Although many of us are strictly taught not to talk to strangers as kids, this message can hold us back from new possibilities as adults. Other people are our pathway into new opportunities, loving relationships, friendships, or pointers in a certain direction that can change the course of our entire lives.
There is even more beauty in connecting with strangers while traveling. The connection with new people from walks of life different than your own, can change the way we see the world. When you get a feeling for the people of a faraway place, you experience the heart and soul there.
However, it can feel scary and vulnerable to talk and interact with people who we are not familiar with and who are not familiar with us, especially if they’re of a very different culture or language. Still, contact with people we’ve never met, can make life more interesting and rich, for the reasons listed below.
Here’s why talking to strangers is a brilliant idea, especially when you’re traveling.
You Will Gain a New Understanding of Life
New people and fresh perspectives are healthy for our minds. We can learn something from everyone. Every single individual is comprised by the unique experiences and stories of their lives. When we’re uninspired and feel like we’re going through the motions in life, connecting to a new person, can create a shift and unlock another world of possibilities. This is even more so, if that new person comes from a place or culture different than yours.
Language barriers are less than they used to be because of technology
It’s easier to talk to strangers anywhere now. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the other side of the world, technology is making it possible to have conversations between two or more people who don’t speak the same language, through translation apps. It’s a remarkable feeling to have a genuine connection with someone who speaks no more than a few words of your language. I recently went on a trip through Japan and had some genuine and heartwarming meals and interactions with new friends who didn’t speak more than a few works of English (and I don’t speak Japanese). We sat, shared food, and even laughs, while taking turns typing messages back and forth to each other. I got a much deeper feel for the country’s people from talking to strangers there, even when language barriers could have made it tough, and would have made it impossible just a few years earlier.
Social media doesn’t count for genuine human interaction
While it might feel like we’re interacting all the time with others via social media, there’s nothing more powerful than the real thing and in-person interaction. In many ways, the internet is bringing us closer together, but in other ways, it’s separating us more. Genuine human connection via social media is sometimes an illusion. In many ways, digital contact is a shield, to real vulnerable connection. It can also be a filter, where we portray unrealistic expectations of who others are and how our lives should be. It’s useful is so many ways, like keeping in touch with friends from faraway, sharing ideas, and countless others. However, digital connection does not replace the benefits of in-person connection, especially with people from other walks of life. So yes, keep making new friends online, but don’t forget to meet new ones in person too!
You might find your lover (or temporary lover)
Yes, the internet is a good resource for love, but instant attraction also happens in person. Those moments when we feel a spark for another human sitting across the room might come and go, but the good sparks that make us brave enough to say something, can lead to magical connections. Some may be brief, some passionate, and others long-lasting, but approaching someone because of physical and energetic attraction takes bravery. The results can be satisfying and life changing, anywhere in the world. In the case of romance, talking to strangers can be something you are so grateful you did, instead of feeling regret you did not.
You could make another person’s day (or even save their life)
Wherever you are in the world, you never know what talking to a stranger could do for the other person. Too many of us feel alone and isolated and taking the time to talk to someone could make their day. It could also save their life. In a 2014 study by the University of Michigan, it was revealed those who felt socially isolated were far more likely to suffer from a heart attack, than those who were not. Furthermore, those who interacted with new people and made new friends, were happier. “Chance encounters with strangers do more than stave off disease and disorder. Forging friendships out of thin air — that skill reserved for the first day of kindergarten and college orientation — can actually make you happier.” There are other reports of a conversation with a stranger being a major factor in someone changing their mind about committing suicide. So, by talking to strangers, whether at home or abroad, you could not only be helping yourself, you could also be helping the other person.
It reminds us people are inherently good in the world
If you tune into the news too much it can be easy to feel like the world is a scary and dangerous place and people cannot be trusted. If you talk to people regularly instead, it’s hard not to feel that people are good at their truest essence. While some places in the world may be plagued with negative news stories and focus, it’s usually a very different experience to go there and talk to the people there. Geography and media can keep us separate, but a simple conversation can bring to light that most people want to be happy in life, regardless of what country they are from. Talking to people of other cultures, can remind us that although there are differences, there are kind hearts everywhere in the world.
You’ll Become More Confident
When you have the courage to talk to strangers, you’ll feel more confident yourself. This is especially true for those of us who feel shy. Approaching someone you don’t know can feel daunting. However, just doing it, and starting a conversation with a stranger, like doing anything outside of your comfort zone, makes you more confident to keep pushing your boundaries and putting yourself out there. For many, social interaction can be among the most anxiety producing parts of life and the best way to overcome this, is to actually interact more! When we stop letting fear dictate our actions (or inaction), we become braver and more confident versions of ourselves. This can be especially nerve-wracking in foreign countries, where we might not speak the language! However, the benefits of finding this courage can lead to some unforgettable adventures.
It Can Make For An Awesome Story
You never know who you’ll meet, what they’ll tell you, or where a connection with a stranger can lead you. It’s harder to have good stories to tell when you’re with the same people all the time in the same place. Whether it’s an epic night out, a new lover, a pointer to a place that makes your day, or finding yourself in some bizarre situations, life will generally be more interesting when you put yourself out there more and talk to new people. Plus, we all love a good story to share with our friends. I’ve met characters and heard stories I’ve never forgotten while traveling, because I began talking to new people (or they started talking to me).
You’ll Discover the Best Parts of a New Place
While the internet is useful for letting us know good places to eat and sightsee in a new city, there is nothing quite as good as word of mouth recommendation from a local. Whether it’s discovering a nice park, a place to eat, or places to go dancing, locals know best. To get these insider tips, you must talk to locals! Asking strangers about things to check out in their city can also be among the easiest ways to break the ice with a stranger! Next time you’re somewhere new, rely on the internet less, and talk to strangers more.