Tomorrow I’m meeting Maryam, a friend of mine from Antwerp. She’s originally from the UK and I’m excited to see her during a whirlwind mini break back ‘home’.
I was planning a three hour journey to see her, but she suggested meeting somewhere on the way, so I now only have a one hour trip to factor in.
This got me thinking about a holiday to India where friends travelled from far and wide to see me. The most impressive was a friend who endured six hours on a rickety overnight train to get from central India to Delhi just to say namaste.
Thank you, yes, I know what you’re thinking… Clearly I’m such a fun, interesting and wonderful person that I warrant a six hour trek on a crowded Indian train. Umm, well, actually no. Six hours? Really?!
Would I do the same for her? Am I just too lazy to be kind? Sure, if an emergency arose I would make the effort, for a wedding I might be tempted, but for a quick chat over chai…?
For sure, the more I move around the more I yearn to share memories with my travel companions. Memories of running giggling out of house parties in pre civil war Damascus before the not so secret police would burst in, of stuffing live lobsters into my handbag to barbecue on the beach in Luanda, of rushing indoors from making snowmen with the neighbours for ‘so thick you can stick your spoon upright in it’ hot chocolate.
As an expat, perhaps my friends are more important to me than for non expats. You can get some great treats shipped through Netaporter.com but the familiarity, stability, comfort and love of a good friend is priceless. And scientists agree with me – they found that friends can boost our survival rate by a half, or on the flipside, making do without them is akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or being an alcoholic.
Of course, for the most part social media helps me stay in touch. I hate prioritising phones over people, but my Samsung draws me in with its alluring little beeps. An update from my girlfriends in the US, the revelation that x married y, or just a little hello from someone whom I cherish and haven’t heard from in too long.
Whatsapp, instagram, Messenger… they’re all great but nothing compares to the real deal of a hug, a shared giggle, a comfortable face to face silence.
Nowadays I have other factors to take into consideration when I travel. The main two are called Rafa and Sebastian, my kids. However, I now realise how important my friends are to me and putting the practicalities of motherhood aside, I’d be prepared to travel much further afield for my friends.
So Maryam, while I’m not taking a six hour trip on an Indian sleeper train, for sure I’m really looking forward to seeing you.