The One Thing I Love To Do

The One Thing I Love To Do

Derek Interesting People, Personal Stuff, Perspectives 107 Comments

The One Thing I Love To Do

It’s the start of the year and I’ve been sitting here for awhile trying to come up with the perfect topic for my first blog post of 2014. And I’m a bit worried because the idea that has so far stood out as much better than all the rest involves me showing you a video of my slightly webbed toes.

Oh heck, let’s see how it goes. Here, my friends, is a video of my slightly webbed toes, aka “duck feet”:

(If you’re reading this post via email, you’ll need to click here in order to watch the video directly on the blog itself.)

Fascinating, right?

Anyway, moving on…

The most likely reason why I have such a lack of ideas at the moment is the amount of travel I’ve done in the past two months and the exhaustion that the constant moving around has led to. And now that I’m back in Bucharest, finally able to rest, my brain has shut down somewhat, refusing to do too much thinking until it has a chance to adjust to one time zone and get into a normal rhythm.

Hence the reason why my mushy brain is unable to come up with anything better than a webbed toes video.

Of course, I could just go the more traditional route and write about my New Year’s resolutions for my first post of 2014, but the problem is that I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always believed that if there is something I want to do in life, the best time to start is immediately. Waiting for the New Year to come around to make changes in my life doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. The longer I wait to start something, the less of a chance there is of me actually following through.

So there won’t be any resolutions from me.

On the other hand, and this has nothing to do with it being the start of the year, I have had something on my mind lately, something that I definitely want to accomplish more of in the coming months. And no, it does not involve participating in swimming events so that I can take advantage of my webbed toes.

It’s actually much simpler than that.

I just want to meet more people.

It is true that I meet a lot of people already, that’s for sure. But I must admit that the amount of random people I meet has become less and less lately. I’m talking about striking up conversations with waiters and waitresses, shopkeepers and bakers, bus drivers and police officers, soldiers and tailors, students and retirees, entrepreneurs and any other stranger I come across, everywhere I go, with the sole purpose of exchanging stories, learning from each other and creating as many human connections as I possibly can.

That’s what I love to do. That’s why I’m traveling in the first place. So now it’s up to me to make sure I’m on track and still doing what I love.

If you read this blog, you’ll already know how much I believe in the benefits of human interaction, especially cross-cultural interaction, in terms of breaking down barriers and misunderstandings that could potentially, and needlessly, lead to hatred, discrimination, war and more. And all it takes at times is saying “hello” to a person standing next to you on the metro or smiling at the person you pass in the street or asking a question to the person at the next table. The effort required to connect with a fellow human being is so minimal, yet the potential benefits are huge, for everyone involved.

With that said, I do know very well that closing my laptop right now, heading outside and talking to random people won’t exactly “change the world”. It won’t put an end to any wars, violence or widespread hatred. I’d be foolish to think it would.

But, but, but…such an interaction can change a person’s day, it can change someone’s week, it can bring happiness, it can alter someone’s views, it can create friendships and teach us life lessons and so much more. Even if the only result of interacting with a stranger is an exchange of smiles, I personally feel that makes the brief connection more than worthwhile. Such an interaction certainly brings me more happiness than just about anything else in life.

That’s why it’s time for me to focus on meeting more people wherever I go, as of this very moment. I’m genuinely excited about where this will lead, who I will meet and what I will learn as a result.

And this way, I will also be able to promise that the next video I put on this site will highlight one of these interesting random interactions from my travels, something that sounds so much better than my other idea – a video of me cutting my toenails.

Do you talk to random people when you travel? How do you benefit from random human interactions? Any particular goals you have set for yourself right now?

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Comments 107

  1. Emmanuel Tartagal

    I loved this entry, Earl! And I loved the first picture, they all look so frozenly happy 😀 😀 When you come back to Argentina, come to Tartagal, in the north, very near to the Bolivian border. There are amazing people to meet here! 🙂
    Hope you keep doing it well in Kyrgystan!

  2. Contented Traveller

    We love talking to random people, whether it is just a good morning, which often throws people, or whether we get into a conversation. People are interesting. I love what people bring to the table that is often so different. Recently we were in Austria and talking to a man and asked was he Austrian. We were told in no uncertain terms that he was Tyrolean and not Austrian at all. This became a very interesting and insightful discussion. The fact that I looked like his first girlfriend many years ago was also an interesting topic 🙂 Take care and don’t video cutting your bloody toenails – talk to the postman for goodness sake.

  3. Elena Nacheva

    Someone has just sent me your blog… I can´t agree more. Just came back to Barcelona after 2,5 years around the world, trying to find a job and adapt to normality…Im still so lost and confused.
    That´s why I´m travelling too. Some do it for the sport, some do it for the party, for others is the nature,or food or dances or just go with the flow and enjoy everything…My reason is the PEOPLE.
    And I miss it, I miss talking to random people, no matter if they are old men, kids or whole families. I miss being a guest in their houses, hearing their stories, always digging into my backpack for something little but priceless I can leave them as a gift…I don´t know how I can ever pay back the hospitality and generosity I´ve received all around the world..
    I miss all these encounters with strangers, so simple but so fulfilling. Let me know if you New Year´s resolution works out :))

    I´ll have to have a proper look at what you are doing, might give me some ideas.
    Lots of smiles

  4. Rachel da Cruz

    Love your blog Earl!

    Let’s see – in a day’s travelling on chicken buses from Guatemala to El Salvador I met some amazing women. One was checking herself into a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics and had an incredibly sad story (I ended up reading to her in English as she found it soothing even though she didn’t understand), and another was escaping her abusive husband and carrying everything she owned in two bags. They were inspiring women. I had started the day feeling a bit lonely and nervous about the journey I’d be taking alone (leaving a country you love for one you don’t know at all is always a bit daunting despite the adventure thrill) and these conversations helped me refocus and think of others and the huge things they were facing. In a small way I was able to be there for them and them for me, we listened to each other and laughed and went on our on way all feeling happier.
    Living through your travels while I’m back in London reassessing (think the nomadic life is definitely calling again though). Thank you for the stories!

  5. Nina

    Yes! Talking to people while traveling is pretty much one of the coolest parts about traveling. Locals and other travelers alike. I listen, learn, laugh, and love everyone I meet. It’s a different experience and makes you break out of your shell where you only talk to people you know. When you travel, especially solo like me, you HAVE to interactive with others to survive. I would go crazy if I had nobody to speak to!

  6. Darcy Latta

    Great post! This is such a simple but important goal. I always feel silly when I articulate that meeting people is my favorite part of traveling because it’s something that I could so easily do at home too.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Darcy – While it is something that we can definitely do at home, traveling does put us in a different mindset, making it much easier to meet people everyday…and there’s nothing silly about that!

  7. melissa jennewein

    Hello- I am also a solo traveler, and I find that people really love to talk about themselves when invited to do so. Or if you would like to create a new topic to get to know someone better, you could use some random objects and ask them how they could be used. An example follows: take some string, a couple pieces of paper, and some other random material and pose some question like “I wonder what we could make with this?” I know it sounds childish, (and really, it is- hahah) but I have personally done this sort of activity and it has created some pretty funny experiences and relaxed people into sharing more about themselves. I hope this helps 🙂 happy traveling!!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Melissa – That’s not a bad idea at all. Anything to change the normal routine of normal basic questions seems like something worth trying to me. I can only imagine the results would be far more interesting.

  8. melissa jennewein

    I could not agree more with this article!! I am also a fellow wandering nomad and agree that the best part of travel is meeting people. Just stopping to say hello, offering some assistance in some way, or simply smiling at all that passing people is what makes the experience of travel so rich. Thank you for sharing your beautiful, insightful stories Earl 🙂

  9. Tahlei's Travels

    Hi Earl,
    I’m on my first solo trip and am amazed at how much more interaction I have, with both locals and other travelers, than when I was traveling as a couple. It’s certainly a major benefit of going it alone and makes for a totally different experience! I was wondering if you have any go-to conversation starters or questions that you like to use when having random conversations with random people? I realise that a lot will depend on the situation but I for instance find myself having the same conversations over and over again. Where are you from? How long have you been in the country? How long is your trip? etc etc – everyone understandably wants to know the same things. This is all well and good, but I would love to have more meaningful conversations, even if they are only short. I want to learn more about the people I meet, about their lives and their perspectives and opinions, but I find it hard to get to anything more profound than the typical questions above. Any advice?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Tahlei – I generally try to avoid those questions that everyone asks and instead focus on something completely different. If I see someone reading something, I’ll ask what they’re reading, if I see someone in the street taking photos I might ask them what has caught their attention, if I see another traveler at the guesthouse just sitting by themselves I’ll often just ask them if they want to go get a meal or a drink, without knowing anything about them. And usually a more random start to a conversation leads to a more interesting conversation overall, at least in my experiences.

  10. Able

    Hi Earl, it’s nice to meet you! My name and is Able and I’ve been following your blog for maybe a year and a half now. You are totally right–I love meeting new people. All this time and I never popped in to say hi… I feel silly! You have inspired me immensely and I know 2014 is going to one rocking year. I am relocating to Thailand before this year ends and I am booking my ticket very soon. Perhaps I’ll meet you one day in my travels! Thank you for all that you do. Your blog is one that I would always want to follow!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Able – I shall look forward to meeting you out there and do let us know when you buy your ticket! Once that happens, there’s no turning back. I certainly wish you an amazing 2014 ahead!

  11. Lorraine Thomson

    We are going to Athens for our 35th Wedding anniversary. We were last there for our honeymoon. I have a photo of us on the steps of the Parthanon, and I want to take a photo of us on those same steps, but this time with our son, 35 years on. I will just HAVE to stop a stranger/strangers and tell them about this – how could you just not let the people around you know what you’re doing – Wish me luck, I hope I don’t just slink on and not let anyone know the significance of our being there!! I knw I owldn’t mind if someone stopped and told me – I’d be very happy to be part of their special moment!

  12. Ed

    Alana, I’m like you: if there’s no reason to talk, then why do it – especially to a stranger? But something I’ve found helpful is going to a place where people are doing a thing I like to do. Our common interest can start a conversation. I’ve always loved dogs, and a (favorable) comment about someone else’s pooch has always led to talk about more than dogs. In this example a dog park would be a safe meeting place – though if you walk up without a dog others might be suspicious. But if you said, “I’m new here and really miss my buddy back home…”

  13. Seb

    Hey Earl,
    Great post again even if you had a hard time having inspiration. We have met great people on our trip so far and I also couldn’t agree more. It is awesome to talk to random people and the memories that you keep from it. Even when sometimes the conversation ended up being mostly sign language when language barrier was an issue.
    I wish you a lot of interesting conversations.

  14. Joe

    Great resolution. It’s striking to me how much technology has changed how we interact and how less face-to-face interactions happen. It’s funny sometimes, remembering how the hostel scene was 5-7 years ago even, when people hung out in the lounges and talked to each other, and how in the last couple years, it’s people hanging out in the lounges engrossed in their own devices. But, by just saying ‘Hi’ to people, you really can have some enriching experiences (or at the least make someone’s day).

  15. Banker in the Sun

    At home, I’m closed off. When I travel, for some reason I’m instantly more open, even to people from back home. I think this openness is one of the biggest benefits of travel. I’m still abroad but hope I can bring that quality back with me when I visit the State again.

  16. Travis Longmore

    Funnily enough I’ve got the exact same resolution myself. Despite being a photographer i don’t feel like I’m getting to meet enough people so far. I want to start telling more peoples stories so i have to get out and find them!

    Good luck!

  17. Jessica

    Nice feet! Haha jk. Meeting random people is such a thrilling yet simple concept. Nothing gets me more excited than the potential of what could happen when I got talk or interact with someone. I’ve had some crazy things happen, made some of the best memories, or made the most amazing friendships just by initiating contact to the person standing next to me.

    Happy New Year! I’m currently near NYC if you are ever in the Tri-state area.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jessica – Sounds good! I do make it to the NYC area a couple of times each year so I’m sure we can meet up!

  18. cindy singer

    Talking to random people is one of my favorite past times. I have been talking to strangers for as long as I can remember. Only once, when I was complimenting a cashier on her English as she was struggling with a sentence, a man on line behind me made a nasty comment about how I should mind my own business. The cashier was embarrassed by his comment and assured me that she was not offended and appreciated the time I took to talk to her. All other times, though, my interactions with others have brought me nothing but joy and, sometimes, entertainment.

    Whether traveling solo or with a partner, everyone benefits. It can get pretty boring talking to the same (and only) person for an extended period of time.

    You mentioned smiling and I have a comment on that as well. Sometimes, when I’m feeling blue, if I can remember to just smile, it literally changes my mood. It’s truly amazing what a smile can do — not only showing others of your friendliness and the possibility of conversation, but as a mood uplifter as well. Keep on smiling!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Cindy – So true and actually, for me, sometimes all it takes is just seeing someone else smiling, even if it’s not at me 🙂
      That can change my mood, for the better, as well.

  19. Scott

    Talking to random people was something I missed when I worked on a cruise ship for a time. While it was kind of expected of you, I would say hello or good evening or whatever to anyone who I saw walking towards me. If it was just a member of staff, then it might be just a nod, but it was always something.

    After returning to land, I found it very odd not to say hello to the random person crossing my path. I had to remind myself that it was “not normal” in the real world to do this type of thing as people might think you were strange.

    It’s sad really. I’m actually trying to get back on the ships in a different role, but finding it tough. Your e-book has helped somewhat, but it’s like learning a whole new way of applying for a job!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Scott – I can tell you though that this system will work when it comes to applying for cruise jobs, especially if you have some ship experience already. And I also miss that constant interaction that takes place on the ships, not a day goes by without me thinking about it.

  20. Boyan

    Nice post Earl.
    Apart from talking to random strangers, it is sometimes more fun to high-five someone who’s walking towards you and then you just keep walking.
    What’s even WAY more fun, is to tell a stranger that today is “free-hugs-day” and that maybe they should consider seizing the opportunity!
    Try it, it’s exhilarating. .

  21. Russ C

    Hi Earl, Well said! Like I aways say: I’m looking to survive and flourish in adventure. To pare down my possessions to what I can carry on my back. To see the great natural wonders. To learn from other cultures. To enrich the lives of others. To be part of the global tribe. To become a better person. To live to tell my story. BTW, I have webbed feet too!

  22. Dan

    Hey there Earl!

    I’ve just found your website and I’ve had a look around – you’ve got some really inspiring stuff here. I’m leaving to begin my own adventure in 14 days – starting in Thailand!

    The fact you’ve made your trip last so long is awesome. If I can do half as well as you have I’ll be pleased. Anyway, take care man, and I’ll be sure to subscribe so I stay up to date.

    – Dan

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Dan – Congrats on your upcoming trip and I’ll be interested to see how it goes for you! I’m sure you’ll travel for as long as you want…once you’re out there you’ll discover some opportunities that will help you achieve that goal for sure.

  23. Steve C

    Earl, maybe that was an inadvertent choice of a word; Forum. What I really meant was just for you to encourage the people who leave comments back to you to also leave comments to each other, without changing anything of the format you’re using now.

  24. Chelsea

    I feel closer to many of the people I’ve met briefly while traveling than I do to some of my good friends. It’s amazing who you can meet while traveling. I love talking to random strangers 🙂 The only goal I have right now is to make 2014 the best year thus far and so far, so good!!

  25. Lorraine Thomson

    I just wrote a long reply…. and my computer got stuck!!! GGGrrrrrrr! Can’t write it all again…. but love all the above comments…. x

  26. Raz

    I susbscribe to that!

    The idea of posting video of random people interactions and conversations would really be a hit! I often thought to myself that this kind of thing would be the best way I could memorize what make travelling so fun and so rewarding. But, as the words say it, I found it verry hard to record something spontaneous.

    If you could find a way to do that it would be awesome.

    All the best … of travell … in 2014… for all of us!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Raz – I’m definitely going to work on it and hopefully come up with some way to show some of these interactions. Bucharest is a good place to start!

  27. Tracey

    It’s the whole reason for travelling isn’t it?? I love the randomness of who you meet when you travel and the kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze and delight me! Now I just want to be able to keep that mentality in “normal life” as well 🙂

  28. Pamela

    I like to talk to random people in the airport or something because I guess you are at your most relax mood on a holiday.

    Find out something new about a country, some great tips or even a stranger’s life with all those random talking to kill some time. It’s interesting! 🙂

  29. Adım Adım Seyahat

    Same problem here. 2013 was full of moving and discovering different places and now i am sitting at home and don’t know where to start. I feel like my brain is melting 🙂
    Just few days ago i was in Sarajevo. Sitting in a small tea-house, enjoying my tea. There was a man sitting next and i just say “Hello”
    After a while we started discussing about politics of Turkey, Bosnia etc… And we had a great talking about history, now and future ideas about the world. That was the best moment of my 10 days of Balkan travel. I can say that conversation was the purpose of my travel and it all began with a basic “Hello”

    1. cindy singer

      I worry about what it will be like to be home after being away for 14 months. After reading your comment, my first thought was, “go to a coffee shop and start talking.” I’ll have to remember my own advice. Good Luck!

    2. Wandering Earl

      Hey Adim – It’s such an easy thing to do and as you said, it can lead to the best moments of our travels. In fact, I would say that the word ‘hello’ almost always ends up being the foundation of my most memorable adventures, wherever I’ve been.

  30. Gina Nitschke

    That’s one of the best New Years resolutions that I’ve heard! You may not feel like you’re going to independently change the world with this one, but I can imagine the better place we’d all live in if we each made this our own resolution 🙂

  31. Joy @MyTravelingJoys

    Great idea! Sometime we’ll talk to other tourists or locals and sometimes we don’t when we travel. In Krakow, I met a lovely Irish couple that shared some good restaurant tips. In Berlin, we found a cool bar to go to. It should become more of a habit though.

    Looking forward to seeing how your 2014 goes! Thanks for sharing your travels with us!

  32. senem

    Hi all,

    ı generally travel alone and the best part of travelling alone is meet with new people. I also use Couchsurfing to meet with local people.

    this morning before reading your blog , I read an article and the writer says we have to accept everything as it is , by not judging and put this poem by Rumi.

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.
    Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks

    your blog and her article says to wellcome all people and new things.

    have a good day

  33. Shane

    Meeting strange and wonderful people is one of my favorite parts of traveling. I have many stories but one that sticks out was at a hostel Lithuania. I met a bunch of backpackers and stayed up all night, drinking, smoking Shisha, listening to music from all over the world and just talking about life, travel, listening to everyone’s stories. It was an amazing night with a interesting collection of people including a member from a Swedish “death metal” band.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Shane – As you’ve discovered, those kind of random situations are the one’s we remember the most! I certainly wish you more experiences like that in the future.

  34. Mitch Roth

    With that said, I do know very well that closing my laptop right now, heading outside and talking to random people won’t exactly “change the world”. It won’t put an end to any wars, violence or widespread hatred. I’d be foolish to think it would.

    I respectfully disagree, you would not be foolish to think so. I am in the middle of reading Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible,” and this reasoning that events only happen on a Cartesian coordinate system — A leads to B — is a an old view of the world, and fits into the old Story of Separation. But we know that things happen serendipitously, coincidentally, against all odds, miraculously. It doesn’t fit into the A leads to B model of how things happen. If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend his TEDxWhitechapel Talk, “A New Story of the People.” It’s a good introduction to the book, which he makes available on his website for free as well.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Thanks for that Mitch. I will definitely check it out and it’s now on my list of books to read. And on another note, I hope you have a fantastic 2014 and look forward to crossing paths again at some point.

  35. miki

    yes! i could not have put it better myself! it suddenly occured to me that the reason i get such post-travel depression, is not the places that ive visited and missed, its the people I’ve met! i seem to make the deepest connections with people that i will spend less than a week with! and thats the major reason that will continue to push me to travel! i just want to meet people! i want to know about their life, and share stories and cultures and see the world through their eyes! so many people dont understand this feeling and its so reassuring to know that im not the only one!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Miki – You’re definitely not the only one out there who feels that way. That’s what I miss most too when I don’t move around so much. It always comes back to the people, no matter where I go.

  36. Chris P.

    Today a very cute girl started talking to me in a restaurant, she was at the next table… and we hit it off right away. She started by just asking me nicely if i am done eating in a way that leads to a conversation… Changed my day (maybe more??)… funny how you write this post today. Love the post Aquaman 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Chris – Well, there you go. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. And I’m telling you, you should have seen how quickly I would swim from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel with these feet!

  37. Pingback: ZZOE Tuesday Travel Quote #4 | ZigZag On Earth

  38. Scarlett

    I couldn’t agree more, besides, the other thing matter to me is to witness the world from my own eyes.
    A bigger world reminds me there are lot more things to care about, instead of being frustrated by some little daily issues.
    I’m studying in UK now(I’m from China), and what I learned is no matter how many programs, tv series, books you watch, there would be no better way to understand a country by actually going there.
    I appreciate your lifestyle a lot, and hopefully after finish studying, I could also make my way.
    Happy new year and good luck.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Scarlett – That realization is probably the most important realization you can make in my opinion. And I’ve always felt that if more people would travel to the places they think they know so much about, they would discover that the reality is actually much different and they would probably change their views as a result.

  39. Noor - Desert to Jungle

    I like talking to hotel staff, waiters/waitresses etc. I used to go to KL a lot and one of the first things I’d do was go to my favourite restaurant/bar to eat my favourite Indonesian dish, have a Tiger beer and talk to my waitress friend, Marie. One time I stayed too long and was running late for my flight so had to rush off, accidentally leaving some shopping behind me. I didn’t even realise till two months later when I pitched up at the restaurant again and Marie told me she’d kept the shirt and t-shirt that I’d left behind and rushed to her nearby home to get them for me.

    When I was in KL last November I was so sad when I went to the restaurant and found out Marie had gone back home to Burma – sad for me, but happy for her. We have tried emailing in the past but her English isn’t up to it so we’ve now lost contact. When I was in KL in December I didn’t even go for my usual gado gado as Marie wouldn’t be there, she was part of what I like about KL.

    Earl, I’m with you absolutely on New Year’s resolutions, I’ve never made one for the reason you say: if there’s something to be done then I want to do it now, not wait for some random date on the calendar. But, through my work as a hypnotherapist, I know different things motivate different people so if New Year’s resolutions work for some people then good for them.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Noor – Absolutely. That’s only my thoughts and everyone is definitely different. Whatever works, works and that’s the most important thing. And thanks for sharing that story about KL…such ‘friendships’ are truly magical, even if they suddenly end. We always remember those kind of interactions and the people that played a role in our lives.

  40. Steve C

    Quack, Quack Earl. You really know how to start people talking. Secrets between your toes, just don’t ask me to pull your finger! 🙂

    For those above who find it hard to start-up small talk, you can practice anywhere. Instead of a statement, use a question. Try the person in line behind you when you’re checking out at the grocery store. They’re a captive audience and you have something in common, waiting your turn. Also, that random person who is going the other way while you are on a walk or run, on a trail. Remember, always use a question. You’ll be surprised how many people will actually say something in return. And, it usually puts a smile on their face.

    And Earl, I’ve thrown this out before; you’ve created a blog that could become a forum. If you’re serious in promoting interaction between strangers, think how interactive this site could be if you encouraged replies between commenters.

    Also, one last point, our society, (the world, for that matter), could use more interaction as we’re drifting more and more to fear others simply because we don’t talk. Communication is the answer to our problems, and you don’t even have to be a traveler. Understanding each other starts wherever you are, right now!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Steve – Great advice on striking up conversations. Asking questions, even when you already may know the answer, to someone in a similar situation is a perfect way to at least get comfortable talking to strangers.

      And it’s a good idea to have a forum on this site. I just need to find the time to make it happen as it is a lot of work to set something like that up. But it would be useful of course as I refer to the comments myself when I need some information!

  41. Chanel @ La Viajera Morena

    Nice webbed toes.

    I do talk to random people when I travel, because being a solo traveler, you are forced to interact with people on your journey, and I like it 🙂 I benefit from random human interactions by not only learning how to step outside of my comfort zone, but also by learning about different places, cultures, and beliefs around the world.

    The only goals I have this year are to become better with time management, get closer to checking off my entire bucket list, and working on finishing my degree 🙂

    Happy New Year!

  42. Amber

    Passing strangers have the best stories to share! I travel around the states often and have met many strangers who will strike up a conversation and tell me the wildest most unsuspecting stories about their lives. It is always flattering that someone sees something in you to feel safe in telling his or her story to you. I think we all wander with the hopes of finding souls to connect too.

    With that said I would like to kindly debate with you about your view of making New Year resolutions 🙂

    I don’t see it as waiting a whole year before starting to work on a new goal. Most people i know, myself included, do not know what their goals will be until maybe after a week or two after the holiday when we are able to assess what we have achieved in the previous year and what would we like to achieve for the upcoming year. I see the act of creating a resolution to be a form of self realization of what a person truly needs to feel accomplished and whole. For me its almost therapeutic. I could post shallow goals that I know I won’t achieve or I can look at myself and see what I want to change or better yet what I want to evolve. This year most of my goals are focused on refocusing myself on what I love and have been neglecting for the last couple of years.

    Happy new Year and lots of luck toward your goal and with your travels!! I really enjoy reading about your adventures and look forward to your story.

    Peace 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Amber – That certainly all makes sense 🙂 I was just thinking more along the lines that I prefer not to wait until the New Year to assess my life. I’ve always felt that I should be assessing my life all the time, throughout the year, in order to make sure that I am on track doing with what I truly want to be doing and with how I truly want to be living. But of course, any time we reflect on our lives and develop goals that will help us improve, it’s well worth it 🙂

    2. Russ C

      Hi Amber, I’ve often thought about how perfect strangers can tell each other the most personal things about each other. I think for me it’s partly the possibility of hearing something novel that probably could have not come from my familiar circle. But it’s also safer in a sense. One can be sure that anything said will remain confidential and one can be free to fully explore the issue at hand. It’s kind of like serendipitous therapy.

  43. Esther

    Hi Earl! I love what you wrote and really admire how you love reaching out to people like that. Human connection really is important, and I hope to work on that some more this year myself! For me, it is working on the depths that connection can bring, to see where I am holding back and not being myself. I have many unconscious rules around how I interact with people, and I tend to be very guarded (although less so on cyberspace), so I am hoping to let that go and let myself naturally and spontaneously be. Also I think you are changing the world because you are doing what you love. In the end, change starts with each person living the life that they want! You are doing just that and helping other people do that as well. I think things like war and conflict will make less sense as people are more content with themselves; it’s never about other people anyway. So thank you for doing what you do!

  44. Sharon H

    You are correct that interacting with random people is the highlight of traveling…well, actually with living. I went to China in 2006 and struck up an interaction with a young man whose job was to be a tool watcher. I say interaction because he didn’t know much English and I didn’t know much Chinese, but somehow we were able to communicate. I had some flash cards that I was trying to study to learn more Chinese and he helped me with the pronunciation of Chinese and I helped him with the pronunciation of English. We worked on this several days in a row and when it was time for me to come back to the US, I was really sad to leave his gentle spirit. So, my husband and I sponsored him and another young man to come to the US to study! They lived in our home for three months and he is still one of my best friends! Last month I went to China with him and his new wife to the little remote village to meet his family! It was like traveling to another planet because I am sure we were the first outsiders that had ever been there! I am so thankful that God blessed me with that random meeting all those years ago. You never know when that random person will turn out to be something more in your life.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sharon – That’s an excellent story and great proof of how we never know where such a random interaction will lead.

  45. Jade

    I’m so socially awkward! I am terrible at talking to random strangers. I do love couchsurfing though, cause you can meet interesting strangers and it is a little less awkward than just talking to a random on the street. At least for me anyway…

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jade – Couchsurfing definitely helps break that barrier and it’s a great tool to ensure we do interact with locals when we travel. And slowly, slowly, as you become more comfortable with strangers, you’ll see that you’ll begin enjoying more random encounters as well.

  46. Julia

    I always talk to people when traveling or even at home. Its funny cause you never know what you will have in common. Its how I find out about new fun places to travel both internationally and locally. My goal is to hopefully travel more and make lots of new friends!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Julie – I look forward to seeing you achieve your goal. And good point about talking to random people at home too…anything that can be applied to travel can most certainly be applied to life at home as well!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Kia – It is interesting how that happens but it is so very true. When you’re on your own, you have no choice but to talk to other people if you don’t want to walk around in complete silence for your entire trip. It’s a perfect setup!

  47. Michele

    OK, yes, you definitely have unusual feet. I’m looking forward to my life of travel for the same reason – meeting random people and striking up conversation. I hope the rest of your day was more exciting than showing off your feet 🙂 Maybe we’ll see you sometime in May!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Alana – It’s definitely not easy at first. I was very shy when I first started traveling and it took me a while to get comfortable talking to strangers. In the end, it all had to do with putting myself in a position where I would have no choice. First, I would stay at hostels so that I would have to interact with other travelers. Then, I would start eating at very local restaurants so that, again, I had no choice but to interact with people if I wanted to figure out the menu and eat something. And you’ll be surprised, after a few interactions, it becomes much easier. Or, you can always just ask for help. If you’re lost, or even if you’re not lost, ask someone on the street for assistance…you never know where a simple question might lead!

  48. Megan

    Connecting with random people is my absolute favorite part about traveling, hands down. Sometimes I take it to the extreme and socialize so much that it leaves my inner introvert in a state of frenzy, but I’m working to correct that. While I love traveling solo, ironically, the best part of it is that it makes it easier to connect with more people.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Megan – That’s also how I feel. Traveling solo definitely leads to more interactions. And there are definitely worse things in life than socializing too much!

  49. Sofie

    I love striking up a conversation with random people. It’s always the people I remember most from a trip.
    However, my daring to start a conversation does depend on whether I feel the other person’s up for it as well, or not.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sofie – Fair enough. It can be tough starting conversations with random people which is why I always look for little signs first. If someone makes eye contact or smiles or looks lost, that’s a good time to start talking.

  50. Lisa Britt

    Yuppers, I travel mainly because I NEED to talk to random people… for hours… about anything at all. That way, I have more to talk about with new random strangers telling stories about old random stragners or “friends” by that point who I have already met. It’s and addictive circle Earl, and I love it.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Lisa – Addictive it is for sure and I always say that this addiction is the sole reason I’m still traveling. Had I not enjoyed these interactions, I would have stopped traveling a long time ago!

  51. Kelsey

    I love this post! In this digital age, human interaction is vastly underutilized and under appreciated.

    I’ve met some of my best friends by just striking up conversations with strangers in strange nations. Reminds us that there’s something that bonds us all together on a deeper level, no matter where we come from.

    My goal for the year is to seek adventure and explore. At 22, an office job is breathing down my neck, but I vow to resist as long as the love of travel is still in me. If anyone knows of travel job opportunities, let me know!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Kelsey – That’s certainly a goal worth striving for. Please do let us know how it goes and perhaps I shall see you out here somewhere in the world this year!

  52. Ruann @ Solo Travel Uncut

    [Laughs]. A photo of your shaved underarms and a video of your slightly webbed toes is what’s making your blog so different from all the others. Even when you think you’re struggling to entertain us with your current “mushy brain”, you’re doing the exact opposite. Love it! What’s next? A rock climbing tutorial with those fashionably crock-flops of yours?

    Keep on being such a cool character, man!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ruann – Ha…perhaps that will be the next video, although, if it involves me rock-climbing, there is a very high chance that it will end with me in the hospital. Congrats on your blog by the way!

  53. Brie'

    I have met most of my truest friends through random encounters. Most of them, they are travelers themselves. I met my dearest friend Chuck Manley on the streets of Seattle, while he practically rescued me from two drunk guys, and walked me home, teaching me about his journeys, and travels, and human life and how precious time is to each of us.– Now he’s living off the land in India. { }

    During the summer here, there had been a shooting incident in the city. I was reminded several times that day to stay inside, due to fear of the people in the city, even though the suspect was caught and was in the hospital from gunshots wounds from the police. The people in this city were living off of fear. I decided to do quite the opposite of staying put- hours after the occurrence- and roam around outside. That is when I met Nick, a Brooklyn boy with a thick accent, on the same block this tragedy had taken place hours before. He was just as curious of the fear that was consuming everyone that day, and we both somehow met through that experience. If I had stayed in all day, I wouldn’t have found this now dear friend of mine.

    From these random encounters, I thank the universe for putting me in those spots when I really wanted some human to human interaction.

    They didn’t just make my day, they made me a better person.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Brie – And that is definitely the benefit of putting ourselves out there in a position to meet random people…such interactions can certainly teach us a great deal about ourselves as well. Great stories and thanks for sharing!

  54. Sharon

    I totally agree Earl – it is always about the people in the end. I plan trips to see the sites, but in the end the interactions are the most memorable part of the journey – and it is a journey we can take no matter where we are — there are people to connect with every where! I am looking forward to the day when my path crosses yours – you are an inspiring fellow!


    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sharon – Exactly. And the fact that there are people to connect with everywhere means that it almost doesn’t matter where we go…we can always have interesting interactions in every corner of the globe.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Melyssa – I was actually just in LA a few weeks ago but for a very short visit. Should be back there again at some point though, so I look forward to meeting you then.

  55. Helen

    Couldn’t agree more. One of my favourite aspects of travelling.

    I’ve met some fascinating people on my trips. Some of whom I shared only a brief moment, but damn, they were some good moments!

    I’ve set a few goals for the next year! Talking to more random people should have been one of them! Who knows where it would lead? 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Helen – It’s amazing how one brief random interaction can be so memorable, often times more memorable than a long conversation I have with someone I’ve known for a while!

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