At the end of a trip, whether 9 days or 4 months, there always comes a period of reflection. So this morning as I drove one of my dearest friends, Casey, to the airport it was no surprise that we were discussing our travels, both current and past.
Admittedly I have not seen Fight Club, but Casey referenced, “single-serving friends,” her favorite quote from the movie. Of course she had to explain it to me, but when she did it made immediate sense. Over these past four months I have met so many single-serving friends; or “friends” who I’d met once, through my travels, never to see again.
They are a special thing, single-serving friends. Some of these friendships are more significant than others, but still significant they are. For me the significance of these “friendships,” all have one thing in common. They have all taught me something about my self, and in a certain way, even if a small way, they have changed me.
Often times before I go to a new place I find myself feeling a little anxious. It’s the unfamiliar that makes me anxious and with that I always seem to feel a bit like I’m intruding. Gasp What if I look like a tourist? Welp, here’s the thing: I am a tourist. Dictionary.com tells me so; “tourist: a person who is traveling, especially for pleasure.” No escaping that one.
So these single-serving friends remind me that I am in fact a person who is traveling for pleasure… and for growth, and for reflection, and for stories. Stories like this about my single-serving friends. I could write pages about these friendships. For those of you who have traveled, think about it, I’m sure you could too. But for effect, I am only going to speak about three groups. And really it’s in the form of thanks that I write about them.
To the two girls who helped us get into the Hofbrahaus tent at 11:00am on our first day at Oktoberfest, only my sixth day in Germany, thank you. Standing in that line, if you can call it that, could only have gone one of two ways and I was certainly skeptical. But, alas! Oktoberfest is one of my all time favorite experiences and was the ultimate welcome to Germany… and not just because of the delicious beer. Those two girls they were the catalyst to that awesome experience.
To the three service members at the Macaroni Grill after work; thank you for reminding me why I love my job, the job that brought me here. I met these three men smack dab in the middle of my tour when I was feeling sufficiently burnt out. We talked about many things, but of course we talked about the VA. At the end of the night one of the men, looked me squarely in the eye, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you for being so passionate about your job. Guys like us think of the VA as a bunch of old ladies in tennis shoes, but you…you’re a ninja.”
Finally, thank you to the girl who took the same two tours as me in Ireland. She reminded me to never stop traveling and helped me realize how much single-serving friends enrich your travel, your life, even if I didn’t know it then. It is also because of her that I made five more single-serving friends that trip, further validating this entire concept. Two Australian girls, a man from Canada and a recently married couple from the States both with kids my age. I won’t go in to much detail other than to say each one of these people allowed me the rare opportunity to see myself through their eyes and for that I am forever in their debt.
Single-serving friends are powerful people. You find yourself, or a least I do, speaking to these friends as if they are old friends. As if you’ve known them for years. When often you’ve known them only a few hours, if that. But I think travel changes the circumstances under which people are willing to give up a little part of themselves. Maybe it’s that deep down you know you’ll never see the person again. Or maybe it’s that the reason you find yourself meeting a person worthy of the title, “single-serving friend,” is because you see something of yourself in them. Maybe that something is a reminder of a past self, a reflection of your current self, or a glimpse into what you hope to be a future self.
Whatever the reason for these friendships, there meanings are significant and lasting. I have said before that travel has changed me, it has and for many reasons. But I know now that part of this change is the result of all of my single-serving friends.