It was last Wednesday evening that I honored an invitation to go about town with a bunch of strangers and eat at four different restaurants for a first time of a culinary and social event called Dishcrawl. I did not know what to expect as everything had been kept a secret until that evening.

Sometimes all you need to do is sit back and relax, but how to? It’s becoming a lost art in our hurried times. Often chased by gadgets into physical isolation, people often find online socializing easier.

It is not unusual for people to go hang out at an eating place because they know for a fact if any of their friends are there. There’s an app for that.

But there was none of that during the Dishcrawl event I attended. I sat down with people I didn’t know at 7 o’clock in place I had not scheduled ahead of time and knew that by the end of the night we will have learned at least the basics about each other.

We ate pizza at Papa Tee’s, sweet potato noodles and other Korean-inspired bits at the Cornerstone Sushi, tacos downtown at Quilas and a raspberry sauce-doused torte at Romann’s Swiss Pastries. Food is food is food you could say and that may be true, but this was more.

All places are family owned and operated. Every one of them came with a smiling host explaining the food in simple, user-friendly terms. Curiosity and the novelty of it added new flavors.

My table-mates and I talked life, careers and whether Kamloops is anyone’s birthplace. Less important in the end, it turned out, since we all call Kamloops home no matter how far from it we were born. There’s consent about the beauty of the hills and mountains spreading forever, and the wonder of our somewhat small but lively city.

I discovered that night that even when you hang out with strangers – and they are only strangers until one breaks the ice really – mentioning a name will have someone at the table say “Oh, I know that person!”

It is a small world, but how small could you go in the end? It turned out that a Labrador native is no stranger to a handful of Kamloops native. Or someone could tap you on the shoulder and say they know you and you realize that you know them. Conversation ensues and you feel the comfortable homey warmth of a place like Kamloops.

I may or may not see my table-mates any time soon, but what I know is that saving seats or seeing an arm raised signaling the seat that someone saved for you connects you to people you’ve never met before. An intimacy of some sort that will not go away. Memories of a time when you did know what to expect.

I wondered what made people sign up for the event. Perhaps curiosity or something to do on an ordinary Wednesday night, or both. At least one person moved to Kamloops two weeks ago.

At some point I am asked about advice for a newcomer to Kamloops. Someone just acknowledged my “no longer new in town” status! A rite of passage for sure. I take pride in telling of the many places I have visited with my family since we moved here a year ago, skiing across frozen lakes and hiking on crumbly cinnamon-hued hills included. It comes down to three words: Just do it!

In a time where we schedule our next breath with apps and such, a surprise evening may throw the proverbial stick in the wheels. There’s no app for that. It better not be.

Four places to go, countless conversations to be had, snippets of life to be swapped over a glass of wine, laughter and a brisk walk back to the car when the evening is over.

There’s something to be learned every time you take the word “usually” out of a schedule. For Dishcrawl, you shake hands, smile, introduce yourself and let the evening unfold while tasting good food prepared by local chefs you meet and greet as you walk in. “Thank you,” and then you’re off to your next adventure.

Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, September 27, 2013