Some of the best friendships that I’ve made when travelling are the ones born out of uncomfortable, laugh-worthy, questionable situations that are far removed from everyday life.
The secret? Just be willing to have a chat. I met all my closest travel friends because we were willing to have a random conversation with strangers. Travelling forces you to put yourself out there and if you want some interaction, opening up your mouth (and mind) is a good start. Not everyone will be your new best friend, but at least you put yourself out there.
When you’re on the road, you get to know people quicker than a Japanese bullet train. Your conversations with newfound friends are practically on steroids, forming a rock-solid bond even though it’s been 48 hours (and that’s including the possible hangover time).
That’s the very thing I love about travelling: it helps you to break down barriers. Sometimes, just being in an ordinary situation in an extraordinary location can spawn the birth of a new, long-lasting friendship.
The friends you make on the road are unique — not only because of a new locale, but also the far-fetched (both good and bad) situations you find yourselves in. Here I share my three favourite stories about developing strong connections on the road.
Meeting Over Mekong Rum
I love to tell the story of how I met one of my closest friends, Kim. Geographically, we are world’s apart – she’s a Dutchie, and I am Aussie. Still, on one night, we found ourselves amongst the same realm of craziness and eccentric shenanigans along the backstreets of Bangkok‘s famous Koh San Road.
I was travelling solo at the time I met Kim, her fellow Dutchie friend and her travelling love interest at some random roadside bar. They were taking advantage of Happy Hour and rightfully so.
Not only were we kindred spirits with cheap buckets of the infamous Mekong Rum on the mind, but our conversation also flowed so freely (although lcohol may have helped with that). Within a few hours, this small circle of new friends had grown to the number of people you would expect on a bar crawl, as other travellers had been joining us around the picnic bar table. The night kicked on, with the group dancing the night away at a local club then going our separate ways after sunrise.
Fast forward a day or two later, Kim and I randomly met again in line to catch an overnight bus and a ridiculously early ferry ride to the diving mecca of Koh Tao. Despite bumpy commutes being the downside of travelling, the upside to this particular instance was cementing a new friendship over frustrations with ferry delays.
From then on, our friendship has taken us to the infamous Full Moon Party along the shores of Koh Pha Ngan during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, celebrating New Years in Paris together, cycling around Rottnest Island and having a Dutch Christmas in the Netherlands with Kim’s family.
The Case Of The Miracle Hangover Pill
Who would’ve thought that feeling ill (ahem, being hungover) in Riga, Lativa would also lead me to meet another lifelong friend? This time it was a Brazilian who offered me what seemed to be a magic medicine pill to rid myself of the effects of too many drinks.
Yep, this was a rare time that I thanked my past self for downing shots upon shots the night before.
Bia and I meet as I was lying in my bottom bunk bed in the hostel dorm feeling sorry for myself. Within minutes of me complaining about my heinous head, she gave me what seemed to be the Brazilian magic pill (Epocer) to get rid of my hangover. It worked amazingly.
That same day, we bobsledded, had Pizzasms together (aka the best pizza of our lives) and shared the mic for karaoke well into the wee hours of the morning. The next day seemed like a case of Groundhog Day as again, I had to consult my new hostel doctor (aka Bia) for the quick fix.
In the 48 hours I had known Bia, it seemed like we made 101 memories together. Since our time in Riga, we have built our friendship in new places (Lithuania, Ireland and the UK) and continue to chat regularly.
There Ain’t No Party Like A Sauna Party
Confession: I have a deep love for saunas. As soon as I found out I could rent out a sauna party room in Tallinn, Estonia, I ran around my hostel to ask anyone I possibly find if they would be interested in joining me.
It was the first thing I had ever said to my now good friend Laure — a Parisian who was staying in the hostel for a few days while on break from her studies in Vilnius, Lithuania.
She was one of four strangers who I could convince to be barely clothed and getting heated in a basement sauna. We had Spotify blaring from the speakers and drinks flowing (a huge rookie error) throughout the night. We were dancing on couches while consuming cheap vodka shots. It was a wild night that lead to a necessarily tame following day.
As I was following a Baltic backpacker trail, I ended up catching up with Laure again in Vilnius and staying with her. That was in 2014. Since then, I not only visited her heaps in Paris while I was living in London, but I actually moved into her Paris pad at one stage. She also introduced me to her friends, with who I have formed great bonds, later joining them at festivals around France.
I guess what led Laure and me to become great friends was her enthusiasm to try many things and meet different kinds of people. I admire her for the fact she tells it like it is and has a no-bullshit approach to life, which I find refreshing in a world of fake pleasantries.
(Lead image: Unsplash / Duy Pham)