Hi, Bye – The transient nature of travel friends

Have you ever shown family and friends travel photos and they’ve asked who certain people are? I recently showed my father some photos from my trip to Morocco. He asked who these two guys were in some of my photos and I replied “just some guys we met on the tour”. That was it. I summed these two people up in eight words and moved on. It was only a three day tour to the Sahara Desert, which in the grand scheme of things is a miniscule part of my life.

Desert Group

Eight words doesn’t seem to do these guys justice though. We watched each others bags. We had fun wearing turbans and sand boarding in the desert. We stayed up one night discussing life, our ambitions and what to us would define a meaningful existence. At the end of our trip we got off our tour bus, shook hands and we went our separate ways (I went and had Tagine). This happens a lot and over the course of a year you’ll meet hundreds of people. You’ll have great times, become best friends for a short space of time that seems like months and then move on.

I heard someone describe it as disposable friends. Is that an apt description or cynicism?

The two hardest things to say in life are hello for the first time and goodbye for the last.

At the start of my Gap Year this was quite true but it certainly gets easier. You’ll learn to make friends quickly and say goodbye just the same. You have to. It’s a part of travel that’s a necessity, especially for a solo traveller. It doesn’t have to always be like this. For the most part people I really connect with I do the usual Facebook add and keep in touch. The world really isn’t a big place these days and you never know when you’ll be passing through each others backyards.

Quite early on in my Gap Year, before I was blogging professionally, I used business cards. I found that writing down e-mail addresses on scraps of paper wasn’t ideal and I can barely read my own handwriting as it is. So I got some done at the start of my trip. You can get some business cards to hand out whilst your travelling with your blog details, facebook or e-mail address. People tend to keep hold of these and normally when you get off a bus it’s a quick bye and then “oh I should get your details”. Dishing one of these out is much easier.

I remember walking down the street in Cairns once and I saw my business card sticking out of a book a girl was carrying. Turns out I’d met her in Thailand on a boat and given her my card then. She’d been using it as a bookmark ever since!

Just the other day I got this message and picture whatsapp’d to me.

Business Card Screenshot

Yup, if you can get past the nail varnish that’s my business card she’s holding. I gave her that this time last year when we met in Croatia.

My advice is this: Get some made and dish them out. Stay in touch with as many people as you can. You have no idea where you’ll be this time next year or when they might come past. I’ve caught up with some people on three different continents. Travel is this beautiful thing that enables you to meet the largest variety of people from all over the world. Seeing things around the world is amazing but it’s the people that make it truly special.

3 Comments

  • Ann

    July 5, 2012

    agree on the biz cards. i had some made before i started travelling last October & they’ve been really useful

  • Sal

    September 6, 2012

    So true!
    I did my gapyear back in 2002 – before facebook!
    We had email though, and I recently had a nostalgic look through some old photos & emails and marvelled at the amazing times I’ve had with these people who(sadly)I can barely remember now.
    Having said that, coming home from my year away was one of the saddest things ive had to do!

  • Gap Year Escape

    September 28, 2012

    I know the feeling but luckily I am doing another Gap Year!

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