Why The Friends You Make While Traveling Will Be Your Friends For Life
How much do you remember from abroad? Do you remember the piazzas and the canals? The gelato and the macarons? The discotecas, hostels and parks you'd sit and smoke jays with strangers in? The classroom you sat in, the metro you took, the neighborhood you lived in? When you think about these memories, who do you always include in them? Who is always right there, sharing that memory with you? Your friends from abroad.
It's the most magical time of your life. You're young, free and in another country. You have the entire world at your disposal and Amsterdam only a mere flight away. It's no longer house parties and beer bongs; it's Oktoberfest and Ibiza. It's walking to class past medieval churches and down cobblestone streets.
It's college on crack. If your friends from college are close, then your friends from abroad are also on crack (most likely just cocaine). We all know that no matter how much we love our friends from college, they will never share a bond similar to that of our friends from abroad. They're the people we spent months with, as foreigners, expatriates, outcasts, observers. We were the best thing ever to happen to each other in a city that no one will ever know as well as us.
We've seen each other at our worst — when we couldn't order a coffee without stuttering, got on the wrong subway (twice) and had diarrhea from eating that old lady's banana leaf. They've seen you get kicked out of the discotheque and vomit from too many tequila shots. You've seen them cry after getting pick-pocketed at the Rastro and eating too many edibles before the plane home.
You've spent more time together — when you include all the trains, planes, metros, cabs and just walking for hours and hours — than those years you spent with your friends in college. When you add up all the new experiences you shared, it's more than high school and college combined. You've seen more cities with them than anyone in your family. Not to mention, you've probably done more drugs and drinking with them than with your wildest of college roommates.
That was the time you were truly alive. You were this new person, in this new place, with absolutely no limits. You were letting this new adventure mold you into the adult you are still to become, and they were right beside you. They were there when you thought about your life and your future after visiting the canals of Venice. They debated with you about giving everything up and never leaving. They told you they'd come back with you, anytime.
And they will, because they will be your friends forever. More than that, they will be the friends you travel with. They will be the ones you choose to share more experiences with, experiences that can't be shared with just anyone. They are the ones you trust, the ones you know will make the trip even better. They are the friends you'll describe to your kids as “the one's I lived with in Paris, Prague, Spain, Thailand, Italy, South Korea, and cruised across the world with.”
They Know You At Your Best Self And Worst Self
They've seen you at your lowest points, when you were homesick and depressed. They've seen you cry and pout about men, women and homework in another language. They've watched you have meltdowns and breakdowns after long layovers. They've also seen you when you were your happiest and more inspired that you've ever been.
They've seen you on long days in the park, just smoking and eating deli sandwiches. They've seen you have a perfect conversation in another language and order coffee like a local. These people have known all sides of you because they were there for everything.
You Teach Each Other Things
Whether they knew how to roll a great cigarette or mix what a Mai Tai is actually supposed to taste like, they were always teaching you something, always something useful. And you taught them things. You showed them how to jump the metro barrier at certain stops and save money on laundry. They were people with the same problems, so you relied on each other for solutions. It was the kind of relationship in which opinions were valued and stories were always new.
You've Been Rich And Poor Together
Only with these people were you not ashamed to say you didn't have enough money for a coffee. With them, it didn't matter that you couldn't afford a bus ticket to Grenada; they would spot you because they wanted you to be there, with them.
When you had money again, when you got your stipend for the metro, you would buy their plane ticket to London. And when you were all poor at the same time, you'd just hang out in the squares and parks, just passing the day together, hungry because you spent too much on the hostels for next week's trip.
They've Seen You Fail A Million Times
You're not afraid to be a fool in front of them because that's how it started, all of you just misfits in this new place. You went through awkward stages together, growing as people as the days passed. There was no need to hide your insecurities, fears or mistakes because they weren't judging you; they had many of the same. There's something really amazing about staring at a menu for 20 minutes, not knowing what to do, and not having anyone judge you.
The Ex-Pat Factor
You weren't the weird foreigner to them; you were one of the few people they could actually talk to and gain some sense of comfort around. You were their rock, and they were yours. You were the outcasts, misfits, losers, foreigners, pony boys — together. The camaraderie that formed around the horrible feeling of alienation created a bond stronger than anything you've ever known. Only when you've been forced to be the outsider do you start to appreciate the other outsiders.
Reminiscing With Them Is The Best Kind Of Reminiscing
Starting off a story with “Remember that time we were in Thailand?” will always be a better story than any of those college tales you have. All those memories made abroad, you think back to as you stare out the window while at work or in class, make you remember those friends with more love and happiness.
They were there for everything wonderful and all those first-time experiences you can't forget. They were part of those magical moments of your life that couldn't be erased or forgotten… even if you tried.
You Probably Wouldn't Have Been Friends If It Weren't For Abroad
I don't care what anyone says; the people you cling to while abroad are usually significantly different than your crowd back home. They come from all walks of life, all with such different backgrounds and passions. You don't become friends with them based on the normal system of selection, but on a much broader level. You become friends because you can relate to them.
That's how it should be. It shouldn't always be people who like the same music or lived in the same town as you growing up. These relationships are special because they offer you a chance to meet people you wouldn't have ever crossed paths otherwise.
They Give You A New Perspective
Because it's unlikely that you would have been friends back home, these people are different than the friends you've made throughout your life. They come from all walks of life with different interests and hobbies than people you know. Throughout your time together, you showed each other new things, introduced new elements that changed you and opened your mind.
Most importantly, they broadened your range of friends. Now you have friends who live in Michigan, or Texas, Puerto Rico or Europe. They are friends who live by the beach and you can call up next time you're in California. They are the ones who introduced you to new music, and who you call up next time a song comes on that reminds you of them.
They've Seen You Sh*tfaced In Multiple Countries
This may sound silly, but it's a real testament to a strong friendship to get blacked out together. Piecing together nights spent in strange cities with foreign men and women is a surreal experience that you will laugh about and try to remember for years to come. They've seen you try to spit game in a language you can barely say hello in.
They've watched you dance on tables and walk home topless. They've been with you at the clubs when you took too many tequila shots and had that guy pierce your ear with a needle.
You Can Always Count On Them For Adventures
They are the only people you can call up when you are tired of work and life and just need to get lost in Europe or South America for three weeks. They are the people as desperate as you to pack up and leave again.
They are also the people who you know will call you up and convince you it's time to travel. They are the ones who are planning as much as you are, and making sure you are there. They are the people you need, the people who will remind you that life is about more than work, and going abroad shouldn't only happen once.
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