In all of my adventures in Uganda so far (of which there are loads more to write about!), I’ve been fortunate to experience them alongside many new friends. In first entering the GHC fellowship, I knew nobody. By the time that I arrived at training, I had met the five or so previously DC-based fellows. By the time I reached Uganda, I had 106 new friends who would be placed throughout Africa and the US. And after living here for almost 3 months, I’ve made many friends from all over the world – UK, South Africa, Germany, Denmark, United States, and of course, Uganda.
Though never for an entire year, this is not the first time I’ve lived abroad. In college, I spent a semester in Brussels, Belgium and touring around Western Europe. In grad school, I lived between Martinique & Dominica for 3 months. I can confidently say that every time I travel, the friendships I’ve made are some of the most special I have. Of course, nothing can beat my best friends from growing up & college and the years of memories we have together. But, I think that when traveling, the rate at which friendships form and blossom is on hyperspeed.
Though I’ll never really know, I do have a few guesses as to why….
- When away from the life I’ve always known, I’m consciously trying to remain open-minded about everything. In doing so, I’m open to meeting new people and friendships I may have never made otherwise. This may mean striking up a conversation with a stranger or inviting a new acquaintance on a hike with us or listening to anyone that will talk to you.
- Part of my desire to live abroad lies is wanting to immerse myself in a different culture and gain new perspective. What better way to do so than to form close relationships those who live in other countries than I?
- Though all different in many ways, I think that those who travel/live abroad typically have some sort of common curiosity and openness about them that can unite, despite any differences in background or language. And this usually comes with common interests such as hiking, site seeing/exploring, trying new foods, etc.
- Exploring exciting places and adjusting to a new culture causes a sort of “travel high” that, when experienced together, is powerful.
- But, as exciting as it is, living away from home has the ability to cause stress both of the physical and emotional kind. It’s hard not to feel a certain level of closeness with those that, despite only knowing you a short time, are there for you in bouts of homesickness, petty theft, traveler’s diarrhea, extreme weather, or other typical travel challenges.
“There is something in living close to the great elemental forces of nature that causes people to rise above small annoyances and discomforts.” Laura Ingalls Wilder
For these reasons and probably others, these deep friendships are born. Out of them, unique characteristics seem to endure over time:
- After sleeping together in the cheapest hostels, apartment floors, camping on beaches, or anywhere else we can find to lay our heads, I find that friends made abroad are always willing to host you if you happen to find yourselves in the same city again. No matter how long it has been since you last saw each other or how small your apartment may be. The fact that you don’t actually have an extra bed to share doesn’t matter!
- After knowing each other so intimately, there’s really nothing off limits in terms of discussion.
- Endless hours of reminiscing over your travels together doesn’t get old. (But other friends you bring along to any reunions may not agree!)
- You probably know more random details about each other than most other friends. Like how often you wash your hair, the last 10 books you’ve read, sleeping patterns, and what you like to eat for breakfast every day (because you have to share books, bathrooms, personal space, and everything in between).
- Even if you haven’t spoken for years, if and when you do catch up or see each other, you start right back off where you left it. No small talk necessary.
I’ll always be grateful for all of the lifelong friends that I’ve made while traveling. You know who you are, and, if you’re reading this – consider this an (cheesy, but sincere) ode to you:
“There are good ships,
and there are wood ships,
The ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships,
And may they always be.”
Here are some of the lovely new friends that I’ve made since July…