I’m about 2 and a half months in to this little journey and I have already crossed paths twice with some of the same folks. My first experience with this was in Costa Rica. There were the few big tourist stops so it wasn’t that absurd to see the same faces again in the next town. Just outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest I met Tobias, a cute young German guy, through my roommate Marcel (who I’d met earlier that day when we both were racing to catch our bus to Monteverde). He was living there and volunteering in the Cloud Forest. A couple days later, I left for my next town, La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano, about 3 hours away and stayed at Gringo Pete’s Hostel which Marcel had recommended. The next day Tobias showed up. I was overjoyed to see someone I knew and greeted him with what was probably a little too much enthusiasm. Little did I know that this kind of thing happened all the time on the ‘backpacker circuit.’
In the Galapagos Islands, I saw an Indian gal from London again that I’d met in Costa Rica about 2 weeks earlier. We’d met immersed in water in the town of La Fortuna at a Hot Springs resort where you can soak the night away in dozens of pools of varying degrees of hotness. She was there with a tour group and had mentioned going to the Galapagos in a few weeks—we’d laughed that maybe we’d see each other. Well we did. And I was in water again. I was snorkeling one day in the Galapagos and just happened to stop for a small rest by the end of another tour yacht similar to the one I was on. Keep in mind there are probably hundreds of tour companies in the Galapagos, let alone dozens of islands to see. I looked up and there she was. It was kinda funny, me saying ‘hi, remember me?’ while I was wearing a mask and snorkel, but apparently she did.
On my boat in the Galapagos, I roomed with Deepak, a funny young emergency medicine doctor from the UK. She’s super petite, and talked like there was no tomorrow with a loud laugh that straddled the border of infectious and annoying. We had great fun rooming together and she always made me laugh. She recommended a hostel in Quito for when I was finished with my part of the cruise. She would remain in the Galapagos for five more days and meet me there later. When I checked into Huaki Hostel, everyone knew her and her laugh and it was nice to have some kind of connection with people. So, later that week Deepak and I were eating dinner together once again. She also is moving to Sydney in January so I have no doubt I will see her again there.
In Chile, we were on the Navimag boat for about 4 days. There were about 250 passengers on this boat. One was this tall, lanky guy that I’d spoken to all of two minutes. I dubbed him ‘Kid Rock’ because of his skinny physique and long hair. We proceeded to bump into him, not once, but twice, after the boat—once in Chile and again across the border in a random hotel in Argentina.
Okay, cut to the middle of the huge metropolis of Buenos Aires. My friend, Mark, and I were walking on a random side street amidst the hundreds of blocks in the city. Walking right past us was a French couple that had bunked directly across from me and Andy on the Navimag Boat clear across the continent back in Chile. Since they too were probably on a big trip going through South America it may have not been that odd to see them again except for the fact that Buenos Aires is a city of nearly 4 million people and we were on the same side of the same side street at the same time! We made eye contact and both hesitated for a bit. Then they kept walking as did I. But seconds later we both realized we’d seen each other somewhere before and stopped in our tracks. I looked back at the same time they did when my brain caught up with my body and realized where I knew them from. We gave an awkward wave to each other and went on our way.
Here’s the best one to date. I’m here in my small hostel on the outskirts of this small town known as Rotorua on the island country of New Zealand. I had just finished my lackluster breakfast of ‘fruity rings’ and milk and went to the shared kitchen to wash out my bowl and spoon. I walked past a table where a blond girl was looking down slicing bananas onto some bread. I didn’t look at her directly, but was mesmerized by her perfectly sized, thin banana slices and by the fact that she was symmetrically spiraling them on a slice of wheat bread.As I put my milk back in the fridge, I heard “Lisa?” I spun around and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Sinead from Ireland, a good friend I’d made in the Galapagos on my tiny boat tour of just sixteen people nearly two months ago. And here she and her boyfriend, Damian, were half way around the world and at the same hostel! So crazy and cool at the same time. They were the first ones I’d met on the boat in the GI and were also traveling around the world for a year. My jaw dropped and we jumped up and kissed and hugged—it was like meeting a long lost sister or something. They had also gone to Buenos Aires and then flew out of Santiago, Chile to New Zealand a few weeks ago. We briefly caught up, but then they had to run to catch their bus to a whitewater rafting trip.
I’m learning the travel world is really, really small especially since a lot of people’s ‘top stops’ and ‘must sees’ are the same. With all the lists and books out now of “754, 395 Places to See before You Die,” I guess we are bound to see some of the same drifters once or twice.
Here I am all alone on the other side of the world in a foreign land and I’m still bumping into people I know just as if I was walking down the street in Chicago. I guess when you are traveling alone you are never really lonely. I think the “Lonely Planet” guides might need to change their title to “Crowded Planet” soon.