The best kind of travel is the kind that surprises you with new friends

Of course you don't make friends everywhere you go. But sometimes? If you're lucky? Well, some situations just make it easier to make new, compatible connections than others. Like barbecues your friendly hosts take you to, and the like.

But what about meeting new friends you're immediately drawn to when you're on a random stop in a place you didn't necessarily intend to be in in the first place? Now there's a gift!

Like during my recent trip to Portland. It was the last afternoon of our stay and then my friend, Rachel, and I were heading back to Seattle. We decided to make a quick stop by the Bagdad Theater & Pub. She wanted to shoot a few pictures for her hubby, who is a special fan of this place. So we went in, she shot her pics, and then I said, "Wouldn't it be nice to just go into the pub and have a drink or something? Since we're already here, and all..." She agreed, and in we went.

Minutes later, all seated and chatting it up with Andy our friendly bartender, I turned to take a photo of the nifty wall behind us. The woman two seats down, quietly reading her book and minding her own business, turned to look at me. I shook my head quickly and immediately assured her, "I didn't take your picture. It's just that this wall is so cool!" Which led to a discussion about cameras, (and how I maybe needed to learn more about how to use mine properly, thank you very much, and how handy was it that our new friend  just happens to be a pretty avid amateur photographer herself!) and travel... Somehow we started talking about Peru.  I'm pretty sure it had something to do with my mentioning that I was working through a goal of shooting 10,000 pictures on my 6 week trip, which led to questions about my trip, which led to my telling her about the Uber Traveling Friends I'd stayed with in LA for 2 weeks at the beginning of my trip, which led to how they ended their year+ of travel in Peru, then she told us that she'd lived in Peru for 2 years. Seriously??? (My actual words may have been a little closer to "You did not!!!") But she assured us that she did. And not only that, she'd lived in Chile for 4 years, too.

Don't you love it how, when you're not even looking for them, like-minded people will always find you, if you stay open to such meetings? Yea. Me too. Incidentally, I've neither been to Peru nor Chile, but since these are both destinations on my lists, I just thought it was an uncanny, very much excellent twist in an otherwise lovely but formerly standard afternoon...

Fast forward... after much laughing and discovering just how cool it was that we decided to stop in at the Bagdad that day, and in response to something our new friend had just said, I declared, "You need to join! Then if I come to this thing I'm considering coming back to Portland for, next summer, I can crash on your couch!" To which my new bff said, "You don't have to sleep on my couch. You can have your own room! In fact, you guys should come stay there tonight!" And then she got this look on her face for half a second that may have been interpreted by some as "Did I just say that out loud?" And then that expression flitted away and she reinforced her invitation with, "Seriously!"

Well, having as much fun as we were, I looked at Rachel and she looked at me, and I finally said, "Well I don't have a husband waiting for me up in Seattle!"

And so we did it! And didn't regret it for a single second, either! In fact, it turned out to be one of the more fun evenings of my entire trip. We left the Bagdad and continued on to Powell's Books, which is as huge and amazing and stunning as they say it is, and then to Whole Foods where we purchased the needed ingredients for the dinner we had decided to prepare for our new friend and hostess. And then we went on to her lovely home! And I feel as welcome there, any time I ever should wish to visit again, as I do in the homes of people I've known for 20 years!

I told this story to Bob Redpath on the phone a couple of nights ago, and he said, "That's exactly what travel is supposed to be!" Which made me pretty happy, seeing as how the whole Redpath family ranks pretty high on my list of people who have some things to teach me about travel...

That's it. Now that I'm home, regrouping (and making some money so I can go somewhere else again,) every time I remember our stop off at the Bagdad, it makes me really happy. That we were willing to consider stepping away from "the plan" which opened us up to a really excellent time. Not to mention a new friend.

Here's to staying open in all our wanderings!