Tapping Into Out-of-Town Confidence

Next time you travel, talk to as many strangers as you can, taste new, random and weird things, get lost and ask questions.

WORDS Case Kenny
January 2020
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Illustration: Paul Reid

When I was an intern at a law firm in Shanghai, I went with the office for karaoke. I took the mic in front of everyone and opted to sing Akon’s 2008 single “Right Now,” and learned a few seconds in that this was definitely not my song. It was embarrassing, sure, but I’ve found that when you leave your hometown you naturally have more confidence, and sometimes that leads to some cringeworthy moments—but that’s a good thing!

Over the past eight years, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 26 countries. You can be in Australia or the next town over, but as long as you’re in unfamiliar territory and don’t know anyone, you’re freed from your reputation and expectations. That’s the moment when one’s out-of-town confidence kicks in.

There was a time when out-of-town confidence was just childhood curiosity: We tasted, touched and tried everything and didn’t care if we fell down or were laughed at. Then, at some point, we got scared of looking silly and embarrassing ourselves. You might be able to chalk it up to the jet lag or language barriers, but traveling allows us to tap into our old, carefree ways.

Once, while traveling in Spain with my family, I was desperately trying to find a place for us to eat dinner. I kept asking the hotel concierge for recommendations and told him that I did not want to eat dinner with my family at a “topless” bar. (He didn’t laugh.) Another time, while living abroad in China, I tried to make friends at the gym. “Hey bro, nice form. Wanna be friends? No? OK...”

I ended up looking silly, but those experiences remind me that we’re all meant to mess up, fail, be awkward, and embarrass ourselves. And traveling is the ideal low-risk opportunity to look silly, be a kid again and realize that this is how we’re meant to be living every day—even in our hometowns.  

Next time you travel, I challenge you to talk to as many strangers as you can, taste new, random and weird things, get lost and ask questions. You might have so much fun you keep doing it, even back home.

Case Kenny is the host of the Top 50 podcast New Mindset, Who Dis?
Follow him on Instagram @case.kenny

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