Speaking to a traveler is often a curious but isolating conversation. Admittedly when we discuss our travels with other people, whether they are big travelers like us or not, it can feel like they aren’t interested. We are in the place we are talking about. The people talking to us are simply not. The conversation often fails to increase our bonds with our friends and more often causes isolation, highlights differences, and causes boredom. Sadly over the years, I have learned to talk less about my adventures overall.
However, talking to fellow travelers one thing is for sure. The conversation will flow.
Whether you’re on vacation or just talking with someone at your local bar, you can tell who the travelers are. They are the ones who after hearing a story about a place you have been, they will tell you a tale of a similar place in the world they have been and how you just have to go there. It’s a form of a one-up, typically we respond with yet another place that the person has not been to and why it was amazing. It’s as if we are in an epic ping pong match and we just have to hit that ball back, with the expectation that it will be returned and we will once again need to one-up it.
That ping-pong match is annoying. Each person is essentially talking to themselves.
The challenge with talking with a fellow traveler
As a traveler, I’ve learned to appreciate that wherever I have been in the world and whatever I have done there will be comparable to someone else’s adventure. As a traveler, I am simply excited that other people want to share a place that they loved. The problem is that going back and forth sharing other places we’ve been losing the connection of a shared experience.
I find it hard. If I’m telling a story about a monk that I randomly met twice while in Tibet, I pretty much know that the person I’m talking to doesn’t understand what it meant to me, and yet I want to tell them about it.
Knowing this and telling the story a traveler will respond with a similar experience whether it involved a monk, a similar landscape, or Asia in general. Better yet, if they don’t have a related story they will just list off an entirely separate trip they took and why it was amazing. This I appreciate but it is also alienating. They have not been to my location and I have not been to theirs. While attempting to bond with travel stories, we instead isolate ourselves.
Conversely, a non-traveler is more likely to ask questions and dig into the experience, living vicariously through the details of my tale but they won’t be able to offer a similar experience to share with me. In fact, some will just end the conversation will something like, “sounds awesome”. This is also a problem. If people don’t like to travel, the conversation ends with your story which is equally as bad.
Can we improve travel discussions?
This is the question I pose here. As a traveler who is excited to talk about every destination, I’ve ever been to. I have some ideas.
First of all. Yes, I like hearing about places that I will find amazing. When talking to fellow travelers I do take note of those places they tell me about. I add it to my list to remember who is best to get in contact with when planning a trip to those areas and it can be very motivating!
So even if they didn’t ask me for details about my experience we can dig into theirs. What made the trip great? What did you do in the location? Did you eat anything interesting? Did you meet any interesting people? Where did you stay? How were the locals? Did you buy anything in the market? The idea here is to get into those details without giving in to your instinct to share a similar story. Have a conversation about their place, even if they didn’t give you that in return.
Digging into their experience before one-upping them again is what creates stronger bonds between people. Being able to identify with their experiences as a traveler and get a better idea of what was great about the trip.
I’ve also learned that when talking about my adventures to non-travelers they are not interested in the details. Instead, it benefits me to simply list 2 or 3 great things from my trip and let the conversation move on naturally.
What about you? As a traveler, do you find that your conversations with other travelers are more positive on average? What do you do to increase your bond while talking to them>