Friends in Far-Flung Places

“Didn’t you travel with a group once?” a long-time friend asked me recently. “I’m trying to plan a trip but I don’t know where to go and I don’t want to go alone.”

“No…I did a volunteer trip but I traveled alone and met up with friends upon arrival. I do that a lot – it helps to meet up with friends who live locally at the start of a trip. They can act as a tour guide as well as a familiar face in a new place. Surely you have some friends living abroad,” I suggested.

“No, they all live here.”

Later that day I got to thinking about all the different lives I’ve lived. There have been so very many. Sadly, the more time that passes, the more those lives feel like a dream – like they didn’t happen or I made them up. However, I know these various periods of my life were real: I have the friends to prove it. Social media makes us all feel like we have hundreds of friends, but I’m talking about real friends. People I could call anytime. I sung at their weddings. I’ve met their kids (or their parents). I’ve crashed on their couches or floors or futons more than once. I’ve had beers with them in multiple time zones in a two-week time span. I thought about it some more and realized that’s not normal (although it’s been really handy when planning adventures).

It’s totally normal to meet people while traveling, pass through, cherish the moment, and never touch base again. It’s not normal to have friends all over the world, in various stages of life and career, whom you met at various stages during your life/career, and remain close with them.

My life has taken some absurd twists and turns over the past ten years: army wife, rock star, small-town music teacher, single in the city, traveling to remote global destinations, landing a dream job, and now working at an engineering firm. I’ve met so many people during each of these stages: fellow army wives, fellow rock stars, fellow small-town musicians, plenty of single people in the city, fellow travelers, and fellow dreamers.

Of my army-wife-life friends, I was the first to leave. Then Ashley, then Jessica. Our three lives intersected at various times as we discovered our independence. I was the first to travel internationally. Then Jessica, then Ashley (who is currently on her trip around the WHOLE FREAKIN’ GLOBE, which is her first foray out of the US. Can you tell I’m actually really jealous?). Ashley spent Christmas with me one year and Jessica moved less than an hour away after four years. That said, I still have a bunch of army-wife-life friends who are still – you guessed it – army wives! And it’s awesome. We’ve stayed in touch through lots of moves, career changes, and in some cases, kids. Anytime our schedules and area codes have aligned, we’ve been able to make plans. Even if we can’t get together in person, we still support each other. That sisterhood never really goes away.

Seattle.

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My rock star band-buddies are still some of my closest friends. You can’t spend hours in a van with the same bunch of weirdos without getting to like each other at least a tiny bit. I consider my former drummer a brother, and I either talk about or talk with my lead guitarist at least once every couple weeks. A woman I met at a radio event I now consider a sister, and we were lucky enough to grab beers together in Seattle last year – after having met in GA and not having seen each other in 4 years. It amuses me how many people met me during that stage of my life and how disappointed they would be that I wear dress pants and work in an office now.

Some of my early music students have grown up before my eyes. Photos at the holidays and emails from them or their parents keep me in the loop. Some of my older students have already graduated college, gotten jobs, or gotten engaged. I was able to visit my very first student in November and I nearly cried seeing her all grown up. It was like coming home to spend an afternoon with her mom – one of the kindest, most genuine friends I’ve made. And technology now allows me to continue teaching students – no matter where the world takes us!

2008

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2016 (she’s on the right here – so much taller than me!)

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Traveling – and chance meetings – probably brought me the most random group of friends I have. They range from a German pop band who visited my workplace one day to a Brazilian drummer who got my friends backstage passes to a Neon Trees concert to a 20yr old Israeli world traveler to a South American woman studying in Canada and now working to help women on a global scale to, perhaps most importantly, Travis. By getting out in the world and doing the things I love, I’ve met the most intriguing, friendly people. Perhaps I should revise “things I love” to “things I love and/or things I did whilst trying to break out of my comfort zone.” Taking chances on talking to strangers gave me companionship on a long bus ride in Israel. It made my friend’s bachelorette party a success. It offered me a couch in VA when I attended Jessica’s ex-husband’s funeral (more on that another day).

It’s not normal to have friends in all these places, but I can’t imagine a different life. I just moved to a new area in January and I’m still having a really hard time making friends here. I call, text, or email my far-flung friends regularly to make sure I’m getting social interaction. I haven’t made any plans to visit any particular friends lately, but I’m excited at the possibility of connecting with a former guitar student during a trip I’m taking later this week. I haven’t seen her in over 4 years, and her daughters are growing up so fast. Although I don’t currently have many close local friends, I’m really glad for the close friends I do have – no matter how geographically far they may be – and the experiences that brought us together.

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