Every Traveler is a Friend

On March 10, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

One of the most intimidating aspects of long-term travel is the idea of being alone for so long. Even if a traveler goes with a husband or wife, many people feel they will be abjectly on their own over the course of an extended journey, and they use this as an excuse not to travel. This is a mistake. We’ve never made friends faster than on the road.

Often times, friendships and relationships must be developed. You meet someone at work or at the gym or at the bar and you begin talking. Then you meet another time. And another. Eventually, after a few weeks of middling about, one of you invites the other for a drink, and the fragile flame of a new friendship is kindled. Both sides are careful. Ask to hang out too often and it comes across as aggressive. Too little and it seems uninterested.

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A paella cooking class is the perfect place to make friends, like Eyal!

None of this pedantic back and forth exists on the road. Travelers have very little time to interact, and practically no time at all to build rapport. A chance meeting on a tour or a coincidental passing at a monument. These opportunities offer but a few moments to chat, yet travelers can begin lifelong friendships from these brief encounters, and it’s not something unique to only certain travelers.

You may not have too much in common with the people you meet on the road, but you share at least one thing – some mutual interest brought you both to the same place at the same time. I’m not talking about fate or predetermination. Just simple happenstance or timing. And very often, that’s all it takes. You can skip “What’s the weather like?” and “How do you take your coffee?” for more substantial and interesting questions- “Where else have you traveled?” and “What brought you to Budapest?”

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We met Ellen in Barcelona… and again in Paris.

In Barcelona, we met Ellen at a paella cooking class. Between rounds of sangria, we swapped stories of travel through Europe. She told us about Australia. We told her about the States and helped her plan her upcoming trip to America.

A few weeks later, we met her in Paris and spent a day wandering around the gardens of Versailles. We were even supposed to meet her in Thailand for a scuba diving course until I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. She is a friend for life, and all because of a couple hours we shared learning to cook paella. We have an open invitation to stay with her in Freemantle. She has an open invitation to stay with us in the States.

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Hanging out with our new friend in Versailles.

Friendships normally aren’t built that fast, and I would probably never spend a week at my best friend’s house (although I’m sure I could if I asked.) But on the road, friendship is different. You have precious little time to get to know someone, so it becomes natural to do it as quickly and openly as possible.

We met the Benders in Prague. They’re a traveling family we had talked to via Twitter for a bit, and we rant into each other on a free tour of the city. We ended up spending most of our time in Prague with them. A few weeks later, we met Josh Bender in Israel and spent another week with him. Having met the Benders only twice, I consider them friends for life And I can’t wait to see them on the road again. One night in Prague, we all talked about the friendship phenomenon – that you seem to make friends very fast on the road.

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Hanging out with the Benders in Prague…

Is there some compelling explanation? Is it that all travels are so alike? I doubt it. Travelers are different people exploring different places for different reasons. But perhaps we all realize the simple truth – we’re all people, and, without meaning to sound too childish, we should all be friends.

It’s awesome when it happens, and it happens a lot on the road. Within minutes of meeting other travelers, we are swapping contact info, friending each other on Facebook and comparing calendars to see how soon we will meet again.

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…and again in Israel.

You don’t have to be outgoing. You don’t have to be funny. You just have to be open-minded and looking to have a good time. The magic of travel will take it from there.

So don’t let the fear of loneliness keep you from exploring. You will meet people on the road, and your circle of international friends will grow and grow. And if you ever need a place to stay, you can always stay with us.

-O.L.

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8 Responses to “Every Traveler is a Friend”

  • Wow, what a wonderfully well-written article — and all so true! Some of my best friends are people I’ve met on the road and had precious little time to spend together with them. Because of that sometimes “diving in headfirst” works…just spend as much time together as possible while you can πŸ™‚

    I haven’t met the Benders in real life yet, although we’ve talked on Twitter and they even interviewed me earlier this year…however our paths have yet to overlap. Maybe ours will too — but I really hope you two can find a way to make your one year on the road turn into a neverending adventure. As I’m sure you already know, travel is rather addicting. And especially since you can teach English Cassie and Oren is a certified pilot, well, I really hope y’all end up working abroad as so many of the rest of us have πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much! You should absolutely meet the Benders somewhere on the road if you can. They’re a great family, and we’re lucky to be able to call them great friends. Cassie and I will definitely keep traveling – it becomes a lifelong addiction. I just don’t know if we’ll be able to keep traveling immediately πŸ™‚ But life abroad is too fun to stay home for too long.

      If our paths ever cross on the road, the first round is on us!

  • What a lovely post πŸ™‚ I’ve always thought that anyone could be friends with anyone – it’s not predetermined or just based on shared interests, it just depends on how you meet and how brave you are when it comes asking them to go for a coffee.

    Great to hear that it’s not as hard to be so brave on the road – cannot wait to meet lots of new friends when I set off on my adventures!

    • Thanks!! And you will meet so many friends new and great friends! Meeting friends on the road is one of our favorite parts of traveling, especially when we see those friends again somewhere else. Maybe we’ll meet on the road someday!

  • I love this! And will share it, it’s so important for new and nervous travelers to realise this. It’s truly remarkable how easy it is to start talking to other travelers, and being that you’re both traveling you already have important things in common. We’re all in the same boat, all on an adventure, and you’re right, for some reason this accelerated bonding process really does lead to lifelong friendships!

    • I couldn’t agree more πŸ™‚ The friends we made on the road are some of our closest friends, probably because we have so many things in common. I can’t wait to see them again!!

  • What a great post! When I leave in the Spring on my biggest adventure yet I hope I can always remember to be open minded. I’m a bit of an introvert but I think traveling will open me up to people and trying new things. This post makes me feel a little more brave! (:

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