Skate across America Day 15: “Don’t Talk to Strangers!”

Oct. 18, 2010



Total Distance for today: approx. 25.2 miles
Total Distance for Trip: approx. 175.4 miles
Current Location: North East, MD (actual town name!)

Skating from Wilmington, DE to North East, MD

I woke up this morning to an omelette, rolls, fresh fruit, and a brownie pie – all prepared by my Couch Surfing hosts! What can I say? They were awesome hosts, and I think this has encouraged me to pursue Couch Surfing as a larger portion of this journey. It’s not just the hospitality, though that was nice, it’s the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with cool people!


Today’s skate was about 25 miles, lots of hills, and a peculiar wind that seemed to find a way to go against me, no matter what direction I skated! Haha! No worries: I figure any difficult skating just makes me that much stronger. You know, one could take that attitude toward life as a whole… I arrived in North East, MD with plenty of time to spare before sundown. I was so hungry, that I pretty much ate everything we had in the RV! 😉

“Worst Advice Ever: Don’t Talk to Strangers!”

I was skating by a middle school somewhere close to the Delaware/Maryland border, when about 200 excited middle-schoolers started to cheer. They were super excited, so I decided to coast on over and meet my new found fans! No sooner had I skidded to a heroic halt next to the fence, then the playground attendant had already received a worrisome page on her two-way radio. Apparently, I was a suspicious and dangerous-looking character, what with my GIANT AMERICAN FLAG, cape, and Rollerblades… I attempted to explain to the attendant what I was doing, and that the children were just excited and wanted to talk to me, but she was concerned with adhering to duty, and promptly sent me way.


Comically, tons of kids started running over to the fence to figure out what I was all about, but all I could do was tell them that I was not allowed to talk to them and just tell them to Google “Freedom Skater.” They persisted anyway, but the “babysitter” told these TEENAGERS and kids that they were “not allowed to talk to strangers.”


Ah! There it was: One of statements that I loath most. This statement is loaded, because it makes some pretty fantastic assumptions. Namely:

1. People I don’t know are usually bad people.
2. Things I don’t understand scare me!
3. It is better to be reserved and to myself than to venture into the unknown.


Maybe you think I’m overreacting because I “don’t have kids and couldn’t possibly understand,” but let me ask you this: Which of the following two scenarios is more likely:


1. You teach your kids to be smart about interactions with strangers but still bold and outgoing. They end up getting kidnapped, and your worst fears are realized!


2. You teach your kids to be smart about interactions with strangers but still bold and outgoing. Your kids might end up in a questionable situation or two, but they end up growing up bold, confident, and socially capable when meeting new people. They are more successful in life!


Of course I’m biased, but I know that the habits we teach our children when they are young and in adolescence carry on for the rest of their lives. Many a bold young man or woman has been required to expend incredible courage and energy to unlearn deeply ingrained habits that are based on a negative view of humanity and a non-opportunistic view of life. I’m not telling you how to raise your kids. I’m just telling you how I will raise mine! Maybe I’m telling you that you are the kid who was told, “not to talk to strangers.” It’s time to unlearn. I will leave you with a great quote from one of my favorite authors:


“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.
All life is an experiment.
The more experiments you make the better.
What if they are a little course,
and you may get your coat soiled or torn?
What if you do fail,
and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice.
Up again,
you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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3 Responses to “Skate across America Day 15: “Don’t Talk to Strangers!””

  • avatar Melissa:

    Saw you skate through Newark, DE yesterday on my way to class at the University of Delaware. This is an amazing journey you’re on, best of luck!

    • avatar Austin:

      Thanks, Melissa! I remember skating through there, and thinking: “These people must all think I’m crazy!” I’m sure you still do, but at least you appreciate the insanity! Best of luck to you as well, Melissa!

      – Austin

      “The Freedom Skater”

  • avatar Christine:

    1. People I don’t know may be bad people. BUT the possibility of meeting that one very bad person makes me cautious of all of them. It’s sad, but it’s the world we live in.
    2. Things I don’t understand scare me! TRUE. what’s wrong with that? And yes, I do want to overcome that fear and understand the unknown thing. But I refer to statement one– I don’t know that meeting someone without any sort of context is the best way to go about doing that.
    3. It is better to be reserved and to myself than to venture into the unknown. CORRECTION it is SAFER to be reserved. And we don’t want to send kids into unsafe situations when they don’t yet have the ability to make good judgement calls. We’re not talking about educated, reasoning high schoolers or adults here, we’re talking about middle schoolers who still think eating dirt is funny.

    Also, *loathe.

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