I recently had to remind myself that I was 'doing it', fulfilling the dreams of my 16 year old self, and while doing so I had another realization. On my recent trip through Europe I was able to revisit friends I had previously met on the road, some from my time in Korea, a few backpackers from SE Asia and even a few high school friends. It was shortly after this trip that I remembered my desires to make such friends when I was studying abroad in Australia. I remember thinking how cool it would be to befriend people from different countries so that I could one day go and visit them at home, having that local knowledge of where to go, what to eat and what to do, with the added bonus of that person being someone I wanted to spend time with. Umm hello, this is reality, and so freaking cool
Shortly before embarking on my trip through Europe I paid a visit to my Aunt, partially because I was in need of a haircut and also for a gossip session. While talking I mentioned the different chats I was recently having with various friends, one in Malaysia another in Indonesia and finally one in Singapore. Although this was normal conversation and occurrences for me, I looked up to her puzzled expression, "You're social life sounds like a full time job" she uttered. Honestly surrounding myself with travelers and like-minds I don't notice how unique this lifestyle may be to others, it's nice to be reminded of that every once in a while.
Earlier in the summer I had a similar conversation with my mom. This happened when I was toying with the different ideas of where my next travel adventure would lead, considering where I had friends I could visit. I kept rambling off different people and places until my mom paused me and told me maybe it was a good idea I make a list. Sure, why not? Now I'm not talking facebook friends or people I merely know, instead I made a list of people I would actually contact, the kind of people who's couch I'd ask to sleep on. Then just for fun I made a similar list of friends across the United States. The results? Well it turns out I have more friends scattered in different countries than I do the various states, but both counts were in the upper twenties. Now there's something my 16 year old self would be proud of.
These friendships, like my Aunt eluded to, take time and effort, you don't just meet people on a trek in Thailand or a guesthouse in the Philippines and call them friends for life. Life happens, and you each take your own path, but sometimes if you try that doesn't mean you must separate for good. Of course we now have the assistance of the internet and smartphones to make this all a much easier task to accomplish. Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Skype are only a few of the tools which make 'checking in' with your friends halfway around the world as easy as calling Grandma. Technology makes it easy, but it's up to us to follow through. Sure, you may have 1000 friends on Facebook (I'm far below that), or countless contacts in your phone, but you have to actually make an effort with them. To me, a Facebook message is impersonal and a little bit lazy, but sometimes thousands of miles doesn't allow for much more. so I'm grateful I can do at least that.