Man quits his job to talk to strangers, inspires a movement

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

"Mom always said, 'Don't talk to strangers.' What if Mom was wrong?"

In 2012, shortly after his 25th birthday, Robbie Stokes, Jr. quit his job on Capitol Hill to talk to strangers all over the world.

"I started talking to strangers everywhere I went. Not just people walking down the street, but people I'm sitting next to on the bus, or people I meet in the elevator or while travelling," Stokes told News4Jax last spring.

The Florida State University grad founded "I TALK TO STRANGERS," a social movement "that unites various ethics, racial, political, and socio-economic groups through conversation."

"I wanted to have some impact to change the world but lately I've been hearing that the true impact is connecting the world, " he said. "I sold everything. All of my possessions fit into two suitcases. Legitimately four pairs of jeans, five shirts, four pairs of socks, a pair of tennis shoes, and a dream."

[ More good News: Quick-thinking movers catch falling toddler with mattress ]

Stokes set off on a 110-day worldwide adventure — he backpacked through 17 countries — talking to everyone he met. Through speaking engagements and social media, he now challenges others to step outside of their comfort zones and do the same.

"From feeding monkeys in Malaysia to climbing into the pyramids in Egypt, I have met some of the most fascinating people with the most interesting stories and backgrounds," Stokes told RYSE Magazine. "It is refreshing to say that mom was wrong, we should talk to strangers…how else do we make friends?"

He documented his travels on film and will soon release a documentary and a book about his experiences with strangers.

"This 90 min. documentary will restore faith in humanity and will prove that strangers are not so scary after all. In fact, some of the greatest opportunities in life lie in the people you walk past everyday," he wrote on the film's Kickstarter page.

[ More Good News: California teens playing hooky save elderly woman from fire ]

He calls his film "the world's first documentary about strangers, funded by strangers."

Ultimately, Stokes hopes his movement will bring people of all backgrounds together through conversation.

"Talk to a neighbor, a classmate, coworker, or just someone who needs a good talk," Stokes wrote on Facebook yesterday. "Let's bring the world together one person, one conversation, one stranger at a time."

One woman shared that, because of I TALK TO STRANGERS, her outlook on strangers has changed. After experiencing the heartbreaking loss of a child, she found comfort in strangers' stories and compassion.

"It's opened up a world I was completely unaware of until I lost Avery. I've learned 1:4 women share in my heartache. I've made new friends and connections that I would not have if it weren't for opening up to strangers," she posted on Facebook.

Have you talked to strangers lately?