The best thing about traveling is meeting people from all over the world. Especially when you are traveling alone, making friends, even briefly, can be the difference between a good time and an unforgettable experience. Who would think that in a matter of days you could form such a bond with people, but that's how it is in the travel community. Facebook makes it even easier to extend friendship in the traveling/backpacking community beyond a place and time to a lifelong relationship.
I have been extremely lucky to have met some incredible people on every step of my journey. Too many to even name. Still, every time you have to say goodbye, and you promise to be in touch and meet again in the future there is always a hint of doubt that it will ever really happen. For instance, when I met an Italian couple on my camping trip to Uluru, back in my early days in Australia, I never imagined that nearly 3 months later I would be heading to their home in San Benedetto, Italy. Yes, we camped together for 3 days, and exchanged pleasantries and they told me that if I did make it to their tiny beachside town in central Italy I would have a place to stay with them, but I still never expected it to happen. They weren't even supposed to be back in Italy until after I had left the country. But, one thing led to another, plans changed on my end and on theirs, and here I am, spending my last 5 days in Italy with my Uluru friends, Francesca and Luca.
They have a rather large apartment where they have been kind enough to offer me their spare room. My days have been filled mainly with relaxation and delicious food, the best type of hospitality you can be offered in Italy, in my humble opinion. Francesca's family owns a 4-star hotel in town and we have been enjoying large, decadent lunches by a world-renowned award-winning chef daily, before relaxing by the pool or back at the apartment to escape the intense midday weather. In the evenings they take me out for drinks or homemade dinners with family and friends. Everyone is so kind, I feel right at home. Luca's mother is the overbearing, loose-lipped (in the sweetest sense)Italian Mama I've ever met, always ready with an endearing, if not a little embarrassing, compliment. Francesca's brother was immediately friendly, evening teasing, like my own family would. And their friends have all been so welcoming and accepting of the foreigner who has randomly dropped into their lives. Francesca even invited me to come along on a special girls-night-out she was having with her two best girlfriends. I never once felt out of place, as the three of them welcomed me into their circle. I have been feeling homesick lately for my family and my friends, and this is just what I needed. Girls night made me feel like I was back at home chatting with my own girlfriends, talking about guys, and work and life, laughing at inappropriate conversations had in a crowded restaurant over wine.
I would say that this has definitely been a successful reunion. I am happy that I have made such amazing friends and could not be more thankful for their hospitality.
Now I am even more excited and hopeful that I will get the opportunity to see all of my new friends in the months and years to come. NYC, Seattle, California, Texas, all over Canada, Australia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, and across Europe. Looks like I have a lot more traveling to do! :)