I travel with my daughter across the northeast of the USA and she shows me that she’s already learned the key to travel.
My daughter entertains herself with people. She walks through the world asking people questions — she has already found the key to travel.
I used to practice this with her when walking through the markets and cities of various countries. I’d tell her to find someone who’s doing/ wearing/ has something interesting and ask them about it. I used to stand behind her and feed her questions to ask. It was kind of a game to see how much we could learn about the places we were in; some good daddy/ daughter time. But now, at six years old, she no longer requires my help. She goes off from me and initiates her own defacto interviews and quasi-interrogations on her own.
She just walks up to someone, looks them in the eye, and when the acknowledge her she immediately asks a question. This locks them into responding, which effectively breaks the ice.She makes friends, she learns about things, she gets herself into unexpected situations, she has experiences she’d never have otherwise if quiet and shy.
Yesterday she got into the cockpit of an airplane. She got to sit down in the pilot’s seat and man the controls. She was taught a little about how to fly the plane, she pointed to some of the controls and asked about what they do, and she was told. She learned something she wouldn’t have otherwise, she experienced something she wouldn’t have otherwise, and it was all because she sought the interesting in the people around her.
I read somewhere recently that the average child asks something like 120 questions per day. There could be no better role model for the traveler. I’ve experienced a strange reversal of position: I look at my daughter stomping through the packed terminal of an airport, talking to whoever she wants, making friends with absolute fluidity, code shifting between languages with ease, and I see a role model.
Because access is what travel is all about. Access to places, access to people, access to knowledge. To obtain this access you need to talk to strangers.