One of the greatest things about travelling or living in a foreign country is the opportunity it gives you to meet new people – often individuals who you might not have the chance to form friendships with in normal circumstances. Be warned though – it may result in a multi-lingual Facebook news feed like mine appears to be these days!
For the last six weeks I’ve been taking a Thai language course in Chiang Mai and during that time I’ve made great friends with three of my classmates from Taiwan.
As days passed and we learnt how to ask each other what we enjoyed eating in Thai, laughed over awkward pronunciations, and tested each other’s listening skills, we soon found ourselves bonding outside of the classroom over lunch affairs, coffee hook-ups, massage dates, cinema nights, weekend road trips and cocktail-laden evenings.
Despite my non-existent Chinese and their limited English, I have found myself connecting with them on a level that transcends any language. Meeting three other solo travellers that are in the same situation as me has been a real comfort – of a similar age, all of us had recently left our full-time jobs to follow other dreams and aspirations. It’s been reassuring that, like me, they don’t seem to have it all figured out yet either.
What has really surprised me is our shared sense of humour – we might not always be able to say the right words, often having to rely on our Thai, but we ‘get’ each other. My last few weeks have been filled with so much laughter – an essential ingredient for any great friendship.
I feel lucky to have been able to learn things about my friends’ culture and have enjoyed sharing mine too. I’d have never have put Taiwan on my bucket list of places to visit but now I know someday I will make the trip there – and that excites me.
Recently I said goodbye to one of my friends as she returned to Taiwan. Before she left she said: “Davina, I’m nervous about going home.” I asked her why, but I didn’t really have to ask because I knew why. I didn’t need the use of any language to tell me that the way she felt is the way I know I will feel when I return home – emotions I am sure any traveller can relate to.
“You get a strange feeling when you leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again.” Azar Nafash
As I think about heading home soon, I am excited at the thought of seeing my husband, my family and my friends – catching up on their lives, seeing how babies are now walking and talking, sharing tales from my travels. But I’m also nervous – what will be in store for me next? One thing I know for certain is that I will miss my life in Thailand and the friends I’ve made.
When the time comes for me to leave , it will comfort me to know that, without the use of any words, I have friends who will know how I’m feeling. That’s why I believe friendship truly is the best language in the world.