We will meet many strangers along the way when we are traveling. Especially for solo travelers, we have to be extra cautious about people we come across. How do you judge who you can trust?
Does this taxi driver look reliable? Can I trust this person I have been traveling with for the past five days to look after my bag while I use the bathroom? Should I follow this local who offered to show me the way to the bus stop? Should I eat the piece of pastry this kind lady just offered me?
As much as I put my guards up when I am traveling alone, there are times when I do things out of the ordinary ( that shock many people when they hear about it and even surprise myself when I think about it afterwards), based on my basic instinct.
I know I usually would never do this, but why did I choose to trust this person?
It was my fourth day in Litang, a town located in West Sichuan, China. I was experiencing terrible acute mountain sickness from the day I arrived at this beautiful Tibetan town located at an altitude of 4,014metres. I thought my head will explode if I didn’t descend. I was at the bus station at 6:45am with my backpack – my third attempt to get a seat on the bus to get out of this town. They didn’t allow people to get tickets in advance. You just had to show up the day of and try your luck. Again I was told the bus was full! How do people leave this place then?
I was annoyed and desperate. I did it the Chinese way, by paying a little extra. A minute later, a seat became available and I was directed to the very back row of the bus. It will be one bumpy ride through the endless winding road for sure, but it didn’t matter. The man sitting next to me was already smoking, but I didn’t care. I was just glad I got on the bus.
I was seated next to two other foreigners, Ofer and Omri from Israel, who were traveling around China after university. I wasn’t sure if they also had a hard time getting a ride out of town, but we exchanged a “Oh my goodness, we did it!” look.
My altitude sickness slowly faded as I chatted away with my fellow backpackers. It was another friendship being born on a bus. We were talking over screaming children and the loud karaoke videos that were playing. Next thing we knew, the floor of the bus was carpeted with shells of sunflower seeds and we have arrived at our destination.
I didn’t expect this but I ended up traveling with these two new friends for the next nine days. We were going on the same route – XiangCheng, Shangri La, Li Jiang. It was not planned or spoken about, we just naturally moved from one place to the next together like we were a team. We even ended up sharing a room together in Shangri La because I think there was only one room left, if I remember correctly. Oh, did I mention Ofer and Omri are boys?
I am sure the universal reaction is “Oh my, are you nuts?! You shared a room with two guys you just met.” And I would react the same if a female friend told me she did that.
But at that moment, I trusted my intuition. There was something about them – maybe it was the way they talked to each other, the way they interacted with the locals, their positive attitude, their polite and respectful manners or their sense of humor – that made me felt at ease.
It is hard to believe but I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable with them. They kindly excused themselves and left me in the room when they felt I could use some privacy.
After nine days of great fun exploring Yunnan together, it was time to say good-bye to my Israeli brothers. To my surprise, they had prepared a farewell gift for me. It was a CD of this Chinese song sung by a father, mother and daughter that was going viral in China. We heard it first on the bus that we were on and everywhere we went. It was like our friendship theme song.
Of course Omri and Ofer didn’t know the title of that song, so they had to hum the song to the salesperson. Apparently, the people in the shop were all amused by it. 🙂
There are many crazy people out there nowadays and we have to be careful of the people we come across. But I realized from this experience that it is possible to have friends you have known for years that you might not trust completely and there might also be some people who you can trust fully even if you have just met.