The greatest thing about solo traveling is meeting people from all around the world and building friendship at instant moments. The saddest thing about solo traveling is saying goodbye when you have to continue with your journey without knowing whether you will ever meet again in life.
I met Anna, Lisa and Henri when I was crossing the border from Thailand to Laos. We took the same long minivan ride, spent two days on a crammed slow boat and stayed together at a couple of shitty hotels for two nights (pardon my language but the backpackers language could be a bit infectious) before making it to Luang Prabang. It’s always interesting to me how the human mind works when forming friendship and alliance. Out of all the people I’ve met when crossing the border, as a solo traveler I’ve found having Anna, Lisa and Henri with me very comforting through the whole ordeal.
Anna, Lisa and Henri are all from Germany. Anna and Lisa are from south Germany traveling together on a 2-month backpacking trip in SE Asia. Henri is from west Germany who has been traveling in Australia and SE Asia for about 7 months and still have 2 more months of travel. All three of them are about 19 and 20 years old and taking some time off prior to entering university. I have to say as a 28 year old (just turned 28 on May 1st!), I don’t have that many friends that are 8 or 9 years younger than me. It was so refreshing to watch these young kids travel with so much sipirit in them and so much courage to try something new.
Anna and Lisa are typical girls at their early 20s with so much energy and excitement to experience the world, but what set them apart is their strong and independent personalities accompanied with constant contagious laughters. Backpacking is not an easy lifestyle, but it was impressive to see these two young girls doing everything themselves, carrying those giant backpacks, trying to figure out all the logistics and also dealing with the world without even being fully introduced to the “real world”. It was also amazing to see how strong these two girls were and how positive they remained no matter how poor the backpacking condition could be.
Henri has a pretty laid-back personality. Seeing Henri reminded me of my step brother. Henri could be quiet at times, but he was always so funny when he spoke and he was also very well rounded in all kinds of topics. I was very impressed by Henri because I can’t imagine doing a 9 month backpacking trip alone myself, let alone doing it at early 20s. I also admired Henri that he worked in Australia while traveling to earn money to support his travel. Not every 20 year old is independent enough to support himself or herself financially and I think it’s amazing that Henri was already doing so to make his backpacking trip possible.
I don’t know how we started forming this friendship but I’ve loved every conversation with all of them. Hanging out with them in Luang Prabang has been the highlight of my backpacking trip so far. We drank Beerlao and tried Lao cuisine for the first time by the Mekong River while being eaten away by mosquitos and bugs. We tried Lao style French crepes by the street food stalls while dripping in sweat under the high heat and humidity. We celebrated my birthday hanging out at the coolest bar in town called Utopia and talked about random shit. We drove a scooter for 50 minutes each way through the countryside to the most famous Kuang Si waterfall and rewarded ourselves with almost a full day of swimming and never ending photo sessions in the refreshing turquoise color pool water. We hung out at the rooftop bar overseeing the night market reminensicing the few days we’ve spent in Luang Prabang and refusing to believe that it was almost time to say goodbye.
Goodbye is a hard word to say. Saying goodbye when you’re on a backpacking trip means you might never see that person again. We sent well wishes to each other when we had to move on with our individual journey and hoped for the best that one day we will meet again. Maybe in Germany, maybe in the United States, or maybe in somewhere else in the world. No matter where that will be, I truly hope that one day we will meet again. When that moment comes, I would love to raise a glass and say to you guys again in German “Prost!”