Today is unfortunately April 1, the worst day of the year for someone like me who may at times be somewhat gullible. I am by nature a trusting person. Taken to its extreme, I suppose one would say that I am gullible and a bit naïve. Although I consider myself to be well traveled and well educated, there exists in me a certain tendency to believe people and situations based on their face value. Needless to say, this has created certain problems for me not only in my personal life, but also in the travel experience. Looking back at my life so far though, I wouldn’t change that quirky personality trait for anything. That wide-eyed innocence has allowed me to experience the world in a way that more cynical people will never be able to achieve. With that in mind, today I want to fight against the trickery that will define the day and instead highlight some reasons why being a trusting person isn’t always a bad thing.
An important aspect of being overly trusting is, I think, a certain level of positivity. We tend to assume the best of others, which is why at times we can be easily fooled or even scammed. To be sure, when traveling it’s best to temper this natural instinct otherwise we run the real risk of being severely scammed. But, if allowed to exist in check, that positivity transforms our travel experience in ways more negative-minded folks could never imagine. We see the joy and beauty in every new place we visit, but we also allow for the unexpected to occur. We believe in a very laissez-faire way of seeing the world and, in turn, we are almost always rewarded with experiences that go well beyond the normal tourist trail.
Since we do trust others so much, we tend to engage with them more when we travel and honestly, that’s one of the biggest benefits to being a somewhat gullible traveler. I’m a people watcher. I could sit in the airport for hours just watching folks walk by and be perfectly happy. In watching people, including my fellow tourists, so carefully when I travel I have noticed one thing; very few of them actually talk to anyone else. Whether it’s a family or a couple traveling around, we all tend to stay fixated on our own packs, rarely engaging other travelers or locals. For me, travel is about personal enrichment and growth and to do that I need to talk to people. I’m highly extroverted, so it may be easier for me but even if you’re not, find ways to learn about the people you’re visiting. One of the best ways to do this is to join a walking tour, either a private one or a free public walk. I nearly always walk alongside the guide, peppering them with questions along the way. “What do you love about your city? Where are your favorite restaurants? Where are you from? What’s your background?” and so on. It’s a friendly interrogation, but a good way to understand how places tick. It’s not just locals I question though, I love chatting with fellow tourists as well. Once on an afternoon boat cruise in Queensland, I was joined by a group of 3 couples, all traveling around Australia. They had all recently retired and were kicking things off with a dream trip around the country. After a few minutes of chatting a gentleman told me that he had watched the movie “The Bucket List” and he said that it changed him. After watching that he decided to go ahead and retire and do the things he really wanted to do while he was still able. It was a wonderful conversation and really drove home the importance of travel in people’s lives and made a significant impression on me. It was a brief, simple moment but one that I know I’ll remember for a very long time.
I’m not entirely sure that this is an aspect trusting people share, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that we trust others to give us proper directions, which may not always be correct. Getting thoughtfully lost is actually an important part of any trip, as long as it’s not taken to an extreme. When I check into a new hotel, typically the first thing I do is to go for a walk. Principally I’m searching for a convenience store to feed my Diet Coke addiction, but it’s also an opportunity to see where I am, what’s around me and the best way for me to spend my time in the area. Whether it’s on arrival, or later on in the trip this also includes for me getting lost. I put down the map (which just confuses me anyway), turn off Google directions and start walking. Along the way I always discover little things I would never have found otherwise and, more importantly, I start to get a feel for the real city away from the tourist bubble. I love touristy areas, they’re popular for a reason after all, but there’s much to be said for wandering away from them and learning about the new destination on a much more personal level. As a side note, the best food and restaurants I’ve found have always been a result of my random wanderings.
Sure, my natural inclination towards gullibility has at times been a hindrance, no doubt there. I’m been lied to, cheated, robbed, scammed – you name it. But those experiences are just a small percentage of the many more positive memories I have all thanks to being a more trusting person. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve enjoyed are all worth a few negative encounters because, believe it or not, the bad days are as important a part of travel as are the good. So, if you’re like me and tend to believe every April 1 hoax, fear not. This isn’t a personality fault, far from it, so learn how to manage and embrace it. A good traveler should have a little bit of natural skepticism, but they should be far more inclined to trust their fellow man than fear them.