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On Becoming a Misanthrope

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On Becoming a Misanthrope

I have now, officially, become a misanthrope. I have just realized the extent to which I try to avoid people, the schemes and excuses I make to subvert small talk.

I hate small talk.

If I am going to speak to someone rather than write, read, or think, I want to discuss something. I want to learn, share, laugh and explore what another person, as well as myself, knows and has to say.

The process of traveling breeds a lot of opportuinities for small talk. I try to hide, I try to cower, but somehow I find myself having the same simple, meaningless conversations over and over. All too often these days I listen to other travelers and tourist people speak and I have absolutely no ambition to say anything. In fact, I try to dodge their glances and friendly advances because I know that I have nothing to share in their conversations. I do not want to be rude, so I remain silent. I just do not have anything to add to the conversation, I do not feel myself superior. I just do not have anything to say about bars, tours, movies, tv shows, psuedo philosophical digressions on culture, or how the beaches are better in Thailand or any other such place. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe there is something wrong with them.

Last year I met a Japanese kid who moved to Beijing and was diligently studying Mandarin solely because he enjoyed having sex with cheap Chinese prostitutes. He told me this right away. This was a person that I could talk to. We did not share the same passions, but at least he was overtly passionate about something. I admire passionate people.

Stubbs starts conversations with strangers on the Road with, “Do you believe in God?” He is also a traveler who dodges small talk whenever possible. His tactic is effective. The prospective small talker just looks at him, and either continues on in a real conversation, or runs away.

The people who I have become friends with on the Road are people that I naturally jumped right into a conversation with immediately upon meeting. I know lifelong friends as soon as they open their mouths.

I have found that small talk just leads to more small talk. Perhaps small talk is just a way to fill uncomfortable silences while in the company of other people. I do not believe it is a mode of true conversation. It just makes me feel uncomfortable.

I do not feel uncomfortable by silence.

Mira thinks that I am unfriendly. Maybe I am. I just do not want to go through the trials of coming up with words to say that essential convey nothing. If I am to become a friend with someone, then I hope that we will have something to talk about at the advent of our friendship. If we don’t, then we will probably not have anything to talk about later on, and continuously go through the routine of small talk. I find myself slipping out of such rounds.

Small talk is how aquantinces, not friends, communicate. I would rather stay silent than facade a motion of friendship that will probably not happen anyway.

Maybe I am unfriendly.

Maybe I have become a misanthrope.

Wade from Vagabond Journey.com

Heredia, Costa Rica

January 22, 2008

Traveler Photographs.com Vagabond Fieldnotes.com

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Filed under: Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap