One of the greatest benefits of traveling and teaching around the world is the opportunity you get to meet new people. Often these travelers are here to share an experience and are in much the same situation as you and looking to make friends.
After all, you’re in a strange country, learning and growing. It’s good to stick together. The kinship you share with your fellow nomads creates bonds that will last a lifetime.
I arrived in Korea as most of us do - alone, excited, slightly nervous, and very curious, and it wasn’t long before I met new people. These people turned into friends, who introduced me to new friends, and just like that the circles grew.
Unlike what may often be the case back home, these friends are multinational: Americans, South Africans, British, Australian, and most importantly, the local people.
Whether teaching in South Korea or China, the people who live in the country you are visiting will form important parts of your social circles - study groups, drinking buddies, foodie friends, and fellow travelers. If you’re lucky and kind, those friendships will be deep and meaningful.
I haven’t even mentioned the random friends you’ll make when you travel out of the country. And travel you should.
Remember, kindness while traveling pays back in dividends - often in good stories.
A friend I made in Thailand allowed me to stay in her house when I later traveled to Austria.
I spent two weeks trekking through the Himalayas with the most interesting group of people that had all just met the very day we started the hike.
I met a Japanese man who wore nothing but a fundoshi (please do a google image search if you’re curious) the entire time I stayed at his house.
And I have friends all over the UK who invited me to stay with them when I make my way up there.
Travel is the gift that keeps on giving.
However, there is a darkside - often felt, but seldom discussed.
Sadly, these friends will begin to go back to their countries or onwards to new travels. And when the time comes, you’ll make the tearful journey home too.
Like lightning that strikes the ground, you will feel like your time here ended before it even began. And before you know it, you’ll be saying goodbye and farewell to perhaps some of the closest friends you’ve ever made.
I worked for two years in South Korea, and with a few notable exceptions, the faces I saw each year were totally different. They were new faces, and without expecting it, we became the experienced teachers in the country, training the fresh meat. It’s a cyclical rhythm that goes on and on.
These exceptions became my lifelines, my anchors, in the ever changing world of travelers. So keep your friends close, because you never know who will stay and who will go.
Thankfully there’s always a silver lining. In the modern world of the internet, there’s no excuse to not keep in touch with all the good people you meet. You’ll see them on their own adventures, and they’ll see you on yours.
When you’re done here, pull out the map of where your friends are and you’ll see that your new social circle is the whole beautiful planet.
Embrace your time here. Expand your comfort zone and interests. And embrace the people. They’ll be with you for life.