Imagine finding a corner of the world where everyone you meet feels instantly like family. This family understands you down to the deepest fibers of who you are, they even share similar interests. In this place you can be 100% yourself, without fear for what other people will think. I found that recently in Chiang Mai.
When I was 18 and backpacking in Nicaragua, I found an incredible group of people. I remember writing that it felt as if we were vibrating on the same frequencies. I had no idea what I meant by that, but it was the first time I found a tribe on the road. These strangers became a part of who I am and they filled my heart with so much love that I thought it might burst.
When I moved to the Virgin Islands in 2010, I got a job on a charter boat that employed an all-female crew of the most badass people I’ve ever met. We worked together, lived together and we even traveled together. We got to know one another so well that we wouldn’t have to speak to know what the other was thinking. To this day I can remember standing on that boat and literally pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream. I would breathe deeply and take in my surroundings, not wanting to miss a thing. Spending every day with my best friends – beautiful boats, surf trips, good money, it was perfect…
When I picked up and left to travel alone for the past year, I often worried that I would never find a tribe again. Don’t get me wrong, solo female travel is fantastic, exciting, empowering and awesome – but at times, it can get lonely. When I arrived in Chiang Mai a month ago, all of my worries evaporated.
First of all, the city of Chiang Mai is incredible. If Bangkok seemed to exist under a layer of soot, Chiang Mai seems to exist under a layer of magic. You can’t throw a stone here without hitting a beautiful temple. There are fountains, moats and the fresh scent of jasmine everywhere you turn. It’s incredibly beautiful – and I typically don’t care much for cities.
But the real magic here has been in the friendships I’ve made. After only one month of spending time together, these people have gotten to know me on a level that few before them ever have. It is also my first experience bonding with travel bloggers. It’s incredible to find extremely motivated people with such a specific shared interest. A whole group of people who share a passion for travel, writing, video, photography and prolonging their adventures for as long as possible – I’m in heaven!
Here are the realities of what it means to have a Travel Tribe:
- Travel friendships happen fast. When living on the road, we skip a lot of the pleasantries that you’re used to in regular life. People are given the benefit of the doubt – you’re assumed rad until proven otherwise. There’s an easy excuse to talk to strangers when you’re in a strange land, and because of this people are usually friendly.
- We have seen all of each other’s best outfits, and we know when it’s laundry day. Traveling the world isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds, especially when you consider that we are carrying all of our belongings on our backs. Many of us travel with only a few changes of clothes. This is definitely no fashion show, though I am always jealous of the girls who can somehow pull that off.
- We can swap travel advice with unique shorthand. We’re able to identify places by their surrounding landmarks and the memorable activities that we did there. Often, we’re describing specific locations without any street names. We’ve become experts at this art. It is important because we depend on and value our fellow traveller’s advice over any other forums, websites or guidebooks.
- We use bathroom humor. It could be because when we travel, we tend to experience more issues in this department – or it could just be because we’re obviously never going to grow up. Either way, bathroom jokes are never off limits.
- Work hard, play hard. Keep partyin’ like it’s yo’ job. For many of us this is the reality. Travel bloggers are some of the most motivated entrepreneurs I’ve ever come across. We skip a lot of late nights in favor of early morning work sessions, but when we do get together to try an activity or just to blow off steam, we take full advantage! Many late nights out have turned into interesting blog posts – so I guess we’re literally partying like it’s our job (even those of us who don’t drink).
- We’re all weird and that’s ok. In St John there was a popular bumper sticker that said, “We’re all here because we’re not all there.” I can’t think of anything more accurate to describe the majority of my travel friends. When meeting these people, we’re from different countries, we’re different ages, and we have wildly different backgrounds. None of that matters. I can be myself and feel totally accepted because there are no preconceived notions about who I ought to be.
- When you find your tribe, you just know it. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Nicaragua, the Virgin Islands or Chiang Mai, but each time it quickly became clear that the people I met were my people. It starts with an excitement to meet up and it blossoms into a desire to stay up all night to keep the feeling alive. I’ve been so blessed to find this multiple times in my life and I hope to find it again in the future.
- Life on the road means we may never meet again. Life is full of short, beautiful moments in time. Instead of being sad that the moment will come to an end, I choose to focus on gratitude for the time we’ve shared.
- BUT, life on the road means we may always meet again. On this trip to Thailand I have reconnected with a friend who I met in Guatemala and a friend that I met in Nicaragua seven years ago! When you make nomadic friends, you never know where in the world you’ll bump into one another again!
Last night I had to say goodbye to two of my favorite new friends. These two have been both mentors and buddies – the perfect balance of stern determination while at work and goofy lightheartedness while at play. In honor of our last night together, we attended a ladyboy burlesque show, which was absolutely AWESOME. We followed that with a stop in a bar with live music. When everything shut down around 12:30am, we wandered the streets of the city, not wanting the night to end. We ate street food and cruised until we realized that there was nowhere left to go.
The five of us eventually piled into a tuk-tuk for the ride home, laughing hysterically while racing down the streets of Chiang Mai at 1am. We spent a few minutes trying to get a group selfie, while simultaneously trying not to fall out the side of this three-wheeled scooter. The pictures didn’t come out great, but that wasn’t the point. The real goal was to preserve this moment in time – to freeze these feelings as our journey together came to an end.
We may never all be in the same part of the world at the same time again, but these guys now hold a piece of my heart. I will always think about flying down the street in an overstuffed tuk-tuk and be able to feel the love and full heartedness that I felt on that night. Life is full of opportunities to make ordinary moments into ones you’ll never forget. Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel accepted and alive is an awesome step toward finding your tribe.
When is the last time you found a travel tribe? Share your experiences in the comments below!