“Safe Travels!”

Mike Raab
The Raabit Hole
Published in
2 min readDec 18, 2022

Just a couple of strangers I met in a cave

I’m two weeks into a four-week trip, just now parting New Zealand after a week on the North Island and a week on the South Island — both absolute treasures full of beauty and adventure.

I’ve had more substantive conversations with strangers in the past few weeks than maybe the past year or more. Particularly in areas that have a lot of travelers, it’s completely common and invited to ask a stranger sitting at another table, “Where you from, mate?” which almost always launches a unique conversation with someone from a very different life.

My favorite part of these conversations is how common they are between people of different backgrounds and ages. In the past two weeks, I’ve met dozens of people — including Sue from Australia, a 70-some woman who has spent 40 years as a nurse; Nicoli — the kiwi furniture designer on holiday in Queenstown; or Gabe & Anna, the american couple from Oregon spending 8 weeks in New Zealand who ended up sharing a dinner table because of the lack of seating at a restaurant in Te Anau.

In addition to the active travelers, there’s the hospitality and tourism staff at bars, restaurants, and adventure activities that are generally some of the most friendly, inviting, and funny people I’ve come across. Typically they’ve moved across the world to a new, exciting place for a seasonal job which doesn’t pay much but gets them access to a place or experience that many will never have. They bring joy and good vibes with them, making tourists feel welcome and at home with their warmth and humor.

All of these conversations — after learning about where someone is from, why they’re here, and typically even more interesting details about their lives — end with, “Safe travels!” from both sides. Although it sounds simple and straightforward, this shared sentiment means something a whole lot deeper among kindred spirit — recognition that we’re all wanderers on this planet, exploring the natural beauty, culture, and human existence — and that we respect and care for each other, even if we just met. When you’re away from home for extended periods, that compassion from someone is very rewarding — acknowledgement that you can find people around the world that you want to spend time with.

Safe travels,