It was December 25th, 2015 and my boyfriend (now husband) Jeremy and I were packing our bags to fly to New York City for new year’s eve. This trip was semi-spontaneous as we accepted a last-minute house swap. Unlike most of our vacations that are carefully considered and every day is planned out, we only had a few key areas we knew we had to see. Our house swap was located on the upper east side in Manhattan and fortuitously positioned near tons of bars and restaurants. We spent days walking through different parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, eating good food and drinking local beers and cocktails.
In the early morning hours of December 30th, Jeremy was surfing around on Imagr and came across a thread about traveling to New York City for new years eve. The post came from a girl named Amanda and she and her brother Linus were traveling here from Sweden looking for advice on what to see. Jeremy chimed in that he too was an out-of-towner come to celebrate the holiday and wanted to follow the thread for inspiration. Jeremy and Amanda got to talking and she asked if we wanted to meet up with her and her brother, to celebrate new years eve together.
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While I was a little hesitant to share my holiday time with them, I was feeling particularly spontaneous and decided to go for it. We agreed to meet up at a bar on the upper west side.
When they arrived, all my anxiety about having to talk to strangers evaporated. Amanda was sweet, and Linus was charming and hilarious. The four of us instantly connected, talking and making jokes about the differences in our cultures. Before we knew it, the bar started to shout the 10-second countdown.
We rang in the new year together, tipsy and happy to have found each other. We didn’t leave the bar until 2 am, which was way past my bedtime, but we didn’t want the fun times to end. We hopped into a cab and said our goodbyes, but promised to keep in touch on Facebook.
A few days later, after resting our hangovers we met again for dinner and drinks. We talked about all the sights we had seen and decided that these people were too cool to never see again. We all made promises to visit each other some day in the future.
We went back home touched by the friendship we had made and were hopeful they would come out and see us in San Francisco. A year of watching their lives on Facebook, exchanging likes and comments on epic parties and milestones, we finally decided that 2017 would be the year we would visit our friends in Sweden.
I was excited but nervous to see them again; a little worried that the magic we had shared new years eve was gone and that we would discover we had very little in common. As soon as we met and exchanged hugs, I knew I worried for nothing. It was as if no time had passed. Amanda introduced us to her boyfriend and Linus lead the way to the nearest bar. We were amused at having our friends translate the menu for us and acting as our guide through the city.
After dinner, we continued on letting Linus take the lead on where to go. It felt so nice to have a native speaker and local make all the decisions for you. We stopped off in a 20’s themed tequila bar called Puta Madre. There we drank way too many cocktails, and I realized I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. After a few more bars we were sufficiently drunk and Linus was game for continuing, but we had an early morning train ride to Stockholm. We gave each other hugs and said our drunken goodbyes yet again.
We hope that someday our friends will come visit us so we can return the hospitality.
This experience has taught me that it’s ok to allow for more spontaneity in our travels so that we may meet more people, grow and make more international friends.
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Lena is the creator of the Social Travel Experiment. Planning her trip around the world took a lot of effort. To make it easier for future world travelers she has made it her mission to teach others how to have an unforgettable trip around the world, through short stays with locals, without wasting valuable time or money.