While traveling, we have the opportunity to be friendly and meet new people – both natives and travelers. Many other cultures seem more friendly than we are in America (or in Boston at least). People will just talk to you on the street, at the beach, or in the market, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad! We really like meeting other travelers, both to get information about onward travel and to give information about places we’ve been. And, it’s nice to talk to someone besides each other! We intentionally stay in hostels and B&Bs instead of big hotels in order to meet other people. Often age, gender, and background (and even language) are irrelevant because the shared travel experience transcends everything else.
Today I’m going to tell you about some of the interesting ways in which we met people and about those people!
Selina: We met Selina when she was working as a WorkAway volunteer at the EarthShip in northern Patagonia. Selina is 18 years old, from Germany, and traveling for 10 months alone in South America on a budget of something like $5000, which is less than we spent in our 11 weeks. To make it work, she’s doing a lot of volunteering, camping, and hitchhiking. We ended up running into her again at a festival in Mendoza (19 hours north of where we met), and then again(!) on a sidewalk in Salta, another 15 hours north of there. It was fun to continually run into each other and we still keep in touch over WhatsApp.
Midlife Walkabout: Karen & Nick, who we usually refer to as Midlife Walkabout (their name on FB & Insta), are in their 50s, from Colorado, and have a daughter in college. They decided to put their house up for rent, leave their jobs, and travel the world for a year. We met them while taking a cooking class in Chile and were inspired to know that we can still do this when we’re older.
Pedro & Sophie: We shared a 30 minute taxi ride on the way to a bicycle tour of a Chilean vineyard with a couple from Buenos Aires, who had perfect English, and made quick friends. We biked together, went to another vineyard together, and shared a taxi back to town. Pedro, who liked to be called Peter, was obsessed with baseball. Baseball essentially doesn’t exist in Argentina so he’s never played but he really wants to come to the US and play baseball with us. We gave him our email address and told him we’d have a wiffle ball set ready!
Glacier tour: You’ll remember that we went on a glacier tour. It ended up being a pretty small group and our group was composed of people from France, Italy, Israel, Hong Kong, Denmark, Spain, Argentina, and the US. There isn’t one person who stuck out to highlight, but it was just such a reminder of our shared common humanity. We can all be from different places, have different customs and worldviews, but we can all share a common experience too.
Ines & Dan: I was sitting on the roof deck of our hostel drinking mate, the social Argentine tea, when some English-speaking folks asked if I’d gotten the hang of it. I explained the ritual and remembered how I should be sharing, so I offered them a sip. We then sat on the deck for over an hour chatting about our travels and decided to go out to dinner. Dan is from England and Ines is from France. We got dinner together 2 nights in a row and continued to text about our various travels, exchanging pictures after parting ways.
Fernando: We were standing on the side of the road with a mass of people, waiting for a bus that was never going to come, when an SUV pulled over and put 4 fingers up in the windshield, implying he had enough space to take 4 people. I didn’t want to wait at the bus stop anymore and hitchhiking is pretty common in Argentina, so I grabbed David and jumped in. It turned out that he was the marine director for the Llao-Llao Hotel, Argentina’s famous iconic hotel that we had visited earlier in the day. We chatted in Spanish/Spanglish for 45 minutes of driving and Fernando taught us a bunch of words in Spanish, including saying “it sucks” (apesta).
Spanglish: – We went speed dating while we were traveling, and it was awesome. No, it wasn’t some weird threesome/open relationship thing – it was a language exchange! We went to a bar, got paired with a native Spanish speaker and spoke in one language for 5 minutes, then switched to the other language for another 5 minutes. Then we rotated to a new partner and repeated. We met a variety of interesting people doing this. One Argentine girl who wants to be a flight attendant, another girl who is going to Europe this summer and wants to be able to communicate in English, and several people who had worked or were planning to work in the US. I have still been texting with one of the people – language and culture exchanging over text!
Mimi: We first met Mimi, a Korean woman in her 30s(?), while we all confusedly walked around our basement-level bed and breakfast in the dark because the power had gone out. We met her again in a shuttle bus about 550 miles north of there 4 days later. Upon talking to her, we learned she was from South Korea and doing research to write a book to show South Koreans that you can travel the world cheaply and alone. We were impressed and wished her well!
Sometimes the people we meet are quick and short friendships. Others last much longer via email, texting, and social media – or even reconnecting in person. Since we’ve been back in Boston, we have already met up with our tour guide from Santiago, Chile, who happened to already have a trip to Boston planned. We took him sailing, drank mate on the banks of the Charles, and enjoyed dinner at Tasty Burger!
Hopefully some day we’ll also take folks up on their offers to visit them in their various countries!