Bar Stool Banter

This post is a quasi-introduction to special series we are launching on The Journal next month called, “A beer with”. We know the title may cause an eyebrow or two to raise, but bear with us! Our advice, well learned and extensively trialed I assure you, is that the best way to discover where to go and stay, what to keep on your radar  and how to occupy your free time is found in a pub.

This is not a lesson that was learned quickly. I have traveled all over the world and after each trip, I’d come back a little more seasoned, a little more tanned and even a little more trusting than the one before. I think that I have a tendency to be cautious towards strangers; we have, after all, been advised from the moment we were out of diapers not trust those you don’t know. Not such bad advice for innocent children stomping around the playground, but as travelers, this rule may need to be revisited.  For me, it took a unique situation to learn this lesson.

From the Kosan archives

I was traveling through Guatemala at the time and our bus arrived very late. There were no taxis where the bus dropped us off, but luckily there was  a fun little makeshift dive bar located just off the side of the road. With our bags on our backs, we headed inside and were pleased to see quite a few fellow travelers. A group of younger-ish Brits invited us over for a pint and the typical “travel banter” began….“where you from?” and “where you headed?”. We shared with them what we had heard to be the best place to stay and they nodded in agreement, adding that they too thought it was a good place  until they were robbed. After the pint (well, more like three if we’re being completely honest) they suggested we check out the place they were staying. Shortly after a game of impromptu soccer on the beach, we found a place to stay and had lined up all the spots we were going to hit up in town the next day.

Not such a bad outcome, right? Throughout my travels, I did this more and more with every new town I visited. No longer did I make plans but instead I let the travelers (or locals) who’d traveled there before suggest the best way to experience the place. Heck, I even tried it back home! By letting peoples’ stories of places guide you in your future travels, you are broadening your travel experience, which is extremely empowering and thrilling. This level of trust and minimal planning  requires you to take a leap of faith, especially in the information age of Trip Advisor. But when you let peoples’ stories of places they’ve been and the lessons  they’ve learned help guide your adventures, it puts you in the flow of the local life and it teaches you to be present. I know firsthand how hard it can be to let go and trust. I mean these are strangers you are allowing to assist and guide you, what if they lead you astray? And therein lies the rub.

From the Kosan Archives

There are obviously some risks and occasional discomforts in not properly planning and even in trusting strangers (we may be optimists, but we’re not totally naive). Putting that aside, the cost of not trusting others  often affects the way we treat foreigners and in turn, affects the way they treat us.  When you do not trust, you lose the opportunity to gain so much more;  friendships, bonds, lessons, and life-changing experiences. Trust is a gateway that allows us to connect and  begin  to understand each other, which is the crux in why many people choose to travel in the first place.

So with that said, sit your ass down on a bar stool, preferably, cabana style by the beach, and don’t be scared to start up a conversation. It doesn’t really matter how or when you choose to give it a go; you can even do it over tea, coffee, chai latte, tisane or koffie. Whatever your refreshment, and however you take it, next time try to share it with others. Stop micro managing your own trip and have a little faith in your fellow human beings.  That’s when the magic happens.  Bottoms up!

From the Kosan archives

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