“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” —L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
My re-telling of the Gurski Grad trip 2014 has gone on for so long that I am actually dreading the end of the tale. Though it is bound to come eventually, and it shall in the next post, I thought I would pause here to reflect on a phenomenon I have experienced on almost every adventure I have had since my teens: Kindred Spirits.
If I had a dime for every time someone has asked me if I ever find myself feeling homesick or lonely, I would be able to fund far more of the adventures I so crave. Despite the lack of pay for my response (not even a measly penny for my thoughts!), my answer to this has always been a resounding no. Meaning no disrespect to many incredible crew back home…Let me explain!
Perhaps it is because I am a naturally social person (though my most recent personality test seemed to suggest that I am in fact squarely in the middle between Introverted and Extroverted), but on every single trip I have taken, I have met many like-minded people with whom I was happy to while away the hours abroad. Come to think of it, I do not think I have been on a single trip where I have not met someone I have clicked with, even if I was travelling with friends or, in the case of the trip I have been describing over the past few years, my sister.
Aside from just meeting people who provided the opportunity for sharing a pleasant conversation or a pint or two, it has also happened several times that I have met people I have gotten along with so well that we vowed to meet up again at some point on the same trip – or even years in the future somewhere completely new! To me, this suggests that we not only enjoyed each others’ company but that we saw the potential for the sparking of a true friendship – one which could continue beyond one night spent at the local pub.
This happened to me for the first time during my stay in Doolin back in 2010. I had spent one night in Galway the night before arriving at my home-away-from home due to the fact that there were limited options as far as bus trips into the tiny village. Having found a nice hostel right down the street from where I would need to catch the bus at some ungodly hour the next day (as my friends and family will be happy to tell you, I am hardly a morning person) I was planning on spending the whole evening curled up with my book on the couch in preparation for the inevitable socialization the next day. Perhaps I am a bit of an introvert after all… These plans, however, were quickly altered when two guys about my age invited me over to the kitchen table for a friendly game of poker.
Now, I am not an avid poker player by any means. In fact, I’m not sure I understand the game at all (much to my husband’s chagrin), but I had overheard these two chatting and had stifled more than a couple laughs at their antics. Concluding that it would be better to laugh in the open at Laurel and Hardy rather than eavesdropping on the entertainment, I decided to join them – though I was in no way expecting to win.
Suffice it to say, my strategy was far from brilliant but I managed to hold my own, and even won a few rounds! (Is that what you call them? Rounds? Who knows really.) More importantly, however, is that by the end of the evening we had decided that one night of hanging out was simply not going to do. Though they were headed for the Aran islands while I was off to Doolin the next morning, they had not yet chosen where they would land next once their tour of the islands was finished. By the time we parted to head to bed, they had promised to make a stop in Doolin and had taken the name of the hostel where I would be staying so they could drop in and say hi in a few days time.
Over the next few days, I was honestly too busy to think too much about whether they would actually decide to visit Doolin or not but I remember that somehow I did not doubt it for a second. Despite my poor showing at poker, they seemed to enjoy my company and I definitely enjoyed theirs. A few mornings in, as I was savoring my morning coffee in the living room of the hostel, in they came and I greeted them with as much excitement as one would greet a pair of old friends.
The next two days we spent in each others’ company became some of my favourite memories from my time in Doolin. We scaled (er, climbed laboriously up the side of…) the Cliffs of Moher, sang songs on the beach – they both played the fiddle and mandolin – and took in our fair share of heady, music-filled Irish pub nights together. Though I was sorry to see them speed off on their next adventure, the days and evenings we spent as a group would continue to leave a warm glow over my memories of that particular trip long after I had returned home.
Back in Doolin for a second time, this time with sister in tow, we would experience a surprisingly similar sense of serendipity – if a bit briefer. Soon after we had untangled our tired limbs and stumbled from the cramped bus, the latest in a long line of transportation without proper consideration for the very human need to stretch, Kristen received a message from one of the boys we had met in Inverness saying that they were making a brief stop in Doolin that day and were we there yet by any chance? We were delighted to answer in the affirmative and even more excited when we happened to run into them on a jaunt down the road into “town”.
Since they hadn’t told us exactly when they were arriving, we decided to forgo waiting around the hostel pretending to be casual (we were pretty excited) and walk to the main street instead to check out some of the local shops. We hadn’t gotten more than 5 minutes down the road when around the corner came our two new friends, dragging their baggage with them. Obviously there was nothing for it but to head immediately for the pub before they had to skip town.
Though our visit together was very brief, both Kristen and I were grinning for the rest of the day, rejuvenated despite our weeks of hectic travels thanks to the refreshing presence of our new-found kindred spirits.
In the last few years, I have been travelling less than normal but I am still a firm believer that no matter where my feet lead me, a new friend will not be hard to find. That’s the splendid thing about kindred spirits: the world is truly full of them. Perhaps an important lesson to remember in these dark times filled with misguided calls for isolationist nationalism: human beings all over the world are lovely and worth getting to know. Perhaps that next smiling woman on the plane could be the kindred spirit you’ve been waiting for; stranger and less splendid things have happened.
It’s nice to be back. And, remember…
Life is beautiful