I remember my Mother’s words loud and clear whenever she made the statement “Don’t talk to strangers!”. She would emphasize afterwards on how children are being enticed by potential ritualists with sweets and all sorts of junk food that would grab a child’s attention. Like every mother, she was paranoid and worried about anything bad happening to her kids and that is completely relate-able.
These were the same words I heeded to when a friend and I decided to visit another friend’s house. She told us that there won’t be anyone at home but unfortunately for us, we met her Dad. He was a huge tall man with lots of beard and a loud coarse voice. If there was a particular face meant for the word “Strangers”, his face would be it. In all fairness, he was a nice man and offered us drinks but the word strangers rang in our ears and we refused. All we kept thinking of was how our mothers reminded us not to talk to strangers and as far as the man was concerned, he fit the description. He then offered to drop us back home. Next thing I remember was my friend and I racing down the fleet of stairs like two mad people, scared that he would hurt us on the way. It was a hilarious one I tell you. Our friend was so embarrassed, she never spoke to us when she saw us at school after that incident. Who would blame? Certainly, you wouldn’t also blame two naïve eight year olds trying not to disobey their mothers!
Abraham; a nice local who walked up to me by the beach and invited me over to have some grilled fish at the bar. I told him I'll accept his invitation if he would pose for a picture and he did that with a smile. Now I see why The Gambia is known as the smiling coast. The locals are so friendly and are always willing to help. #gambia #portraits #photograghy #travelphotography #travelblogger #travel #africa #people #westafrica #instapeople #instaphoto #meetalocal
Almost two decades after that incident, I started travelling. Something I had dreamed of for a very long time. Asides for the anticipation of visiting a new place and seeing famous sites and trying out new food, a huge part of it required me interact with people mostly because I travel solo (a travelling act many people are still baffled about but that’s a story for another day) and I’m forced out of my comfort zone to talk to people I’ve never met in my life aka “strangers”. Busted!!! Time to disobey Mummy for the rest of my life.
Fortunately for me, disobeying mummy hasn’t been as bad as expected. The more I travelled, the more I realised how amazing people are. I’ve enjoyed connecting with strangers and some have become really good friends till date. A very good example of one is Pauline whom I met through a friend and has hosted me on two occasions in Nairobi. Probably one of the nicest people I’ve met in my life and we had so much in common. From our love of travelling to our interests in anime, we’ve kept in touch since our first meeting in 2014 and not a week goes by without a word between us.
Another instance was in Istanbul where I met Mr K, a photographer who used to work in shipping. He took me to a cafe where we talked about his journey into photography. He studied in shipping in England and lived there for five years. He then worked in shipping for about 15 years but his company went bankrupt after a while so he was out of a job. A friend of his offered him an opportunity to photograph a campaign for his company since he loved taking photos and that was how he transitioned into being a photographer. He also opened up to me about some aspects of his personal life that he may not have shared with someone he knew. He was comfortable enough to have shared that and I felt privileged.
I'm in love with this portrait of me by the Bosphorus in Istanbul courtesy of Mr K, a photographer I met on the Asian side. He even took for a treat at a cafe and told me a bit about himself and the city. Connecting with strangers is something I totally enjoy when travelling..What do you enjoy when travelling? #travel #portraits #Istanbul #traveling #travelling
The truth is, people are basically the same all over the world. There will always be rich people and poor people, people living in slums and people living in city centers, people happy with their lives and people who aren’t. Whoever they are, connecting with them irrespective of their situation can be very rewarding. Although you’ll come across the very rude ones sometimes, the best thing to do in instances like that is to completely ignore or walk away. Not every one is going to be friendly and willing to help so no need to fuss.
I’m glad to have met really nice strangers who were willing to help and share a part of there world with me and for that, I’m grateful. I’m grateful to Polly who has been hosting me for all my stays in Nairobi. Ninette, for letting me give her a piece of reminder from Nigeria and not making me feel lonely. Imier, who was super helpful in booking a tour for me in Seychelles, Mr K, for opening up to me about some of his life issues and taking a memorable portrait of me by the Bosphorus. Ferdinand, for giving me an extra Istanbul Metro card and hanging out with me till 2am in the morning. Abraham, who was willing to show me around Ghanatown in the Gambia. The Guy on Airport Road in Accra (didn’t get his name unfortunately), for showing me directions and paying for my fare to Accra Mall when I got confused. My 2015 Sanganai pre-tour crew who made me understand that group travel is also important. Armel, who drove me round Abidjan and was patient enough to understand my french. And the list goes on.
As I continue my travels, I hope I get to meet more strangers to connect with and like the ones from my previous travels, I can’t wait for their chapters on my pages.
Do you connect with strangers when you travel? Please share your thoughts and experiences.
*Featured image courtesy of foter.com