The Trouble With Getting On Boats With Strangers

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The trouble with spending a day on a boat with a stranger is that I have lots of people who love me. Particularly my husband. So imagine his concern when he receives the following texts throughout the day:

11:24AM: I made friends with a Greek man at Starbucks. He has a boat.
1:01PM: We’re having a beer on an island!
2:58PM: I’m at the marina behind Starbucks. Yiorgos is cooking me some shrimp and salmon.

I thought I was being really great about checking in. I even included vague* locations – just in case Jeremy needed to come search for my remains. And while I had the entire picture in mind and felt perfectly safe, my texts left lots to the imagination. *I’m admittedly not the best communicator.

And every time I start to tell the story to friends or family they cover their mouths and their eyes get wide. They are convinced the story is going to go in a different direction that ends badly. So it always feels anticlimactic when it ends with: And then I said goodbye and went to the farmers market.

The whole adventure brought up LOTS of questions that are yet to be answered. Things like:
• How risky/brave/stupid is it to trust a stranger? For me, I have flexed my muscle around believing most people are good and have never had my trust violated in such a way that makes me afraid of anyone I don’t already know.
• Is this a feminist issue? If I were a man or roles were reversed would it be so risky/brave/stupid?
• Is this a cultural issue? Has the media made it so women in the United States are terrified of everything?
• Where do I draw the line? Part of what Jeremy loves about me is that I’m not afraid – but the way I spent my day had him worried (with good reason). I have to balance my desire for adventure with Jeremy’s need for consideration. For us we decided the line is drawn when it goes from a public setting to a private setting.
• What could I do differently next time? This is the hardest question to answer because there were so many variables to that day. It’s hard to make rules for yourself when you actively seek out different experiences in life. Ultimately, I’ve decided that it all comes down to communication. If I can properly communicate my expectations, locations and intentions I can create a safe perimeter around my crazy adventures. Boundaries that will make Jeremy and my mom feel better about letting my free spirit roam.
• What exactly was my gut saying? The fact that I even had to check with my gut at all says that something was amiss – that what I was doing wasn’t completely okay. And you guys – I’m really not even the best judge of character. I just knew that if shit went down that I’d be able to handle it.
• What if? I won’t entertain the questions of what could have happened. Part of being present means assessing a situation for what it is and not becoming too preoccupied with what ifs.

So I’m not saying everyone should throw caution to the wind and get on boats with strangers. I made some decisions that day that make lots of people really uncomfortable to even hear about. But I do wish we could all be a little less afraid.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

  1. It sounds lovely and fun and I agree, we should all learn to trust a little more…of course that being said, trusting can land you in some sticky situations but I too have yet to get myself into a situation where I trusted someone and it went horribly wrong so until then…adventure on!

  2. Bianca

    I think that if it came to the “what if” you could have taken him… I mean, you ARE ready for post apocalypse conditions.

    BUT, don’t do it again 😉

  3. Ashlae

    I would have done the exact same thing. I love meeting strangers, and they’ve been some of the most interesting people I’ve encountered.

    My favorite was a 62 year old retired forensic psychologist. With a peg leg. He was so intelligent and full of interesting conversation, and had a beautiful mansion in a historic neighborhood in Denver. Was it risky that I replied to his Craigslist ad for an apartment he had for rent, and said that I just wanted to meet him becuase he seemed interesting? Yes, but I wasn’t afraid. Especially once I saw he only had one working leg. 😉

    I’m also very, very cautious (it seems like you are, too). I don’t put myself into a situation I know I can’t get out of in the event things turn sour. Besides, boundaries are boring. I just listen to my gut, and go with it.

  4. Margie

    I was a party once, with the old ball-n-chain, when we struck up a conversation with a guy who had just got out of prison. This guy volunteered this tidbit and I asked why? He also volunteered the info that his wife left him for his sister. He went on to add that he just didn’t do the whole Down South love. I replied with, “Maybe that’s why she left you.” My husband kept muttering to me, “Shut up.”

    We still laugh about it. I like people and I trust them, to extent. If I wasn’t pregnant, I would have gotten on the boat with Yiorgos.

  5. Alison

    I would never, ever get on a boat with a stranger. I am a very cautious person, and I don’t trust anyone until I am familiar with them. Some of that is just the way I am – I’m a more reserved person – but some of it come from hearing awful stories about what happens to some people when they let their guard down.

    I wish I wasn’t like that. I feel like I will miss out on a lot of wonderful adventures because I have such a hard time letting my guard down. But I also know that if things were to go down, I don’t have confidence in my ability to handle it. I admire how brave you are!

  6. Loren

    I’ve learned to trust my gut in those types of situations. There have been relatively harmless things that set off alarm bells, and moderately dangerous occasions that much later I though ‘Huh… that probably wasn’t the best idea to drive to an apartment full of strange men at 10pm by myself.’ but my gut said it was OK and everything ended up fine. I do tend to be trusting of other people but like you said only in situations that I feel like I could handle if anything went wrong. I’m glad you are safe, but also your adventure sounds like a blast 🙂

  7. Melinda

    Well, I have to admit that when I read what you did I was a little afraid for you. It definately could have turned out differently. There is no doubt that you could probably beat down most assailants because of your awesome workouts BUT….There are bad people in the world. You know the stats even living in this great city of ours.
    But also, you wouldnt want to lose that terrific sense of adventure and miss out on some golden life moments either.
    I think you are incredibly smart and going to be just fine but remember Ted Bundy had some charm about him also.

  8. I see nothing amiss with having to check in with your gut. Sometimes I have to ask mine a question – it’s when I don’t get a clear answer that I take the safe road. And I would never do something that I didn’t feel like I could handle, you know?

    Sounds like you’ve been thinking alot about this since then. Everyone is different in their level of fear/courage, don’t beat yourself up too much.

  9. Even putting aside the whole stranger thing, I wouldn’t get on a boat with another man if I were married cause I know my husband probably wouldn’t be cool with that. But I think that’s an entirely different conversation (and my boyfriend and I are pretty old fashioned).

  10. picky

    I have a very different story from yours. When I was in Italy, I met a fantastic man in the gardens there. He walked me around all afternoon, bought me lunch, and showed me great parts of Florence. Then when he wanted me to go with him to his house for dinner, I totally chickened out. It would have required getting on his Vespa, taking off to a villa right outside the city, and I just…couldn’t. He had been so solicitous all day, but my gut became my mom’s voice right then, and I just chickened out.

    I wish sometimes I could be more free spirited. It’s really hard for me to let loose.

  11. I say be adventurous! I feel like I need to be more cautious now that I’m a mother, but I cherish all of my carefree (and maybe careless) times.

    Things can go wrong whether you’re taking risks or playing it safe. You just never know what’s about to happen.

  12. I think you are brave and not at all foolish. I think you already know what you should have done to make the situation better for your loved ones. And after reading most of the post realized you met up with a friend and you weren’t alone the entire time made me feel a bit better. I hate in life we have to be so cautious about other people, but it’s a fact of life. You were ok, you did OK and you lived to tell the tale. Just don’t give us another heart attack like that OK girl 😉

    *In all seriousness – I could never do what you did. I’d be to fearful, that’s probably why I don’t have exciting adventures. Trusting your gut is all you can do in life, and always, always check in with your loved ones and communicate where you are etc. ox

  13. Loving the comments you guys. It’s giving me lots to think about.

    I’m not beating myself up about what happened nor do I have any regrets (other than not being more clear with Jeremy on the situation).

    And just to make it clear – there have been plenty of opportunities where I’ve played it safe. I just don’t have really great stories about how I decided NOT to do something. You know?

  14. For what it’s worth – I think you had a beautiful encounter with an old crusty guy from Greece who made you happy on a sunny day. I would have been more worried that a shark could have jumped out of the sea onto the boat and ate me than I would of him. Thankfully you have Jeremy to worry about you – it’s what he’s supposed to do. Be you – you are awesome. (your badass apocolyptic self could have taken that old guy anyway!)

  15. Unknown

    Elizabeth Austen’s poem “The Girl Who Goes Alone” pretty much sums it up for me.

    http://hugohouse.org/content/elizabeth-austen-poems
    (scroll down)

    The long distance (1000+ miles) hikes I do freak people out and of course there is a risk and of course I am sometimes afraid, but I won’t – hell, can’t! – stop.

  16. Unknown

    Elizabeth Austen’s poem, “The Girl Who Goes Alone”, pretty much sums it up for me.

    http://hugohouse.org/content/elizabeth-austen-poems
    (scroll down)

    The long distance (1000+ miles) hikes I do freak people out and of course there is risk and of course I am sometimes afraid, but I won’t – hell, can’t! – stop.

  17. Risa

    I like to travel alone and often do. I like to meet strange and interesting people and I don’t hesitate to make conversation with odd and unusual characters. People fascinate me and shutting yourself off to new people and experiences means shutting out a lot of possibility in life. This is to say: I get it. I really do.

    Four years ago a friend of mine – who was accomplished in martial arts and really quite an athlete – went hiking alone with her dog. She was approached by a man on her hike. He kidnapped her and, four days later, killed her.

    We SHOULD be able to go on adventures alone and not worry. My friend was not a reckless person nor was she physically weak (his account – he is in prison – indicates that she fought back fairly effectively). I can’t imagine anything that might have changed this outcome other than if she was, perhaps, the sort of person to consciously avoid contact with a stranger if she were in an isolated place. It may not have changed anything. But she was not the sort of person to fear talking to a stranger passed in the woods. A little more mistrust might have made a difference.

    I do not and will not let this limit me in life. I meet new people. I go strange places. I want my life to be full. More so, now. Because you never know how much time you have.

    But when I meet interesting strangers, I stay in a public place. And I would never go somewhere isolated with someone I did not know well.

    Life life fully. Meet and enjoy new people.
    But also, please, be safe.

  18. Meg

    I think you were FINE. Next time give Jeremy a call first, but otherwise… I think you were FINE. I’ve done way crazier sounding stuff that didn’t even cross my rader screen as problematic, because it wasn’t. If you start feeling even slightly UNEASY, then I think you don’t do it, but if it feels totally fine? Keep your wits about you, and don’t worry. And call Jeremy 😉

  19. Tough call, since the spirit of the moment and your gut feeling were intangible factors that your husband and mom aren’t able to process. I wish we didn’t have to second guess our choices when it comes to spontaneous things, but it is what it is in the US…

    Still, I’m glad you had a wonderful time. Just think, you brightened Yiorgos’ day!

  20. Yeah, I’m thinking that just a phone call with more details would be the way to go since you didn’t really feel like the Greek guy was going to do you any harm. Vague text messages don’t really give a husband the type of reassurance he needs, in my experience.

  21. I think it’s important to open yourself up to adventure. We’re taught to be so afraid of people but I think those Lifetime TV movie thrillers are way more rare than we think.

    Having said that: if you’re the kind of person who wants to do this, and you’ve established you are, maybe a little foresight and planning (for the next Yiorgos) will help. Set up a little code with Jeremy, like, if you text him “Going to see Yiorgos!” that means you’re going on an adventure. Then text him some details “Greek, says he’s a fisherman, 60ish, lives on a boat, met him at XYZ coffeeshop.”. Then you’ve just got to check in with more details on a pre-defined schedule. Set up an hourly check-in reminder and use, say, FourSquare or something to mark your location. If you fail to check in, Jeremy should call you. Yeah, it won’t completely protect you – there’s a whole hour in there where EvilYiorgos could murder you, but I think you’re both playing good odds AND engaging in some safety.

    Or whatever. I’m just a crazy strategic overthinker who never goes on adventures but wishes I did.

  22. yah, it sounds like you only question your line of communication with your husband and not your decision to hang out with a stranger that gave you no good reason to suspect any foul play .

    certainly don’t beat yourself up over it, take this opportunity to hear and learn what your hubs would prefer to hear from you in the future.

    i myself am full of wanderlust and have met some of the most interesting people by following my gut and going on crazy fun adventures without knowing the outcome, but my fiancee is certainly no the guy that would get upset or question my judgement, and i would be fine if the shoe were on the other foot!

  23. laura

    I completely agree that people in general should be more trusting of one another, and I was with you up until you said that if things were to happen that you would have been able to handle it.

    Had he pulled a weapon would you have been able to handle it? I’m going to assume you weren’t armed. Just as the above commentor said, an athletic fast-thinker won’t help you much in some situations. I also think that predators probably don’t pick people who carry themselves the way you seem to, but still, you have to accept that an adventurous spirit may mean that you’re in less control than you even know.

  24. Ramona

    I like what you say about you initially trusting people. That is great because I find it very sad that nowadays people just sort of have lost trust. Yet that always holds them protecting something, may it be their hearts or may it be such a situation. Either way. With trust everything becomes lighter!

  25. jmday

    I’m fairly cautious around strangers, but that said, I drove 560 miles to meet my husband for the first time when I was 19 yo. I didn’t tell anyone but my brother, who totally freaked out while I was gone. It was such an out of character thing for me, but I’ve since realized that I’m a pretty good judge of character. I also agree with you that the majority of people are good (I’m trying to pass that lesson on to my daughter), but it doesn’t keep me from being really on guard when I get in an elevator alone with some stranger. 🙂

  26. Laura – When I said “I would’ve been able to handle it” I didn’t specifically mean “I could’ve taken him.” What It was more like:
    Okay. I’m making this decision to get on this boat. My exit strategy if things go down is x, y and z (which is ALWAYS flight vs. fight). If something happens I’m putting myself in a situation where I’m going to HAVE to handle it. Regardless of the outcome.

    Does that make sense?

    I’m glad you brought that up though – I think that point needed clarification. Even though I like to think I’m a badass I know that in a lot of cases I couldn’t “take” a full grown man. Hell, I don’t know I could even “take” most women.

  27. Vivi

    Had you not checked in with your gut a few times I would not have thought you were inspiring; I would have worried that you were naïve. I think you are adventurous where most of us are not and that you don’t buy into the fear-mongering media that many do.

    We only have one shot at this thing called life (depending on your beliefs) and how could you have any good stories to tell without throwing caution to the wind once in awhile?

  28. So I’m all about trusting strangers — just not ALL strangers. I don’t think the fact that you needed to check in with your gut says that something was amiss. My guess is that has to do with all those other reasons, especially it being culturally ingrained to some degree that strangers are dangerous. I also worry that we’ve lost the deep connection to our intuition. Things can go bad with someone you know and trust as much as with strangers. I just take every situation as it comes. And I’m going to keep trusting strangers. Sometimes.

  29. Nicole

    You are a badass. I am a chickenshit. However, I think we do share the whole trust others and trust our gut thing. I admire you for you your brave and fearless nature. It’s so clearly effortless in situations like this. This didn’t surprise me at all about you. Even if I would have probably not done it myself.

  30. It sounded to me exactly like the kind of situation that ends with you in a pit putting on lotion in order to avoid the hose.

  31. Kevin / Bluecadet – I forgot to tell that part of the story.

  32. I think you’ve brought a really interesting topic. I went back to read the adventure entry, the day sounds very nice, but I have to admit i agree it is putting yourself in a bad situation.
    I think Jeremy puts a good point that the line should be drawn when you move from a public area to private.
    With that being said, traveling alone and meeting new ‘friends’ along the way is an eye opening event that helps you to grow as a person and experience new points of views to learn from. It also can be fun and adventuresome. Just be safe.

  33. Um, I feel like this is normal. Unless you were completely by yourself? I normally take my adventures with at least one friend, so that guarantees my safety in a way. I have met people outside of a club, gotten into their overly packed with people SUV and attended their after hours rooftop party in one of the best sections of Portland. Now, I wouldn’t have done that had I not been with two of my guy friends, but I am not sorry that I did that. I ended up having a fantastic time and the people I met were really nice. Plus, the view of Monument Square/the city from their roof…amazing.

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