An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.
One of the best things about travelling is the anticipation before you leave. That mixture of excitement and fear you feel in the days leading up to your trip.
Before you leave everything is still unknown.
You might know the name of the place you’re going, where you’re staying, you might even have scanned pages of pictures and things to do. But you don’t really know it.
You don’t know how you’ll feel when you get there. Or what that place you saw in pictures is like when you’re exploring it with all of your senses. You don’t know what life-changing experiences you’ll have. Most importantly, you don’t know the people you’ll meet.
There is a quote most often attributed to John Green:
I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met
Before I travel I like to think about how other people, right now, are going about their lives, unsuspecting that soon they will play a part in mine, and I in theirs. It might be a small part, a chance meeting for half an hour, or half a day. You might never meet them again, or even think of them.
Maybe you’ll just share a meal and then they’ll become a memory, their name long forgotten but their part in the story always remembered. The people are what make travel. The countries and the sites might provide an amazing backdrop, but the people are the feature.
There are people I have met travelling whose names I either never knew, or don’t remember:
- The Pilot: When I was 17 and was stranded at St Louis airport for a night alone. He let me use his phone, showed me to the air hostess quarters under the airport, woke me up in the morning for breakfast and made sure I got on my next flight.
- The Chinese Guide: The tiny woman who couldn’t speak a word of English, but guided us through the rice terraces and hill villages of China for four hours. Somehow explaining things along the way, and was fitter than any of us!
Sometimes the people you meet will change the direction of your travel, even for a little while. Like the owner of an awesome bar I went to in Croatia, who showed me where to get the most amazing views of Split and the secret places where locals eat.
Then again, the people you meet travelling might change your life in a more fundamental way. It might be the start of a friendship that will last long after the travel has ended. Especially if you make friends when you move abroad, since you have longer to make a connection.
Thanks to the power of the internet, I still get to interact regularly with my travel friends, and some of them I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with again on a new adventure. Like the Icelandic girls I met in Thailand, who opened their home and took time off work to show me the beauty of their homeland. Or the Canadian friend I’ve now met in two further countries, Germany and Scotland.
Travel friends are the fastest kind of friends. You’re often in a similar frame of mind with similar goals, and I think somehow the spirit of whatever brought you to the same place at the same time links you together and you become closer so much faster.
After years of travel I’ve decided it’s always the people who really make the journey, and that’s why it’s often the people I think of before I leave for any trip. I’ve said before I’m not naturally that outgoing, but travel has especially taught me to step out of that comfort zone to talk to people, because you never know what might come of it.
I could never regret the travel I’ve done, if only for the people I’ve met, whose stories are somehow woven into mine.
There are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet
William Butler Yeats
Have you met people travelling that have changed things for you? Was it a brief moment or are you still connected? I want to know your stories!
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