The therapy of talking to strangers

Date Posted: March 19, 2014
Posted in: All About Roatan, Expat Life

talking to strangers can cure more than the salt breeze and tropical drinks on an island

The first question you’ll get in Roatan (or any island for that matter) is, “Where are you from?” It’s a basic question, a conversation started in an effort to find commonality. We all seek that connection with someone else – something shared to show that we understand each other.

But on an island, that connection invariably grows from strangers who have both visited the same city once to sharing incredibly personal information. This person who – until recently – didn’t even exist in your world will share more with you within only a few minutes or a few hours than they will with many of the people they spend hours working with each and every day. These strangers find comfort in knowing that, indeed, you are a complete stranger. You have no connection to their past, you know nothing of the people they mention, you will likely never see this person again on a planet of billions. You have no bias, no need for judgement. You aren’t weighed down with their burden.

The initial question is only an effort to form a sliver of a bond, something minute yet vital to continue the conversation. From there, the stories begin. Stories of pain – the divorce, the cancer, the accident – come out easily in front of strangers. The facts are laid out quickly and without flourish, not in an effort to elicit sympathy but to purely be honest and open. Strangers provide security for secrets. Their shoulders rise ever so slightly higher once the burden has been released and their eyes glimmer just that tiny bit more once they reveal their pain. It’s therapeutic.

Island Truth: The salt breeze can cure most ailments, but divulging personal information to strangers offers true liberation. There truly is the therapy of talking to strangers.

The first question you’ll get in Roatan (or any island for that matter) is, “Where are you from?” It’s a basic question, a conversation started in an effort to find commonality. We all seek that connection with someone else – something shared to show that we understand each other.

But on an island, that connection invariably grows from strangers who have both visited the same city once to sharing incredibly personal information. This person who – until recently – didn’t even exist in your world will share more with you within only a few minutes or a few hours than they will with many of the people they spend hours working with each and every day. These strangers find comfort in knowing that, indeed, you are a complete stranger. You have no connection to their past, you know nothing of the people they mention, you will likely never see this person again on a planet of billions. You have no bias, no need for judgement. You aren’t weighed down with their burden.

The initial question is only an effort to form a sliver of a bond, something minute yet vital to continue the conversation. From there, the stories begin. Stories of pain – the divorce, the cancer, the accident – come out easily in front of strangers. The facts are laid out quickly and without flourish, not in an effort to elicit sympathy but to purely be honest and open. Strangers provide security for secrets. Their shoulders rise ever so slightly higher once the burden has been released and their eyes glimmer just that tiny bit more once they reveal their pain. It’s therapeutic.

Island Truth: The salt breeze can cure most ailments, but divulging personal information to strangers offers true liberation. There truly is the therapy of talking to strangers.

About the author

Amanda Walkins

Serial expat Amanda Walkins is a freelance writer & blogger. She has lived in 7 countries, traveled to many more, and loves helping people explore the world through slow travel (like house and pet sitting!) and living overseas.