Travel is not only about the places you visit and the sites you see, but about the personal connections you make along the way. When I decided to leave my job to travel I had no clue how long I would be going nor any idea where to go. I considered just renting a cheap place in Seoul, staying in my “home” city and seeing what came up, then I thought I could go hide away in a beach bungalow on Bali for three months, but in the end I decided on to backpack Europe.
“Backpack Europe” is pretty vague, very unplanned and; as I’m learning along the way can and should be; extremely flexible. When I arrived in Warsaw, Poland I was exhausted, a bit daunted that I was officially homeless, and having somewhat of an emotional breakdown about what I was really doing with my life, wondering why I left my home and friends in Korea and thinking, “When and how can I get back there immediately?”. Maybe everyone has these breakdowns, but after officially “backpacking Europe” for 24hrs and already trying to plan my return to what I used to call home, it was not looking like a good start. I checked into a four star hotel and tried to get my bearings. (Editors note: I hadn’t truly embraced the whole hostel/backpacking lifestyle yet)
(Tip: Some countries are so affordable you can stay in a nice room at a four star hotel for cheaper than you’ll pay for a bed in a six person dorm room in the next country, it’s always worth it to check.)
Now, starting my fourth consecutive week of backpacking Europe, looking back to those first two nights in Warsaw make me laugh a bit. Reflecting back on the last couple weeks has made me realize there was nothing to be nervous about, and; exactly as the post title says; we live in on a vast globe, but in a very small world. My solo backpacking around Europe has been anything but “solo”. Beyond the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in hostels, or on trains, or planes, or just sitting at a restaurant/bar, I’ve also managed to reconnect with old friends and even family along the way!
It’s funny how when you start posting about your world wind travels on social media, how connections emerge. In a two week span I reconnected with a cousin in Cologne, Germany that I hadn’t seen in 20+ years; spent an awesome weekend in Madrid, Spain with an acquaintance from high school who I hadn’t seen or really talked to in 15 years; had a lovely weekend with a good friend in London as she had a layover on a business trip; and was able to meet another friend for a quick lunch at the train station in London as she arrived in the U.K. for a week in Salisbury for work.
Sometimes the world can seem huge and daunting like when I first arrived in Europe with my whole life in a backpack and messenger bag. Other times it can feel so small when connections are made and things work out ever so perfectly that it makes those speed bumps along the way seem almost non-existent.
Have you been traveling and ran into an old friend, been able to connect with someone because circumstances put you in the same place at the same time, or just met new people who you knew instantly would be life long friends no matter where distance took you? All things that make this such a small world.