For a week now, I have been instigating random encounters with strangers. Well, they may not technically be random to me considering I am hand picking the people who I am engaging. The unsuspecting strangers may find it strange or random, but it’s pretty commonplace for me. To be fair, this month’s wild card challenge really has not taken me outside of my comfort zone, but has allowed me to indulge in something I love doing. I have always been very comfortable meeting new people, and find myself doing it often. I never really heeded that age-old mother’s warning of “not talking to strangers”. If I had followed that advice I would have missed out on many memorable adventures.
Once I met a stranger in the baggage claim of the Sydney airport. That short jet-lagged conversation led me to a week-long kayaking/photographing excursion with this particular traveler to the Whitsunday Islands nine months later. Another great encounter happened in a bar on the west coast of Ireland. I introduced myself to a woman because she had the same model medium format camera that I did. We bonded over our love for shooting film and ended up traveling and teaching a photo class together in Cambodia the year after our first encounter.
Now, I cannot say that all of my meetings with strangers have been as pleasant and as exciting as these few, but I do have a rather good track record and somehow have managed to keep the crazy and/or unsavory situations at bay. I just seem to have a knack for cultivating encounters and finding fascinating people. If only I could figure out how to make this skill work in my dating world, I would have it made. The approach has definitely attracted some interesting characters into my life thus far.
I like entering a situation not knowing exactly where it will lead me. I listen closely to my instinct and choose not to go down paths that make me uncomfortable, unhappy, or unhealthy. Most importantly, I just try to stay open, seeking to see or hear something or someone new gravitating toward what I don’t completely get or understand. I find that not knowing what to expect, is a good exercise in letting go of specific expectations, which ultimately can suffocate good relationships.
My encounters thus far this month have been enjoyable. Its like I’m taking a moment in each person’s day to redirect them. I have stopped people in the street, in the supermarket and at their jobs to talk to me for a minute or two. I first introduce myself and then ask them their name (as Aaron requested in his wild card) I then tell them that I am attempting to meet a stranger a day in a quest to collect reflections on love. That’s when either conversation entails or I receive blank stares of confusion. I ask them to record their thoughts in writing in a small “book of encounters” that I carry with me. They respond with a quote, a paragraph, or a thought. Some responses are sentimental, some sad, one in particular was a bit creepy – but all in all an interesting experiment in human interaction.
I must admit though, meeting strangers with a particular purpose seems odd to me as opposed to letting interactions happen organically. I feel like when forced into a situation or conversation with a mission, the encounter ends abruptly after the question is answered or mission accomplished. As I said, I am enjoying the process overall but prefer to let my encounters happen on their own time. Maybe this is why I have not tried online dating – it all seems too planned and purposeful. I don’t always know what my purpose is when encountering someone for the first time and I am learning that my relationships are much more fulfilling when I let go of initial expectations or intended desires from the beginning. They flourish when I let them grow at their own speed and style.
All I know for sure is this, allowing myself to be open to these types of encounters has led to me to life changing opportunities, new jobs, new love interests, more trust and most recently a new home. (more details on this soon)
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