Disclaimer: I am not attempting to prescribe advice to anyone. A magic bullet does not exist (except silver ones, those kill werewolves), and what works for me will certainly not work for everyone else. So if you’re sitting there taking this article to hypothetical, hyperbolic extremes, then my answer is no, you should not allow that back-alley surgeon to remove and sell your kidney for crack money. Because even though that would make for a great story, that is not something you should say yes to.
It was on the Pacific Crest Trail that I learned a valuable lesson: say “yes” to everything (especially to strangers and to food).
When I began my adventure from Mexico to Canada I was told the same thing that everyone tells anyone before they venture out on their own: there is danger everywhere and you can never be too careful (and you're probably going to die).
For this reason many of us are taught to say “no” to any offering deemed the least bit suspicious by some arbitrary standard set by our self-loathing society. Why would anyone do something just to help someone else out?
The Pacific Crest Trail converted me into a sayer of “yes”, and now, almost a year later, I have yet to look back (except occasionally for bears – bears still cannot be trusted – bears and southbounders).
In the beginning it was difficult.
Hungry and exhausted I would come across signs that under any other circumstances would have been perceived as traps. “FOOD! SHELTER! WATER! MASSAGES! THIS WAY!” It was often too good to be true. Quite a few times I passed on offers without a justifiable reason for doing so (other than being afraid of human interaction).
At the PCT's halfway point I resolved to immediately say “yes” to everything I was offered.
A day hiker wants to give me an apple? Yes. A hitch wants to take me to their house and feed me? Yes. Someone wants to trade some food? Yes. Spur of the moment trail angels have some moonshine that’s been unopened in their RV for a year now? Yes.
It does not matter how big or how small the offer; it could be a snack on the bus or a place to stay for the night – I said yes, because I never knew where doing so would lead.
Not once did I say yes to something that I later came to regret (no, not even that time).
People don’t offer things just for the sake of offering. I can think of few things more ridiculous than playing the “politeness game” and engaging in the sickiningly fake back and forth of “no please, take it”, “no, really, I can’t, but thank you”.
Nobody wants to trick you into letting them buy you lunch and having you be forever indebted to them as a consequence.
However, saying yes is not limited to strangers on the PCT.
Say yes to yourself – to that stupid little voice inside your head. “Should I say something to this person?”, “should I go out?”, “should I ask?”, “should I risk looking stupid?” yes, you should do all of these things.
What begins as an exchange of “hellos” between strangers can quickly transform into much more (possibly entire sentences).
Say yes to strangers. Say yes to awkwardness. Say yes to strange food. Say yes to not being in control. Say yes to finding out that you are not infallible. Say yes to the realization that nobody is perfect (except me, of course).
Say yes to adventure.