Stranger 54, Day 54 – Meet Samantha, the “Traveling Spirit Animal”

Stranger 54, Day 54 - Meet Samantha

Another “conclusion” to the work day had me walking around my office and then to the coffee shop on the first floor to find a Stranger. I still find it strange that I feel shy to walk up to people despite doing this for so long. Nevertheless, I walked straight up to a woman sitting at a table reading her phone. I approached her, and shared with her 100 Strangers, 100 Days to which she was very interested in. When I mentioned some of the “rules” or what being a Stranger would entail, I got the initial sense that she may not be comfortable, especially around the picture, but she accepted anyways. Little did I know that perhaps her initial apprehension would give way as part of her journey…

Meet Samantha, 26

Who are you?

“I’m a traveler. I’ve been traveling the U.S. for the last — what month is it? November? — four months! I’ve been kind of all over — up the east coast, out west, and now, exploring Georgia and the Carolinas. I’ve been here for two hours, and it’s already been a really interesting two hours…” she busts out laughing. “… in Atlanta. My first time in Atlanta.”

What’s making it interesting?

“Well, this is a positive interesting. But I was mildly groped at a gas station earlier. This big, buff guy had to run to my rescue and chase the guy off. And I was here, and I was asked for money again, and cussed out, and all of that… and now you! So, you’re the positive one!” She laughs again.

Other than the big guy who rescued her. “Yeah, and him!”

I told her that was a sad representation of the city I love. Terrible. C’mon, Atlanta!

How long are you here?

“I haven’t quite decided, yet. Maybe 24 hours. Maybe 36. Maybe 48.”

So many questions, but first, why?

“Why?” she thinks.

“I graduated from college a couple years ago, and did the whole ‘work 70 hours-a-week thing’, and I realized I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt like I was trying too hard to be an adult, and it didn’t feel authentic. So I pretty much changed my whole life, and sold all my stuff, and saved a bunch of money over the past year, and kind of traveling indefinitely to figure out where I want to call home. So that’s what brings me to the Carolinas and Atlanta — kind of the last stop on the trip.”

I shake my head again. Great showing so far, Atlanta. Haha. She laughs, too.

She tells me how she’s staying a friend of hers who lives down the street from Atlanta Tech Village. She “Googled coffee shop near me to hang out until he gets off work. I don’t like to do the whole Dunkin’ Donut or Starbucks thing, I actually like to go to a local place. I feel like you get more of a vibe of the area you’re at. That’s why I’m here, and not at Dunkin down the street.”

100 Strangers, 100 Days is all about meeting Strangers and finding out what motivates them. I’m imagining you’ve met a few Strangers (“YES!” she says). So what’s been a revelation you’ve had or learned from meeting Strangers?

“Really, just how rich your life becomes when you open yourself up to people and experiences. In my natural life, I’m pretty Type A, and like to have everything organized and in a box. I really challenged myself the last few months to not be like that. So I kind of go into areas and situations with no plan, and it’s been amazing. It’s been way better than anything I could’ve organized.”

She adds, “I love what you’re doing. I think it’s amazing!” Thanks! Flattery makes me happy. Haha, no, not needed.

I tell her about how this project has had a great effect on readers and the Strangers themselves. Everyone’s story seems to trigger some inspiration in another. For Samantha, her story may trigger someone else to travel or take a solo trip around the country or the world.

She shared, “I was told I was someone’s spirit animal. So that was pretty cool… a pretty cool compliment. Even though so many people think they have to do this to live authentically, I think it’s really about loving where you are in the moment, wherever that finds you. A lot of people think traveling is super glamorous, and that I’m doing cool shit everyday…” She laughs.

Then, she admits, “There’s a lot of moments that aren’t glamorous. A lot of motel rooms. I’m almost getting too good at being by myself. So I think living authentically is important in however that means for you in your own life versus what someone else is doing.”

What’s been another lesson you’ve learned in your travels?

“Opening yourself up to people is probably the biggest one. But then also, kind of trusting yourself, and what’s best for you, and just knowing you can handle whatever comes your way. I’ve learned I can change a tire by myself!” She laughs.

“I learned that today, that guy that groped me, I would’ve been able to handle that by myself. Was it great that someone came to my rescue? Yes. But did I have that situation under control? Absolutely. So just back to learning how to be confident and secure in yourself and your own abilities is important, too.”

When you think about your confidence in your own abilities, and how you left the safety of… everything, what gave you the strength? Or what gave you that violent push to do it? What part of that gave you the strength in that moment to believe in yourself?

“I don’t know if I did when I started out, to be honest. It’s just been something that’s been in my heart for so long that I knew I wanted to do. It just got to the point where I knew it was more important to do it than the idea of safety… well, not necessarily ‘safety’ but ‘security’. I was really scared the first day. But now, four months in, cake!”

Is there a way you’re hoping this trip will shape your life? Is there another goal you have in mind?

“It’s hard because I’m still in it. It’s kind of hard to see what I’ll get out of it 10 years from now, or down the road.”

“It’s always easier to look at that stuff after, and right now, I’m still in it.”

You talk about being in the present. Have you taken yourself out to take a look at your experience thus far? How have you taken a step back to realize everything that’s happening while you’re in it?

“I think that’s what is driving me to this area. For so long, people are always like, ‘oh my God, west coast! You should move there.’ I’d never been to the west coast. So, I went out there, and I realized that my family and friends are one of my biggest motivators, and they’re all on the east coast. So much about what I love about the west coast — the mountains, the hiking, the wildness of it — I can have here in the mountains, but still have my family and my friends. I can find a job anywhere. I’m in Finance, so that’s kind of universal. It’s not location-specific.”

If you could go back and remember a time that someone told you no, would you treat it any differently? (Thanks to Tyler, Stranger 53)

“If people… I don’t really listen to it. I’m very ‘ask for forgiveness, not for permission’, and again, what’s the worst someone’s going to tell you? No? Okay, move onto the next thing. If someone says no, it’s not a door you’re supposed to walk through. I don’t feel like no is a big deal. So I wouldn’t ever change it, I guess.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is holding you back?”

After the handshake.

As we concluded our little meet, Samantha stopped me wanting to ask me a few questions. I answered her question about what’s holding me back. I told her how there were two ways I could answer that question. Both, she realized, were about searching/ finding a partner. I’ll leave it to you to decode the content in between.

It was fantastic to meet Samantha today as she was on her journey. Also, I find it great to be the positive part of her otherwise less-than-stellar two hours in Atlanta. She’s one of those individuals you’d find in a coffee shop that you wouldn’t realize has scrapped security for adventure ad to seek something greater. As she said, she’s met several Strangers along the way. I’m now curious if our interaction will shape anymore Strangers she encounters on her travels.

Meet Samantha. No longer a Stranger.

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