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?
6 thoughts on “Travel Rules – Take Candy from Strangers”
Matt, that was a delightful story. I guess, having the courage and opening to interact with strangers is just like everything in life. We very seldom are afraid to talk to strangers either because we don’t know if it’s safe or if it’s not annoying. I believe, at times, there’s some chemistry or intuition that helps you go over the reservation. I was walking during my last day in Istambul and just walked alone on the streets around the little hotel behind the Blue Mosk and I just met a guy who was tiding up in front of his gate. He looked at me, said hi, asked me were I was from, if I liked Istambul, if I was with friends… small talk but nice, and polite and with a smile. He wasn’t trying to sell me anything, he had no agenda. I was really impressed and glad that I stopped to talk without fear. We have to take some risks sometimes just to get the best of things (I know it’s a platitude but a true one :))
Sorry, I meant we very often (not seldom) are afraid…
I loved this post and catchy title! I agree, people should definitely “take candy from strangers”. :)
Striking up a conversation with random persons has led to many interesting situations. Some cultures seem to be more open to it whilst others – especially in parts of Europe – are very tight-lipped.
Any idea why people from certain cultural backgrounds seem to be more open to this type of random encounters?
George, in my opinion, it is mostly related to geographical position and cultural and religious backgroud.
In a very simplistic explanation I would say populations living in a warmer (but not too warm) environment (like latin ones) tend to be more extrovert and emotional.
Northern populations are calmer and more thoughtful (energy needs to be saved to adapt to the cold weather).
A very warm environment also triggers energy saving.
Culture and religion are certainly important -some cultures are more tolerant others stricter.
However, I strongly believe that beyond backgrounds, human beings are not so different and you an find open, sociable, nice person anywhere in the world and that is one of the things that makes ravleing so interesting and challenging. :)
It’s really hard to say, it’s a combination of a lot of cultural influences really, history, religion, social practices, etc. But as someone else said there are people everywhere who are willing to share and show hospitality.
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