Whenever you arrive somewhere new, travellers ask the same questions: Where are you from? Where are you going? Where have you been? How long are you travelling for?
After a while it seems like these are the only questions that people ask, almost as if they are on autopilot.
It's tiring, and I get bored of having the same conversations; almost running out of enthusiasm. So I started to make a conscious effort to create conversations that were more meaningful.
It makes such a difference, and can be interesting and fun.
Here are a few of my tried and tested suggestions:
1. Use a prop
I've found a jar of Marmite often generates some enthusiasm and interest, especially with Aussies and Brits. You either love it or hate it back in the UK, but when travelling people often haven't even heard of it. And there's nothing quite like witnessing the look of disgust on a poor Marmite virgin's face during their first taste!
If you meet someone from Australia, prepare to spark a battle over the Vegemite equivalent. I once met a guy who insisted Vegemite was better... It ended up with the majority of the hostal taking part in a toast with Marmite and Vegemite challenge. The irony was, that in choosing his favourite, the Aussie challenger unwittingly picked the Marmite!
Of course, it doesn't mean that carrying a jar of Marmite is the only way to garner curious questions and interesting conversations. I've had similar experiences regarding my favourite mosquito repellent (that is actually a moisturiser) and a pack of cards - great for magic tricks.
I often buy sweets or snacks at the local markets and offer them around to generate some conversation. The most memorable time was when I bought a large bunch of mini bananas from a street seller, trying to be healthy, and which everyone hanging out in the hostal were keen to try, until we all realised that they were actually Plantain! That sparked a great conversation with everyone sharing their "trying food while traveling" stories.
3. Experiment with different questions
Of course, as a blogger, I'm always looking for new content, so like to talk to people, and often ask them about the subject of whatever blog post I'm currently researching, eg this one.
Here's a few suggestions that I use, and people offered, when asked about ideas to avoid the same conversations:
Have you done any thing "off the beaten track" that you would recommend to do whilst here?
Do you know how to speak any of the local language, and can you teach me a few words?
Have you used a bum gun?
What is your best photo from your travels?
Do you know any magic tricks?
4. Share something you love
If you didn't know already... I love my Crocs, and they go everywhere with me when I travel. So why shouldn't they feature in conversations.
Like Marmite, Crocs do carry the love or hate tag. But they are one of the 13 items I don't travel without, due to comfort and flexibility. So of course, I often share my thoughts with fellow travellers, especially if they are complaining about sore feet, blisters, dirty showers, snorkeling near coral or any of the other situations where my Crocs have saved me.
The best conversations are those where I spot another Crocs wearer, and can often be sharing views and taking pictures. Perhaps its just mad people who wear Crocs!
So, whatever you decide to talk about to avoid the same conversations, it's best to avoid avoid the subjects of religion and politics. Otherwise, anything goes.
Do you have any stories or suggestions about how you have avoided the same old conversions on your travels?
What are your most memorable travel conversations or exchanges with strangers?