The People I meet
Dear G & B
I spend a lot of time being driven in cars on the way to airports, or in hotels surrounded by hundreds of strangers, or in fleeting meetings on foreign shores with people I may never see again. We chat, we make small talk and share observations, trying to pass time or make small bonds. But sometimes we share intimate secrets, because there is a safety in our obscurity. It is a lesson in humanity to ask strangers about themselves. Nobody is what you expect them to be because you are always using yourself as a marker of normality, but to the majority of the planet you are a weirdo. Your beliefs, your tastes, your habits, your superstitions, your family – all of them are nowhere near everybody else. The further you travel the more you realise this, but you also realise that these differences are small and in fact we are mostly the same. We are driven by the same instincts. We all put our trousers on one leg at a time.
In the past few months I have been driven by:
– An ex policeman who spends at least 4 months a year on cruises to the Caribbean
– A father of a professional ice hockey player who works on steam railways in his spare time
– A man falling asleep at the wheel because he has to drive 18hr shifts in Kuala Lumpur
– A Chinese girl who spoke flawless English but had never been to an English speaking country
All of these lives, so many events, tangent timelines and everyone of them different. But actually all driven by the same needs and wanting similar things out of life.
And basically that is the problem with the world: we are more connected than we have ever been to each other. Through technology and travel we can communicate better than at any other time, but instead of finding out how similar we are and just getting along, we focus on the differences. The rise of nationalism and fundamentalism are worrying as we really should have got over all that by now.
So when you meet people, find out about them. You might think they are weird to begin with, but actually they are just like you.