So let’s go back to the scene in the van, the place where we met some forever friends through total serendipity. Which then led to meeting more friends, marking El Nido, Philippines as one of the most memorable destinations of our trip so far.
Community observation: Bonds are strengthened and communities are developed when people are in similar circumstances. In our experience in The Philippines, the shared circumstances were shoddy plumbing, high-speed drivers, aching stomachs, lack of accommodation during high season, maniac hosts, and wanderlust vibes.
Ignorantly, we failed to book prior accommodation during Chinese New Year, an amateur mistake that my friend had even warned me about. We ignored the warnings of no vacancy and just went for it. We met V and R on our van ride and they were in the same predicament. After a nerve racking 5-hour drive of hairpin turns and acceptance of the possibility of having to sleep on the beach, we chose to divide and conquer upon arrival in El Nido. After an hour of what felt like an episode out of The Amazing Race, we found a dirty smelly room, with a broken AC and no windows. But, hey, it was a bed!
A few messages via Facebook and the four of us were reunited, sipping cold drinks at a beachfront restaurant. R and V had found an amazing cottage just down the beach, though it came at a higher price than the typical backpacker’s accommodation budget (it was a whole whopping $20 per person!). Turns out, the room had an extra bed so we said bye-bye to our grungy room and hello to three days of sleepover-camp style vacationing, enjoying views of the beach from our cottage porch for only $10 per night.
Though I don’t usually agree to share 150 square feet for 72 hours with complete strangers, our common circumstances expedited the friendship process. We went from zero to BFF in just a few hours. As part of the travelers community, we found that we genuinely cared about the wellbeing of one another, which in this case meant having a decent room at a decent price.
That brings me to another learning: community members become invested in the welfare of their fellows. V isn’t feeling well? S immediately digs through his bags to offer some “Tums.” Friends of friends are also interested in an island hopping tour? We insist they join our boat. I talk about our upcoming trip to Malaysia, and friends of friends (who are now just simply, friends) offer suggestions of secret rooftop bars and tricks of transportation.
Travelers want to help make each other’s experiences better, more memorable, and more comfortable. The result is often unexpected friendships (just as you find at work, in a class, on a sports team, or at church). In this case, these unlikely new friends share a particular drive for novelty, exploration, and learning. It’s a special connection with this “type” of person. We bond over this “thing” that we try to explain to non-travelers about why we want to travel or live abroad. With my fellow travelers, there is no need for explanation because they are living it too! It’s that warm fuzzy feeling that signifies that you have found “your people.”
And then there is glorious Facebook, the tool that allows us to all stay in touch, that makes goodbyes just a little bit easier, a little bit more hopeful. It’s great for that next time you are visiting London or Melbourne and need a couch to crash on, or vice versa for our future available couch in San Francisco. Even better, it’s to stay in touch so as we all zig-zag across Asia on our unique paths, maybe we will find ours crossing again.
Whether it’s an offer from a new friend to try their mango shake, or the coincidence of sitting next to your El Nido amigas on a future Air Asia flight, our community of travelers becomes a family. These personal experiences have enabled me to explore some aspects that I believe all communities have in common. Now, my challenge is to dig deeper into the communities I discover, communities that I am not (or at least not yet!) a part of.
Post by K
Photo: Island hopping cheers (El Nido, Philippines)