I was talking to a doctor friend the other day, telling him a story that involved a guitar player I met at Starbucks. The doctor, a man who spends his time fixing children in hospitals, asked me how that works. How do people with books and computers and cell phones actually meet each other in coffee shops?
It’s a good question, and not one that I would have been able to answer before moving to Chicago, which will eventually be the key to my response.
I don’t regularly make friends in the coffee shop or on the street or in the park…except when I’m traveling.
When I travel, I am 100% open to anything and anyone. If the Ecuadorian taxi driver wants to take my boyfriend and me to the Casa del Arbol on top of our hotel’s volcano, we go. If the local Spaniard wants to tell me every single detail about his town’s bullring, I ask more questions, just to keep him talking. If the sweet man listening to a busker on Granville Island’s wharf wants to share the occasional glance and short observation with me, I sit patiently until he does it again. It’s the traveler’s mentality. Nothing is trivial and every person is an opportunity for human interaction.
I love it.
When I moved to Chicago, local friends shook their heads at me when I said, “everyone is so nice here!” I felt silly for a moment because maybe I was missing something and Chicagoans weren’t really very nice. All the evidence I had collected supported my case, though.
Here’s the reason, as best I can tell: I was acting like a tourist. I was 100% open, and people responded kindly.
So, that’s my answer. When you approach life as though you are merely a traveler, you meet nice folks in coffee shops.