A Stranger’s Gift: Stories of Friendship From Unexpected Places

Odyssa Rivera Abille

It’s impossible to stay connected, but there are a few that stand out.

I have wondered if it’s possible to find a genuine relationship while traveling despite the tight schedules, the constant coming and going, and plane rides that never end.

When away from reality, can one make a sound decision to pursue a proper relationship or not? When on vacation, can one think straight — disregard the boring stuff of life, like the office job, chores at home, and routine?

During my past trips, I met people of different backgrounds, races, and religions. Most turned into social media contacts. Others became acquaintances, very few became lifelong friends. I’m pretty sure most of them I will never see again.

It’s impossible to stay connected, but there are a few that stand out.

It’s a tiny group that holds a special place in my heart. They are the ones whose faces bring up delightful memories. I remember the names, places where we met, stories we shared, and sometimes even what they wore. The memory is too strong that even if I meet hundreds more in the future, they’ll remain etched in my mind.

I remember meeting Alex in a mixed dormitory in Bicol province in the Philippines. A few seconds after saying hi to him, I planned on getting back to sleep but the storm raged outside. Then there was darkness. Power was out in the area. With nothing else to do, we started talking about his recent trips, my job, religion, weed (he didn’t have any), and how he left his life in Berlin to travel to Asia out of boredom and bitterness. He wasn’t just an ordinary traveler from Berlin. He is now the Alex that I got stuck with in a tiny dorm room in a small province, with the lights out.

Then there was Margaux, the funny, and outspoken French lady I met in California. In France, she teaches children with special needs. She saved money from her salary as a teacher so she can take a year off to travel the world. We camped together. The next day, she left our group to join a group of climbers so she can sleep in a portaledge. I loved everything about her. I admired her bravery, sense of adventure, and last, I was jealous of her year off.

There was Sean, who was so kind to let me sleep in his house, take me around San Francisco, and bring me to the airport.

There’s Allie from Germany who was my roommate in Bali for a month. We jived so well that sometimes we never had to talk, we just understood. We thanked each other for being the best. She told me she couldn’t have asked for a better roommate in Bali, and I felt the same way.

The connection was surreal, the bond a little too strong. But we had very little time.

They are the ones that taught me it’s possible to have uncanny chemistry with a stranger. It starts in the gut. A few minutes into a conversation, I easily feel at home. It’s like our souls have crossed paths before our physical bodies met.

Despite the amazing spiritual and intellectual connection, not all good things last. There’s an end to everything. Even Methuselah, the oldest tree in the world, at over 4000 years old will one day face its demise.

There’s a departure date for people like us. And before that, time passes by too fast. Someone leaves in tears. The other is left behind. Both of you move on with life without each other. The connection was only good for several weeks or months. Reality is a plane ride away.

We take the ride home and the next day, we get back to the good old daily grind.

Maybe crossing over from being strangers to soulmates is possible. Maybe there’s no point in wondering anymore. The answer lies in our stories, the memories, the photographs, the montage.

The gifts that strangers give us — connection, companionship, and closeness, despite temporary — appear in the most unexpected places. Alex, Margaux, Sean, and Allie are proof.

Who says that genuine relationships and travel can meet on the road? I now do. I expect it, and when it arrives, I welcome it.

And the plan is to remain open so as not to miss the ride.

Odyssa is the author of two poetry collections on love and travel. This article was first published in Medium.

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I write about relationships, the complexities of human life, and writing. I'm a self-published author of two poetry collections entitled "Like A New Sun Rising" and "From Where I Stand" available at www.amazon.com/author/Odyssa.

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