Updated: 03/28/20 | March 28th, 2020

I hadn’t seen Paul and Jane in over four years.

The three of us met on the island of Ko Lipe in Thailand in 2006 — a place we loved so much, we stayed a month.

There, the three of us became close friends. We swam, spent time playing backgammon, relaxing on the beach, drank beer until the power went out, and just pondering life. By the end of my time there, it was as though we had known each other for years.

But my visa expiring and I had to go. We said a tearful goodbye and they made me promise to visit them in New Zealand at the end of my trip.

I never made it to New Zealand during that visit but, four years later, I was finally able to keep that promise.

Despite the time that had passed, we picked up right where we left off. It was if only a day had passed and were right back on that island in Thailand. All the jokes and mutual understanding we had formed on Lipe were still there.

I often feel that the “rawness” of travel leads to instant lifelong friends. Stripped away from the trapping of life, you just have the now. There’s no “let’s hang out in two weeks” because there is no two weeks from now. With nothing but the present, you get to know people’s true selves.

That doesn’t mean we all become the best of friends, of course, but I think traveling removes all the baggage from home that we carry around. Stripped down and present, it makes forming tight emotional bonds – even in a short time – much more likely – and then makes those bonds more lasting and powerful.

My travels around the world have produced many close and lifelong friends.

People from La Tomatina.

Friends from Ios.

Friends like Paul and Jane.

Friends from my time in Bangkok.

Friends who I haven’t seen in years but send me invitations to their wedding.

And friends like Erik and Anne, who met them while I was in Bruges in 2009. We spent a few days tasting good Belgian beer and hit it off so well that we ended up going to Amsterdam together for a week.

I saw them a few months later when I stopped in Copenhagen, but since then hadn’t seen nor spoken to them much. We got caught up in our own lives.

And, yet, I’m leaving Copenhagen after spending the last five days with them. Just like with Paul and Jane, it was as though Erik, Anne, and I had never been apart. The conversation flowed as easily and rapidly as it did back in 2009. We picked up right as though time had frozen our friendship just as it was two years ago.

I don’t know how many people I’ve met during the last fifteen years of travel.

And, even with the best intentions, communication can fade as we begin to led separate lives. Separated by place, you drift apart. It is only natural. Facebook messages and text updates only go so far.

But then you come together again and it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since the last time you saw them. Time just can’t break that bond you have.

Travel friendships are snapshots in time. Meeting up again is like being transported back to those first moments where all you had was each other. You’re again carefree children exploring the world. Life hasn’t got in the way for you.

You reminisce, drink some beers, and laugh at the same dumb jokes. It’s never awkward.

Travel creates opportunities to meet people you wouldn’t give a second thought to walking down the street. It strips away the artifice and lets you walk away with some of the best friends you’ll ever have—friends who will be there your whole life, ready to pick up right where you left off whenever you happen to meet up again.

And those lifelong friendships is one of the greatest gifts I think travel gives to us.

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Random Musings
31.05.2011 / backpacking / friendships / SHHLR
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