In our years of traveling, we have met countless other travelers while on the road. Some of these interactions are brief in nature, being polite in social interactions. However, a few of these people hold a special place in our hearts. I’m not saying that we exchanged a few drunken words with these people in the hostel bar and bonded over $1 pints. (Okay, we might have done that a few times) But what I’m saying is that we met, spent a good amount of time, connected on a deeper level, and became legit friends with these individuals.
It’s a natural part of traveling. You will meet so many new people everywhere you go, creating new friendships in record time. There is a bond that happens while traveling because we are all searching for the same thing, wanting to get the most out of every experience. To me it’s the greatest part of our traveling lifestyle.
While I always preach about meeting locals in the countries you visit, I believe it is equally important to meet fellow travelers. You will be surprised how much you can learn. Since we don’t really enjoy (or trust) guidebooks, other travelers are often our first choice to go for advice. They have first hand experience. More importantly, in addition to meeting locals, other travelers will teach you to be less judgmental. You will realize that this person who is unlike any human being you’re close to back home, can quickly become your best friend and teach you an important lesson about life.
But how do you handle the fact that you might never see any of these awesome people ever again? Well, no matter how close the bond, it is entirely possible that your first goodbye will be your last. After all, we never know what life will throw us and where on the map any of us will land. I remember my last day of working in New Zealand. My coworker, who I spent 12 hour shifts with for 8 months sighed and said, “Isn’t it crazy to think we’ll never see each other again?” Though they might have been a huge part of my life, (and Facebook certainly helps with keeping in touch) the friendship eventually fizzled.
Unfortunately, this is one of the double edge swords when it comes to traveling, this coming and going, saying hello and waving goodbye. Friendship and travel don’t always seem to be very compatible because sometimes it’s just hard to keep in touch with someone multiple time zones away.
However, despite all of that, I wouldn’t give up this ever-changing nature of friendships for anything. After all, we would never have met many of my good friends had we never traveled in the first place and there are still so many interesting people out there in the world for us to meet. I know perfectly well that even if we don’t see many of these people often, the majority will still remain our friends. We can count on them, they can count on us, at any time.
*This is not to be confused with our friends from home. I’m also confident that our closest of friends will always remain our closest friends, no matter how many days per year we actually spend together or how many miles apart we may be.
I won’t deny it though, I’m not good at saying goodbye. Even with my love of meeting new people, it can be difficult. Even after many years of travel, I still get so sad leaving a new friend with mutual interests and sense of humor. Let’s be honest, nobody likes parting ways with someone they have enjoyed spending time with. I try justify in my head that our paths will cross again, no matter the circumstances.
What does make it slightly easier to handle, is the fact that we actually do try our best to see the people we meet and become friends with while traveling. Yes, there are certainly people we meet and with whom we get along with very well and want to visit, yet, we probably won’t be able to. I’ve been in the same country as an old friend and just wasn’t able to meet up because of conflicting schedules. Sometimes we just can afford it. Life just gets in the way sometimes.
At the same time, because we’ve met so many people, we often have friends wherever we travel. Maybe we’re passing through their home country or maybe, since we’re both traveling types, we end up in the same location once again at some point down the road. However it works out, the point is that it does work out, remarkably often.
Look at my first trip to Europe as an example. I lived in a crazy hostel for 6 months with 30 other people. Since then, I have reunited with more than a handful of them, even managing a reunion of sorts in New Orleans 4 years later. While living in Europe I went on a 2 week (yes, 2 week!) TopDeck tour and met some fabulous people. Since that tour, I have met up with a few of them in both Australia and back again in London. I am confident I will reunite with these people again sometime in the future.
You Never Know
With all of this said, I can understand how this constant saying hello and goodbye stuff isn’t for everyone. It can be difficult. However, our philosophy has always been that it’s much better to dive in and take a chance. In the end, you really never know where a friendship might lead.
Last year we lived in Prague for a month. After traveling for 6 months, we returned to Prague in order to have a reunion with our old friends. Upon returning, two of them generously let us crash at their apartment, one sleeping on the mattress outside of his room so we could sleep in his. To see someone rearrange their entire daily routine to accommodate us meant more than he could imagine.
As a solo traveler, I often took risks and traveled with people I didn’t know as well. Sometimes it didn’t work out, because we all know you don’t really know someone until you travel with them, but more often than not it was amazing, exciting, and life changing. And if anyone has forgotten, I met the man of my dreams on a first date/trip to Asia.
If you ask me, it’s worth taking the risk.
Every person you meet, anywhere in the world, could potentially be your next friend, best friend, or perhaps a long-term partner or even a spouse. You just don’t know. In my opinion, I’d rather share great moments and memories knowing full well that some of these friendships might not last.
Life is full of surprises and every hand you shake could change your life forever.