Talking to Strangers.

I’ve been in this country just a day and already I have found the people of El Salvador to be wonderfully warm and friendly.

Even before I arrived, waiting for the bus in Guatemala City, I got to talking to Chris, a young Salvadoran guy. I had a ticket to the capital, San Salvador, but what I really wanted to do was go “to the beach”  only I had no idea which beach or how to get there. Chris told me about the different beaches in El Salvador and even took the time to write down some names and how long it would take me to get there.

“Come and find me if you need me” he said as we boarded.

When we arrived in San Salvador Chris came up to me and asked me if I needed and help. When I told him I needed to change money he took me to the currency exchange shop.

“Is there a catch?” a little voice wondered, “why should this stranger go out of his way to help me?”

After I exchanged money, he walked me to the taxi stand and told the driver where I needed to go. As I was putting my stuff in the boot he asked if we could share the cab.

Every thing seemed legit and I assumed Chris was a good bloke, so I agreed. I have been in dodgy cabs before though, and as Chris chatted away to the driver in Spanish a tiny thought crept into my head,

“I really hope everything is all cool here and this isn’t some set-up. I have just exchanged a wad of cash and no-one other than these guys, knows where I am.”

As we pulled up at the bus terminal, I reached into my bag to pay.Chris waved my money away,

“I’ll get it” he said.

I tried to insist, but he laughed and shook his head, “You women, always worrying.”

I collected my bags and thanked Chris. He waved as he drove off in the cab, to wherever it was he was heading.

Sometimes, lots of times, people really are just kind for no reason.

Beautiful El Savador.

Beautiful El Savador.

This experience got me thinking. When travelling, especially when travelling alone, how do you find the balance between being trusting and open and being wary and street smart? No-one wants to be taken for a mug (or worse) but if you spend your entire trip assuming everyone is out to cheat you, you may as well stay at home.

Years ago now, I was on a train in Morocco with my girlfriend Katie. We had planned to arrive in Tanger in the afternoon and take the boat back over to Spain, however delay after delay meant there was no way we were going to be getting a boat that day. Chatting to a young Moroccan dude on the train, we asked him if he could recommend a hotel in Tanger.

“You don’t need a hotel, just stay with me.” he said.

It turned out he lived with his aunt and uncle and their four children, none of whom seemed the least bit phased by their nephew bringing home to young Aussie backpackers at ten o’clock at night. They welcomed us into their home, fed us and made us and made up a bed for us both and even gave us breakfast the next morning.

morroco

Way back when. Katie and I in Marrakech in 2006.

Sometimes, you just have to trust people.

Another night, this time in Barcelona, too much beer made me miss my hostel lock-out time. This left me with two options, roam around Barcelona alone in the early hours of the morning until I found more accommodation, or go back to a bar somewhere and stay out drinking until the sun came up and my hostel opened it’s doors once again. I was tired  and a bit drunk and just wanted to go to bed, so I sat down to have a think.

Out of the darkness, along came a young guy around 16 or 17 years old, riding on his bicycle. He pulled up when he saw me and sat down to talk with me. When I told him why it was I was sitting outside alone in the middle of the night, he insisited I come and stay at his place. I hesitated, but with just a few euros rolling around my purse, I didn’t have a whole lot of other options. He doubled me on his bike back to his flat, me sitting on his handle-bars, balancing precariously.

When we arrived he showed me to a bed in the spare room and left me to it. I woke up some time the next morning to an empty flat, made my bed and headed back out to the street, closing the door behind me.

Lots of times, people are just kind for no reason.

There is good and bad everywhere though. No matter how much you pride yourself on your good instincts or judge of character, sometimes, shit happens. In Bangkok one evening, I met one young Canadian bloke who had made friend’s with a local guy. He remembers going for a few drinks with him then nothing until over 12 hours later when he woke up on the street somewhere with his wallet and passport gone.

Sometimes, at home as well as while away, people are just total dicks.

There is no magical formula for deciding who to trust and who not to trust when travelling, but I think, for the most part, people are basically the same all over the world and people are basically good.

And, when inevitably while on the road, you are tricked, robbed or ripped-off, don’t let it spoil your trip, or lose your trust in all people. There is good and bad everywhere, but most people are pretty alright.

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23 thoughts on “Talking to Strangers.

  1. Carly, You write beautifully. Or is that just your mumma talking? I love your trust in your fellow man but just keep a lot of faith in your ability to read the situation, I want you home safe and sound and In one piece. Love you heaps xxx

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  2. Such a good point! I’m always so wary of strangers because I feel like they are generally just trying to rip me off, but it’s true that sometimes people can be kind just to be kind! I’ve had some people go really out of their way to help me and it always restores my faith in humanity. I can’t believe all the times you’ve just gone home with a strange man though–don’t know if I would’ve have the guts to do that! haha. At least it always worked out! 🙂

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    • Yeah it can be really hard to know who is being friendly and who is being sneaky. Yeah it’s been good things have worked out, though I felt fairly confident ’cause one guy took us to his family’s place with a bunch of kids and the other guy was only a skinny 16 year old. I think I’d by a lot more wary of going home with a strange, fully grown man who lived alone. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. You know it’s funny you say this, people being kind for no reason.
    I had a similar experience myself, not as grand, but over here in Boston, people…ahem we, are not nice people.
    So when my Uber app was acting up, this stranger offerened to call an uber for me on his phone which meant the fee would come from his uber account.
    He had no idea where I was going or how much my getting home would cost him but he did that for me anyway.

    Great post babygirl,
    Hope you enjoyed the beach
    xx

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    • So nice of that stranger, I love hearing about random acts of kindness like that. People in big cities always have a rep for not being so friendly, I grew up in Sydney and tell anyone outside of Sydney that and it’s all “Oh Sydney people are rude/snobs ect….” but I don’t think that was true there are plenty of lovely, kind people floating around cities.

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  4. Flying home from Washington DC yesterday, I saw an ad for El Salvador which made it look like a tropical paradise. From your pictures and seems like some of it does indeed look that way. What’s your overall sense?

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    • To be honest I only really passed through there and had a few nights on the beach of El Tunco which was pretty fun, but a lot of the beaches are surf beaches so a bit rough if you just like to float around like I do. I only had a night in the city so I can’t stay much about that. It is beautiful and from what I saw this time, and last time I went to a different beach, the Pacific Coast is safe, friendly people and decent food! I am in Nicaragua now, which I prefer, but to be fair I have had a few days on the beach in El Salvador and over a month exploring Nicaragua so it’s not really a fair comparison!

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