FRIENDS FROM TRAVEL

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When you’re young it’s easy to make new friends. School, extracurricular activities, and your own neighborhood provide plenty of opportunity to meet people with similar interests that you can relate to and grow close with. But after college is over and you’ve been working at the same company for years, it gets harder and harder to meet new people, and quite frankly, once you’ve established a close circle, you tend to lose interest in new people anyways.

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Looking back, as a kid I had too many friends to count. When I moved away for college I stayed in touch with just a few, and made a whole new set of friends in college. Today I’m touch with just a close few of them. As an adult, I’ve got plenty of acquaintances but I can count my real friends on the fingers of one hand.

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Making new friends can be especially difficult when you move to a new city, or even in your own city if your existing clique starts to get smaller as others move away or simply grow apart. When I moved back to Belgrade in 2009, I had an existing group of friends here from all the years I had been coming to visit during the summers. Now, eight years later, there’s only a couple of us left as the others moved out of the country or their lives took them in a different direction, away from the rest of us in the group.

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So what’s the best way to meet new people and make new friends now, in my 30s? Travel! In fact, this is one of the best things about traveling. Not only do you meet locals in a new place that will give you even more reason to visit again, but you also end up meeting people from your own home city. Traveling with an organized group through a travel agency is a guaranteed way to make new friends because you’re sure to find someone in the group you’ll bond with and end up keeping in touch even when the trip is over. And if you’re lucky, like I was, you’ll find not one but ten!

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It’s amazing how quickly and how close you can grow with people when the conditions require you to help each other out. The friends I made on my trip to Africa are each completely different in their own ways and yet we’re such a great team, we’re still friends several months later. In fact, last night we all got together to catch up and play some Cards Against Humanity. You’d think that with the different lifestyles, jobs, and general interests we all have, we couldn’t possibly all be friends. And yet, just a few months ago we were all sharing literally one last sip of water amongst the ten of us from the same bottle. We’d only known each other for a few days back then and we already had that “what’s mine is yours” sharing mentality between us. I think what really developed our relationship is the fact that we are all individually unique, making every situation that much more interesting. We learned from each other. And it’s the little things that bring people together like sharing funny stories in the middle of the night on the beach under a sky full of sparkling stars, telling stupid jokes or personal funny horror stories, and trying food from each other’s plates.

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We all had this amazing experience together and we shared it, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing if it weren’t for the ten of us. It’s our new friendship that made our trip extra special and more memorable. That’s exactly why I’m sure we’ll all stay friends for years to come and have many more get-togethers even if they’re months apart.

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At last night’s get-together, we found out two of our girls are pregnant (both were on the trip as a honeymoon), one is off to Nepal next week, the youngest guy in our group got a permanent job with a raise, and our friend from FYROM who we video called is planning a visit to Belgrade soon. What a great night :)

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So, if you needed another reason to travel – there you have it!

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