There is a nice article in the New York Times today about socializing when traveling solo. Although we are traveling as a pair, I think much of the same advice applies. There are three main takeaways:
1) Strangers in proximity routinely ignore each other.
2) We routinely underestimate other people’s interest in connecting.
3) Most people derive significant value from social interactions with their neighbors.
Ali and I experience this everyday at camp. There have been times when there is only one other party at the campground, and we barely even nod to each other. Of course, there is a healthy caution around strangers – and the article is very clear about trusting your intuition if things do not feel right – yet, some of our most meaningful experiences have been the people we have met along the way. Drinking beers (or whiskey on one recent night) and sharing stories around a campfire with kind and interesting people has been as memorable as the literal mountaintops.
I want to give a special thanks to Joe P. who we met a couple of nights ago at our campsite near Santa Fe. Joe is from my beloved Southeastern MA and is on a long road trip around the country in a Corolla(!). Better yet, he is reading a bunch of French Existentialism as he makes he way. Best yet, Joe returned to our campsite the next day, after he had already packed up and left, just to give me his copy of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I feel like the universe has been telling me to read this book (which I’ve never read), since Joe was about the fourth person to recommend it to me so far this trip. (Joe, if you’re reading this, I’ve already started on the book and will report on here when it’s finished. Also, if you send me an email with your mailing address, I would like to send you a box of philosophy prizes in the fall once I’m back in Tampa.)
As a last thought, this same insight applies even when you’re not travelling. Say more than hi to your neighbors. They probably want to connect. And, if not, move on to the next!