The Most Interesting Person I’ve Ever Met While Traveling

April 8, 2013

It could be the romance of being in a strange city, or it could be the psychological effect that being away from home has on your mind. Whatever the case, travel seems to get people to open up a bit more and let down their guard. This happens with service staff at hotels – with whom you seem to have longer conversations. Some of these even get to the point where you form friendships with the guy operating the elevator or the chef at the hotel restaurant.

Sometimes you meet other people in a similar situation. Myriad are the examples of honeymooners who create lifelong friendships with couples they met on a honeymoon trip. And there are the business people who go out of their way to explore the towns where they have to travel on business.

All this being shared, I’ve met my share of people – strange, fun, scary, lovely – in a variety of places around the globe. These ranged from the golf caddie I met in the Dominican Republic, the singer in a band on St. Thomas, the bartender on a riverboat in St. Louis, a hustler on the streets of New Orleans, and the most interesting of all, the surfer who broke into the house where I was staying in Manhattan Beach, CA.

To set the stage, I travel by any means available to get to my destination. On this particular visit to California, I was in a rented Isuzu iMark. Long before iPhones and iPads, the car manufacturer had thought it would be cool to name a car an iMark. It was not. It was a crappy little compact that I rented for two months to drive across the United States.

Well, upon arriving in Manhattan Beach – I won’t bore you with the tidbits of excitement from Boston to California and from California back home – I unloaded myself and the little car into my cousin’s living room. This is where I would sleep for a week and my base of operations as I visite the nearby Major League Baseball stadiums.

As I write this, it’s Opening Day here in Boston for the Red Sox, so I guess travel does bring back memories and stories never go out of style. But I digress. I was instructed that the couch was mine and I could come and go as I pleased. I wasn’t to lock the doors that faced the strand (the sidewalk on the sand) and I wasn’t to be freaked out about anything.

Still in college, I took this advice to heart and went about my daily excursions and adventures. Volleyball on the beach, drinks on the pier, jaunts to San Diego and up to LA. Then three days into my week-long stay I met the burglar. Though he wasn’t really a burglar.

I don’t remember his name, but the guy who broke into my cousin’s house carried with him a surfboard and a beard. He actually wore the beard, but literary license caused me to say he carried it. And he arrived at the house around 10PM. I was already on the couch and I heard the slider open and then watched as the barefoot surfer came into the room, put his board on the carpet and then lay down beside it. It took him a few moments to realize I was there staring at him – and the conversation went something like this…

“Hi, I’m Jeff. What are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m (let’s call him Dude for lack of a better name) Dude. I’m a friend of the guy who lives here.”

“You mean David, my cousin?” I said.

“Yeah, sure. That’s him.”

“Do you really know David?” I said.

“Nah. Not really. But it’s his day, so here I am.”

“What do you mean ‘it’s his day’?”

“I don’t have a pad. So I go up and down the strand and everyone gets a day. With about 30 friendlies on the beach, I’m only here one day a month. Works out for everyone.”

“What? How does it work out for everyone?” I said.

“Well, works out for me as I don’t have to impose on someone all month long. Spread the wealth as it were.”

With that, he lay back on the carpet and went to sleep. And in the morning Dude was gone. I tried to see if it was him out on the water, but I’d never recognize him again. I haven’t had that happen to me since – and that’s what made him the most interesting person I ever met when traveling.


This post is an entry in the “Win a Trip to TBEX Contest” sponsored by WeHostelsWebjet, and TBEX.