Holidays are best when shared with interesting strangers, writes Jane D’Arcy.
I’ve done it again. My phone is buzzing with texts from people I met on a recent camping trip. It’s not just me. My 11-year-old son has now recovered from the broken heart he acquired on the same adventure.
I didn’t know what was wrong with him as we drove one way and the family we had become friends with at the campsite drove the other; he couldn’t stop crying. I eventually put two and two together. Seems he’s great at making friends while travelling too, and is now familiar with that sad, pit-of-stomach, post-goodbye feeling. It’s not new for me though, the meeting and the leaving. I’ll be in Paris this April to run the Paris Marathon, staying with a gorgeous French friend I met while backpacking in Sumatra in 1996. While some of the people you meet when travelling will be less for life and more just for fun, making an effort to meet new folk while travelling can reap big rewards.
Sometimes it can be hard to meet people in a hotel (it can be a struggle to even raise a smile in the lift), but hostels and camping sites with shared kitchens are bursting with opportunities. Hikes, group travel and organised day trips are also new-friend gold. A school friend met her partner of 20 years when they were on the same trek in Nepal.
Suss out who’s around and make sure you’re inviting the brightest and the best into your world. Happy/smiling/chilled-out people – yes. Stressed/shouty/freaked-out people – no.
“Wow, I can’t believe how quickly you put up your tent” is better than “Who needs a comedy on Netflix when I can watch you putting up your tent?”
Offer to share food, a link to a cool travel app, suggest restaurants and offer bar tips or even a real coffee in the morning (my AeroPress – a portable coffee brewer – starts many morning conversations). My son’s heartbreak began with the sharing of olive oil spray at the camp barbecue.
You can still meet new people if you’re travelling with friends or family. In fact, new faces/thoughts/stories can do you all good.
Don’t despair if your friendship doesn’t last past the campsite exit gate. It still happened, and you, and they, are no doubt just that bit more interesting and happier for it (and maybe just a little bit in love).