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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Since 1999 I've been traveling and living around the world nonstop. With this blog, my aim is to give you an honest account of this lifestyle - from the brilliant moments to the major challenges - in order to help you achieve your own travel goals.
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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
    Elena

  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!

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