“Don’t you get lonely?” is one of the most common questions I get from people curious about my life on the road. The short answer is no, loneliness is not one of my problems and never has been. I’ve been a loner all my life.
Occasionally, I can talk my friends and family into copiloting on my road trips, but if I always waited around for somebody to join me I’d rarely go anywhere. Besides, going solo is great for one of my favorite things about traveling: meeting new people. When you’re not insulated by what’s familiar, you’re more likely to seek out new things.
Last week, driving “the Loneliest Road in America” also known as Nevada’s Highway 50, I met all kinds of people: Great Basin tourists, veteran park rangers, genuine cowboys, life-long Nevada residents and even a few fellow vagabonds. How do I meet these people? I just smile and start talking and lo and behold, most people smile and talk back.
Starting conversations with total strangers is an art that I’ll probably never perfect, but I love hearing people’s stories. Everybody has one; the trick is getting them to tell it to you. The Teardrop is a great conversation starter. So are my dogs, so is my camera.
Once I tell people I live on the road, they’re usually hooked. They light up. My story seems to stir the fires of freedom that we all stoke or smother at some point in our lives. Conversations with total strangers quickly run deep, into dreams realized and dashed. A few people I’ve met have walked away with their eyes bright, their fires relit. Those are the conversations I love most.
As for the inevitable question – isn’t it dangerous to talk to strangers?! – in my experience, no, it isn’t. Sure, I’ve met some weird people and some creepy people, but in my seven years on the road, nobody has ever actually threatened me. Despite what the media and the authorities might have you believe, the world is not full of psychos. Use common sense and project self confidence and you’ll find that there are a lot of friendly, interesting people out there.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I pulled over at a scenic overlook to check out a working windmill and started a conversation with three Nevadans. They ended up inviting me to a community BBQ up the road in the tiny town of Middlegate (Population: 17!). When I showed up, they were so pleased that they bought me dinner and we had a great conversation about vagabonding over all you can eat BBQ. You never know who you might meet on the road!
When’s the last time you had a meaningful conversation with a total stranger? Try it! Buck this awful isolating trend of only relating to other people you kind of sort of know through Facebook! Don’t let conversation – real, true, meaningful conversation – become a lost art. You never know when you’re going to meet somebody who tells you a great story, teaches you something new or inspires you to seek a little more freedom in your life. :)