Road trips offer up an unpredictable array of life-altering events. You’ll eat amazing food and see amazing things. You’ll experience life in motion, and come back with a fresh perspective on the world and your place in it. What tends to change you the most, however, are the people you meet. The random conversations and interactions always seem to resonate the strongest. Sure, you’ll remember the cheap fish tacos and culture shock, too, but when you wake up years from now feeling nostalgic, it’ll be about what the old man at the bar in Austin taught you about love, or what the couple in British Colombia advised you to do with your money.
During a road trip with his girlfriend Kaylee from his home of St. Louis to the tip of Baja, Mexico, photographer Adam C. Schlüter thought to document his chance encounters. He began asking people, “What words of wisdom do you have to offer the world?” The question gave Adam’s new acquaintances a chance to reflect — many with a surprising degree of eloquence. A young boy declared that one should “never trust girls,” while an older retiree advised people to “never stop working.”
Even these tiny fragments speak volumes about the lives of the speakers.
We gathered our favorite 16 entries from Adam’s project, but you should check out the rest at “wisdom of the world” on Instagram and Facebook. And next time you find yourself fishing next to an older woman in Guatemala, listen to what she has to say — it might be exactly what you need to hear.
“My parents didn’t see me sober for 26 years. And the one man I wished I had listened to, my father, I never did. Don’t ever make the same mistake I did.”
“The greatest gifts we can give ourselves, to heal, is to surrender to humility and allow forgiveness.”
-In a very thick German accent- “You need to fail to succeed. I promise you.”
“Do not count calories. Eat what makes you feel good… Until it doesn’t make you feel good.”
“Never assume the person you are talking to is having a better day than you.”
“Only one piece of wisdom: Move to Moab.”
I spoke with this couple for about 15 minutes after randomly meeting them on the top of a mountain in Utah. As I was pulling away, I realized I had completely forgotten to ask them for their wisdom. They were both sitting in their car when I came back and I asked them what wisdom they could share with the world. Without hesitation, he [the man] looked at his girlfriend in the passenger seat and got emotional on a moment’s notice. He looked back at me and, voice quivering, and said:
“Be with someone that makes you feel like you’re home, every time you look at them.”
“Just come to the ocean. It changes every single day.”
“Seek criticism, not praise.”
“Never stop working as hard as you can on everything you do. For 45 years, I was a rancher in Wyoming and barely scraped by. There were countless nights when I didn’t know if I would eat the next day and countless days when I ended up not eating at all. Two years ago, I sold all of the remaining cattle I had raised for $300,000 and now am able to eat, drink and go anywhere I want.”
“When you’re on a trip, especially with your significant other, make sure you take care of each other. I have been a part of every kind of argument and got divorced from someone I loved very much. Trust me, none of them are worth it. Always take care of each other.”
“Do not trust girls.”
“Don’t ever say you’re sorry. You’re not always going to be young. Do what you love and do not stop until you find a way to make a living at it.”
“Go learn a damn skill. There is way too much information out there for a wife to pay for an oil change when her husband is out of town, or a husband to go to McDonald’s when his wife is out of town.”
“Be here. Now.”
“I am 76 years old and have been traveling the world for over 50 years. As you do the same, please remember what I am going to tell you. As you travel, you are going to see many wonderful places. Beautiful mountains and rivers. Oceans and beaches so beautiful that they hardly feel like a real place. Beautiful cities, beautiful towns. The world will keep showing you beauty in most every place you go. At the end of it all, though, you won’t remember any of that. The only thing you will remember is the people you meet.”