A Life of Brief Encounters  - Why I value friendship with people I met on the road

A Life of Brief Encounters

Why I value friendship with people I met on the road

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The other day, I attended a wedding of my good hiker friends in Bangkok and I had a chance to sit down with fellow travelers and shared our travel stories together. Right after an incredible trip in New Zealand, I was left feeling the post-travel blues, a bitter feeling of saying goodbyes to people I briefly encountered on the road.

As we were talking about these brief encounters and how it affected our travel, my friend mentioned how he was fascinated by the fact that we can spend hours talking to strangers during our travels. The talk got me pondering for answers as to why we do it.

In this post we will explore a year of my life of brief encounters with fellow travelers, why it is important and how it played a role in shaping who I am today.

The Magic of a Brief Encounter

The introduction of the limitation of time is what makes brief encounter so magical. Knowing that our time is limited is a great motivator for us to do incredible things. I found myself valuing the time with that person more when I know that there is a chance we might not meet again. I became more engaged in the moment and more willing to go out of my way to make the best out of that limited time. I became a better version of myself without knowing it.

I have seen people became more open to each other, put more trust into each other, and enjoyed each others company more in brief encounters than with their long time friends. People become more honest and direct when they have nothing to gain from bullshitting and these are the kind of people that had the most impact on me and shaped who I am today.

1. The Encounter that Led me to the Himalayas

Me in the Himalayas, thank to that spark I got from Valeraine.

Me in the Himalayas, thank to that spark I got from Valeraine.

My first impactful encounter with a traveler was when I was traveling around Mandalay, Myanmar. I met Valeraine, a french doctorate student whom I ended up talking for the next 3 hours. The topics we talked ranged from the differences between our cultures to all about her family. As she talked about her travel, she mentioned that she climbed the Kilimanjaro. I bombarded her with questions because I wanted to know how one could do such an incredible feat. At the end, I was so inspired by her story that I decided to go on a solo trip to the Annapurna Base Camp in the Himalayas.

The trip to the Himalayas was so profound that I continued to live my life climbing mountains and being thankful for that little conversation we had in Myanmar. Without that brief encounter, I wouldn't have known how much I like climbing mountains.

2. The Encounter that Defined My Professional Life

Aurelie and me exploring the Kings Canyon in the Australian Outback

Aurelie and me exploring the Kings Canyon in the Australian Outback

In February 2014, I flew from Sydney to Ayers Rock for a 3 days getaway in the middle of the Australian outback. As I was sitting on a plane, a woman on the side started doodling in her notebook. The curious me decided to take a peek and I was stunned by her illustration skill.

"Finally, a creative with a similar line of work as I'm doing" — I thought to myself and I started talking to her.

Aurelie Neyret, a freelance illustrator who have illustrated several children's books in France was a god send for me. We ended up sharing a dorm room and we tagged along together for the rest of the trip. Back then, I was still working full time in fear that I might not be able to travel the world if I don't have a real job. Her presence proved me wrong and gave me the courage to quit my job and inspired me to take control of my life. After the encounter, my professional life changed and I was able to travel the world more than ever before.

3. The Encounter that Defined How I Travel

Jacques mingling with the locals

Jacques mingling with the locals. The credit of the photo goes to him.

On my first day in Johannesburg, South Africa, I met Jacques Sirat, a french author who is currently cycling around the world. It did not take me long to learn something new from him. Every question I asked him, he had a simple answer to it. First question I asked was how he pays for all of this, and he surprised me by saying that he barely spent a dime on the road. He biked to places, so there was no transportation cost. For accommodation, he either camped out or got invited by the locals who gave him food and a bed. All the extra cost are covered by the money he earned from renting out his house in France.

I was so driven by his story that I decided to change how I travel. Instead of spending a lot of money on transportation, I decided to traverse to nearby places the old fashion way, by walking and taking it slow. I no longer plan everything down to the detail and embrace the randomness instead. I eliminated all the unnecessary commitments at home allowing me to move around more. A simpler approach to life for a more sustainable travel lifestyle.

4. The Encounter that created unforgettable friendship

Me, Megan and Viola laughing our way through New Zealand

Me, Megan and Viola laughing our way through New Zealand

Have you ever meet someone that you instantly feel like you have been friend for years? I felt this when I met Megan and Viola at Franz Josef in New Zealand. We ended up in the same dorm room and I introduced myself as usual. Nothing seem special until we started talking about our mishap in the mountains. The conversation snowballed from there and we ended up laughing the whole time as we realized the similarity in our comedic nature.

I like them so much that I decided to meet them again and again throughout my trip in the South Island just because they were so much fun to be around with. We laughed our way through New Zealand and even continued to Bangkok as me and Viola departed from New Zealand to Bangkok on the same day and I decided to show her around. This is the kind of encounter you don't forget for years to come.

5. The Encounter that took me to places

Ashley and Rachel on our way to the end of the Routeburn trail

Ashley and Rachel on our way to the end of the Routeburn trail

My initial plan of New Zealand didn't involve participating in a great walk but that all changed when I met Ashley Cox on my second day in Rotorua. She mentioned that she planned to do the Routeburn track in November with Rachel, her sister and as it turned out, I would be in Te Anau on the same day she started. I decided to drop all my previous plan, went through the hideous process of extending my return flight and joined them in the expedition. It was all worth it as I did spend a quality time with both of them, going through both tough and fun times together. We ended up meeting again in Dunedin later as Ashley and her friend showed me around the beautiful beach of Aramoana.

The brief encounter with Ashley took me to places I never thought I would be. If I didn't value such an encounter, I would be going to places I know I would be, doing things I planned to do, with people I don't know. What's the fun in that?

6. The Encounter that led me to more encounters

Me, Julia and Jessica at China town, Bangkok. I didn't even know them 5 hours prior.

Me, Julia and Jessica at China town, Bangkok. I didn't even know them 5 hours prior.

The last few days in New Zealand, I met Yvonne at a hostel when I was sleeping on the couch waiting for my room to be done. I learned that she will be in Bangkok in December, and so when I was back in Bangkok, I decided to show her around the city for a day. As we were walking from the Grand Palace to Wat Pho, we were asked for a direction by 2 german ladies and since we were heading the same way, we casually invited them to join our little guided tour. They turned out to be an awesome companion and we ended up spending the whole day together, from climbing the temple of dawn, to devouring all the food in our path at China town. In between that, another Indian guy also joined us to the Khaosarn road.

I was still surprised by how random all of these were. If I hadn't met Yvonne in New Zealand or if we walked a little slower from the Grand Palace, or if we were else where, we wouldn't have met Julia and Jessica. This reminded me how awesome travel is. The brief encounter I had with Yvonne led me to more and more encounters.

7. The Encounter that restored my faith in humanity

Tulu, Yvonne and me trying to hitchhike back to Dunedin

Tulu, Yvonne and me trying to hitchhike back to Dunedin

I met Tulu, a half turkish, British woman who recently came back from a 3-day camping trail in the Tongariro national park and before she left, she gave me her sleep bag because she had no use for it anymore. I couldn't thank her enough because her sleeping bag saved my life when we were hit by a snowstorm during the Routeburn track.

As if this act of kindness wasn't enough, I accidentally met her again (and Yvonne) in Dunedin and we spent time getting to know each other a little better. The best part about her is she doesn't mind sharing things with strangers.

At one point, I asked her if I could try her crackers and she said, "Dude, don't ask. Just eat."

Her behavior restored my faith in humanity. Such acts of kindness like these are hard to come by in a modern society we are living in. I was so inspired by her that I decided to do the same when I gave away my 17-trip bus pass to my good friend Megan because I had no use for it anymore. It was immensely gratifying to make a difference in people's day.

They are the people who shaped my life

I am not going to lie, these people I met during my travel had more impact on me than friends and families at home. The fact that they do not have a past perception gives them the opportunity to view me outside the context of what I do and allows them to form the most honest opinion about me. I am no longer limited by the role I play, and instead they see me as people just like them.

All the people I met on the road left a piece of themselves with me and I hope I did the same to them as well. The destination is not as memorable as these brief encounters with people and these are why I value them so much. Thank you all for traveling with me and sharing the best moment of my life.

Looking for more inspirational articles? Check out The Solo Traveler’s Inspiration section where we will discuss topics related to the nomadic and traveling lifestyle and shower-thoughts that will invoke wanderlust in all of us.

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