30 Days of Drinking with Strangers

Name: Philip Mccluskey

Occupation: Travel writer


Twitter: @ThirstyWanderer

How we met: Phil, a Pittsburgh native, and I met in Beijing last year where we both took part in the Great Wall Marathon. He did the half marathon and finished about five hours earlier than me but was kind enough to stick around and cheer me across the finish line when pretty much everyone else had gone home. Good guy Phil. 

I chose Phil to start 30 Days – The Collection because I love the concept of his blog, which centres around drinking with strangers. As children we are taught not to speak to strangers, but as someone who has relied on them heavily in the last 12 months, I would implore all of you to put aside any prejudices you may have and give it a go. It might just change your life. 

Introducing, Phil:

It was the American musician and proud inebriate George Thorogood who sang: “When I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself.”

I, on the other hand, prefer to do my solitary drinking in the company of strangers.

Perhaps an explanation is in order. Travel has been a big part of my life, and more often than not, I have ended up traveling alone. Over time, I realized that some of my favorite travel moments involved a conversation with a stranger while I was in a strange land. Usually at a bar.

So I decided to start a writing project subtly titled A Drink with a Stranger.

Phil and I in Beijing

The idea is simple: meet a person, and have a drink and a conversation with them. It’s an opportunity to learn about someone I wouldn’t have met otherwise and, hopefully, delve a little below the surface small talk. It’s a connection over cocktails. (Or in my case, more often a beer.)

I’ve been at it for well over a year now, and it’s safe to say that no 30 days are the same. Sometimes I simply go to a bar by myself, order a drink, and sit there reading or watching a game, and hope to strike up a conversation with someone. Other times I send an email to a person—either based on a recommendation from another stranger I’ve met, or simply someone interesting I read about online—and ask them to have a drink over Skype. Still others—and these are the most difficult—I approach in person and introduce myself.

Because that’s the underlying purpose behind this: to knock down a few of the walls between me and the rest of the world. I’m attempting to stretch my comfort zone a bit. Some days I’m good at it, some days I’m not; but the project ensures it’s on my mind. If nothing else, it keeps thirst at bay.

So far, the project has been better than I could have hoped. I’ve had drinks with many strangers, and have been reminded that everyone has a story to tell.

There was the zombie scientist and the robot scientist.

There was the woman I met in Massachusetts who was teaching in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, and the woman who is taking a different risk every day for a year.

There was the 70-year-old former millionaire and recovering meth-head I had a beer with in Nebraska, and the 70-year-old French Canadian guy I met in India who told me about his 26-year-old inamorata in Cuba (with the Taj Mahal as a backdrop).

And of course, there was the stranger I had a beer with in Beijing. She was traveling around the world for a year, taking 30 days to do specific things she’d always wanted to do.

Which reminds me of another great thing about drinking with strangers. Sometimes, those strangers become friends.


Check out some of Phil’s blogs:

The one about me: Running and Jumping

The one about the 70-year-old former millionaire meth-head: Destiny has a nickname

The one about the zombie scientist: Brains

The one with the 70-year-old with the 26-year-old girlfriend: Still climbing

The one with the robot scientist: Robots are humans too

Check out my first meeting with Phil via the blog post ‘The Asian Squat

  1. Claude says:

    How is your love life since we last spoke? You didn’ marry the chicken, Did you?

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