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There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met – William Butler Yeats

Travel broadens our horizons, it opens our eyes to cultures unlike our own and enables us to better comprehend the planet on which we live. Strangers are no longer unfamiliar; they become as integral to our experience of a destination as the scenic mountain views and paradisical beaches.

Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.’ – Shirley MacLaine

The modern world is a complex labyrinth of unfamiliar corridors and dangerous dead ends that we navigate with varying degrees of success each time we step out of our front door.

I occasionally hear of individuals who’ve taken a wrong turn and found themselves at the mercy of the Minotaur, hearing this dilutes my desire to engage with anyone unfamiliar and leaves me anxious that I myself may become lost in the maze.


Technology has opened up the world so that we can readily communicate with almost anyone we choose. We interact with strangers all over the globe on a daily basis through platforms such as email, social media and forums, yet it appears that in our exchanges on a basic level we are becoming more reserved.

How often do you offer assistance to someone struggling with a heavy load in the street? Would you accept a lift from a stranger? Do you find it unnerving and a little odd when someone strikes up a conversation with you while travelling on public transport?

If you’re anything like the average modern citizen your answers will probably depict an image of a reserved individual who often avoids interaction with those who are unfamiliar.

While we are willing to share our lives and personal thoughts with strangers via social media I fear we are beginning to shy away from forming meaningful relationships outside the online ether. After all these occur organically and are difficult to control; there isn’t the option to de-friend or un-follow someone you meet out in the real world.


During the last two years of our nomadic existence we’ve been in a few situations where we have relied on assistance from complete strangers:

  • When we found ourselves with a flat tyre on our six wheeled Winnebago in a remote area of the NSW outback we were aided by one of the few people who passed us on the road.
  • Sat at a bus stop in Costa Rica an hour after the bus was due and in the pouring rain, we were offered a lift to our destination by a friendly chap in a pick-up truck.
  • After being marooned in the remote mining town of Gove in Australia’s Northern Territory a complete stranger offered us free accommodation and loaned us a car in which to travel the 1100km to our final destination, Darwin.

I’m the first to admit that I feel uneasy when someone offers to help us without apparent motive. I’ve been brought up in a society that preaches ‘good will to thy neighbour’, but only if thy neighbour is vetted and approved beforehand.

Yet by accepting assistance you allow yourself to connect with that individual on a much more personal level than a chance meeting in a coffee shop or a random friend request on Facebook.

I believe interacting with locals is as important to your experience of travel as seeing the iconic tourist spots, learning the language and sampling the cuisine.

So why should you decline when someone unfamiliar extends a helping hand?


The Kindness of Strangers Women Changing a TyreCredit: CC Courtesy of John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

From an early age we are taught not to converse with strangers. Walking home from school one rainy afternoon I recall running from a woman in a car who’d stopped to offer me a lift. This fear of strangers was justified as a child but should it continue to direct my choices as an adult?

Are we really any better equipped to deal with a threatening situation now that we are all grown up?

Travel allows you to engage with unfamiliar people in every destination you visit and very often these relationships enrich your experience, but when should you decline a kind offer of assistance?

When does the risk outweigh the reward?

Thanks to a select few who choose to mistreat others our society has become one of mistrust and uncertainty. We’re becoming disconnected from those around us fearing interaction may lead to deception, fraud, theft and perhaps worse. Insecurity is beginning to breed anxiety and consequently when help is offered we feel accepting it may leave us vulnerable to attack.


In my opinion reading into a situation before jumping in head first is an essential tool when interacting with someone unfamiliar. I tend to follow my gut instincts and use common sense to ensure I remain in control over my destiny as much as possible.

I know that my cautious attitude towards strangers is not totally unjustified however I want to allow the organic nature of human interaction to benefit my experience of the world in which we live. So I ask you…

Do you think my cautious attitude is unnecessary?

Do you feel anxious about accepting assistance from strangers?

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13 Responses

  1. Kimmy | AfterGlobe

    Really wonderful post. I completely agree that so many don’t know how to reconnect, anymore. We stay looked up in our homes, move quickly to lock ourselves in our vehicles and make sure to get inside as quickly as possible. We miss the opportunity to connect with so many.

    I look forward to traveling and learning from life in a different way. I crave chance meetings that lead to life changing experiences and in some cases, new friendships. There are so many ppl out there I haven’t even had the chance to meet, yet.

    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      That’s such a lovely sentiment Kimmy. I hope your experience of travel is as fulfilling as mine has been to date. If more of us had a similar attitude I’m sure the world would be a much warmer and more accepting place.

  2. Jupiter Khandroma

    Gosh I love this post so much. Its something I’ve given an awful lot of thought to. I completely relate to your fears. In particular as a woman, I can relate. I think that deep down, this is the main reason I want to just go. Anywhere. Without schedule, agenda, or excessive resources. I want to renew my faith in humankind. And while it may seem ambitious, I hope that in the process, I can renew others faith in humankind in turn.

    I don’t know if its the same in other cultures, I think (hope) not, but as an American, we are raised on fear. Particularly fear of strangers. The media serves up sensational stories on the daily of the most heinous of human behavior. We withdraw more and more. For example, at my place of employment we can not even hold the door for someone we know and work with every day so they can enter the building. Each person has to swipe their own badge to gain entry. It’s misplaced fear that leads us to these extreme measures.

    All the alternatives to face to face interactions have opened doors to interact with people we may otherwise have never known of. At the same time, these alternatives have made us very disconnected on a basic human level. I feel pretty strongly that this has only served to increase our fear of organic interactions. I need to believe that the vast majority of people are no different than you or I. We know ourselves. When we see another human in need, our hearts go out to them. If it is within our capacity to lend assistance, we assist. Why then should we ever assume anyone else would be any different? Think of how you feel when you help someone out. How that contact remains with you for days, weeks or longer. Kindness begets kindness, and in this way we can all do our part to change the world.

    I read in a blog by Katwise something that really stood out to me. Words I intend to repeat as a mantra when I fear to trust. “There is more fear in the world than actual danger”. I encourage you to read some of her blogs. She is an amazingly brave woman and her faith and trust in others have been vastly rewarding.

    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Thanks Jupiter.

      I sympathise with your description of the world in which we live. From such a young age we are subjected to the concept that anyone unknown is a potential threat. It saddens me that I have taken this perspective through into adulthood. Although as you mention, we are so regularly subjected to horrendous crimes on the news, why would we be anything other than cautious in our dealings with the unfamiliar?

      I praise your intent to rekindle a connection with our earth and it’s inhabitants. I know so many would love to achieve a more untied world, myself included.

      For now I can simply do my part in regenerating the perception of a ‘stranger’.

      Thank you for the recommendation I will have a look at Katwise.

      • Alyse

        Beautiful chain, love that quote, will think of it in our travels and check out Katwise. I’m confident that with the connection of people like those who have commented on this post, we can gain confidence in unfamiliar interactions and realize that there is far more good in this world than evil, we just have to do our part and share the love!

      • Alyse

        Checked out Kat’s blog – what a cool chick, sent her an email and she even sent some awesome blog and music recommendations, awesome community, spread the love!

  3. Mindy and Ligeia

    Very interesting post! It would be great if we lived in a world where no one meant others harm, but unfortunately, there are times when we should not accept “help” from others. This often depends on where we are in the world (which country, city or rural etc), who we are with (alone, with a friend or in a group) and what time of day it is (broad daylight versus in the middle of the night). Some of our most memorable travel moments were purely given to us by strangers who wanted nothing more than to help us out.
    We believe in karma and so when we are home or in a city that we know a lot about, anytime we see a tourist pull out a map or look confused we go right over and ask how we can help. Often we have even asked where they are from and when they say, “China”, for example, we respond that while we were in China someone was very kind to us and so we are “returning the favor”. This makes people feel good about both the country they are visiting and their home country.
    Happy and safe travels everyone. :):)

    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Thanks for your comment girls. I agree with your assessment of accepting help and I have to say it’s lovely to hear of your karma balancing! Keep up the good work.

  4. Arianwen

    Sometimes it’s really tough to make this call, but I think gut instinct goes a long way. My friend and I took a ride in a not-too-convincing cab in Malaysia and kept a penknife on us just in case. Turned out they took us to our destination, showed us how to get ferry tickets and bought us lunch!

    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      It’s stories like yours that make me feel ridiculous every time I doubt the intentions of a good Samaritan. I agree it’s an incredibly tough topic and one that will continue to be at the forefront of my mind when faced with a situation in which I need to rely on someone I don’t know for help.

      Thanks for your comment Arianwen.

  5. Mary R

    Oh, this is an excellent post. You’re right that we must trust our gut instinct. However, I’ve been in so many situations while traveling where because of circumstances, I simply have to trust others and let go of my fear, and it’s worked out totally fine.

    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Hi Mary, thank you for your kind comment.

      I too have found that each time I do find myself in the company of strangers who are offering me assistance, they are just wonderful people. Yet we hear far too often in the media of incidents where this is not the case.

      I struggle to let go of my anxiety however I know in the majority of the situations I find myself in, I’ve no need to cling to it so tightly.