One of the things I love about backpacking is the ease of making new friends on the road. Sometimes you meet that new person on a train, an airplane, a hostel, a street, or anywhere. As travelers, we tend to be very open-minded and welcoming to almost anyone friendly enough to interact with us. We love to create that sense of community with fellow travelers and that feeling of connection with non-travelers.
One of the things that help us make that connection with other travelers is our shared passion for traveling, our ability to exchange our stories, and the possibility to share our current and future journeys with them.
I admit that for me it’s easier to make friends when I’m traveling solo than when I’m traveling with close friends. When traveling with a group of friends, it’s easy to ignore other travelers because you are focused on spending time with your friends. In many cases, groups tend to portray a sense of exclusivity, keeping other travelers from interacting with you. But when traveling solo, you usually express a certain openness that tends to charm people, making it easier to establish a conversation, a travel partner, friendship. I wrote about this briefly as being one of the things you learn about yourself when traveling solo.
Traveling has given me the chance to make friends in many ways, from the most common to the most unusual. Some of these have become good, long friendships, while others have been ephemeral. With some of them, I have been able to create a bonding in a way I have never done with some of my life long friends. But I think I get where that bond comes from… We share a passion, desire, goal, and ambition. We love to share the past while looking at our future journey. We want to see the world and get the best of it.
So that you know… I’m not a social butterfly, in fact, I’m a very shy person. But, traveling has pushed me forward and helped me overcome that “social obstacle.” One of the most recent road friendships I made was with my good friend Milena when we met at a hostel in Warsaw. It was a straightforward hello that took us on a long walk through the Old Town and gave us many hours of great conversation. We clicked in seconds, like if we knew each other from before. Today we still keep in touch and exchange messages about future travels.
I think my craziest friendship was forged while I got lost in South Korea’s subway system. I was completely lost in translation and had no idea how to buy the ticket. It was Saturday at 5 am, and no one was around. Then suddenly I met these three Americans –Christopher, Alyssa, and Julieth– who were as lost as I was, so our obvious reaction was… “Let’s get lost together”. We ended up spending our time together in South Korea, and after that, we skipped to Thailand. We had a fantastic time in Bangkok before taking our own paths. Up to this day, we still get together from time to time in New York.
I’ve also met some good friends like Jonas through Couchsurfing and Pedro (who is now one of my closest friends in New York) through a long chat on a long flight.
I have learned that the opportunity to make new friends while on the road can come at any moment. You just have to be open enough to accept it and willing enough to develop it. Some friendships will work out while others will just be a short companionship. But no matter how long or short you keep that friendship on the road; one thing is for sure, they form a valuable part of your trip, of your destination, and of your travel experience.