When I was 19, I went backpacking through Europe by myself for five months. It was a journey of self realization of epic proportions. I learned a lot about myself, and one of those things was that I actually liked people.
Some of my best memories from the trip were the ones when I wasn’t alone. At least once in almost every country I visited, I met locals and they invited me to do stuff with them. I had a come-home-at-8am kind of night in Barcelona because of a guy I sat next to in a restaurant earlier in the night. I swam in natural springs at the bottom of a fog-clinging cliff in Switzerland because of a girl I met on a train. My favorite experience? On the island of Santorini, a group of Cypriots saw me sitting in a bakery by myself, on Easter, and invited me to their vacation home to celebrate. I got to eat homecooked food, take ouzo shots with the men, and greek dance with a big huge family. I will never forget that day for the rest of my life. And it was all due to the kindness of locals– they absolutely made my trip.*
So why am I telling you this? Well, because I have a new addition to my life-list. It is: Meet a tourist in my town and invite them to come along for something fun. I want to repay the awesomeness that other locals have given me when I was traveling. Today in Austin, I met a guy in the building I’m staying in who invited me to a dinner party he’s throwing next week. I just would never think to do that. I assume people have better things to do, but that’s the thing. Travelers usually don’t. Sure, they have things to visit and sights to see and places to eat. But who wouldn’t want a real experience like going to a dinner party, or a party party, or whatever? Maybe they won’t and they’ll say no. But no matter, I’m going to do this. Who knows the stories we both could have for it.
* To be fair, going along with a local’s invitation also lead me to the awful experience of eating cat – so there’s always a risk.