Breaking Bread with Strangers

It’s late in the evening as I check into my hostel. I am a return visitor at this particular hostel in Sydney, having stayed two weeks earlier in my trip before heading up the East coast to Cairns on the typical backpacker route. Now I was back for only a few nights before my flight to Bangkok.

I was happy to see familiar faces, the many people that made me stay two weeks in the first place, and was greeted with warm embraces. My home away from home.

It’s funny when you’re traveling how you make friends so quickly. Two weeks can make it seem like you’ve known these people for years because, if you’re traveling alone, they’re all you have. They’re the friends you hang out with every day, they are the ones you see day and night and share all of your excitement or problems with. They are your backpacker family.

After saying hello to everyone and putting my stuff away, I can’t help but notice my growling stomach. Having spent all day in an airport, in the air, etc. I didn’t really eat much except maybe a piece of toast at breakfast.

I walked into the kitchen checking the free food cabinet, a godsend for travelers, only to be disappointed by the lack of food. Crackers, salt, and soy sauce. I’ll pass.

“Hey Sarah, are you hungry? Let’s cook some food.” My friend TJ said as I turned around. TJ is from a rather well-off family in India and is in Australia to study. He is currently working in construction because, as he puts it, “I never had to do any cleaning or labor in my life. I want to try it and learn.”

Accepting his offer, and very grateful to now have food, we quickly pulled out all of the ingredients he had and whipped together some peanut noodles and veggies. Quick, easy, and delicious.

As we began to eat I couldn’t help but think about all of the times I’ve seen this same exact scene in hostels before. New friends sharing meals together like family. It’s a truly beautiful thing when you think about how most of these people are from opposite sides of the world, from different cultures, different backgrounds, they know nothing about each other and yet they come together with the universal language of food and eat with smiles on their faces and a feeling of community.

Sometimes these people can hardly understand the language of another, sometimes two nationalities are at war with each other, but when put together in one place, all of that is put aside and it becomes about survival and friendship. There is a respect for one another that you don’t get if you are simply just living nearby from one another. When we are alone we reach out and connect with those because that is human nature to fit in with a group. We long for that acceptance and personal connection.

Now, months later, as I stare at a new message from that same friend, I smile everytime him, or any of my other travel buddies, message me because, though we only knew each other a very short time, we will honestly never forget each other.

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