Tell us about the fascinating strangers that have impacted your travels.
Tell us about the fascinating strangers that have impacted your travels. Never Edit/CC BY 2.0

In a lot of ways, travel is less about the places you go than the people you meet along the way. I’m sure someone said something terribly insightful about this once, but the simple truth is that a chance encounter with a unique character can turn any journey into an unforgettable experience. Now we want to hear about the most memorable people you’ve run into on your travels.

On a recent Atlas Obscura trip to Transylvania (did I mention that we offer trips?), our travelers met just such a character while he was tending his own grave. I’ll let our Director of Trip Design and Operations, Tao Tao Holmes, who was there, tell the story:

“An older man, wearing suspenders and holding a bright yellow pail, emerged along a narrow path that rose out of the woods and up the hill. He ambled towards us, and soon began chatting with Ovidiu, our local Romania guide (I was there with our small group of travelers, on our very first Atlas Obscura trip to Romania).

Toth, standing next to his own grave.
Toth, standing next to his own grave. Tao Tao Holmes

The man, named Toth (age 86) led Ovidiu over to one grave in particular, and the rest of us slowly followed. Toth paused and pointed to the names on the headstone, and Ovidiu looked up at us, translating Toth’s words into English: this was Toth’s own gravestone, and those were the names of Toth and his wife. We leaned in closer to see that their dates of birth, followed by a dash, were already inscribed, followed by blank space. Toth chuckled as he lifted up the bed of ivy carpeting the gravestone, as if lifting a welcome mat.

Toth comes to tend his grave about once a week, he told us, and he remains the first and only person I’ve ever met doing just that. He left all of us with our own ponderings as we parted ways.”

Powerful stuff.

Now it’s your turn. Tell us about the odd fellows, mysterious personages, and memorable strangers that you’ve met on your travels, via the form below. Be as detailed or simple as you’d like, but be sure to tell us how the chance encounter changed your trip or made it more special. We’ll collect some of our favorites in an upcoming round-up. We won’t be strangers if we share our stories!

If you have a favorite travel stranger story of your own to share, head over to our community forums and tell us about it!