To know someone is to know their story

People’s words are passports.

My knowledge of French is reduced to salutations and food. Bonjour. Croissant. Soufflé. Au Revoir.

Yet, through friends’ words, I’ve been to Paris many times. Their stories were my passport and boarding pass. I remember the art at the Musée du Louvre. If I close my eyes, I can smell the piss and cigarettes and bread in the streets.

These stories weren’t sold to me. There was no sales pitches. Just genuine sharing. Something I’ve noticed while traveling long-term.

People open like jars to tell their stories, hoping you’re as generous. They want to hear something good. They want inspiration, a reminder of what they haven’t seen. Haven’t smelt; tasted.

Skip the stories about how tall Big Ben is. Tell them what you (never) ate in Japan. Or the time you lost your passport in Argentina. How you’re afraid you love this life too much. That you’d probably never return home if it wasn’t for Mama and Ya-Ya.

It’s not that connections back home aren’t real. But friendships made on the road advance faster. Due to urgency. Because we are more aware of time than we ever are. One month in Bali. Six weeks. Three days before home.

People tell you how they see the world sin (without) an Instagram filter. Why they quit law school. How their ex(s) are playing on the phone. And how they’re figuring it out or aren’t concerned with the thought.

Truth revealed without walls. Because we’ve shredded them like snakeskin. Because most of us have stamps. Because, by leaving our home-country or state, we’ve already taken a brave step. And it’s tiresome to paint ourselves as someone else.

People want the details. Because you are in the details. But we don’t need every detail. We can use our inference skills. We can ask questions. And we will divulge ourselves over a beer or sake or bananas — because we’re on a budget and spent a little too much last month. Or we’re waiting on an email back from a school in Sao Paulo before we book the ticket.

And no, we don’t know each others’ names. But that’s not important at the moment. Because when you’ve discarded all clutter and unnecessary pretence, somehow I know you’re more eager to tell me your story — which I will recall with sight and sound — rather than your name — which I could forget right as you’re telling me.

You’ve told me that you’re not running from life. And we hugged it out over that. Because how can you be running from life when you’re living it now more than you ever did? And how can you call a place home that you don’t identify with?

We ask ourselves these questions. Knowing and not knowing that continuing to live our lives will reveal the answers. We share this part of ourselves, knowing and not knowing connections are deep and fickle.

You meet someone, you share stories, then you’re gone. They’re gone.

Yet you know it was all worth it. Because you shared a genuine connection with a real person. And that will be worth remembering. Maybe even more than what you saw. Or the pictures you shared with people back home.

Because someone listened to your story. And your story is how you are here.


Socialize with People (46/56)

Inspired by Sophie Karan-Harwin, Marcella Koehorst & Nandun Padukkage

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