you feel influences your interactions with them. Ever been in a place where someone is obviously unhappy about something yet smiles when noticing you anyway? In general, I have found it easy to interact with people of various ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Why limit yourself to one demographic? Why not talk with that happy child who wants to chat? Why not have that conversation about skipping golf today due to the weather? Why not engage in these brief and fun moments of connection?
I’m not talking about forming life long friendships here. These are the moments that make it fun to be IN THE MOMENT. Traveling is about movement, not building roots and settling down. The five sentence conversation about root beer floats while on the check out line, the question and answer about the remote control boats, hearing about the squirrels who climb into vehicles and chew on wires causing thousands of dollars worth of repairs needing to be done before the car is even sold. All sorts of connections with all sorts of places, events, peoples.
If you’re traveling alone, hey, even if you are out and about during your normal routine and you just feel like chatting, be open to it, relax, and see who comes your way. If you don’t like the person, just walk away.
- It's a big world, it's a small world. It's a perfect sized world in each moment with lots of open road and opportunities! (Photo is Upstate New York in Summer 2015, near Lake George.)
Addendum: In various places I have also been the one to start a conversation. I do it pretty much the same way those who approach me do. I just do it. I love learning new things and especially when a person has a passion for something, it is easy to ask questions and get them excitedly talking about whatever (their store, this location, art, museum, book, something they are buying or doing). If there is no sincere interest on my part, however, I probably won’t do it. The timing, the place, the vibe all come into play. This is inspired action. If you don’t feel inspired, it is best not to engage. If and when you do, speak up!