I’m a 35-year old guy with a good job living in a big American city and I have disposable income. The thing that I – and pretty much every other city-dwelling millennial in my position – do to entertain, distract, and broaden myself is travel.
Sure, some of my peers use it as Instagram fodder and the opportunity to status-whore their Tinder profiles with photos of them pinching the tip of the Taj Mahal. But, fundamentally, good travel re-invigorates a dulled mind and restores a tired soul.
As I prepare for a three week trip to go fishing & trekking in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, I’ve been reflecting on two other trips I’ve taken in the last two years (one was to Thailand and the other was a trip to Madrid & London). While they seemed cool and sexy on the surface, the truly memorable moments had nothing to do with the food I ate or the photos I took – it was all about the new friends I had the privilege of meeting.
A Tale of Two Connections
First, Bangkok, Thailand.
Sure, I saw the temples, food markets, and took the river tours like many other tourists. But, truthfully, I only remember these from the few photos I took of them.
What I do remember, though, is sitting at a Bangkok cocktail bar, Vesper, when in walked a striking woman with the same name as the bar. She was dressed as if she was Indiana Jones’s sexy female counterpart. She was a miraculous woman who was as interesting as she was beautiful.
I don’t remember what I had to drink that night (I just remember buying her a Manhattan) but I do remember her hypnotic eyes, smoky voice, and endless soulfulness. She was a paragon of womanliness. Just being in her presence made me feel like a man.
All I could think of while talking to her was the classic Humphrey Bogart line from the movie “Casablanca”…
Of all the gin joints in the world, she had to walk into mine.
I remember walking the streets of Bangkok after midnight with her, being captivated by her mischievous green eyes and lost in her kisses. I’d never been enraptured by a woman like that before and I’ve never felt it since.
She asked me what I yearned for in life. She was a woman who knew her hunger and curiosity and surrounded herself with those who did as well. I was humbled and embarrassed when I told her, “I don’t know anymore”.
Anytime I feel like I’ve gotten a little too complacent or forgotten about my desire, my mind wanders back to that bar and the energetic spirit of Vesper, forever my sweet Bangkok gypsy.
Next, we visit London…
I could only tell you brief details of the classic architecture I toured or the countless gin bars I visited in London. But, I could talk for hours about my friend L., the young professional poker player I met in a pub my last night in London.
We bonded over whiskey. He shared his favorite Scotch and Irish whiskys with me, while I bought him a few of my favorite Kentucky bourbons. And, as with many men who drink together, the conversation turned deep and spirited.
His struggles reminded me of my earlier days.
A near-millionaire at 25, he was refreshingly modest and humble for his station life. He shared his insecurities with me and how, despite his money and sports car, he still longed to have the close male camaraderie & kinship that he saw in his peers. As a guy who struggled with making friends for most of my life, this resonated with me deeply.
His vulnerability was inspiring.
I shared my experience with him and the advice I could give him, as someone who revels in having great male friendships. He reminded me to not be calloused and guarded in how I share myself with others. He was willing to share with me, I should follow suit. I was honored when he gave me a hug as I left and called me his “Bro”.
Finding Your Home in a Strange Place
As I travel more, I’m starting to believe that traveling is not just for seeing the sights, eating the food, and learning about the history; I now see it as a magnet for meeting hungry souls, bonding over both personal similarities and the shared experience of being a stranger in a strange land.
It’s the vulnerability of being in a new place, I think, that allows us to share ourselves with others more than we would back home. We are ‘pinging’ the world for any familiar connection. This bond gives us grounding and a place to call home. And – something I’ve found over the years – we find home not just in a physical space but in the welcoming presence of friends, new and old.
I’ll leave you with the sage words of Timothy Leary, a true traveler…
Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…
In your future travels, open yourself to new connections while serving as an open door and a ‘welcome home’ to weary travelers. Be curious enough to find the Others and open enough to help the Others find you.
Peace & Charisma,
Dalton K. Finney