You can't fathom setting off on vacation without a friend or a significant other? How about pushing yourself, with the idea that that friend or significant other will be waiting for you when you get there? Let me explain.
Melinda and I have known each other for about four years. Though she's from the West Coast (of the U.S.) and I'm from the East, we've never broken bread together in the Northern Hemisphere. We met on a New Zealand trip. We both arrived solo. That bonding thing began to happen among the group of 15 people, both couples and singles. Melinda and I ended up in a two-person kayak in the tiny village of Okarito, paddling badly, getting soaked. We spilled about the men in our lives, and our parents and families, and the conversation continued in the van that was taking us around the South Island. She and I and the others biked and hiked and oohed and aahed our way through amazing scenery, sharing wine, our political views and our astonishment about just how many sheep can fit on one small island.
Three years later, I was going to South America for a conference and emailed Melinda to see if she wanted to meet up with me and travel around Chile. She preferred to visit Argentina. It's a deal! I hadn't been to either country and was just as happy to go to Buenos Aires and elsewhere around Argentina.
At the B.A. airport, I recognized Melinda, but it felt strange. Yet, within hours, we were back to the camaraderie we'd established several years earlier. Traveling together can do that for people. The same way summer camp can. By the end of a week or two you can feel like fast friends with someone, and when you part, you want to stay in touch. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. When it does, you've gained a friend who you know likes to travel the way you do. And you've opened the door for more excellent adventures.
1. Okarito, NZ, sunrise. Photo: Ellen Perlman.
2. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina. Melinda, Ellen and two friends from our day long tour hiking on the glacier. Photo by a nice stranger.