*This is a guest post by world traveler and storyteller Adrien Behn
If you’ve ever wondered how to meet locals while traveling, I’ve got some powerful tactics to share, and stories to go with them.
Like this one time when I was sitting around a bonfire in Italy.
It was a night in late September. The earth was cooling, and our group of six strangers-made-friends gathered closer to the heat for warmth.
We were all from different countries, and each of us had our own bottle of €3 wine.
Sipping vino, our group sat around the fire wrapped in blankets, not so different from the way our ancestors did. And we told stories like them, too.
Psst, don’t forget to pin this post for later!
Our conversation bounced from one topic to the next. With an evening to ourselves and liquid inspiration, we solved every global issue in a night.
At one point, we landed on the topic of schools and what similarities and differences there were between them around the world.
I described what it is like in the USA, and was puzzled by my friends’ response when I said, “Wait, you guys don’t say a pledge of allegiance?”
All the other heads turned and looked at me.
“No, it is only you and North Korea that have your children pledge to your nation’s flag every morning”, noted Nick, from New Zealand.
Woof. Strong comparison.
I looked up at the stars, which seemed brighter in the cold.
Although they were the same stars I stared at back home in upstate New York, they looked different in Italy.
It was a blazing metaphor for how I started to see my homeland, thinking about the same place but from a shifted angle.
A seed had been planted.
It wasn’t just a change in how I saw my country, but the world.
At that point, I’d been bouncing around Europe for four months. It wasn’t unusual to be having long conversations into the night that didn’t scamper away from any topic.
These endless chats were with people I barely knew but felt extremely connected to.
They were conversations about self-growth, purpose, and the universe. About music and gardens and dancing.
And I noticed how the conversations I had abroad didn’t always match how Americans perceived the outside world.
I knew that the world was much more complex than the simple sweeping statements I’d often hear at home.
And above all, I heard about the importance of travel.