While I'm the first to argue that spending time with people who aren't like you is the fastest road to personal growth and enrichment, I'll be even quicker to admit that there's nothing as splendid as finding a kindred spirit, especially in a place where you least expect to meet one.
Travellers are a different breed, and they are usually pretty easy to spot in a crowd, even when camouflaged at a suburban party to celebrate white-picketed domestic bliss. They'll be the ones stifling sighs when property inflation is the hot topic of conversation and loitering around near the family holiday snaps, wistfully hunting for signs of life. And when meeting new people, I have to confess that I will be much more interested in your opinions and life-story after someone mentions your weakness for sangria ever since your WWOOFing stint in northern Spain or the madness that must have possessed you to go rafting in Namibia.
But my very favourite types of people are the ones that hear you loud and clear when it comes to the virtues of travel, but also connect on a personal level - who just get you like they've known you a lifetime, even if they've grown up half a world away. I love the way Anna Reeves describes the travel friend phenomena in this blog from Intrepid Travel- enjoy!
Connections on the road: why travel friends make the best friends
By Anna Reeves via Intrepid Travel
When I was 23, I travelled to Whistler to work and ski during the winter months.
I arrived knowing just one other person. Desperate to find work, I trekked out on my first day there to hand out CVs to hotels and restaurants of which I had printed onto brightly coloured Mexican paper. At the Holiday Inn, an Australian girl with a beaming smile, said “Ooh, can you please hand in the yellow CV, that’s my favorite colour” and from that moment, I knew we would be the closest of friends.
The next day I saw her stride past in the brightest yellow ski pants I had ever seen, the next week, we started working together, a couple of months later, we became room mates and then we travelled in a rusty van right across Canada to Prince Edward Island, because like all kindred spirits, she understood the need for my pilgrimage to the land of Anne of Green Gables. We shared a lot of our travel itineraries and remain close friends to this day.
Connections can strike in an instant or trickle in gradually, they can be immediately palpable and endlessly lingering. They can happen for a moment or span a lifetime. At no other time has my ability to connect with people, places and the world been more obvious than during my travels.
World travel is a beautiful manifestation of human thought processes and a huge relief to the every day, at home, brain travel. Physically experiencing new places, the road under the feet, contrasting environments and heightened sensory engagements spark a clarity that allows a deeper sense of self, the surrounding landscape and the seemingly magical chance to align with people serendipitously.
So much is documented about “love at first sight” encounters between males and females and happily ever-afters, but the most amazing connections during my travelling adventures have been with kindred spirits. And yes, it is most often love at first sight, a twinkle of eye contact, a first bedazzling smile, that incredible feeling of having known someone forever when you have only known them for hours.
In September my partner and I will be taking our sons to Zambia for a reunion with two of the friends I made when living in Kenya as a young 5 year-old girl. A few years ago we spent a Christmas in Kenya with my friend Susanna who was one of my besties during my time there, and despite having never met, my sons immediately connected with her, just as I did all those years ago.
When my parents lived in Mexico during my twenties, I went over to learn some Spanish and experience life in a small village. A few weeks after I had arrived, the fax machine whirred into life (always a hugely exciting event) and it was from Susanna whom I hadn’t seen since I was seven. She wanted to come and stay for a few weeks in-between courses at Uni. Living in the UK at the time, when she was due to arrive, I ran into the airport to greet her, thinking “What if we don’t like each other any more? It is 16 years since we’ve spent any time together! What if we’ve got nothing in common?” But my fears were dispelled the moment we came face to face and both announced at once “You look exactly the same!” This was such a successful reunion that a few weeks became two months and then I joined her to live in Edinburgh for another adventurous chapter. Later this year, I’m going to see her again.
The connections I have made during my travels are so profound and beautiful and lasting that no amount of physical distance or time can change them. They are measured differently, not by daily chats or coffee dates, and they all stem from one moment in time, when stripped of my usual environment, I recognised a member of my heart tribe and said “Hello”.