“Ashley…. Is that YOU??”
I paused for a second as the gears in my mind turned and attempted to process this beautiful face in front of me.
“It’s Claire…. From Australia!!”
I nearly passed out from how serendipitous this moment was. I knew that this girl, whom I had met nearly a year ago on a bus half-way around the world, and I were meant to be friends.
I backpacked the Eastern Coast of Australia in the fall of 2011, solo. I headed out to Bondi beach on a typically gorgeous, sunny Australian afternoon and spent the day taking in the beauty of this place. I walked the length of the beach, absorbing the playfulness of the culture and and sinking my toes into the golden specks of sand. I hung out barefoot in the grass along the beach, wrote and listened to music. I took a long run along the path that winds with stunning ocean views along cragged ocean rocks. It was a magical day.
At dusk, I hopped on a bus and found the first open seat next to a beautiful, young Australian girl. We spent the next few minutes chatting and getting to know one another.
“I would have loved to show you around Bondi,” she said. “But you’ll never believe this- I’m leaving tomorrow to MOVE to San Francisco, where my boyfriend lives!” So, we exchanged Facebook information and sent a couple of messages over the next week or so.
Fast-forward 7 months to April 2012. I am back in New York, walking briskly on a Wednesday morning at 7am down 8th Avenue to hop on the subway and take it to JFK airport for a flight to Las Vegas. I pass a pretty girl on the barren early morning NY streets but don’t think a thing about it- I’m in a hurry to get to the airport and catch my flight. Thirty seconds later, I get a tap on my shoulder, and the above conversation ensues. It’s Claire. Half-way across the world. In New York, where she doesn’t even live but is at for a business trip. Staying in my neighborhood. Walking on the street at 7am when she doesn’t have to normally get to work until after 9. And if you know me, you know I am rarely up at 7am.
I do believe in fate. I knew in that moment that Claire and I were destined to know each other—perhaps our purpose is to become good friends, or perhaps it’s to learn something from one another. Or, maybe it’s to remind us that this world is quite small and that each time we put ourselves out there and invest into another life, even with a quick conversation, we emit a beautiful energy that always seems to boomerang back to us in some shape or form.
Claire and I have kept in touch, and on my recent trip to San Francisco this past week, we had the wonderful ability to meet up for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant called Mau in the Mission District. It was as if we had known each other for years—when in reality we had spent just 5 minutes together on a bus in Bondi beach, nearly two years prior.
I adore travel for this reason. I have made friends all over the world—brief sparks of connection with other souls on this planet, that have enriched my life in such abundant ways. Fellow travelers share a special connection-I know I could go to any of the places where I have contacts, and even if I had just met that person briefly and enjoyed a night of beach cocktails and laughter, I know I could always reach out to re-connect or contact them if I ever found myself in their country and needed help. There is shared spirit among travelers, which is one of the reasons the AFAR Community is so special and why it magnetized me from the first moment I learned about it.
On your next trip, I encourage you to strike up a conversation with someone. Go off the beaten path. Do something unconventional and challenge yourself in a new way to make friends and put yourself out there in the world. So many of my best travel experiences come from those times where I have made unexpected friends and memories. This is one remarkable story….one of many in life’s gorgeous tapestry.
As always, Carpe Diem.