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By Mary Emma Allen


Some people collect souvenirs such as seashells, plates, tea cups, spoons, bookmarks, postcards, dolls, and other memorabilia from places they visit. My husband Jim and I find our lives expanded and enriched by the people we encounter and the friends we make.

Collecting friends midst our travels has made our business trips so much more enjoyable. Some people we meet fleetingly on an airplane, at a historic site, while dining in a restaurant, or during check-in at a hotel. They smile, exchange greetings, and often tell us something about their lives.

With others we develop a rapport and exchange e-mail addresses and keep in touch. Often we visit them when we return to an area. Some become lifelong friends.

Adding to Our Lives

With each person we encounter, something is added to our lives...whether it's a quick chat that brightens our day, a laugh as we exchange travel stories, knowledge about the area or a site we're visiting or insight into a particular custom. I enjoy exchanging recipes and food ideas with many people we meet.

Lorrie invited us to lunch at her home; Sara was delighted to learn we were from her native state of New Hampshire halfway across the country; Phil told us about working on a fishing boat along the Atlantic coast; Mandy invited us to church for a Sunday service and fellowship dinner afterward.

When we stayed at Pat's B & B Inn, she told us stories about growing up in that area. Linda was our waitress in a southern town and invited us to her home for a cook-out on our next trip.

Marianne's children now call us Grandpa and Grandma and have "adopted" us even though we communicate mainly by letter and e-mail. When we visited their home in Colorado, it was like coming home.

We catch a glimpse of others' lives. We learn more about a particular area of the country. We feel our lives enriched and blessed by these friends we make.

We pray we bring some sunlight, cheer, and encouragement into their lives in exchange...a mutual blessing resulting from our chance encounters that lead to friendship of many types.

How to Make Friends in Your Travels

  • Smile...people generally smile back
  • Say "Hi"
  • Ask where they're from and learn something about that area
  • If they're from the area where you meet, ask if they'll recommend a restaurant, place to stay, attraction.
  • Comment on a book they're reading
  • Try to brighten their day and refrain from complaining
  • Ask what they do for work or recreation

These conversations also make time pass more quickly and pleasantly if you're delayed at an airport, have to wait in line at a restaurant, find yourself delayed for an event.

Have you collected friends in your travels?

(Mary Emma Allen meets people in her home area as well as during her travels. She writes for children and adults and teaches workshops about "Writing Your Family Stories. Her most recent book is about her ancestor William "Buffalo Bill" Mathewson who lived in New York State and pioneer Kansas. E-mail: )



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