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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Barber: Talk to Strangers


I walked into the crowded Cambodian bus station, awaiting my ride back to Phnom Penh. I had been in Kampot only a few days, but the green countryside was revitalizing, and I was ready to dive back into my studies. I was abroad on a Khmer language study, and five weeks into the program, I was exhausted.

For the weekend I decided on an impromptu escape, and I took a solo trip to the nearby region of Kampot to find solitude before my exams began. All that stood between me and my last week of study was a four-hour bus ride, and I was ready to take full advantage of that with a long nap.

The clock ticked. Ten minutes passed. Twenty. The bus still hadn’t arrived, and I was beginning to become annoyed. I had class the next day, and I wanted a full night’s rest. A bus attendant walked past and in Khmer, I asked, “When is the bus coming?”

“It’s on its way,” she replied.

At long last, the bus pulled up. The attendant shuffled me on board. Only one other person was allowed entrance; the rest were stopped at the door and told to wait for the next bus. We chose our seats and sat down next to each other.

I pulled my headphones from my bag, drowsily anticipating my long nap. Then, he began talking to me.

We spent the entire four-hour bus ride chatting together about life, family and each of our journeys through Cambodia. He was on his way to work in Australia after quitting his job in California and took a massive detour through Asia. He left behind his work, family and friends in pursuit of his great adventure.

The bus driver stopped at the airport, and he got out. We waved goodbye.

Who knows if I will ever see him again. In a way, it does not matter. In the four hours that we, two strangers, were crammed together in a crowded bus on the other side of the world, he changed something in me.

His story proved to me that adventure was possible – that one day, I could travel the world. Somewhere within me was the same courage he had when he quit his job and left everything behind.

Encounters like this are tragically rare. When I get on the shuttle at the University of Utah, ride TRAX lines into downtown Salt Lake or sit alone in a coffee shop, I see a crowd of people with faces glued to their screens, so focused on what they are doing that they don’t take time to see the others in the room.

So, next time you are flying solo on a plane or catching a quick bus ride to your next destination, talk to a stranger. You never know who it could be or how they could change your life.

To the stranger on the bus, thank you. You opened my eyes to a whole new world and an adventure that someday I too will find.

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