Traveler In Your Own Town

We train staff to be Travelers In Your Own Town — Conversation Artists able to engage with strangers and colleagues alike in fresh ways. Our month-long training program includes a practicum where participants develop new skills, and the courage to discover the resources that lie just below the surface

Engage with a stranger, ask them a good question, and let us know how the conversation went below, or on our FaceBook page.

Being a Traveler In Your Own Town lends happiness and excitement — opens opportunity in every aspect of your day with both  personal or business concerns. Travelers help lessen social isolation wherever they find themselves. Our program helps people and businesses engage meaningfully – heightens connection, conversation + exploration in new and familiar territory.

Read how others have done it.. It’s more than just talking at someone.

otc 3Many people live their lives like some ride a bus: they don’t look out the window.. or even acknowledge the person beside them.  They set a course intentionally or fall into a path.  I call these folks tourists….

In fact ‘tourists’ can be found in many parts of our society…. in offices, on public transit, or in classrooms or at university

Along the way some may take a  “de-tour” — they venture into new territory.. and begin to be a traveler.

Personal  and community life, in fact general wellbeing  can be improved by being a Traveler in Your Own Town.


The following examples  often take place in our own towns, on buses, at the gym , on the street corner… on campus.  Moments of meaningful engagement with strangers …

 bus in trafficOn the bus ride downtown this afternoon bus was crowded. After standing up part of the way I worked my way near the back of the bus and saw a pack on a seat between two 30ish men. I asked if I could have it on my lap and sit down. They agreed and introduced themselves.. Joe and James.. good friends with some developmental challenges. Very friendly and willing to engage. I asked them what it takes to engage with strangers. James thought about it and then said, ” Practice.”
They shared a story of someone asking them for money quite aggressively and being able to not get taken. It was a lovely TravelerInYourOwnTown experience.

 airport pickupTalking to first time visitors to Victoria, asking them for three questions they have about Victoria, opens revealing conversations.
 roofing delivery Rode past my daughter’s home early one morning to find a crane truck not able to unload it’s materials. I stopped and asked what the problem was. Their car needed to be moved to allow the truck access. I buzzed them and the car was moved. Although the wires at the front of the driveway were technically too low to operate the crane under, the driver safely ‘did what was necessary.’

A bus driver’s empathy and actions to support his passengers, and their wide range of stories that happen each day behind him on the bus

NBA All-Star Weekend Inspired DunkI saw a young woman and a child playing with small bouncing balls. They were so spirited and joy-filled. I asked the woman what their relationship was, and she said, ‘He is my son.’
I said he is very fortunate to have such a playful, joyful mother. Turns out the boy is in chemo and they cherish every moment they have. She thanked me for my comments. It was touching and meaningful.

 grandfather and son I saw them on the bus. The grandfather gave the child such wonderful attention, great eye contact, and joy.

Untapped stories
 badger buttons I stopped a senior in the grocery aisle and asked what the story was behind the buttons he was sporting on his lapel. He has been a pilot for over 60 years, and served in the first Snowbird aeronautic team squadron. He designed the Snowbird logo. In his whole career no one had ever asked him about the buttons he wears.

Discovering a new community resource
 shelborne-comm-kitchen-logo-july-201331Biking along Shelbourne I remembered that the Shelbourne Community Kitchen is open as of March 25th. I dropped in, met their program coordinator, and got a brief glimpse into their ‘good work.’

A three year’s old adventure on the bus
 bus exteriorTook the #22 bus downtown today from Wilkinson road, which I don’t normally do since I usually drive. My son was fascinated with the entire process, and asking tons of questions about how it worked. The bus driver was very friendly, he gave my son a “bus ticket” and answered all his questions. He said it was refreshing to tell others about his job and to be asked such in depth questions about something that had become routine for him. I was very impressed with his willingness to indulge my son and make the trip that much more special for him. It was interesting to see something that we take for granted from a totally new perspective.

Offering more than a hand
 grocery checkoutI was at the grocery store again and in the line up there was an elderly lady who seemed to be having difficulties putting the 4L of milk on the conveyor for the cashier. I helped her and asked if there was anything else I could help her with. When she turned around to say “no thank-you” I saw she had tears in her eyes. I asked her what was making her sad. She said “you look just like my grandson, I don’t get to see him very often”. I was caught off guard and so I hugged her and I said that I hoped her grandson calls her soon.

When I got home I made sure to call both my grandmothers and chat with them. Sometimes we forget to talk to our family among all the busy-ness of life and sometimes helping a stranger can help us see that family is important, no matter your age.

Personal impact of public art
Walking along the water in Sidney yesterday (which I do quite a bit), I noticed an older woman tap the head of one of the seated bronze statues. I asked her if there was any special significance to this and she told me the statue looked like her father, and she tapped his head every time she walked by (twice a day). This statue has stood out to me before as someone always puts flowers in its hand. I asked about the flowers and she said that was her as well. For me this really speaks about the value of public art and how it can be significant to people in different ways. Some may just look at it in passing, but for some it could have profound meaning. Thanks to SES Consulting ‪#‎travelerinyourowntown‬

Making a new friend
Sparked a conversation on the UVIC campus with a young woman, the conversation ended up lasting half an hour until I had to go to class (note that I actually had to end the conversation, not her.) I learned that she is a nursing student in her third year, and is deeply in love with cats! She was very open after I broke the initial barrier of sparking the conversation, and she thanked me for making her break between classes fun. She said all her friends were busy, and was actually happy because now she made a new friend on campus! What a great experience thanks to SES Consulting! ‪#‎travelerinyourowntown‬

Travelers look for different ways of bringing people together. Last night we hosted our first “Bring a Song to Dinner” event. Some people brought words, instruments, others suggestions and all enjoyed a great potluck dinner and then sang for a couple of hours. I always try to bring some new faces to any event, and then watch for the Traveler moments. It happened again last night!

I used our LCD projector to put the lyrics, and sometimes the chords, on the wall so everyone had a change to be ‘ on the bus’ together. It was eclectic and heaps of fun.

Strangers and angels…

A friend texted me that her 7 mo. babe was not feeling well. I wrote that she and he were surrounded by a chorus of angels.

A few minutes later she wrote that when she took him to a walk-in clinic other mothers and their daughters started adoring her son and tried to make him feel better. Another quite animated woman came over and showered him with compliments and the babe loved it. Then the receptionist was so kind. “So far it’s been quite a chorus.”

Took the number 4 bus back from downtown. At first the front area was quiet, no engagement but by the end of the ride I’d talked substantially with three passengers. All with positive comments about transit, or their life pursuits.. One was a first year education music student who said his ‘passion rating’ about music was 9/10.

7:45 on a dark, damp morning at UVic. A fellow with handbag and old school fedora walks silently ahead of me. My question, ” What is your responsibility here? drew a first response of ‘take care of the microphones.” Staying with him it turns out he’s a librarian, been with UVic for 43 years and is retiring in March. He grew up here, saw the university being built, was a student, got a part time job in the library, took all the formal degrees and has enjoyed the ride…

Whenever we host a social function we try to mix in a fresh face or two. With some light facilitation or thoughtful structure/ game the presence of the ‘traveler’ can stir new conversation and experience, like yeast. e.g.. One out of town guests wrote,’Your game was a great help for someone like me who would not have talked to as many as I did without it.’

Conversation at Swartz Bay parking lot with a mom with 2 1/2 and 3 month old children. Her 2 1/2 year old is her traveler trainer — always encouraging her to ‘get out there’ and explore.

She was a bit shocked at the loneliness of parenting. We talked about having a tribe. She had just been talking about this the previous day. #travelerinyourowntown can help…as its spirit of adventure and connection can find meaning wherever folks gather.. be it at an atm, grocery store or playground… Such moments of connection and meaningful conversation enrich.. and can lead to new doors of opportunity and wonder.

A recently retired woman I met recently said this regarding #TravelerInYourOwnTown
This sounds wonderful. I have seen this in action with my friend , who is from Nova Scotia and has lived in several other locations in BC and Ontario and even for a few years in Kansas. Whenever we are out together she takes every opportunity to ask people she meets a couple of questions – where are you from (and inevitably she has either lived there or near there), what was or is your line of work and where have you travelled. Quite often the person is from the Maritimes and this creates an immediate connection. It’s actually quite amazing how often they end up knowing the same person or having lived in the same area. We have been on two cruises together and she is the perfect travel companion because she is so gregarious. I have learned a lot from her. Having lived in Victoria all my life I was more inclined to move around in my little world (by car) and not make too much of an effort to talk to people I didn’t know. She has never had a driver’s licence, so she either walks or takes the bus. I think this is more conducive to reaching out to people. Now that I am retired I am more inclined to walk or take the bus and I really enjoy the slower, more relaxing pace (although I still don’t tend to strike up conversations on the bus).

Making the shift from ‘tourist’ to “traveler” in finding the right people to talk to about TravelerInYourOwnTown was way more rewarding and fun. I shared a recent success with a friend who works for the government.She stepped up and suggested departments I should talk to in other government agencies. I knocked on doors and had great interactions with CRD, City of Victoria and a media outlet.

This sense of spontaneous exploration, discovery and joy sets us up for great moments when the doors do open.

Travelers get helpful tips ( even ‘secrets’) when they ask good questions of others.. in this case another cyclist . A good question says so much about a person and in this case elicits gold..

Traveler’s are open to sharing their story.. their journeys:
UVicCycling Club offers bike tune-ups to students by donation on campus.. while they wait, or while they are in class. Loved their spirit, their joy in helping others take a next step in their travels.

When we’re traveling we never know where a conversation may lead.. what the ROI may be.. Yet time again we experience  where “Sharing life together” may take us.

When I’m out around town, there is always one person, one thing I see that ‘makes my day.’ Yesterday, it was meeting my neighbours at Tim Horton’s to talk about connecting with our new Mayor and Council; and our hope and vision for the next four years.

As my wife  is new to Canada (7 months now), I find myself joining her in her pursuit of learning about our city, and our country. I definitely feel more like a Traveler in Victoria, and a resident, at the same time. It’s so refreshing to me, and opens all kinds of new experiences and insights. They are endless. For instance, a new route on a bus, a new shortcut for walking from one place to another, a daily experience at her work, the experience of food store-bought or homemade (and the similarities/differences with that of the Philippines)… even just English grammar and speech and the experiences of basic human communication… all of this while adapting to a new culture and undergoing a huge life transition. I could give examples for hours. She’s learning and growing so much, and by sharing her learning with me, I’m growing in my perceptions of life. What a gift of a person, and a gift of experience. 🙂

The wisdom that can be drawn from students, in this case, a grade 11 from Oak Bay. I asked him how he is already standing out. He shared a wonderful example of helping a student though peer tutoring, who improved from a C+ to an A+ math score. He was so specific that others could replicate

The opportunity of standing beside a stranger…
A grandmother joined me waiting by the dairy section. When someone is standing still beside me, and I’m not in a hurry, I wonder where the moment will take us. She didn’t want to buy a pint of whipping cream, just 250 ml. As we chatted, a ‘stock boy’ opened the panel behind the whipping cream and she was able to ask him if they had any available.
Somehow she talked about being a minimalist.. She and her husband are careful what they buy, what the bring home. She felt no pressure from consumerist forces… I loved how clear she was. Like teflon. She’s the first minimalist who’s declared herself in some time. Inspiring!

Travelers have made a choice, a decision to be brave, open. It’s a  mind-shift.  The stories we’ve  collected, the conversations / research we’ve done will be shared in a documentary.   Many of these have been archived on Mobilizing or on our YouTube playlist, or on Twitter  under #travelerinyourowntown



Talking to the sales girl in a woman’s boutique. A year ago she was serving back east, now she’s working plus taking History at UVic. ” Maybe I will get a job at a museum.” She hadn’t heard of John Lutz who teaches there. I said meeting him, and taking one his courses would show you how studying history can be life changing. I encouraged her to go my and find this clip

I ran a series of workshops back in 2008/9 called Conversations with Roger helping people discover the power of personal story. A woman came to a number of those. This week she phoned asking me to help with collecting stories for a community housing project that will take place over a month. She has a budget to cover the expenses. What a perfect fit!

Sitting at the back of bus I did a quick survey. Student beside me plugging in, passenger on the left trying to start a book, and then a fellow with a zippered 3/4 length coat got on with no devices and a briefcase. There was a seat beside him… and being a traveler I took the risk and sat beside him. We had a remarkably interesting and fun convo about Polish workers considered ‘exotic’ oversees…. He teaches international business here. We’ll see where this ‘trip’ leads both of us.


Walking on the path to UVic I saw a young woman crouching … I saw that she was lifting small worms onto a leaf. We chatted about their quandary, looking for a water supply.
Her efforts were one of the evidences of compassion and support for life from my morning ‘travels.’
A few minutes later as I left the path, she waved goodbye.. So different from the norm of plugged in oblivion that many walk with.
Connections often start with empathy.


On a walk, a woman across the road smiled at me, and I asked her what she was up to. Looked like she was carrying a sleeping bag. She was on her way to an art class where she was a model, but had been enjoying the early morning beauty on campus. She then said, ” We are perfect already, but not always in harmony.”

I love the gifts that strangers share.

Met an Iranian masters student ( Electrical Engineering) on the bus. He observed an interesting difference between life in Iran and in Victoria. In Victoria people rarely interact when they pass each other, while in Iran it happens all the time. Is it because of cultural diversity.. people unsure of the language? He was so articulate and interesting to talk with. He worked as a graphic and web designer in Iran.)

He said, “I think you were talking to my wife earlier.” Does this happen so rarely, or are some people just more memorable?


Talked to a young cashier at Fairway who had no moments that stood out in her day. I suggested using a different question with her customers,” What’s a moment that’s gone well today?”
Let’s try it out with this girl, the next 20 something in line, who immediately responded with ,” My boss said I was doing a good job.”
Her face lit up.
Tip… be ready for surprises.
Sitting on a bench at Kits Beach in Vancouver early on a Sunday morning. A couple of 20 something guys asked if they could share the bench. They were full of good will, offered me a drink from their mason jar of a gin mixture. They thought of me as a Pink Floyd kind of guy and one asked me if I knew Jimi Hendrix, and asked to ‘name that tune’ as he played “Hey Joe.”

When you want to find the best way somewhere, ask a taxi driver.  I was in an unfamiliar part of town and needed directions to my next stop.  I asked a taxi driver and the directions were the best.


Latest tips.. to be a #travelerinyourowntown look for the signs

It started instantly as he was sitting at the back of the bus with a ninja turtle t-shirt. The conversation naturally turned from ninja’s vs pirates, to his pursuit of software engineering, being in the 5th year of a 4 year program. We talked about the rich field of opportunities in this area, and the challenges of the tech workplace with other engineers. He said that ‘conversation is a distinct challenge / linchpin for tech engineers, a skill that many will need to be more successful.

As a ‪#‎travelerinmyowntown‬ we find kindred spirited strangers.. Today sitting at the back of the bus he came and sat beside me. He’s a former taking course work on helping addicts, users.. perhaps aiming at Social Work. His courage to change was commendable. He too had been an addict. I gave him my card saying his story has great merit.. and may inspire others as they contemplate change.


A fellow on the ferry sitting in a cubicle with 3 cell phones and a laptop. I had to stop and ask him, ‘What’s the story here?’ Turns out he’s an industrial designer who works 6 months/ year in Minnesota creating full size clay models of products, like cars. I sat down and with a few more questions he shared how he ‘opened’ this remarkable opportunity in this life. It came when his brother invited him to come and try come and look at this new job. So many benefits from saying yes to #lifeisaninvitation


Travelers remember strangers giving them a helping hand.
Today at the gym I saw a ‘Steve Jobs-lookalike’ on a treadmill. I ran beside him and thanked him for an earlier introduction to some additional features to the machine. We talked about his role at the university and shared some challenges a major faculty is facing, one that I could definitely help with. I shared a ‪#‎travelerinyourowntown‬ insight I’d recorded a week or so ago. I said I’d like to continue the conversation and would give him a card later.. which I did . leaving it on the top of his clothes when he was in the shower.  April 10th


Travelers are always ready for surprises.. Today’s… a quiet soul at the back of the bus, unplugged with coffee cup in hand.. going to confer with a prof. This fellow is in the 4th year of his PhD on effective civil disobedience against authoritarian governments. So timely. It points out that if you can imagine it, someone is, or will be, thinking deeply about it.‪#‎travelerinyourowntown‬  April 10th


How do you avoid, deal with boredom? A gym attendant: ” I embrace it. I’m working on my masters, so I’m always doing something, researching, writing, teaching. Here I am free of those demands. I love the feeling. ‘‪#‎travelerinyourowntown‬  April 9th


A revealing question to ask people in customer service jobs, like supervising or manning a kiosk, ” How do you avoid boredom.” One girl at the gym said she loves to organize, to put things in order. Sounds like other staff are not so focused so she finds lots of opportunity for meaningful activity. She liked the question, and wondered what others had said.

How do you overcome/ or prevent it in your day-to-day?  Talking on the phone on campus and a creative, good spirited custodian,  I’ve talked to now and again gave me a poke as she was walking out the door.   I saw her a few minutes later in another part of campus and thanked her  the nudge..and said, “That poke was like a paragraph. She laughed and said, ‘Yes, that basically sums it up.’ #travelerinyourowntown  April 7th


When I took our car in to a service garage a 7 yr old was there because she hadn’t felt good at school, so she was hanging out with her mother who worked in the front office. After a while the girl asked to come behind the desk at the front. I asked her if she wanted to learn a game ( nim). She was clever, logical and charmingly bold. We played a few games and now she has a game she can teach her mom and her own friends. #travlerinyourowntown  Feb 4th, 2014