How to Deal With the “Missed Connections” of Travel

by Gabby Beckford
Reading Time: 3 minutes

We have all had trips in which we've run into a kindred spirit.

You know what I mean. Maybe in your hostel you sit next to someone for breakfast, or at the market in Saigon you ask someone for the time—and you guys just click in a totally Step Brothers, “Did we just become best friends?!” way.

You end up spending eating a meal together, or maybe you hang out that entire serendipitous day. You're shocked at how you connected with someone so quickly, after minutes, until—bam, they're catching their flight out or in a cab to their next destination.

It's then that you realize you've become momentary best friends with this person and you may likely never see them again for the rest of your life…

Talk about a missed connection.

I can think of multiple times this has occurred with me—once with a girl named Shamima, who was my best friend on a week-long cruise when I was 11. Another time was the guy from this story, who I fell in love with on a 6-hour connection flight to Iceland.

This was more the case a few years ago when social media wasn't so common, and no one had unlimited data.

But it still, if you travel it will inevitably happen to you.

You're going place to place in planes, trains, and automobiles. Country to country, town to town. Statistically, missed connections are just more likely to happen to us.

It may be that drunk girl in the club bathroom who says that you are beautiful and that you have a body like a goddess, or that guy who randomly offers you a ride to the store on his moped in Italy—you just feel it.

Have you ever met someone while traveling, and realized you'll never see them again? Click To Tweet

The potential.

The potential friendship, the potential memories, the potential adventures. All cut anticlimactically short by the minor fact that you don't actually know that person beyond that brief moment.

Essentially, you've got friends-blue-balls (LOL, I died typing that because it's true).

It's just a fact that you meet people so you may never have the reason to run into her again. Even if you get there and social media, you don't really know each other. So it's weird to reach out. But you had that special connection, and it unsettles you that it was so limited.

It's wasn't a life-altering encounter, and you may even forget about them tomorrow.

But for some people, it can be really sad. You want to connect with everyone you meet—and as I said, with social media it's much easier—but knowing that you'll never have the opportunity to fulfill that relationship is simply unsatisfying! I still think about what Shamima would be like, even today.

So how to you kick that sad, nagging feeling that you just never get to know someone who you think you felt a connection with?

Iceland Friends Miss Connection Travel | Packs Light

A photo of a girl who I hung out with for the two weeks in Iceland when I was 17… and haven't seen since! But a memory I truly cherish.

My advice is just to cherish those moments.

There's a belief that we as humans don't have just one soul mate, but that we can have multiple—and I truly believe that is what those instant connections are. They come into our lives when we need the most and least expect it, and change us for the better, even if in the smallest way.

Don't try to cling to a moment is only destined to be fleeting, no matter how disappointing it may feel.

Value that moped ride for what it is—a lovely story of your time abroad you can carry with you and make your heart pound thinking about it. Let that girl in the bathroom be the story you tell when people ask you why clubbing is the best in London!

I let Shamima, who happened to be Indian, be a story of how I didn't even recognize her as an Indian until my mom told me later, and how race is something we only consciously see as we get older.

It's a hard pill to swallow that some moments are just moments, and that's all they ever will be.

It’s a hard pill to swallow that some moments are just moments, and that’s all they ever will be. Click To Tweet

And as I said, if you travel, you're more likely to have hundreds more of those moments than the average person simply because of the situations you're in and the sheer number of people you'll interact with.

But, ah, a silver lining!

I truly believe that every time you travel you make your world a little bit smaller.

I met people my very first day in Dubai that I didn't run into again until my very last day there. I've run into childhood friends from Japan, here in the U.S. I've run into students from my U.S. college all the way in a London hostel!

You can't force anything in this universe, and que sera sera. Whatever will be will be. You have to believe that if you are meant to meet those people again, you will.

Do you relate with this article at all? Have you ever run into an “almost-best-friend” while you were traveling? Let me know in the comments!

You share a cab with a dooope girl while you're in London, have a great conversation and you feel like you've known her forever and then—poof! She's gone forever. Why the heck do you feel so unsatisfied?

Pin, pin, pin!

Gabby Beckford

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Debbie M. October 15, 2021 - 11:23 AM

I made what I felt was a connection on a connecting flight recently from BOS to ATL. He eyed me as he approached the seat next to me, sat and didn’t say a word. He slept while I read/slept. I’m an introvert and expected him to speak at some point. We flew in silence for 4 hours. He politely allowed me out of my seat first, upon landing, while he stood patiently in the isle as I retrieved my overhead luggage. It’s strange, I can’t explain it but I felt a deeper connection/attraction. Maybe it’s a lost opportunity but if it’s meant to be, we will meet again

Karny March 14, 2019 - 1:47 AM

I really needed this. I met someone truly amazing this weekend and I know I’ll never see him again, and it’s been a hard pill to swallow but reading this has really put it in a different perspective for me. So beautiful and just what I needed. Thank you❤️

Anna August 14, 2017 - 4:10 AM

Great post! I have experienced this so many times while traveling and there is something strange about being so connected to someone you barely know and the next moment you know you will never see them again. But this is also one of the things I love about traveling. It is easy to make friends, have that connection for a while but then move on without any commitments.

Marion Halliday August 13, 2017 - 3:57 AM

Oh, that has SO happened to me a LOT! Travelling in Australia a lot in our camper trailer, we’ve met some great people in the next campsite, or on hikes, or even following each other up the highway. I always assumed I was being too open and maybe that put them off wanting to take the friendship further – but now I’ll just take your advice and enjoy the moment. Although I HAVE been known to give out my blog business card if I really think I’d like to pursue a friendship …

April August 12, 2017 - 9:14 PM

I connect with this so much! There’s been so many lovely people who I’ve just briefly connected with and then never seen again. So many wonderful vibrant souls that I have met at the craziest, loudest and sketchiest hostels. People who just live and breathe passion and zest for life! Thanks so much for this article, I’ve especially been feeling nostalgic this week so it was a wonderful read.

Gabby August 12, 2017 - 11:15 PM

I’m so glad you can relate! Yes, some people are just a breath of fresh air in our lives, and that’s it. But what a breath! 🙂 Glad we can appreciate those people for what they’re meant to be!

Olivia August 12, 2017 - 5:42 PM

This is beautiful. I’ve always wondered about these types of relationships. I’ve met so many great people while travelling, but it’s not the same type of friendship upon returning home. I like you how describe it as making your world a little smaller. I think that’s perfection.

Gabby August 12, 2017 - 11:14 PM

Aw thank you for reading Olivia! <3

Sarah August 12, 2017 - 5:15 PM

LOVE THIS. I have had this happen so many times Gabby, it is so relatable and so sad 🙁

Gabby August 12, 2017 - 5:22 PM

Aww, haha, it’s just a fact of life! It’s bittersweet but it’s nice in it’s own way 🙂

Samantha August 12, 2017 - 12:37 PM

That’s why I try to be brave and at least ask if I can follow the people I meet on Instagram (because Facebook friends may be pushing it for some people). People always love more followers on IG haha!

Gabby August 12, 2017 - 12:40 PM

Haha that’s very true! Unfortunately there are just some times where you cant exchange info at all! 🙁

Melissa August 12, 2017 - 10:22 AM

Completely! I can think about the nice guy who sat next to me on a business flight from Managua to Houston who was a test pilot for the airline. We had such great conversation and banter and I gave him my blog card but never heard from him again. But it was nice to have the plane company.

And there was a girl who I befriended for a day on a lagoon. We floated in inner tubes and talked about life and travel and love and then I never saw her again.

Thanks to Facebook though I’m still somewhat in touch with a Swiss woman I shared a semi-private surfing lesson with and then ended up hanging out with the next night for a great BBQ with some Canadian guys.

You’re right, it’s hard to let go of those for what they were instead of trying to make life-long friends with everybody, but instead be happy and grateful those people came into your life at all and cherish the memory.

Gabby August 12, 2017 - 11:39 AM

I completely agree with you Melissa! Isn’t funny how these one-off encounters stay with us so much though 🙂

Menorca August 12, 2017 - 9:34 AM

Yess! OMG it happens so many times but it’s true we can’t do anything more than cherish memories, try to stay connected and hope to or plan to meet again!

Rachel Silverwood August 12, 2017 - 9:30 AM

Its so gutting when you meet someone and then have to make a swift fair-well! But your advice will definitely help ease the pain aha!


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