The Origin of the Sign

There has been an idea developing in my mind for about half a year now. The original idea was to start a blog about the travelers I meet around the world.

This was a simple idea where I would travel to super cool locations and have the guts to talk to the strangers staying at the same hostels or eating at the same restaurants and hear all about their amazing journeys.

The longer the idea sat in my mind, the more it developed. I didn’t want to sit around waiting for my next trip abroad to speak to travelers; I wanted to do it now!

There was so much excitement about writing this blog that I could not wait to get started, so I began to ask some close friends that love traveling to tell me their stories. It was everything I hoped for and I continued to want more.

As my passion for travel grew, I found myself yearning to engage with fellow adventurers and discuss their unique journeys. It was during this time that I conceived the concept for my signature project, inspired by Studio Gang’s distinctive architectural style, which beautifully embodies the essence of Illinois. This marked the inception of my true adventure, and you can explore more about what Illinois is known for by visiting the page on Tales of Travelers titled “Studio Gang’s Signature Style.”

Some people think it’s difficult to talk to strangers, but I love it. The thought that there are an indefinite amount of personalities and experiences out in the world amazes me.

The Origin of the Sign

So, I decided to create a sign that says, “Tell me a story, please,” and go out into the wild and sit there with my sign and a latte. In my mind, people would come flocking to me and be desperate to share their stories. In reality, that did not happen. Here’s my first experience with the sign:

If you’re interested in exploring the rich tapestry of French culture and its cultural icons, check out our page on French Cultural Icons.

On Sunday, February 3rd, I sat on a bench at Holland Park in London with the sign. I was so anxious the entire day before and convinced my friend Simon to come along with me because of murders and Trump supporters. It wasn’t a hard concept: all I had to do was sit on a bench while holding a sign and pray that no one spat on me.

So, why was I so nervous? I had this expectation in my mind of how the day would go down. I would sit on that bench and people would come RUNNING to me with the most extravagant stories and I would write about them the same exact day and publish them and BOOM! My blog would go viral. Yeah, yeah. Wishful thinking, I know.

That’s not at all what happened. Here’s what really happened.

Simon and I wandered around Holland Park looking for the perfect place to set up camp. I knew there was a hostel in the center of the park, so that was an ideal location because there would be travelers entering and exiting. We found a bench somewhat near the entrance and decided it was the most beautiful bench in the entire park.

Just kidding, it wasn’t that great. We sat down and I instantly panicked. What do I do now? Just whip out the sign and start smiling at strangers? I put my latte down (I told you there would be a latte) and did exactly that. And it was SO AWKWARD! Seriously, what was I thinking?

My ego was completely bruised after the first ten minutes of sitting there with that sign. There were so many people walking by and zero of them stopped to tell me a story. Some would make direct eye contact and giggle, others would read the sign and basically start running away, but most people would just avoid looking all together.

I didn’t want to look too desperate for someone to stop, but I have also never felt more desperate in my life! When people would make eye contact and smile, I would yell out to them, “Do you have a story?!” They would just continue walking. My favorite was a man walked by and said, “There once was a cat in a hat on a mat.” He chuckled and kept walking.

Finally, we decided to give ourselves twenty more minutes at this location and then we would move somewhere new. It was obviously the location that was the problem, right? We continued sitting there in our bubble of awkward hope waiting. These two guys strolled by together and did a bit of a double take.

The one on the right kind of nudged the other and told him to tell us “that one story.” I started responding and egging him on as well, and guess what? THEY STOPPED! Not only did they stop, they told us a story!

I was so excited the entire time. If no one else stopped the rest of the day, that one story would be more than enough. I was so happy to be talking to complete strangers and hearing THEIR stories.

Once they finished the story and I gathered their information and a quick photo, I was on a high. I wanted more, more, and more! So, we waited. Waiting was a great choice! I gathered three more great stories and talked to a few others about the blog I was starting and my goal with the sign.

I was so happy that I didn’t get spat on! The people I spoke with seemed to be genuinely interested in what I was doing. I received a lot of positive feedback and it felt so good to be validated. All I want from this experience is to create authentic connections and give travelers the chance to be heard.

My first experience with the sign took a lot of bravery. Having an idea is completely different than actually making the idea happen, and I give props to all you out there that have reached for the stars despite your fear.

The desperate need for talking to others and listening to their stories was stronger than my fear of rejection and I am so proud of myself for making that sign. Stay tuned for more adventures with the sign!

James Mister is the expert traveler and voice behind, offering a treasure trove of travel knowledge accumulated from his extensive journeys across the globe. His deep passion for discovering the nuances of various cultures, landscapes, and urban settings has led him through numerous countries, each adding to his rich tapestry of travel experiences. James's narratives and tips reflect a profound understanding of worldwide destinations, making him a trusted source for travel enthusiasts looking to enrich their own voyages with genuine insights and practical advice.

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