After being stuck in China for a day and a half, my flight was finally coming up to get to my final destination. I lined up to get my boarding pass, and overheard a conversation between a Texan and a Canadian about working in this destination that I was headed to. Being alone in China, I listened to them and made my way into the conversation as I do, finding out all about the one who was thirty and the other, who was creepy. The world thought this was a good story to tell, so it cancelled our flight. I went with a group of middle-aged people that I met: A doctor, Texas BBQ master, British soldier, a German woman, and the thirty year old to our free hotel, which was a LOT nicer than the one from the night before when I had been alone.
The men told me I should have gone to the Great Wall with my layover in China since they had let me out of the airport. I had no idea I had been so close to the wall, so I was disappointed when they told me that, but since we didn’t have our flight until three in the afternoon the next day, the old doctor suggested we explore Beijing the next morning. It turned out that the men knew each other through their work in the country we were headed to. The older Texan had a handlebar mustache, and hiking boots made out of crocodile. Thought I should just mention his awesomeness now. He was the grill master in his hometown as well as in central Asia on contract. The doc was from South Africa and knew almost every language because he had been everywhere. The soldier was in deep in the Middle East, in Asia to survey for only 5 days before returning. He would have been an uber hottie if he weren’t missing most of his teeth. The German woman was harsh, and I immediately loved her. Finally, the thirty-year-old Texan who was the nephew of the BBQ Texan, and was pretty much gigantic- in a good way. ‘Tis true I suppose- Everything’s bigger in Texas.
I stuck with them not only because I felt safest with them, but as a single traveler, they were just a lot of fun. We got to our hotel and the first thing out of the middle aged German woman’s mouth was “I need a drink,” which I was pleased to hear. We ran into the doc and soldier in the hallway, who had the same idea, and headed to a “bar” we had passed by, which consisted of plastic chairs and a makeshift grill with odd smelling mystery meat, which I would never want to taste… Or know what it was. Doc said he would come with me into Beijing the next day, and I was excited since I didn’t feel like spending too much backpacker money on one day in China alone. We had many beers and the night went on, eventually chipping all the tables in the hotel trying to open the bottles. I loved hearing the stories, and had forgotten the variety of people there are in the world. It was just fascinating how all three could speak German, had been everywhere, and were still so young at heart.
After hardly any sleep from the jet lag, I woke up to all of my new friends waiting for me at the buffet, which consisted of strange things like “bowel” and bread dumplings. We eventually went through Beijing on a variety of train systems and taxi’s and saw the sites. Throughout the day, I talked more and more with the thirty year old Texan. He would open doors, offer his hand, and make sure I was behind when we were being shoved on the trains with the men and their white gloves. (Side note: Watching 4 six foot tall or more men being shoved in a train by small people is hilarious). He told me that being a Southern boy was very important to him, and sure did show it. We exchanged information and talked for hours while we waited for our flight and more. I was sad that our flight wasn’t cancelled for another day, but I was glad to have met him.
We got to our destination, and he met me to say our farewells, and gave me all of the local currency he had in his pockets. He said if I needed anything to call him, but he would e-mail to make sure I got to my hostel safely. I did, and had an e-mail waiting for me. Ironically enough they were making another connecting flight, and it was… cancelled! After meeting people in my hostel, I asked if they wanted to go for a walk to meet my new “old” friends. We did, and I saw my Southern boy again. The BBQ master was already into the beers, and was happy to see me. He called the thirty-year-old and I went to his room. What happened next? Well, we talked. There were no advances, and since he had two beds in his second free hotel room, we lay on different beds. We talked about everything from how he would get mad at his friends for bringing home guys to sleep with, to how at the rate he was going, he would retire by 35. We talked for hours, and never stopped throughout my entire trip with e-mails. Although I was in and out of Internet zones, I always found an e-mail waiting.
It was the best way I could start a trip. Meeting a few great people who will be in my mind forever, and be a reminder of how many amazing people you can meet on a whim. What was amazing to me was that the whole time I was with these people, I didn’t have any makeup on, and hadn’t changed my clothes in almost three days (not by choice). It’s sometimes hard to remember that you don’t need the illusion of beauty to meet some of the best people.
Travel is more than just seeing sights. It’s about the chance encounters you have and the people who remind you there’s way more out there than you expected. They’re the ones who inspire you, and eventually become some of the best friends you’ve ever had. I’m still talking to the Southern boy.