I have been doing a lot of traveling the past few weeks. Several train journeys, a couple of flights, long drives by car and a bus or two in between. As a result, I have also met a wide variety of people. For a person whose social life has been almost entirely on Twitter and Facebook lately, this was a refreshing change.
The Twitterati are usually sarcastic, smart, clever with words and quick to take pot shots at all and sundry. Most of them work in IT or IT related industries. They usually think and tweet alike, most of the time anyway.
My Facebook friends are mostly people I know in real life. We share family pictures, links to interesting websites and comment how much we have changed since we last met, which is usually a good twenty years back.
The people I met in meatspace the past few weeks came from all walks of life. An architect. A retired military man. An accountant. A business man who used to be a manual laborer. And I learnt something from each one of them.
The accountant taught me to smile at strangers, offer them food if you have some, share a joke with them and help them be comfortable during the journey.
The retired military man showed me the value of being neat and tidy. Of holding your ground and getting people to do what's right. Helping your spouse and making her feel loved and cared for. Of enjoying life post retirement.
The architect gave me tips on how to plan for the future. The laborer turned businessman helped me understand the power of determination, hard work and humility.
I would not have learnt any of these online. The value of going out and meeting people, interacting with them, understanding them and ultimately learning from them, is immense. Even though the travel tired me out, I don't regret a minute of it.
This is not to say there isn't value in being connected and active on the social networking sites. I enjoy that immensely. I have met some awesome people online, some of whom have turned into friends I will cherish for a lifetime. However, I do want to spend more time out in the sun talking to people who are from different walks of life, with different mindsets, different points of view. I am sure I will be richer by the experience.