These “dispatches” (as I apparently am now calling them), have promptly become my favorite blog posts to write. Little stories from my recent travels, based on conversations I have, emotions I feel, life lessons I learn — all the components that keep me traveling. Unlike the other forms of travel blog posts (city guides, travel tips, etc.), these I can’t plan. Instead, they are the anecdotes of adventure that materialize when you lay down the guidebook, turn off the camera, and participate.
Participation is key.
What remains consistent, throughout these dispatches, is that it is the people I meet that comprise the bulk of my stories. They are who enrich me, who challenge me, who introduce me to new ways of seeing.
When I wrote my first dispatch a couple of weeks ago in Bremen, I could never have imagined how the story of “taking my book to the club with a bachelor party” would continue to weave its way throughout my travels. You see, what I didn’t mention in that post was that while at the club a lovely German girl inquired why on earth I had a book in my hand. I explained that I was a solo traveler who didn’t know she would be coming to the club, to which she howled with laughter, and then we started dancing. When it was time for me to leave, we exchanged Instagram details (thumbs up for social media!) and went our separate ways.
The following day, she sent me a message saying, “If you come to Hanover, please send me a message!”
A few days later I said, “I think I am going to come to Hanover tonight!!!”
I did go to Hanover, and the two of us ended up spending almost the entirety of the long-weekend together. After only a day of hanging out, I had already proclaimed her my long-lost German sister because we got on like a house on fire. Laughing every other sentence, we never stopped talking until food was put in front of us.
After Couchsurfing for a couple of nights, I moved into her stunning home for the remainder of my time in the city. We worked together, went out for meals, visited our favorite bartenders a couple of times, and she began to teach me basic German phrases. Over and over again she exclaimed how cool it was that we had met, how easy it felt for us to be hanging out, and how happy she was that I was here in her home.
After the recent ending of a 12-year relationship, she had been going through a difficult time. But, she had recently come to terms with it and was excited for what was to come. She saw our meeting as the kickoff for her new “free” life, a symbol that the next chapter was starting.
Given I often sleep in random people’s homes, I was slightly taken-aback yet honored that my presence had such intrinsic value for the host. I too believe that these random encounters come into our lives for reasons, as long as we are open to receiving them.
After “don’t you feel unsafe?” and “how do you afford to travel?”, “don’t you get lonely?” is probably the question I get asked the most. And I can truthfully say, hand on heart, that I don’t. Every day I meet and have experiences with new people and, while not all of them are going to be my best friends forever, 95% of them I am grateful to have met.
Every single person in the world is penning their own rich, vibrant history which means any individual you encounter has stories to share, situations to make sense of, struggles to explore. Spending an hour, a day, or a weekend laughing and relating to someone with whom you would think you had nothing in common with is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.
For this reason, if you are willing to be open to it, you can connect with almost anyone. And you will be hard-pressed to find yourself in a situation that can be classified as “lonely.” Honestly, sometimes I get too overwhelmed with meeting new people that I have to book myself into an Airbnb and hibernate for 48 hours.
While nothing can replace the deep friendship that transpires between two people who have known each other for years, there is also something extraordinary about what can emerge between two people who had a random encounter.
It makes me believe in magic.
*Originally published on May 3rd, 2018*