They say the people you meet travelling are friends for life, or something like that. If you travel you will almost certainly meet some amazing people, and it is not impossible to happen across a potential friend for life while wandering the Globe. I met two people while in Australia who are now married, a friend of mine from school has moved to America with a girl he met travelling.
But travel friends are friends for life is too cliche for me.
This blog post was originally ridiculously negative and made me sound like a grumpy old man. So I deleted all the text below this point and turned the blog post into something more positive which has taken twice as long to write. I have met some wonderful people travelling, I have met up with some (and still do) and gone travelled again with others. But most I will never see again. The relationship between two travel friends is very different from the relationship between two ‘normal’ friends.
So, why travel friends are different from other friends and why this is a good thing.
1. You have a shared interest
A common bond and you didn’t have to even try.
The friends you meet are doing the same thing as you, it is reasonable to assume they like travelling and so do you. This also makes introductions easier, most people like to talk about where they have travelled to and where they plan to go. It is almost impossible for an awkward silence to ruin this budding friendship before it has had a chance to grow. That is not to say a week later you realise you don’t actually have much in common, you can’t have a connection with everybody but travelling gives you something to talk about with every new potential travel friend.
2. You are interesting (and so is everybody else)
This usually means you really want to spend time together.
It is almost certain you will have told you best friend the same stories dozens of times. You both laugh, you both listen, but you both know what is coming. You also both know you both know this isn’t the first time you’ve told this story. This is what makes good friendships last. However each travel friend is a new person. New people are interesting people, at least for a while. They haven’t heard your stories and you haven’t heard theirs, there is little risk that you’ll find each other boring, at least not quite yet.
The Galapagos Islands (2014): I have since visited Belize and Paris with a travel friend from the Galapagos.
3. You’ll make amazing memories
That is not to say you don’t make amazing memories with other friends and family, you share your life with them and all the important milestones. You just make an unusually high number of amazing memories in such a short space of time with travel friends.
You might have a herd of elephants walk through your campsite at night, eat food you couldn’t identify and still don’t know what it was, skydive and snorkel in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean all within the space of a few weeks. In the same time period at home, it’s highly likely nothing remarkable will happen. That is not to say life back home is boring, but you’ll remember those memories and experiences you shared with your travel friends forever, you probably don’t remember what happened three weeks ago in your normal life.
4. Goodbye isn’t the hardest thing to say
Goodbye can be a very hard thing to say to a close friend, whether literally if one of you is moving to the other side of the country of figuratively if you are just drifting apart. For whatever reason, it usually involves negative emotions in one shape form.
It rarely feels that way with travel friends.
You have spent a few days with a travel friend, maybe a month or more and loved every moment of their company, but emotionally you both knew your friendship would end when you go your separate ways. It never really feels like a goodbye. It feels more like an until next time, even though you both know it is highly unlikely there will ever be a next time and you are both actually okay with that.
That said, social media has it ridiculously easy to keep in contact. Even if it occasionally liking a post of photo, or just wishing a travel friend happy birthday (even if you never did find out exactly how old they are). You’ll probably promise to go away together and you probably never will, but so long as you are both active on social media you are always there in the background.
Devil’s Marbles, Australia (2006): six weeks together, the following 12 years of promising to meet up (it still hasn’t happened).