by Niall Doherty

This article has been written as part of the “Most Important Word in the World” series; a collaborative project to inspire people to step outside their comfort zones and find adventure and friendship. Other contributors to the series are: Wandering Earl1 Year SabbaticalNomadtopiathe Dropout DiariesBeyond NormsDo Something Cool, and A World of Inspiration.

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I’m walking home from a friend’s house late on New Year’s Day. A man zips past on an odd looking bicycle. He jumps off a little ahead of me and starts chaining it to a lamppost. I get closer and see that he’s in possession of one of those fold up dealios, an origami bike.

Having never seen one in real life before, I’m curious, I want to ask about it… but I hesitate, social conformity getting the better of me for a moment. Because you’re not supposed to talk to strangers, remember? They’re dangerous and evil and they’ll chop off your forearms.

I’ve almost walked past him completely, almost to the point of no return, when I tell my lizard brain to whist. I stop and turn to the guy.

— Hello… do you mind if I ask what kind of bike that is?

He seems only delighted to tell me. Tis indeed a fold up bicycle. We get talking for a few minutes. His name turns out to be Andrew. I tell him I’ve just moved to Cork. He tells me he’s been here for years and publishes a popular local events magazine. The rapport is building, and he tells me he was just out for a quiet drink, sure why don’t I join him?

Why not indeed. He’ll hardly chop off my forearms in the pub.

So in we went, and away we chatted. I was fascinated by Andrew’s work, he seemed fascinated by mine. Knowing a little bit about internet marketing, I offer him some tips to improve his magazine’s web presence. On learning that I’m into public speaking, he tells me of a friend who organizes Pecha Kucha nights in Cork. We talk for an hour, exchange contact details and vow to keep in touch.

And keep in touch we do.

A month later I deliver a Pecha Kucha presentation on my Random Acts of Courage project. It’s very well received by the audience of fifty. They also like the later presentation about a European hostel on wheels. Afterward, I cast out a few hellos and get chatting to some local students. Fast forward two weeks, and one of those students kindly hooks me up to the college computer network via her account, meaning I once again have access to Photoshop and some other software that I lost in the great laptop crash of January 10th. Hoo-rah!

Back to Andrew. We stay in contact, and grab lunch together every so often. Before long he asks if I’d be interested in doing some consulting work for the magazine, help them out with their web strategy and such. But of course, says I. That results in some fun collaboration and a bit of money in mo phoca.

Then, out of the blue in March, I get a message from the guy who gave that European-hostel-on-wheels presentation. Mick is his name, and he wants to take people around Europe on his massive Bunkabus; sleep on the road every night, wake up in a new city every morning. Sounds like fun. They’re now close to their maiden voyage, but they need help getting the word out online. Via Facebook, Mick knows that I know a few things about internet marketing, and wants to meet for a chat. We get together over lunch and really hit it off. No firm commitments or anything, but methinks it could be the start of a nifty little business relationship.

And that’s pretty much the story so far. I took a chance and said hello to a stranger that one night, and it’s led me to connect with some legendary people and have some very cool experiences. And I suspect the butterfly effect of that initial wing flap isn’t done just yet. Who knows where else it might lead.

Now a few of you there reading this might be thinking that such a chain of events is the exception rather than the rule, that it’s rare for such good things to come from talking to a stranger, that I just got lucky, etc. etc. And you know what, I agree with you. I often say hello to strangers and get back nothing more than a strange look, or complete ignorance. Or I awake from a drunken blackout a few hours later with a man’s hand down my pants (true story).

But that’s okay. I’m willing to endure a few misadventures for a chance at meeting more people like Andrew, and experiencing all the fantasticness that follows.

What about you?

Have you ever taken a shot and said hello to a stranger, and ended up tumbling down some legendary rabbit hole, drenched in serendipity and happenstance? Go on, share your story in the comments. It’s good for the kidneys.