Sometimes I find people with a backround similar to mine who have gone to places I would love to go. Naturally, I would love to learn from them as they have done what I wish I could do. Their time is of course quite valuable and I understand that it might be naive to think that they would want to talk to a random person whose incentive might be mostly for career growth. Is there any way I could approach this in a genuine way? Or should I try to avoid connecting with people because of this reason?
I really like who emphatically you wrote the question. I highly suggest you approach people and essentially say that you said in the question.
Don't say exactly this, but you can say something like this - Hi person A, I was really inspired to see your career journey and would want something similar to myself. I found A, B, C really interesting.... I know you might be quite busy and I value your time but can I have a 1:1 call sometime with you. While I can't offer much, I do promise to pay it forward....
Thanks for considering.
Couple of points -
Finally, if someone does do offer time, please do pay it forward. Wishing you well.