Bonfire on the beach with friends in Queensland Australia. (Quote by Tim Cahill)
As I am bouncing around the globe, being the nomad that I am, I’m lucky enough to experience some of the most incredible and beautiful places in the world. I have seen and done things that many people back home only dream of doing.
- Fishing with locals in the Adriatic Sea
- Cuddling and feeding kangaroos and koalas in Australia
- Drinking Guinness straight from the brewery in Dublin
- Living in an old roman palace in Croatia
- Watching fireworks over a castle in Prague
(Jealous yet? Okay, okay, I’ll stop.)
The thing is, as amazing as all of these adventures have been, none of it would mean nearly as much if it wasn’t for the phenomenal friends that I experienced them with. They are the fellow backpackers I worked with, the people sharing my 10-bed hostel dorm room, the travelers in my tour group around a new destination.
As the number of months I have been exploring continues to grow, I have come to realize that there are many different types of friendships you create with your fellow travelers. Whether you know them for a few hours, a few days, or a few months, each bond formed with someone on the road is significant to you and your memories.
Here are some of the stand-outs that come to mind:
1. One Day Friends — “Wait, whats your name again?”
Georgie and I spent a random night together in Croatia, and I actually ended up staying with her in Melbourne!
These are the friends you make most often, and, although they are harder to remember as time passes, their friendship comes to mind when you are telling a story of ‘that one time you hiked that one mountain with that one girl who was staying in your dorm’. Remember her? You chatted for hours, sharing your life story’s over a few sandwiches, enjoying the view, and soaking up the sunshine in a far away place. Either you or them are leaving tomorrow, which proves it difficult to really form a deep bond that will extend beyond a single day, however, this doesn’t make it any less significant. It was you and her, taking on something new, and being a witness to each others wonderful experience.
Myself and a couple of the girls from my hostel hiking through Noosa National Park.
2. One Week Friends — “If I’m ever in – insert country here – I’ll definitely come visit!”
About a quarter of the million times I have said those words to people, I have actually followed through. I would say half of the people you meet when backpacking for a significant time can fall into this category. They are the ones that are usually staying at the same hostel as you and your time there overlaps for more than a couple of days. You spend most of your time with them exploring the new and unknown city you find yourself in and getting lost with each other. You plan meals together, because it is cheaper to cook for a few and split the cost then buying way too much food for yourself. You go out drinking together and reminisce the next day about who may have “pulled” who, all the while nursing matching hangovers.
Seeing as you spend more than a day or so together, the bond formed is a bit deeper and you exchange Facebook information, promising to keep in touch. And, if you’re lucky, they are traveling a similar route as you, and you get to meet up later and get lost together in a new city. It’s always nice to see a familiar face when you get to a new hostel!
Although I no longer really speak to most of these people on a day-to-day basis, having friends like this around the world has provided me a few couches to crash on or a free local tour guide when I actually do find myself in their country. Score!
With old friends and new friends enjoying the Adriatic Sea.
3. Small World Friends – “What?! You know such-n-such too? Crazy!”
Road-tripping the Great Ocean Road
I love these friends! The world is a very big place, and when you find yourself all alone on the other side of the world and you strike up a conversation with someone new, asking where they are from and where they have been, etc. etc., it is always exciting to discover you have friends or places in common.
A few examples for you:
- I met a couple of guys at my hostel in Melbourne that turned out to be from a small town in England where I spend a lot of Christmases with my step-dads family. We ended up becoming good friends, since we all stayed there long-term, and now have plans to meet up for drinks if we both find ourselves there over the holidays.
- An English guy checked into a room at my hostel here in Noosa and he thought I looked familiar. Turns out he became good friends with the guys in the previous story while backpacking Australia, and recognized me from Facebook photos. Even smaller world: He is spending the holidays with his brother in an a different tiny English town, which is where my parents just happened to move to! We exchanged details and might meet up when I am there in December.
- I met a California girl a couple of weeks ago who went to a university that a lot of my good friends went to. Curious to see if we had mutual friends, we looked each other up on Facebook. Strangely enough, no mutual friends from California, HOWEVER, we did have one girl in common – someone I worked with over a summer in Croatia and she worked with in Brooklyn. Mind blown.
I think you get the point now.
Friends like this are rare, but when little discoveries like the ones above are made, there is some sort of instant connection that forms. A bond that is different than the ones you have with other people you meet, because they actually know or understand something that has to do with your other, before-this-trip, life.
4. Surprise friends — “You know, you are actually pretty cool.”
With new Finnish & English friends.
Obviously, the above quote is probably something you would say to yourself, in hopes to not offend this new, kind stranger. Although stereotyping is something that none of us set out to do, it does happen. You find yourself not striking up a conversation very often with people you wouldn’t normally associate with back home. Maybe they are quite a bit older than you, or dress differently, or have a multi-colored mohawk. Try not to let little factors like this come into play when you are determining who to hang with.
I have had some of the best and most-interesting conversations with people that just happen to be unlike the people I am used to meeting back home. The beauty of traveling is that all of the people you come across, no matter their age or their looks, all have something very much in common with you: a strong passion to travel and explore the world. They are likely to be adventurous and outgoing and interested in stretching beyond their comfort zone. They are happy to swap stories of past trips, and can also be full of useful tips and tricks of the travel-kind.
And you never know, you may have WAY more in common than you think, get along fabulously, and want to spend more than just a couple hours chatting with them. All because of one snap judgement, you could miss out on making a really great friend, and, well, that would suck.
5. Meant-To-Be Friends — “I friggin’ love you!”
I worked with these guys on a pub crawl in Croatia and we were inseparable.
You know the type I am referring to. These are the best kinds of friends you make when backpacking! They are very like-minded to you, interested in seeing and doing the same things, and almost always have the same wicked-sense of humor. (Well, at least mine do.) You tend to make an instant connection with them at the hostel, or work the same casual job. You party and hang out and pretty much do everything together. For me, these are the ones that will always last a life time. I will meet up with them in different places around the world and if I ever get married, they will certainly get an invite. No matter how many countries separate us, or how much time passes between visits, nothing changes. When I think about my best friends, very few people I grew up with actually fall into this category. My best friends are in Canada, England, Australia, Prague, etc. and every time I get to Skype or FaceTime with them is filled with catching-up, reminiscing, and a whole lot of laughter!
There are quite a few others not shown, whom I love very dearly, but just didn’t want to bombard you with too many pictures. (Don’t worry guys – you mean just as much!)
And last, but certainly not least…
6. More Than Friends — “So, you’re dorm or mine?”
(Sorry guys, but I’m not sharing photos for this one!)
If you have traveled, then you know that unplanned relationships, however short or long, with foreign strangers DO happen. Whether it is the beautiful Scottish guy you made out with on the dance floor (and maybe went home with), or the Australian you had surprisingly strong chemistry with that became more than just fun and feelings developed, to the English guy that eventually became your boyfriend when you moved to London.
When you are traveling around new place, you tend to act like more like your true self than ever. If someone doesn’t like you, who cares!? You probably won’t see them again the next day anyways. Because you leave your guard down and you just want to have a good time, you put off a fun-loving and happy vibe to those around you. It is crazy how many more people I find attracted to me when I am traveling, compared to at home, because I am not trying. I am just enjoying myself and don’t really give a sh*t.
These sort of friendships can be the most fun (for obvious reasons) however they can be the most difficult as well. Everyone is from a different place, or traveling different directions, so you try your hardest to keep things light until the clock runs out. However, that isn’t always the case. You find yourself extending your trip in one city, or changing your next stop to coincide with theirs, just to grab a little bit more time together. Eventually, as much as you try to fight it off, the time comes for you to part ways. You think you might actually have something special, so you promise that you will keep in touch and have faith that, if it’s meant to be, it will, but more often than not, that isn’t quite the case. People move on, meet other strangers, and move different directions in life.
It can be difficult to let go of situations like this, but you just have to appreciate them for what they are, and look back with a smile, happy for the time you spent together, and move on.
As for the little one night flings, they make for great stories to share with friends when you return.
That’s about it! That is the 6 different types of friendships you can expect to make when you go backpacking around the world. These are the people that will determine how incredible your trip will be, as well as provide you will excuses to travel even more when you want to go for visits (free accommodation!).
Teaching my Aussie friend Phil how a straight-arm is done in Croatia.
Can you think of a person you met traveling that fits into each category? Do you think there is another type of friendship I haven’t mentioned? Please share them with me in your comments below.
“What’s your name again?”: The 6 Friends You Make When You Travel The World
As I am bouncing around the globe, being the nomad that I am, I’m lucky enough to experience some of the most incredible and beautiful places in the world.