It's a Small World


No, this isn't about the Disney song. It's about being abroad and running into old friends. This happens more when you're young. If you have like-minded friends and you like to travel, then it is quite possible that you will have one of these crazy coincidences. The first time this happened to me was when I was studying abroad in Bordeaux. An old friend that I hadn't seen or heard from since high school happened to know someone on my program. She came up from her own study program in Spain to visit her friend. I bumped into them on campus. Incongruous is the best word for this. It's hard for your mind to process this in your new environment. Somehow, the world seems much less intimidating. Of course, study abroad is a pretty likely place for such an occurence.

It's also not so far-fetched to be walking in Paris and bump into someone. France is afterall the most popular tourist destination in the world. I bumped into an old acquaintance on some busy street. Frankly, it wasn't someone that I had any interest in talking to, but what are you going to do? Awkwaaaaard! You can't ignore someone when you're overseas. The least you can do is sit down for a cup of coffee.

It's also not so unusual to be in the surf in Mazatlan and see an old college friend doing the same. Jim and his girlfriend were driving his VW hippie van down the coast of Mexico in the late 70s and there I was! A few years ago I saw his name in the New York Times, he apparently has a vinyard north of Santa Barbara (an area famous by the movie Sideways). A small world indeed! His winery is called Au Bon Climat - check it out at

I've also run into friends at a night market in Chiang Mai, and in the Frankfurt Airport. All of these meetings were pre-Internet. Should be much easier nowadays, but less of a surprise. Clara in our office here in Denver was working in Matagalpa, Nicaragua - totally off the beaten path - when she was surprised to see on Facebook that a friend would be passing through the area. How many of these potential meetings have I missed over the years for want of Facebook?

Anyway, as you can see, these chance encounters linger in your memory. So keep your eyes open, you never know who you'll run into!


By Kevin O'Neill


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