Some things in life surprise you in the best ways. It is a commonly held belief that many of the strongest relationships come as a result of long, grueling friendships. Because of this, we hold closest the people that have been in our lives the longest as if they have some kind of tenure on our most intimate selves. Though I am one of the lucky ones to have great friends from childhood, I dispute this “first is always the best” mentality. What about the people you meet abroad?
Some of my closest friendships came as a result of study and volunteer abroad programs I have done. People that I had only known for a few months, all of a sudden, knew more about me than I did myself and were able to provide me guidance and wisdom I didn’t know I needed. These relationships aren’t a result of serendipitous pairing of soulmates (although at times it felt that way). I am a firm believer that everyone who does a program like this will find a bond with others they didn’t know they were capable of.
Living in the Unfamiliar
To travel means to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Language barriers and varying cuisines are just the tip of the iceberg. In a foreign land there are different ways of life and values that you can’t even begin to understand until experiencing it firsthand. Amidst trying to navigate this new place, we unconsciously seek out others like us.
As human beings, we need to be validated and we find that comfort in travel by meeting others who share the same struggles, jokes and cultural idiosyncrasies that we do. It’s the secret we share as travelers. As much as we love the unknown, we all value our abroad friends (those also facing the unfamiliar) as our night-time teddy bears. It is a relationship that is authentic, longing and quietly, codependent.
The Traveler Mentality
Our mind while traveling varies drastically from our day-to-day mind. Your life on travel is an adventure. Time lasts longer and things you might have otherwise found mundane (a small cafe, a street band, etc.) seem thrilling. This starry-eyed lens on life does a great job at keeping us focused on big picture thinking, whereas your routine mind gets caught up on details. There is something to be said about the friends you meet abroad that share this mentality with you.
In my opinion, it’s the most pure relationship you can find. Someone who is there to indulge in this child-like playfulness and amusement for seemingly average things is capable of bringing you back to this state whenever you are together. Even if you are back in your respective countries, the magic you experienced together always lingers. More than the stories, the feeling of deep gratitude experienced is what remains and what keeps you both together.
People You Meet Abroad – Grow Together
For many of us, traveling abroad is a means of escaping from ourselves. We dare to adventure away from our routines and support systems (what makes us, us) because we are intrigued by the unfamiliar and hope to learn from it. You’ll be pleased to know that most travelers are this way. Anyone who is willing to put who they are to the test and immerse themselves in the global abyss has a certain level of tenacity (or lust for it at least) that encourages personal growth.
Interpersonal connections are like waves in the ocean. Can be strong or subtle, unpredictable or calm and rough or absolutely beautiful. The people you meet abroad see you through the highest peaks and follow you from the depths to the shore. Friendships made in travel are awe inspiring because you are both exposed to the most enthusiastic, optimistic and unsure parts of each other. To those of you reading this post who are apprehensive about getting out there in the world, afraid that you might miss home too much or feel alone out there- I am here to tell you to forget all of that. The second you open yourself up to this beautiful world we live in, it will show itself to you. And as per missing home? The friends you make along the way will be your home.