“I can’t keep up with your international lifestyle,” my sister says jokingly as I explain the story of how I met the woman whose wedding will be my last of 2010. I laugh along with her because it is a truly unlikely friendship. She is more than twice my age, from England, and we met over four years ago while volunteering in Northeastern Brazil. And yet our friendship has endured. Even though my travel friendships make a ton of sense to me, I realize that others are often perplexed by the lasting connections I have with people I’ve met in random places around the world who may or may not live nearby.
While I am not on the road constantly like a lot of travel bloggers out there (although it may sometimes seem that way because my trip updates tend to take awhile), 2010 was a monumental year for travel and I spent a nice chunk of time exploring new places. Along the way, I met some great travelers and reunited with friends made on travels past. So I want to highlight some of the people who enriched my travels and my life in 2010:
Lonely Girl Travels was one of the first travel blogs I really got into and I’ve continued to be inspired by Lauren’s narratives. What I love most about her stories is that she is able to pinpoint and beautifully articulate the often elusive motives that draw travelers towards exploration. We live in cities that are only separated by a bay, so it wasn’t long before we got a chance to meet up. We initially met at a gallery show in San Francisco and since then, we’ve hiked to a waterfall, ate Senegalese food with a group of travel writers, and took to the streets of the Mission District during San Francisco’s Day of the Dead celebration. Now, Lauren feels less like a travel blogging friend and more like a regular friend.
A Shared Passion for Food and Mexico
When I arrived in Mexico City, there were hardly any people staying at my hostel, so I had a chance to meet everyone who staying there. One turned out to be a vegan/vegetarian food blogger from Brooklyn and a kindred spirit, despite my more omnivorous tendencies. In Mexico City, we had an adventure wandering through the Condesa neighborhood, trying to find Orígenes Orgánicos. After that, she pointed me towards a great cafe in Coyoacan and suggested the chocolate row in Oaxaca. I later found out that the trip she was on was her second to Mexico that year and that she is as enamored with Mexico as I am. She is someone I can still count on to understand me when I am pining for Mexico.
A Classical Guitarist in Mexico City
Out of the 4.5 million people who ride the Mexico City Metro everyday, I happened to become friends with Ivan, a fellow musician who had plans to visit California later in the summer. At first, I didn’t think anything of it because he was going to be in LA. But he eventually made a trip to Berkeley with his friend and we met up again in San Francisco. Hopefully next time our paths cross, I’ll get to see him play guitar live.
The Aussie Vegans
I was apprehensive about having a pair of vegans in my group in Cuba of all places, but they were troopers, often surviving on toast and potatoes and whack Cuban salads. In our group, they turned out to be the people I could always share a laugh with or revel in the nuances of Cuban culture with. After Cuba, they spent a short time in Mexico, then went up to the States to visit Austin. From there, they eloped in Las Vegas and eventually made their way over to my city, San Francisco. I got back to San Francisco a day before they left and took them to my favorite place in the city for margaritas, followed by a taqueria that would satisfy their vegan desires. They saw through my attempt to have them join me in extending Mexico, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
Sarah and Jorge
Sarah Menkedick has a tremendous capacity to put words together in a passionate and inspiring way. Her creative nonfiction stories, along with Jorge’s wonderful photography definitely nudged me towards deciding to visit Oaxaca while I was in Mexico. I’m glad I got a chance to meet them in Oaxaca before they moved up to the States and was truly great to share World Cup matches and other special beautiful days with them.
The Casa Angel Crowd
In Oaxaca, I bunked at a great hostel called Casa Angel. It was only about 6 months old when I was there and it was still a work in progress. Over the course of my stay, there were many changes. Walls were colorfully painted, the rooftop terrace was transformed into a great hangout spot, and a waiting area for the computers was created. At first, the drilling noises on the roof drove me nuts, but it didn’t last long and I enjoyed watching the hostel transform. And aside from being a beautiful little hostel, I met some really great people there. There was Jim, an inspiring older traveler who I previously wrote about. There was Zach, a college student who was at the hostel the whole time I was there and beyond who I affectionately nicknamed, “The Little Brother I Never Wanted.” He fully took on this role and often managed to be simultaneously infuriating, hilarious, and endearing. There was Carlos, the Oaxacan hippie who tricked me into trying chapulines, but eventually redeemed himself by leading a group of us to a great Oaxacan street food stand nearby. There was Kat who worked at the hostel before Zach took over, an awesome artist who I met up with again in San Francisco in September before she moved back to Oaxaca. And there were the brothers who ran the hostel and filled it will homeyness and humor.
A Matador Meetup in San Francisco
When Hal Amen and his wife visited San Francisco during their summer road trip, group of local Matador contributors got together to meet them at Bissap Baobab, a Senegalese restaurant in the Mission District. Lauren Quinn was there, and in addition to Hal, I met Juliane, Naomi, and Valerie for the first time. Bissap Baobab is my go-to restaurant when I am craving a bit of West Africa in San Francisco, so being at one of my favorite restaurants combined with spending quality time with people who love to travel and write about it made for an awesome night.
Catching Up Over Cornbread
In 2008, I traveled through South East Asia, mostly on a loosely guided tour. There were two young Brits on the first part of that tour who I enjoyed spending time with. I met up with them a few more times throughout the trip when we found ourselves in the same cities. Then, like many people on round-the-world trips, they ended up in San Francisco, and I met them for an afternoon. One of them came back to California the following year, but she visited LA. But then this year, she came to California yet again and was in San Francisco. Since she was staying Downtown, an area I tend to avoid eating out in, I didn’t know where to go. Then I remembered farmerbrown, a restaurant in the Tenderloin that serves up comfort soul food in the typical local-organic-sustainable San Francisco way. When we sat down, the waiter brought us mini cornbread muffins. It was the first time my friend had ever heard of cornbread and I had to explain what it was. It was a brief meeting, but it was really good to catch up and fun to introduce a Brit to a different type of American food.
An Indian Wedding
I haven’t yet shared the impetus for my recent India trip on my blog: I was there for the wedding of a friend I made while traveling in Southeast Asia on the same trip I mentioned above. She was my roommate for the first part of it. Our birthdays were separated by just a week and a half, we’d both grew up with parents who’d immigrated from former British colonies, and amongst our group, we were the most into getting a well-rounded South East Asia experience. We bonded quickly and kept in touch after that trip. At first, when she invited me to her wedding, I hesitated. Then I said, “why not?” So I went, and it was great to see my friend again and meet her entertaining friends and family. And the wedding was incredible, the longest and most elaborate wedding I’ve experienced so far.
A Winter Wedding
I’ve already highlighted B in a previous post and she’s the woman with whom I have the unlikely friendship I discussed at the beginning of this post. In Brazil, we volunteered at the same school and she was one of the volunteers who was really helpful when I was getting started. She always had great activities for her class that helped me get my own creative juices flowing. She was always great at keeping in touch while she volunteered and studied Spanish all over the world and eventually settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through her, I’ve met some other great local people she befriended on her travels and I’ve now met her kids who also seem to have been bitten by the travel bug. After several overcast days, her wedding day was sunny and joyful. The reception ended with her, her new husband and their band putting on a concert for the guests.
One Last Meet Up
I originally intended to make this a “10 in 10” type of post, but a last minute meet up changed that. On Thursday, I found out that another co-volunteer was visiting San Francisco and we had a chunk of time where we could get together. She volunteered at the same school as B as I, and she was my go-to partner for traveling around the state of Bahia on weekends. We reminisced about the ups and downs of our experience in Brazil and all of the interesting characters we encountered during our time there. Her wanderlust definitely has not died since that time, and she told me about her plans to visit Jordan, Egypt and Israel in the spring. I came home that night amazed that in the span of two days, I’d gotten to see two of my favorite co-volunteers from Brazil and grateful for such things as Facebook, e-mail, and Skype which have allowed me to stay in touch with the awesome people I’ve met around the world.