Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On the Road: Don't Talk to Strangers? Part 2

While vacationing away from home, some people can get lonely and needy. They might feel out of place and try to make a connection with someone just to alleviate their loneliness in an unfamiliar location. They need another individual to help them occupy their time when they get bored. People travel for many different reasons but not all of those reasons are good. When they stay in hotels, travelers can encounter people who should not be part of their lives.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Since I drive by myself on these cross country excursions, I have to be careful. I have no problem with trying to be nice to people when I travel, but I do make sure to protect myself in several ways. First, I never tell anyone where I really live by giving the name of a big city in the area that I know well enough to confidently discuss. Next, I do not give out my real email address. Instead I give out the address of a junk account that I do not frequently use. That way if I have a problem with the person, I can just shut down the account. Under no circumstances have I ever permitted anyone to have access to my hotel key. Finally, I have never permitted anyone I have met on vacation to borrow or drive my car. (I know that seems logical, but some people have been really upset with me when I won't let them drive my car. ) One thing I will do is give out my phone number. I may need to text or call a person. Blocking the caller's number if a problem with that person later is easy.

One fault of mine when I travel is I am too nice to people. Hotel staffers caution me about this all the time. I have tried to curb this behavior, but I am from a part of the country where people are usually friendly. However, not everyone is like that. When I am away from home, I keep in mind that anyone can make a good first impression. In a couple cases I realized that somebody I met was not one whose company I would like to keep on a long-term basis. I had my plan to get out of the situation gracefully. When I first meet a person, I try to find out what bothers that individual. Later if I find I need to end my association with that person, I will exhibit that behavior. For example, if someone says, "I can't stand it when people text while they are having a conversation. That drives me nuts!" I will agree. If I decide I do not want to continue contact with that person, then I would start texting all the time while I was talking. I know doing that will irritate the individual who will then want to sever the connection with me. That way the person feels in control by rejecting me and will not feel upset. Works every time.

Some may wonder how being nice can cause a problem. When I stayed at the hotel one year, I lived next to a woman who had just lost her job. I sat down with her to show her how she could manage her money and live more frugally. She ended up saving hundreds a month. She was very grateful and would continue to call to ask me questions even when I went back home. Since she was out of work and had too much free time, she began meddling in the business of the hotel and some of its residents. She felt she had to call me to let me know everything she was doing. I told her I did not need to hear these things and asked her to stop calling. Later that year when I returned to the hotel, she began to stalk me. If I was walking somewhere, I would notice a car following me. Any time I would go to the grocery store, she would be there. I finally had to go to the hotel management. The whole situation was very frightening and I was involved just because I was trying to help her.

As I said in a previous post, travelers will always interact with other people in their journeys, but they should be careful to protect themselves from individuals who are very different from the first image they present. I would caution any travelers to be alert to warning signs and get out of the situation if they feel uncomfortable.

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