How Europe became the school cafeteria

…Let me explain.

In college, after going out for the weekend and maybe not making the best decisions, my friends and I would always joke about going to the cafeteria on Sunday for brunch and running into everyone we wanted to avoid.

Every single time.

It was a lesson in grace/humility, learning to say an enthusiastic, “Hi!” and keeping an unwavering, shit-eating grin while talking to someone who you knew would turn away later and say, “You’ll never guess what she did last night…”

What’s my point? I never expected this to happen in Europe.

I went a little crazy during my first backpacking trip. It felt like being in college again–the dorm rooms, the drinking games, the pub crawls. Except there was one difference: no one knew who I was, and I would never see these people again.

So I thought.

Bar in Bairro Alto

There was my 2-hour “relationship” with a boy in Lisbon.  This is the only non-boyfriend who has tried to break-up with me. We instantly connected, then when I told him I was leaving for the next bar, he said, “Listen…I kind of want to do my own thing.”

“What? That’s cool, but I have to go now…”

“So I think you should do your own thing, and I’ll do me.”

“Uhh okay, bye.”

I left for Lagos the next day, and he apparently did, too. He stayed at the same hostel as I did for the same amount of time. Then I ran into him at a bar in Seville. Each time we would smile awkwardly, say some social pleasantries, and proceed to avoid eye contact.

There was one friend who I saw 4 cities in a row. I saw my San Sebastian roommate at a club in Split. I ran into a guy on the street in Zaragoza who I had met in Portugal a month earlier. I walked into the G-Spot hostel in Lisbon this year and immediately recognized 3 people: my pub crawl leader from last year, a kid I had hung out with in Seville last summer, and my hostel roommate from Barcelona. Another BCN roommate arrived a few days later. I met a couple in Italy and literally ran into them at the same hostel in Ios 2 weeks later. I went out with a boy in Santorini who turned out to be on the same Sail Turkey trip.

I had a heart-to-heart with a guy at a kebap place at 4 am in Lagos, then ran into him a month later in Ios.

View from Francesco’s in Ios

I could go on and on. It made me realize how many people have the same itineraries (no matter how original you think you are). And how–whether for better or for worse–even if you’re traveling solo, you’re never really alone. It’s not always as anonymous as you think it is.

Ultimately though, it’s what I love about it. It’s so fun to walk into a hostel/restaurant/bar and see people that you met in a different country and reminisce and catch up on what you’ve been doing since then.

Well, most of the time anyway…


3 thoughts on “How Europe became the school cafeteria

  1. Pingback: Why my second backpacking trip got off to an AMAZING start « adultescence

  2. Perhaps its due to the places you were going to. All are hot-spots for 20-something American tourists. So no wonder you keep bumping into the same people, especially if you fill your time with partying – you meet many people that way. I’m not saying its wrong, just suggesting an explanation.

    • I totally agree. So many people were doing the same circuit, which is something I didn’t think of when I was looking at a map and thinking I was making a super original itinerary. The only thing I disagree with is the “American” part–the vast majority of the people I met again and again were Australian :).

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