There are a lot of great rules of the road when it comes to traveling. These rules, best practices really, not only keep the tourist safe but greatly heighten the entire travel experience. One of the most important though is to ignore what your parents told you as a child and instead to always Take Candy from Strangers.
Traveling without interacting with anyone who actually lives in the area is a very shallow experience. Part of the wonder and joy is meeting new people, talking to them and learning more about their culture. Sightseeing and relaxing are two great aspects of travel, no doubt there, but travel should also be an opportunity to learn and grow both intellectually as well as emotionally. You can’t do that if you stay in your tourist bubble.
To get out of your bubble, learn how to interact with strangers and immerse yourself more in the culture. An example of how I allowed myself to open up to complete strangers was a unique encounter I had in Israel.
It was my last evening in Jerusalem and I was on the hunt for a decent place to enjoy dinner. It was a long search and just as I was about to give up hope, I stumbled upon a self-described Israeli style restaurant that looked promising.
As I was eating my appetizer, a woman and her dog stopped to look at the restaurant menu. After a few moments an older gentlemen joined them, and they seemed to be debating whether or not to eat there. Meanwhile, I was completely obsessed with their dog. I have no idea what breed he was, mutt probably, but I had been away from my fur kids for several days and was desperate for canine interaction.
I signaled her to ask if I could pet the pup, she nodded and I was able to get in a few good head scratches before they took a nearby table.
My entree arrived, and I spent some time reading over my materials for Tel Aviv, the next stop on my Israel trip. As the waitress took away my plate, I looked over at the couple with the dog and noticed that the woman was motioning to me. I went over and she asked if I wanted to join them for dinner.
I was shocked at the kind invitation and by the fact that anyone would want to invite a complete stranger to join them for dinner, but I quickly accepted. In retrospect, our common puppy love was probably the deciding factor.
For a dinner with strangers, there was never a moment of awkwardness. The woman, whose name I learned was Hadar, is one of the lead managers at the City of David archeological area and her companion lobbies the Knesset on behalf of a handicapped citizens rights organization.
What amazed me most was their unflinching ability to address sensitive subjects. The topic of terrorism and the Palestinian issue arose quickly and dominated most of our discussion. The talk was a bit tense at times, but overall it was a wonderful evening. Hadar invited me to visit the City of David site the next day, which I accepted. That night was one of the most enjoyable of my trip.
By accepting their invitation and joining them for dinner, I learned more about the city and what it means to be Israeli than any tour could ever provide. It is these unique travel experiences that make trips special and sometimes life changing events. So the next time you are on a trip, be sure to slow down and always take candy from strangers.
What are your examples of “taking candy from strangers” while traveling?