The following is adapted from a Facebook status I posted in August of 2014, while I was living in Ecuador. Thought it was worth a share.
When we're young, we're rightly taught not to talk to strangers. You grow up in a big, chaotic city like Manila like I did, one thing is you learn is to trust nobody.
But what I love about travel - especially to the small places of the world - is that you have to do the opposite. No one is a stranger until proven strange. You let your guard down, and suddenly this whole world of the kindness and understanding opens up to you. And you learn to return the same.
You learn to stop judging others by the narrow standards you held at home, and instead listen to them. The stories you've been told make you so much richer, more so than just the number of places you've been. The world becomes a bigger place than you ever imagined --- and yet becomes so much closer.
I love how random people I met have been to or lived in Manila, Cagayan de Oro, or even Zamboanga, or can say hilarious things in Tagalog to me ("Ito ang maliit kong unggoy!" "Tonight, lasing ako!") Or had a shirt that says "Siargao: Surfing Capital of the Philippines."
I love how I had to share a table one night with a random dreadlocked Spaniard who looked every inch a beach bum, but found out through an uneven conversation in Spanish that he actually teaches history in the capital of Basque Country.
I love how the trilingual Swedish girl who was the bartender at the craft brewery across the street was also my yoga instructor. I love that my super laid-back, long-haired Argentinian surfer friend was planning to take his PhD in Accounting(!) when he went home. Or how big a coincidence was it that my Aussie roommate for most of my stay in Peru was also a filmmaker with a weird sense of humor? There were too many to mention. And some may be just as surprised to meet a random Southeast Asian with impeccable English and passable Spanish.
It's such a big world and yet so small, for the open-minded. And once you see in how many ways people are able to live happy lives in the most random places in the world, you'll wonder why you couldn't change something in yours if you had the courage to.