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Talk to Strangers

I travel with my daughter across the northeast of the USA and she shows me that she’s already learned the key to travel.

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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.

Filed under: Petra Hendele Adara Shepard, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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  • mikecrosby November 28, 2015, 12:51 am

    I haven’t read your articles in awhile Wade. Fascinating about your daughter. Also your article about the maker movement. There’s a (I guess you call it) maker building in Irvine, CA. I recently saw a video about the maker movement. I wonder if it’d be OK to go and just walk around the Maker building and see what’s going on.

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    • VagabondJourney November 28, 2015, 11:10 am

      Thanks for coming back. Yes, maker spaces tend to be pretty open places. I’d call first just to make sure the relevant people are there and able to show you around. Membership also tends to be pretty cheap, and they’d probably love to have an HVAC guy like yourself tinkering around there.

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