Travellers are a pretty friendly bunch and get along well. At the very least, they don’t run out of conversation topics!
And what better way to meet travellers than to travel? When you’re on the road, you’re bound to meet other travellers. This is especially true if you are travelling independently (that is, sans tour group), and even more so if you’re travelling solo. Single travellers appear more approachable than already-formed pairs or groups.
Friendships often form faster while travelling than at home. In a foreign country, the travellers immediately have something in common. And nowadays, with email, social media and the internet, it’s never been easier to keep in touch.
However you shouldn’t expect to maintain contact with every single person who gave you their email address or invited you to connect with them on Facebook. Once back home, “normal life” creeps in, and most people you met disappear from your life a few days or weeks after your return.
Some of them will keep writing, once in a while. You do not have to be in constant contact to maintain a relationship with foreign friends. Writing a few times a year is sometimes sufficient. You may eventually take them up on their offer to visit them in their home country, and vice-versa. Sometimes it happens almost right away, and other times it may take years.
In 2006, during a solo trip to Croatia, I ran into a nice American couple, Amy and Lonnie, who seemed as nuts about travel as I was. They both still had full time jobs, but travelled every chance they got. We exchanged email addresses and stayed in touch. Even tough at times it could be over a year without one of us writing, we were always happy to hear about each other’s latest adventures. Of course we had already extended invitations to visit each other. They live near Seattle in a town called Edmonds. After all this time, I’m finally getting to visit them.
Friday night, they picked me up from the train station and took me to their beautiful home where I have my own bedroom and bathroom! Saturday we went on a little excursion by ferry to Bainbridge Island, a small town on the island of the same name, located in Puget Sound. There was a quilt festival going on (Amy is into quilting), an interesting (and free) art museum, and many shops including a nice deli, and an ice cream place where we got some food to eat al fresco. The day started out overcast but then turned sunny by mid-afternoon, and we had a full and pleasant day.
Having friends in other cities and countries is a great advantage. Of course, the free accommodation is nothing to spit at, but more importantly, local friends act as your guide, and show you places you may never have found as a tourist or even from your guidebook. Hopefully you will get to reciprocate one day.
So far, I have stayed with friends in London, Paris, Zurich, Zagreb, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Charlotte, Edmonds, New Jersey, Montreal, and Sydney (Australia). I probably forget some. Next week I’m visiting a friend in Los Angeles. I still have open invitations to Orebro (Sweden), Berlin, and Vancouver.
People you have been in touch with for years, and even visited, may one day disappear from your life as their situation changes. So if you get an invitation, try to make it happen sooner rather than later.
You may find that you have more in common with your friends abroad than your friends at home, by the sole virtue of you both being travellers. It’s a big special club!