An Ode to On the Road Friendships
There you were, sitting in the hostel common room. On the same tour. At the same pub. In the same meditation class. Exploring the same temple. Climbing the same tower. Tossing the same lucky coin into the same fountain. Sitting in the same first-day orientation class on our exchange abroad. You were just another stranger taking in the beauty of new cities and new experiences, eyes wide with wonder and unwavering smiles upon your faces. Some of you were with friends and some of you were also traveling solo, but each of you became significant pieces of my favorite memories.
We met purely by chance, by circumstance; One moment we were strangers and the next we were best friends. We rode a 13 hour bus ride after making the split decision to travel together for a while after knowing you for only a day. We explored three different countries together, suffered through horrible and embarrassing bouts of travelers diarrhea together, signed up for diving courses and hitched rides in the back of trucks. We had barely known each other and yet each of you felt like you had been in my life for years.
It’s a strange and beautiful thing that happens when you make friendships on your travels. You might only spend a week or a few days with someone, but you will never forget them. They are there whenever you think about nearly any moment from any trip: cutting grass for an elephant sanctuary, wild nights on Koh Phi Phi, sleeper buses, dive courses, exploring ruins of Pompeii, spontaneous tattoos, sitting to listen to buskers on the sidewalk, nearly getting run over trying to cross the street in a new country. The list could go on forever and for nearly every single moment, there is a name that coincides.
They’re fleeting friendships, people that you hold fond thoughts for, grateful to have shared a moment with someone just as inspired by the world as you are. But inevitably, there comes a time when you are ready to part ways, off to different countries. Some of you are going home to see your family, some are staying because they’ve fallen in love with a city they had never even dreamed of going, and many of you are continuing on to the next destination.
We all share promises of reunions, of meeting up if you ever visit each others home country, of writing letters; We can’t imagine never seeing each other again. This does happen when the timing is right, when you realize that you are both in the same city again. But mostly, we follow each other through social media. I smile when I see that you’re still continuing your journey around the world even five years later, I feel happy for you when you’ve slowed life down to bring a new life into the world and we silently encourage one another to keep following our dream of travel even though it might seem unconventional to some.
On the road friendships are fleeting and intense, an all or nothing affair. You’re likely to share the most incredible and beautiful moments of your life with these people and you may never see them again. You might even forget a few of them as the years go by until you browse through old photos and see their faces, old travel journals and see their names, emails, and phone numbers scribbled down on bits of paper. These friendships are some of the most pure and unchanged precisely because they’re held by a mere memory of a moment. And despite only spending three days, a week, a month or, if you’re lucky, more, in these friendships, each and every one have become important people in the stories that have made up my life.