The Fun Thing About Making Best Friends While Traveling
It's a whole different squad than the one back home.
The friends you meet while abroad are a whole other deal than the friends you have tucked away into your own zip code back home. The connection is quick - a flash, and full of excitement. You know you only have a couple of days, a week, in this new city, and you want to learn every little bit about them before you head west and they head east, unsure of when you'll bump into each other again. And so you become inseparable - you go explore palaces together, walk down tightly wound streets arm in arm looking over nooks and stopping at cafes. You have wild nights out, and have long, deep talks on rooftops over bottles of grocery store wine. They're the type of people you'll never forget, even if you won't see them for ages after. Why? I'll tell you. Below are seven fun things about making best friends abroad!
1. They Open You Up To New Experiences
When I came to Spain with dreams of mosaic-covered plazas and vermouth sipped on at 10 o'clock dinner times, I had a very solid idea of how my trip would go. My itinerary wasn't laminated per se, but I knew what days I'd be packing up my suitcase and which direction my train would be pointed in.
Which is why making best friends while traveling is amazing - it blows all of that out of the water. One day you're innocently splitting a cranberry muffin over coffee when they tell you about this one blue-drenched city in Morocco that looks like it borrowed a hundred shades from the sea, and the next thing you know you're leaving Europe and are getting your passport ready for Africa. Another time you thought couch surfing was the stuff of horror movie opening credits, and now you're organizing road trips with people you met on forums and dabbling with the idea of hosting travelers in your own apartment when you get home. And don't even get me started on how well they'll convince you to hop out of your bunk bed to go stay up in wine bars and colorful-light-disco-parties until the birds start singing.
Friends abroad are amazing like that.
2. They Make You Feel Like You're Back At Home
Well, romantic travel is glamorous stuff. My undershirt is always sweaty and sticking to my back, my right arm is growing to Schwarzenegger proportions hauling my suitcase down miles of city blocks, I'm constantly sleeping on buses and hopping off of trains, with my boots dusty and sweaters crinkly.
I bet you want to plop facefirst into a bed just reading that, eh?
But once you find a best friend in your new city, it all changes. You're no longer in a hostel, preparing to enter into your own version of the Hunger Games for the shower in the morning, but you're back at home. You have somebody to laugh with over toast and tea in the kitchen, a person to spend an afternoon in a cafe with, or read books and dissect every move the boy from last night made. You opt to skip the tourist scene and go sit in parks together or drink beers by the river, not worried about what picture you'll take next. You watch movies in living rooms and cook meh pasta dinners together, making you feel for just a small stretch of time that you're back at home and not a vagabond on the move.
3. They Help You Get Out Of Tourist Mode
I'm not saying you won't go see the soaring cathedrals or wander through the echoing halls of castles perched on top of hills, because you will. But having a pal by your side also makes you feel a-okay not seeing everything the guide book circles for you and, instead, to appreciate the vibe and personality of the city.
You end up eating ice cream on piazzas and sitting underneath the shadows of century old buildings; spend an afternoon eating tapas and playing a game of chess inside restaurants; take cat naps by the river because winter is over and the sun is starting to get flirty; stay out way too late because you just couldn't leave those local beers alone.
They help you feel the character of the city - they make you feel like you would if you actually rented an apartment down the corner, and went to go hang out where all the rest of the neighborhood people hang out on a warm afternoon. It's a nice change of pace.
4. They Help You Become Truer To Yourself
When you're back at home and hanging out at a bar or your favorite taco joint, it can sometimes be hard to get the reaction you need when sharing a vulnerable piece of yourself. You tell the person across from you about that one little boy that asked you for chocolate all grumpy-like on the hills of the Himalayas, or how you fell in love for just three hours on the midnight streets of Prague, and you get half smiles and "oh, cool!"s back. Which can feel a little flat, a little disappointing.
But travel besties get it, because they've seen it, felt it, done it. You can pour your experiences and thoughts all over them, and they accept everything you say and encourage you to dole out more.
And with that, you become truer to yourself. Because you see this open armed acceptance, this eagerness to hear and learn more, and you start to realize that what you've seen and who you are has worth to it. And you want to share more, and become more vulnerable, and connect with more people as a result. They help you become less scared to share yourself.
5. They're Unlike Anyone You've Met At Home
I would have never met that one boy from Australia in Chicago, the one that read Hemingway in cafes with orange scones with me, and taught me chess as we made our way through a table full of tapas and warm beer. I'd definitely never have stopped to talk to that one French girl that became my best friend for two weeks, where we spoke a broken mix of English and Spanish to each other, trying to guess with charades what the other needed to say. Would I have sat next to the one alternative couple at a bar, with the long blonde dreads and the pizza slice tattoos? That's a negative. But now I have an invite to visit them in their summer home in Norway and I fully intend to go.
Travel friends are amazing because they're so much different than from anyone you'd let yourself meet back at home. They open you up to new dialogues, new ideas, personalities, and ways at looking at things. Which is a beautiful thing.
6. You Now Have Apartments In Every Port
It's always a little heartbreaking saying goodbye to each other, especially after you become soul sisters after a very short stint together. But there's something to lessen the pain here, and it's to promise to visit each other across the world. And if you're an avid traveler, that's an amazing thing. You now have an apartment in every port!
I've met people that live in Michigan and have invited me up to their homes just as excitedly as the friends that have houses in Chile. I could visit the south of Norway and live in a cabin, or head over to Madrid and stay at a building the color of a peach and that has a balcony opening to tight, winding streets. I can visit Australia and stay next to the beach, or head down to the south of France and eat cheese for a straight week as I hit on moody boys. All these friends, all these kitchen tables ready for my company.
7. They're Always Up For An Adventure
Do you have no one to go to Morocco with, and would really like someone to wander the colorful bazaars with? Just let them know by when they should pack, and they'll meet you there. Did you go to the opposite side of Spain, but miss having long talks about mountain adventures and Woody Allen films over coffee? Just give them a minute to buy a train ticket and they'll be there. Do you want to go take a camel ride into the Sahara, and sleep underneath a cold desert sky? Yep, they're way ahead of you, they're already looking to buy flip flops.
Travel best friends are always willing to get up and move and go adventure with you because they want to see and do everything in the world, no matter the order. They won't hem and haw over plane tickets, won't wince at the miles, won't second-guess the craziness of it all- they'll just jump.
Kind of like how they jumped into friend-love with you. And that's why you'll never forget them.