For those not named Queen Bey or Sir Richard Branson life sometimes adopts a predictable cadence. Alarm clocks, to-do lists and commutes: commas in our collective stories. Travel, at its best, punctuates those chapters with multiple exclamation marks. For me, the favored narrative consists of rope swings, long naps, exotic meals and most importantly, friendships old and new. A vivid setting needs a solid cast of characters to fully breathe.
The memories I’ll recall from the rocking chair (lightly edited for respectability) center around people. Whether established stateside or abroad, nothing supercharges connection like the pursuit of shared experience. The alchemy of relationship building hardly counts as a well-kept secret. Businesses hold retreats; teams rally feverishly around halftime locker room speeches; students celebrate the end of finals. Shared moments go a long way to solidifying commonality of purpose. “We did it!” means there’s a nearby companion with whom to exchange pats on the back, slightly tall tales and toasts at the pub.
As a college lad undertaking what can loosely be called “studying” abroad in Ireland, I happened upon native Galwegians Cara and Ben; a pair capable of bringing out the inner child in anyone within the blast zone of their youthful energy. Only a certifiable spoilsport could have resisted cheering the potential of an unassuming summer night while skipping down cobblestone streets, a bottle of something or other in hand, proudly singing slightly questionable songs not found in my- or any- tourist primer.
Those brief shared wanderings to chip shops and hideaway folk music dens cannot be summarized as a series of moments, more aptly described as a deep sensory engraving. The people made the place. Full stop. Smiles and slang long outlive the impact of architectural marvels (apologies to stained glass and Roman Column enthusiasts).
Our exploits took place shortly before the mainstream deluge of social media; our scribbled email addresses and pre-paid phone numbers have long since changed. In a box in my parents’ attic safely rests a photograph of the three of us leaning ever-so-rebelliously against the boxy body of an armored Garde (police) vehicle, looking out at the bay, moments before receiving the semi-stern command to move along. We danced away unscathed and eager to take every random turn. Despite losing contact, those days haven’t lost one bit of their touch.
We embark on our travels with distinctly different mission statements, changing and evolving from one to the next. Some are solitary journeys of inward discovery. That’s to be roundly applauded- even while acknowledging the impossible dimensional awkwardness of the selfie. Often, though, a co-pilot with a similar outlook and set of expectations paves the way for squeezing the most out of that precious time away from the inbox.
Even for contact list butterflies, the go-to travel companion is a spot on the friend-roster often left unfilled. It might not be a best man, sibling, roommate or closest sorority sister. We all have a unique set of requirements that can be difficult to fill. I got lucky (not a euphemism) in the Emerald Isle. Random chance and a bold “E” for extrovert on the Meyers-Briggs partnered me with some excellent company. I’ve since learned it’s smart to stack the deck ahead of time in my favor.
To aid the hunt, travel curator TrovaTrip, does a lot of the heavy lifting. The name says it all. Literally. Trova translates from Italian as “find.” Their adventurer matching service TrovaBuddy is equally self-explanatory. Young professional globetrotters from Austin, TX to Australia to Iceland exchange messages, make connections, and if all goes well, we plan a trip together. Circadian rhythms, habits good and bad, all hashed out before taking the plunge. Any night owl, alpinists with a gelato fixation- see you on the app.
Last February found me alone, sitting (or fetal position) in a 5-star hotel room in Stockholm with the flu, barely able to summon the will to call the front desk for room service soup and aspirin. I would have gladly traded my posh accommodations for a hostel bunk and the conversation and teasing of Cara and Ben, or the many colorful, kind others I’ve met along the way. I can’t blame my fever for the realization mentioned earlier. People make the place. People make the memories. May you meet your match with TrovaBuddy!